The Swinging Hangmen started out life as the Matadors (early 1964) and within months changed their name to the Hangmen and soon after when I took over in September1964 we had yet another name change to the Swinging Hangmen.
When I joined the band as Agent, original line up was a 3 piece of lads from the Haslingden area: Mick Hogan (bass & vocal), John Entwistle (lead & vocal) and Harry Eastham (drums). Around the back end of 1964, Harry left the band and was replaced by 2 guys from the Burnley area - Terry Bannister (drums) and Dave Clarke (lead vocals) now making the band a 4 piece.
We used to practice in the very early days at the The Unity Club at top of Church Street, Haslingden (now a private house), also I remember trying to sing a number or two at the St Marys Junior School behind Piccadilly Street, and then in the upstairs room of the Thorn Pub, the Bull, both in Haslingden, Bridge End – Helmshore and the Ambulance Hall in Haslingden (A very well known gig on Thursday nights), blimy we did have some practice rooms, always getting booted out for being too noisy.....
I used to get them gigs all over Lancashire, Yorkshire and especially the Manchester area. But on the onset I remember in them days (1964) having to use a phone box at the bottom of the road where I lived (Hud Hey Road-Haslingden) to try and get bookings for the band, dashing in and out of the box between other people who where wanting to use the phone – not many people had phones of their own them days, and I had to collect loads of pennies and threepenny bits to use this phone – remember folks press button A to speak and then you would hear the pennies drop down into the box below the phone and then you were connected, and press button B if you got the wrong number and wanted your money back.
The Matadors – taken at St James Churchyard, Haslingden during early 1964.
When the group where a 3 piece transport seem to be a big problem those early days because none of us could drive, we first used a guy to run us around who was a local farmer called Mr. Worthington.
I can still clearly remember the “cow muck hum and the straw on the floor” when you got into his van, but what could we expect for a fiver or was it £3 ten shillings a throw, we also used a local Coach Proprietor firm – Mark Barnes & Sons (where I worked in the Office in the daytime), and when they hired transport from Mark Barnes it probably cost more for transport, than we actually earned from the gig itself – it was from them coming to book minibuses that I first got to know the group.
Here are a few of the old diary dates, some with fees for 1964 (but not complete) – and sadly there is none for early-mid 1965 when the group where at their most prominent:
March 7th 1964 – Rochdale £8.00, March 8th 1964 – Regency Club Waterfoot, March 10th 1964 – St Bernadettes Whitefield, March 27th 1964 – Devonshire Sporting Club Salford. March 28th 1964 – Wythenshawe BL, March 29th 1964 – Lee Mills WMC – Stacksteads £6.00, April 2nd 1964 – Public Hall, Haslingden £9.00, April 6th 1964 – Burnley Casino Club, April 9th 1964 Carlton Ballroom, Mecca Rochdale £12.00, April 19th 1964 – Wythenshawe BL, May 3rd 1964 – St. Bernadettes, Whitefield £6.00, May 9th 1964 – Public Hall, Haslingden £10.00, May 16th 1964 – Devonshire Sporting Club £7.00, May 20th 1964 – Bury Palais de Danse £8.00 (Tel: Bury 1822 Mr. Spencer), May 22nd 1964 – Wythenshawe BL £7.00, May 23rd 1964 – Radcliffe Paper Mill Social Club £8.00, May 27th 1964 – Wilmslow. May 28th 1964 – Public Hall, Haslingden. May 29th 1964 – Tender Trap Club, Bacup. June 5th 1964 – Levenshulme Sporting Club £7.00. Jun 13th 1964 – Outwood WMC £8.00, Jun 20th 1964 – Beachcomber – Bolton (Afternoon), Jun 20th 1964 – Tender Trap Club, Bacup (Evening). Jun 21st 1964 – Devonshire Sporting Club £7.00
Sept 12th 1964 – Haslingden British Legion Club £8.00. Sept 25th 1964 – New Hebers WMC, Middleton Oct 3rd 1964, Bolton Palais de Dance (Afternoon). Oct 3rd 1964 – St Josephs, Middleton (Evening) £7.00. Oct 10th 1964 – Cavern Club, Accrington. Oct 11th 1964 – Rising Bridge WMC £7.10s.0d. Oct 24th 1964 – New Luxor Club – Moss Side £7.00. Oct 25th 1964 – New Luxor Club – Moss Side £7.00. Oct 27th 1964 – Top Hat Club, Oct 31st 1964 – Golden Lion, Todmorden £7.10s.0d.
