Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Leigh Garrick Club


SCAMPI , CHIPS AND DEL SHANNON
An Appreciation of the Leigh Garrick Club.

Why The Garrick Club ?

It was a local club I used to frequent and really love during my late teens and early twenties. It was actually, in what is now a scorned term, a “cabaret club”.
In Leigh in those days my gang were quite keen to hear live music so we used to mostly alternate between two main clubs – the Leigh Casino and the Leigh Garrick. Personally I used to generally prefer the Garrick - both clubs had a completely different vibe – for me the Garrick had the edge for sound , proximity to stage, attention of the audience.
I used to attend more or less every week , some times two or three times in a single week, especially, for example, when Del Shannon was appearing, which was quite frequently. The acts usually played six consecutive nights and Tuesday, I think it was, had free admission, and hence was packed. It was often full Friday and Saturday nights, too.
They had a full show, resident band, support acts. Incidentally a lot of the support acts were, or were to become British household names , Jim Bowen, Mike Reid, Stan Boardman, George Roper, plus plenty others.
It was a great room too, it had big pillars giving a seriously restricted view of the stage if you were in the wrong seat , but that was just one of those things and after all, they did hold the low ceiling up. There was a wide shallow stage, with the whole place having a dark, fabulously moody atmosphere.
Performers survived on ability at the Garrick, there was no hiding place , no backing tracks or other fakery - it was all totally live in those days of course.

As a matter of fact, before I was old enough to get in, some pals and I used to oft-times shelter and hang around at the side of Sterling's furniture shop on Leigh Road. That was a little open mall, like a short corridor , if you like, and you could listen to the acts clearly from there as it was directly behind the stage. Wonder who I heard.......

Do You know the history of the Building

Formally a Mill, and in the 1920s it had been Timms Garage.
A Tyldesley entrepreneur, Roy Jackson, converted it from a shirt factory into a night club. Opening night was Fri Nov 17th 1961,with crooner Ronnie Carroll “top of the bill”, which was always how it was described in club terms.
He was late and slightly injured too, his car had hit a lamp post in Howe Bridge. Which I very nearly did in my first mini in the same place too, perhaps in tribute.


Del Shannon, Multiple appearances
Del always opened with Hats off to Larry, then into Handyman, Two Kinds of Teardrops,........ I won't list them, all the hits were there. Didn't talk much, just stood there beind the dual mics they always laid on, with his cream telecaster guitar and powered through those tremendous hurting songs of his "But you'll think you've got a paper heart, when she starts to tear it apart ". Wow! He was a great, great singer, no effort. His act wasn't actually an act, he just was Del Shannon, there was no acting about that. Del was uncompromising, tough, unique, original. One time he told some people near the front who were complaining about the volume to go and sit at the back " don't sit at the front and complain that it's too loud ". Fair comment, and it wasn't over loud in any case, it was perfect,of course. Whenever he was appearing I'd go 2 or 3 times in the week , with the net result that I must have seen him over a dozen, or probably many more times. He used to get a random crew of locals up on one mic to sing backing vocals “hup, hup ho oh oh oh oh” - Dion`s Runaround Sue . Cabaret, you know. Obviously he always closed with Runaway, and I`d walk home happy with that song going round and round in my head.



Gene Vincent 1971
Originally billed in Leigh local paper of Thurs Sept 16 1971 “ Next Sunday And All Week “ BUT Gene had a disastrous time, the bones of the story being that he was suffering from a debilitating condition and got stopped from completing his booking. I've already written a much fuller account of this incident, published in the UK Rock magazine of June 2010, and is accessible on line.


Lonnie Donegan Appearance circa 1976
The first time I saw Lonnie was at the Garrick . ( The second, and only other was at the Cavern in Liverpool ) He was fabulous , a massive early influence on everybody in the UK. Just ask Paul McCartney or Joe Brown. Although I generally dislike simplistic titles, he actually was “king of skiffle” the title fits perfectly. Lonnie was fascinating to witness, there were so many influences evident within him you know , blues , folk , music hall ( he was pre rock and roll). A one of a kind, totally irreplaceable. He really whipped the audience up into a frenzy. I can still clearly recall a woman sitting immediately to my right in floods of tears when he sang “ I'm never gonna fall in love again” a song he'd written for Tom Jones, apparently. I'd never really seen music cause that kind of hysterics, first hand. Powerful. I remember him playing Rock Island Line , his breakthrough hit, and by the seventies he was doing it with a very extended slow intro before the song proper played at breakneck pace. Incidentally it was the first time I'd ever seen anyone use a radio mic, it must have been his new toy as he persevered with it in spite of a great deal of annoying whistling feed back .




P J Proby 1976
Legend has it that on his previous stint at the Garrick he had caused a ruckus culminating in a chair being thrown on stage nearly hitting him, and Proby challenging anyone who fancied his chances to a fight. He must have been brave, because he wasn't that big.
We used to joke as a mock headline “ P J Proby takes on all comers at the Leigh Garrick” , - it certainly had a ring of truth about it.( The incident may possibly have occurred at the Casino, though !)
Any way I got to see him in 1976 and that was an unforgettable night, too. Earlier in the day he'd got married at Bolton Registrar's to Ducie, a Blackpool croupier, and by the time he hit the stage he'd had one too many. That is, one barrel too many. Disregarding (or perhaps partially because of ) the fact that he was totally plastered, he still absolutely impressed me , mostly with his incredible voice, which remained intact, but also with his absolute devil may care attitude. He had the punk rock attitude before punk rock happened. Within minutes he managed to upset a troupe of women by insulting them and swearing at them, for no apparent reason, and they subsequently upped and left – they a staged a mass and noisy walk out. To this day I can remember exactly the expletives he came out with, but I won't repeat here, it being far too rude. For the young impressionable me , it was so ridiculous that it was simply hilarious. By the time he finished his spot, several mic lead entanglements later, there were only a handful of people left in the room. He more or less thanked us all individually for staying.
I also recall Solomon King clambering on stage mid way through PJP's set to sing “She Wears My Ring “ to the widely smiling pair of newlyweds.


Other notable Garrick Appearances, in no specific order

Scaffold (man that's Paul McCartney's Brother !!!) – with Zoot Money on Keyboards.
Karl Denver Trio
Hurricane Smith (I've only got this as hear-say, but I'm fairly confident it's correct)
Bill Haley and his Comets
Craig Douglas
Georgie Fame Aug 1967
Brenda Lee Late 1967
Billy Fury
Adam Faith
Jerry Lee Lewis Thurs 10 Fri 11th Nov 1966
Shane Fenton and the Fentones 1970
Dave Berry
Marty Wilde

Closed March `1978 (Last Act Cannon And Ball)

At the time of writing the Garrick has been demolished - it's been reduced to a little patch of ground - the front doorway and a part demolished length of the rear wall still remain - surveying it now it's a remarkably short distance from concert room back wall to where the stage was.
But in it's heyday it was a place where you could sit right at the stage edge, three yards away from Del Shannon and listen and watch whilst eating scampi and chips in a basket. Great!
And oddly enough, I've never eaten scampi since, it just wouldn't be the same.

Image:- Remains of bricked-up Garrick Main Entrance 2010

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