Although they hadn’t won the regional final of Carroll Levis’ TV Star Search in Liverpool in October, Johnny and the Moondogs nonetheless qualified for the final round.
The group had much riding on their appearance. Success at the event, which was held at the New Manchester Hippodrome Theatre in Ardwick, Manchester, would guarantee them a television appearance and resulting fame.
Voting in the contest was based on a ‘clapometer’ registering audience applause. Johnny and the Moondogs lacked the local support they enjoyed in Liverpool, and anyway couldn’t have made much of an impact: lacking a place to stay in Manchester, they’d caught the train back home by the time the audience was required to cast its judgement.
By this time John, Paul and George had renamed themselves Johnny and the Moondogs and their hopes were high, but they came back despondent: they had failed the audition, mainly because they lacked a drummer. It was a setback, but it didn’t put them off. When something didn’t work out John would be down for a day or so, then he’d carry on, determined to be the best and to show anyone who didn’t believe in the group how wrong they’d been.
The Hippodrome was built as the Ardwick Empire Theatre in 1904 by renowned architect Frank Matcham. In 1935 it was refurbished and renamed the New Manchester Hippodrome. The building was demolished in 1964.
While the date of the Moondogs’ appearance is generally agreed to be 15 November 1959, the precise date has been disputed. At the time it was unusual for live music events to be held on a Sunday, a day when shops, cinemas and theatres were normally closed across the land. An alternative date for the final has been suggested as Monday 24 November.