Fifty years since they gathered to make Australian television history, Johnny Young recently came face-to-face, at least by camera, with Tina Arena and Dannii Minogue.
WA’s favourite son was called to Channel 10’s Subiaco studios while international stars Tina and Dannii were in the network’s Melbourne studios to reflect on their top-rating program.
The trio were key figures in Young Talent Time, conceived and hosted by Johnny, which ran from 1971 for 18 years, and is still Australia’s longest-running, continuous television program.
“Channel 0/10 wanted something to run up against the other three networks on Saturdays when they were all showing football,” said Johnny.
“I always loved Mickey Mouse Club with family entertainment showing children’s talents. I wanted to do something that was family-friendly and gave you that lovely feeling, not seen as a children’s program.
“The network commissioned programs for just four weeks. But when the first YTT produced a rating of 19, against their former rating of four, they contracted me for four years.
“It changed my life and, I’m very happy to say, the lives of so many young entertainers including Tina and Dannii.”
In the Perth studio, Tina and Dannii, both 50, came on a monitor from Ten’s Melbourne studio to praise Johnny and the YTT format that opened the door to their stardom.
Johnny, who won a chook in his first singing performance at age nine, supervised and encouraged 40 boys and girls from age nine to 17 over the program’s duration.
“Dannii was more a dancer than a singer although that came later. She could dance, make her own outfits and was an amazing communicator and still is,” Johnny said.
“She was a star before Kylie, who envied Dannii for what her sister was achieving. Kylie came on the show a couple of times. But there was no rivalry between the sisters. They come from a wonderful family.”
Johnny went into television after 10 years as a rock’n’roll singer/songwriter. After his rock’n’roll stints in England and Germany and still in his early 20s when he returned to Australia, Johnny had written five gold records – all for other singers.
Johnny was just 17 when he had his first television show, Club 17 on Seven, and 19 when hosting his second regular show, The Go Show on 0/10. With limited knowledge of TV production or musical direction, he plunged into the YTT project, directing people to muster children with talent for the potential program.
He also turned to youngsters at his Johnny Young Talent School, now a national network.
“Dannii was a standout talent at the school. Tina, age nine, turned up at the studio for an audition in an Indian squaw outfit, complete with feather in her hair. I remember it clearly. She sang: ‘Ring, Ring, Why Don’t You Give Me a Call.’
Tina was sensational and when we heard her in make-up singing harmonies over a Supremes’ song playing on the radio, we, had no doubts about he talent,” Johnny said.
“Parents would bring their children into the TEN studio, watch over them and then take them home. Children were paid half the adult rate and stopped before turning 17 when adult pay rates applied.
“YTT was always multi-cultural and we heard stories of migrants arriving with little or no English who would enjoy watching the program for its entertainment,” Johnny said.
“I’m proud of what we achieved,” said Johnny, 74, who earned the rare double of being inducted into Australian Halls-of-Fame for both music and television.