Somewhere around when Harry left and Dave & Terry Joined (approx)
Nov 14th 1964 Cubi Club, Rochdale (early evening). Nov 14th 1964 – Empress Cabaret Club, Stockport (late) £10.00. Nov 15th 1964 – Levenshulme Sporting Club £7.00. Nov 21st 1964 – Wythenshawe BL £8.00. Nov 22nd 1964 – Gt Harwood Unity WMC £8.00. Nov 25th 1964 – Cobden Place, Stockport. Nov 27th 1964 – Casino Club, Burnley £9.00. Nov 28th 1964 – Droylsden & Dist Social Club, Fitzroy St £9.00. Dec 1st 1964 – Human Jungle, Albion St, Oldham. Dec 5th 1964 – Rawtenstall Liberal Club. Dec 6th 1964 – Arcadium Ballroom, Accrington. Dec 12th 1964 – Victoria Hotel, Blackpool £9.00. Dec 13th 1964 – Levenshulme Sporting Club £7.00. Dec 18th 1964 – Bodega Club, Manchester £9.00. Dec 19th 1964 – Devonshire Sporting Club £7.00. Dec 20th 1964 – Chambers Cellar Club, Rochdale Town Hall £9. Dec 24th 1964 – G Plan Club, Nelson. Dec 27th 1964 – Levenshulme Sporting Club £7. Dec 31st 1964 – Davenport Rugby Club, Stockport £25. 1965 Jan 1st 1965 – Cavern Club, Accrington £12. Jan 2nd 1965 – George Hotel, Burslem, Stoke to double with Oasis, Manchester. Jan 8th 1965 – Starkie Arms – private
The majority of gig fees where around the £7-12 mark!
Other dates during 1964 & 1965 included: The Queens, (Cleveleys) lots of times, Southport Floral Hall, Majestic Ballroom, (Barnoldswick), Haslingden Ambulance Hall (Thursdays), Bradford Transport Club (Fridays), The Regency (Rossendale), Astoria Ballroom (Rawtenstall), Embassy Club (a strip club in Burnley), Liberal Club (Rawtenstall), Seven Stars (Heywood – full week), Room at The Top (Wigan?), Grants Arms (Ramsbottom), Ramsbottom WMC. Top 20 Club (Idle Bradford), Big Daddy’s Club (Halifax), Cleckheaton Town Hall, Mandrake Club (Hull), Leeds Palais etc etc etc.
Life began to get easier in regard to transport when the group made it to a four piece, Dave (vocalist) had a big white Commer van which the group used, and before long this was to be covered from head to tail with lipstick messages “we love you”, etc etc etc – the guys had been really busy writing all this graffiti on the van until it was covered!! That was the deal those days, every group did it….. it wasn’t a groupie van if it wasn’t covered in lippy messages.
I remember one of the first gigs we did after I became their Agent – The New Hebers WMC in Middleton (25th September 1964 and again on 1st November). Paid up after the 2nd spot for being too loud. This was not the first time, it happened time and time again. I would tell the guys to turn it down but whenever you said turn it down they just went the other way and turned it up. I suppose looking back now it really wasn’t that loud compared to what you got in the 80s, but probably too much for some of the early 60s patrons.
As the band got on I remember what was to become our intro number (called The Hangman) which was written by John & Mick and it went something like: “We went through the Ch-ur—ch yard, who who who who, ah ah ah ah, Worms crawled in and worms crawled out – who who who who ah ah ah ah….. and on and on (but forgot the rest) – can you imagine what we got away with and the kids loved it!! I suppose in a way we were a bit daring to say the least for that period!
We did regular spots for Gerry Millman who was the booker for Bill Benny whom if I remember correctly had the Cabaret Club, Devonshire Club and the New Levenshulme Sporting Club (regular from 16th May 1964). We were always the bottom of the bill, yet regular did the double between the Devonshire and Levenshulme, and on one occasion actually did the Cabaret Club. These were cabaret clubs and great named acts appeared on the bill. Our band was basically used for opening at one club and then closing at the other. I can also remember another name Bill Kerfoot, who I think had something to do with these gigs.
Paddy McKiernan gave us some gigs as well, I remember one night we had to double between the George Hotel, Burslem, Stoke On Trent (2nd January 1965) and get back to the Oasis in town for 2am – on the way down it was a pea soup and we got to about the Stockport area we literally at times had to get out of the van and walk in front so the driver could see – it took ages to get to that gig and a good job we allowed plenty of time, yet was still a little late arriving.
At the George I remember we were supporting that fabulous Jimmy Powell and the 5 Dimensions, which at that time included a very young Rod Stewart – I will never ever forget that brilliant rendition of “Hoochie Coochie Man” which Powell and Stewart combined lead with harmonicas and brilliant scratchy vocals – I just wish that had got on vinyl……it was about the time when Jimmy Powell was about to take up residency at the Crawdaddy in London, following on from the Stones. Probably now one of my claim to fames, is talking with the very young Rod Stewart in the dressing rooms at this gig, snatching conversation with him whilst at the same time he was trying to concentrate on the writing of his letters to his many girlie fans….. By the way we never actually got back to the Oasis, the fog had thickened even further and it just got far too late to make it.
Another frequent gig we did was the Empress Cabaret Club in Stockport (14th November 1964) (later to become the Poco a Poco), we always went down well here and got plenty of rebookings, until we let the guy down with a New Years Eve gig, when we pulled out some 30 days previous, to go for a gig with lots more money…… I remember the Empress fee was £20 and by the left that was a lot of money them days…..
Being the bottom of the bill we played up in the Gods a sort of stage which was about 40 foot high above the dancefloor, and what a ballache carrying the gear.
