When I started going to clubs in the early 1960s it was good to see how interested many of the folk there were in the acts they saw. Some artistes gained quite a following and people would go round to places where they were appearing. Easy enough then, with clubs everywhere. I lived in South Yorkshire then, and within a few miles of where I lived there was a choice of where to go every night of the week.. Not so easy now, for times have changed radically and much of the interest and enthusiasm has gone. Many’s the time someone has come up to me to tell me of some great performer they have seen recently. When I ask who it was, they don’t know, never bothered to find out.
As a writer, if I brought up a topic, people would write in with their opinions. When the subject of order in clubs came up there was a deluge of letters following, with many suggestions. The attitude to resident musicians has changed, too. At one time they were regarded as the hub around which the club’s entertainment revolved. Members were, in fact, often proud of their music makers. I dug out some of my old files and found no less than 15letters praising their club’s musos, claiming they were the best. (Nobody can be bothered now, I haven’t had a single letter on any topic for over 20 years.) The Concert Secretary at Royston Social Club took the trouble to write in and sing the praises of the club’s Jimmy Dixon, while a member of Mitchell and Darfield M.W. praises Ernest Webster for his sheer ability. The ex-Theatre Organist Hubert Selby got several accolades, as did his pupil Margaret Clark. From the New Ashfield Club in Stairfoot two couples wrote in to declare Ken Haigh “the greatest”. A member of Mapplewell Ex-Servicemen’s club “the tin hat” sings the praises of The Geoff Haigh Broadcastinng Trio. Others recommended Tony Warboys (Edlington Top Club), Ron Woodhall (Rawmarsh Cricket Club, Hentry Toulson Jones at the Willow Club in Kinsley, and Terry Herrington at Greasborough Social Club. These were all mentioned in glowing terms by members writing in, and I could easily add another dozen to the list. These were just some of the people who inspired loyalty, admiration even, in the clubs, and I know that the same situation applied in many other parts of the country, Manchester and the North East particularly.
Gradually most of the proprietary clubs faded away, and with the advent of mini discs and the Mp3 player etc, many Social Club Committees, never the world’s best employers,saw a way to cut costs, whether necessary or not. The old atmosphere has gone; it’s not the same any more, it can’t be. But it’s not just about musicians. People go like sheep nowadays, they just accept what they see without question, whether it is an indifferent artiste or a group blasting their eardrums to pieces, and if there’s anything good on the telly or it’s raining they don’t bother to turn out. Where has the heart, the spirit, of clubland gone ?
Think I’d better go and find a stiff whisky to cheer me up a bit after all that !