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THE GREAT PRETENDERS (article first published : 2003-10-16)

Cape Town singer and impresario Jayson Jay King is to bring his smash-hit production, The Great Pretenders, back to Durban to the Playhouse at the end of October.

In the middle 60’s, Jayson Jay King owned three music stores. Hundreds of his customers would always bemoan the fact that they were not able to go and see top groups like Cliff Richard and the Shadows “live” when they visited Cape Town. At the time, the Group Areas Act and The Apartheid Act did not permit people of colour through the doors of the mainstream theatres in the country.

However, his customers were able to enjoy this music through the services of Springbok Radio’s Hit Parade every Saturday presented by Mervyn John or David Gresham. There was also L.M.Radio’s Burning the Midnight Oil with announcer David Davies spinning the latest singles.

So, as Jayson says, “The idea came to mind that if we are helping these stars, whom we love dearly, to reach our “hit” parades why not copy them and enjoy their sounds “live”?” So he found a group, The Big Beats from Maitland in the Cape, who could play a very accurate Cliff Richards and The Shadows sound and so Jayson’s popular Sunday evening concerts were born. Under the title Variety On Parade they were presented at the Kismet cinema that could hold 1,500 patrons.

Variety on Parade posters used to advertise “Cape Town’s Jim Reeves, Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong, Doris Day, Connie Francis, The Platters, Frankie Lymon and John Gary, to name a few. Other promoters followed the same pattern, and years later, these “copycat” singers were travelling around South Africa.

Like many great concepts, The Great Pretenders got its title by coincidence. It was founded by Jayson Jay King in 1992 while he was performing at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town with some old buddies of the 60’s and a young lady named Corrie Louw. The title of the show was The Stars of District Six in Concert.

When featuring the production, a caption in the Cape Times read, “Six Pretenders Come Into Their Own” and then and there Jayson decided to name the group the Great Pretenders.

Now in its 12th year, The Great Pretenders has performed throughout South Africa and has been seen by over 12 million television viewers.

The Return of the Great Pretenders will be showing at The Playhouse Theatre from October 28 to November 2. Book at Computicket or at the Playhouse Box Office on 031 369 9444.




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