Something I learned, early in my clubgoing days, when there were plenty of chaps to be seen in clubs in caps or trilbies, was that you could never see artistes at their best on New Year’s Eve. Understandable really, as in many places it’s more of a social occasion, with family parties and meetings of friends with plenty to talk about, so the entertainment provided, sometimes at great expense, comes a sorry second. And at such times a lot of rounds are bought, good for the bar takings, not so good for order in the room.
A night which sticks in my mind is one New Year’s Eve at a place, long gone now, in Heywood. The club was packed, and the first artiste, Sue Carroll, was astonished to be asked to do a dance spot (at 8 p.m.), then followed Him & I, a vocal/guitar duo, and finally the blind singer Peter Knight, whose wife insisted he was not to carry on after midnight. By then the place was getting rowdy, and it was decided to have a Free & Easy. There was a man playing “air guitar”, then a chap who was so drunk he didn’t realise he didn’t have a mike – he was singing into the empty mike stand, while the next one up had vomit stains down the front of his jacket. Meanwhile five separate fights had broken out in the club, one of which spread into the dressing room. Happy New Year everyone !
My eldest son Mike is a keyboard player in the Manchester area and for a while he was an agency player, being sent all over the place from Cheshire to Cleveleys, now and then on New Year’s Eve. One I recall was to the old B.R.S.A. Club under Piccadilly Station. Artistes who have been there will remember that it was a difficult one to work, with the stage facing a blank wall and the punters seated at either side of them. This place sadly disappeared when the station got a facelift and a shopping mall was installed. It wasn’t a bad night as they go, but it dragged on and on, and when at about half past one in the morning the entertainers who were still there asked the steward when they would get paid he replied “Eventually”.
A further New Year adventure took place at a club in the Wigan area. On arrival we found out that he had been sent for as the regular man had walked out when he was told that he wasn’t going to get double money, as was customary, and gone somewhere else. Needless to say they had to pay it to the agency man. The drummer had the sulks because he was just paid at the usual rate, and was never on hand when he was wanted, either in the toilets or gone for a smoke somewhere. After the first act had finished the concert secretary came up, ”Now lads, we couldn’t afford another artiste, so will you do another hour ?” By the time they had done their stuff it was almost midnight. Up he came again. “When we’ve let the New Year in we’ll run a free & easy.” Mike said to me, ”I’ve had enough of this, I’ve been paid, let’s go.” So we did a runner, only to discover when we got outside that it had been snowing !