Leith boy Jackie Dennis was among first British pop stars

Jackie Dennis made it as a pop star in the 1950s. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/TSPL
Jackie Dennis made it as a pop star in the 1950s. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/TSPL
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A 15-year-old schoolboy who performed in a kilt on prime-time American television will be remembered as Scotland’s first ever pop star in a new BBC documentary.

Jackie Dennis once appeared in his trademark kilt before millions of US viewers on Perry Como’s TV show.

STV Auditions at Central Halls in Edinburgh - 15 years old Jackie Dennis in 1953. Picture: TSPL

STV Auditions at Central Halls in Edinburgh - 15 years old Jackie Dennis in 1953. Picture: TSPL

His show-stopping performance will be celebrated in the hour-long programme, Rip It Up, being broadcasted to coincide with the staging of a major exhibition on the history of Scottish pop and rock in Edinburgh.

The first instalment of the three-part series, which is devoted to Scotland’s first musical mavericks and trailblazers, interviews former Leith schoolboy Dennis, who went head-to-head with Elvis Presley in the charts for a week in 1958 – and won.

Dennis’ first single Lah Dee Dah pipped the swivel-hipped heart-throb’s anthem Jailhouse Rock to the No.4 spot and sparked a career in showbiz that saw him tour the world and be billed as “Britain’s Ricky Nelson”.

The 75-year-old told the BBC: “I was the first Scots pop artist to be in the hit parade.

Jackie looking back on his heyday. Picture: TSPL

Jackie looking back on his heyday. Picture: TSPL

“I was living in Edinburgh at the time and was very proud of it. A lot of people thought the kilt was a gimmick, but I was proud to represent Scotland.”

Dennis was working as an apprentice plumber in 1958 when he was discovered during a performance at Prestwick Airport, which was then a US air base, by English comedy duo and brothers Mike and Bernie Winters. Soon the schoolboy was winging his way down to the bright lights of London to perform for agents and record executives.

Eight bars into his audition song and Dennis was told to stop. The boy from Brunswick Road feared he’d blown it, but five weeks later his first single was in the top ten.

Dennis retired from the stage in the 1970s to settle in Edinburgh and care for his ailing mum. He went on to work as a postman, home help and in a nursing home in the Capital, which he has described as the happiest time of his life. He now lives in Pilrig with wife Irene.

Jackie in his trademark kilt.

Jackie in his trademark kilt.

The documentary is also set to lift the lid on how the sound of Swedish pop group Abba was actually inspired by a band from Glasgow.

The largely-forgotten outfit Middle of the Road stake a claim as the original Europop pioneers. They reveal how Abba superstar Agnetha Faltskog was such a fan of Middle of the Road’s songs that she recorded cover versions.

The Glasgow band’s singer, Sally Carr, also discloses how she discovered how Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson had even admitted how they had used Middle of the Road’s sound as their inspiration for Abba.

The documentary will be shown on BBC2 on Tuesday.