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Stars on Sunday (ITV 1969-1979, Jess Yates, Harry Secombe)



Whitney Houston & Bobbi Kristina

Long running religious themed series Stars on Sunday was broadcast early Sunday evenings offering up a mix of readings, hymns and more than a bit of showbiz. Producer Jess Yates also regularly presented as did Harry Secombe, James Mason and Gracie Fields.

It’s mix of hymns and celebrity guests proved remarkably popular and the show would often make it in to the top twenty most popular programmes for the week.

Stars on Sunday ITV 1969 First Episode Harry Secombe Jennifer Nicholls

The first episode was hosted by Harry Secombe and featured Jennifer Nicholls.

The show attracted such luminaries as Gerald Harper, Roy Orbison, Christopher Lee, Matt Monro, Ralph Richardson, Diana Rigg, Cliff Richard, John Gielgud and Bing Crosby to name just a few as well non celebrities such as Edward Heath and Earl Mountbatten. It was never popular with critics though, speaking in the TV Times of 15 Jan 1972 (there was a feature on the show as it approached it’s 100th episode which was broadcast 16 Jan 1972) Yates said “the critics have added the word corn. I don’t dispute it. Stars on Sunday is corny. But what’s wrong with that? Corn is the golden staff of life.”

Stars on Sunday Gracie Fields ITV 1972

Gracie Fields, seen here in 1972, was a regular on the series throughout it’s run.

Yates caused the show to be splashed all over the front of the News of the World in July 1974 when the paper revealed that the then 54 year old Yates was romancing 22 year old Anita Kay, a showgirl. Yates was separated from his wife at the time but it spelled the end of his time on the show although he start popping up as a panelist on talent show New Faces. Yates died in 1993 and after his death it was revealed that his daughter (TV Presenter Paula Yates) was actually the daughter of TV host Hughie Green (who also appeared three times on Stars on Sunday).

Surprisingly very few of the shows remain in existence.

The series grew out of an earlier Yates show called Choirs on Sunday and was replaced by request programme Your 100 Best Hymns. Harry Secombe (whose brother was a priest would go on to host another long running Sunday evening religious show called Highway (1983-1993).

production details
UK / ITV – Yorkshire / 309×25 minutes / Broadcast 17 August 1969 – 13 May 1979

Religious Advisor: Reverend Brandon Jackson / Executive Producer: Jess Yates (1969-1974) Producer and Executive Producer: Peter Max-Wilson (1974-1979)

SEASON FOUR 19 September 1971 – 12 March 1972
16. DAME ANNA NEAGLE (2 Jan 1972)