Roger remembers – April 2015

Roger Holmes

Roger Holmes

It has been called “the Golden Age of Clubland” and I daresay it was, although I have never been able to work out just how the finances of it worked. Looking back I was staggered to discover how many “big names” I’d seen in the (mostly Yorkshire) clubs in the ‘50s ands early ‘70s. Don’t think I’m gloating, I’m not, just stating facts. There were the Yanks – Johnny Ray and Johnny Mathis, both splendid performers, and Neil Sedaka, in my book the best of all of them, not just for his compositions but also for his presentation. Buddy Greco I wasn’t all that struck on. Early on in his career came Matt Munro, whose music endures to this day, Susan Maughan, and even the Beverley Sisters. The Variety Theatres had all but gone and many of these well known artistes were looking for work.
There was the case of Gerry Dorsey, a man with a budding career, recordings to his name and appearances on “Top of the Pops”. He had problems with a certain agent who “put the black” on him, he fell out of favour and then unfortunately contracted tuberculosis. When he came out of the sanatorium he had trouble finding work. I remember him going round looking for bookings from South Yorks Concert Secretaries. An old mate, Gordon Mills had gone into agency, representing Tom Jones among others, and suggested a name change, and they chose Engelbert Humperdinck. A record was released in Belgium, proved a success, and the rest is history. There was Vince Hill too, the only artiste who ever bought me a dinner. Doncaster’s Tommy Jackson had great faith in Lennie Peters, booked him into local clubs, and always went to the station to meet him off the London train. Lennie, who did a great Ray Charles impression, later teamed up with Di Lee to form their very successful double act.
Josef Locke worked in some of the Northern clubs (I saw him at the Scala) and so did his “double” Mr X. The media would have us believe he was Locke himself working like that as he was a ”tax exile” in Ireland at the time. Not true – Mx X looked like him and sang like him, but was really a chap called Eric Lieson from New Brighton. Nowadays he could make a fortune as a tribute act. Bert Weedon with his guitar, Chester Harriott at the piano and Nat Gonella with his trumpet were all on the scene as were Rawicz and Landauer, the famous piano duettists.
I saw Paul Daniels do the “chairs routine” at Wheatley, and once had a chat with him at Birdwell. All the time we were talking his fingers were never still, manipulating cards, cocktail sticks and so on, presumably to keep them supple.
Perhaps the most spectacular artiste I ever saw in a club was the wonderful, so beautiful and talented cabaret performer Lorne Lesley. And then she went and married David Dickinson.
Sorry but there’s no room for the many comedians and bands of those days, so they will have to wait for another occasion

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