Roger Remembers

Roger Holmes

Roger Holmes

Roger Remembers. The well-known show business writer Roger Holmes writes exclusively for UK Cabaret on the subject of show business nostalgia.
Clubland has always had its characters and one I recall particularly, and always with a smile, is a musician, entertainer and scourge of committee men, little George Ryder. If you met him in a club, frequently he would have an envelope in his pocket, a letter to the committee. The contents of which was easy to guess, he wanted a rise. He is still remembered by many in South Yorkshire to this day, often by people with their own stories to tell.
George had a long and interesting history. Starting playing in clubs in Mexborough and Kilnhurst at the age of ten, he went to London in his teens and joined Johnny Clay and the Clay Pigeons at the Astor Club. He returned in 1943 and founded the New Style Swingettes, then won the individual piano award at the Melody Maker Dance Band Championship. Military Service had him drafted to the Yorks & Lancashire regiment, where he became staff pianist. After demob he became interested in the clavioline, and in a national contest carried off the only prize from over 2000 entrants (In case you’re interested the clavioline was a keyboard instrument, the predecessor of the synthesiser.
For five years he was under contract to Inde Coope brewery, then he returned to club life, doubling at the Side Saddle in Auckley with Denaby Catholic Club, where he ran very lively Jazz sessions on Sunday afternoons. Lengthy spells at Bolton on Dearne and The Dial House in Sheffield followed. Among other places he later worked at were Penistone wmc and Swaithe wmc where his dance sessions rated highly as most entertaining. He was, indeed a born showman. I wish I could remember why he had a drummer called Jimmy Feighert crawling round the stage on all fours draped in a Union Jack. Playing for dancing at Swaithe he got off the organ, leaving the drummer to carry the beat, and did a tap dance centre stage.
George ran free & easy nights where all who got up to sing were introduced as Henry Firkinballs, unless they were younger, when they were Henry Firkinballs Junior, and volunteers were encouraged to get up and try all sorts of stunts, like boxing with a tin tray. But George could be a fiery little chap when roused. A hapless committee man from Penistone who had come on his motorbike to Darfield specially to see him at the end of the night became embroiled with him on the subject of how musicians were treated by clubs. I went outside for my car and there was his wife Molly waiting to take him home. “What’s he doing”? she asked, “don’t tell me he’s arguing again”.
George’s life didn’t all end well, though. He began to develop dementia. First he stopped drinking and taking snuff, one of his many bad habits. Then he lost all interest in music, he wouldn’t play or touch a keyboard. The devoted Molly took George for drives in the car, and he loved to point out the many places where he had played. That was all.
When he died, not long after his 80th birthday, we lost a true character, a clubland legend.

Share Button

Leave a Reply