Us not being professional like the other two bands, and having to dash straight from work, more often than not we would be running 15-30 minutes late for bandcall and the Manager of the gig a big guy wearing a trilby and matching suit (sure he was called Tattersall and nicknamed the “Colonel”) stood at the entrance of The Queens and on our arrival with arms folded, Where the “F…….. Hell have you been, if you had been ten minutes later, I would have sent you home anyway I’m docking your money tonight…. This was a regular peformance every week….. usually in the end after a lecture he paid us in full.
Ronnie Cross also used to book us into a University gig in the Oxford Road area of Manchester but cannot recall what it was called. Another one of his we did regular was in Halifax called “Big Daddy’s Club” and yes it really was – it was owned by Shirley Crabtree whom was later to become the well known TV wrestler called Big Daddy.
Another Blackpool gig I remember was the Victoria Hotel which was on golden mile, next to Madame Tussards, we were joint billing that night with Bruce & The Spiders (a great group from the local area). We were booked in here I think by Jeff Bates (then manager of Blackpool's Bruce & The Spiders). This was a weird one in that we had to change the electrics around and drop from 240v to 110v and John forgot to change it back after the gig ready for the following nights gig at the Levenshulme Sporting Club and when we cracked up at Levenshulme everything fused and put the lights out etc…
We did the Top Twenty Club at Idol, Bradford (which was the basement of the Idle Conservative Club), this was booked by Garth Cawood – a great guy whom also was in a well known local Yorkshire band. The first time we did the gig we supported Ricky Valence (Tell Laura I Love Her) and I remember seeing on the next weeks forthcoming bill was this band called Tom Jones & The Squires whom had just released their first record “Its Not Unusual”.
Performing rights slips we accidentally forgot to hand in from 1964
Eventually we signed to a management in York called Coney Variety Agency which was set up by a couple of prestigious Solicitors who had their Offices on Coney Street in the centre of York.
I remember contacting them after seeing their advert in the Liverpool 60s beat newspaper “The Merseybeat” where they were asking groups to write into them. They asked us to do a private audition on a Saturday afternoon which was at their Office in York. They seemed very impressed and wanted to take us on there and then, and unknown to us they had arranged for the band to go to a top hair stylist in York where the guys all got a free pow wow, in preparation for a photo shoot that very same day.
Another band (and the only other at that time) that Coney had on their books was “The Wheels” (from Manchester). Coney arranged a booking at the Palais in Leeds on a Saturday and then off to the “Mandrake Club” in Hull for the Sunday night. On the Monday evening the Yorkshire Evening Post did this headline article about one of the group leaping about the stage showing his chopper!! – the chopper was a rubber axe which kids use to play Red Indians with… but the papers made it out to be very suggestive and from this lots of bookings started to poor in.
Sadly within a few weeks of joining the Coney outfit, the band disbanded (Middle of 1965) and the final gig they were booked at was Alstons Commercial College, Colne Road, Burnley.
Today (2007) Mick lives in Southern France where he and his wife operate a very successful Estate Agents selling high class properties to the English. He always looks me up when he is in the UK and we speak over the phone perhaps twice a year. John is still living in the same old house as his parents had in them old days which is some 300 yards from where I live – but after saying that I’ve only seen him once or twice in some 40 years since the group broke up (until doing this article and Ive seen him about 6 times in two weeks). Harry went to live in Blackburn and sadly has now passed away (15/2/2012). Terry is still in Burnley and I believe has been very successful in business with Motor Car scrap yards and property. I’ve now tracked Dave down after some 40 plus years and he’s still a tenor sax musician resident in the North East. Since leaving the Swinging Hangmen he has been with groups Kudos, Blues Unlimited, District Blues Company, Cat Road Show (London), Rain & Tears and Pied Pipers (Germany), he also had a spell backing the Hollies on tenor sax.
Bryan Yorke (Agent & Manager)
(Here's a old photograph which accompanied a article written by Ronnie Trickett for the Rossendale Free Press - from the days when it first started)....
The Entertainment business started for me in 1964, when this guy kept coming to our office where I worked, and would regularly book a minibus from us for the transport of his beat group which at that time where called “The Matadors, or was it The Hangmen”.
At that time I was working in the Office of Mark Barnes and Sons (Coach Proprietors and Haulage Contractors based at 313 Blackburn Road, Haslingden. After a while I got friendly with this guy, John Entwistle, the lead guitarist and joint vocals and we used to talk about the group.
He did happen to mention that they where after bookings and needed a Manager/Agent, so I volunteered my services and this was to be the start of yet another fantastic journey.
I eventually got them bookings throughout Lancashire, Yorkshire and especially the Manchester area. But at the onset I can still clearly remember in them days (1964) having to use a red phone box at the bottom of the road where I lived (Hud Hey Road, Haslingden) to try and get bookings for the band, dashing in and out of the box between other people who where wanting to use the phone.
Not many people had phones of their own them days, and I had to collect loads of pennies and threepenny bits to use this phone – remember folks press button A to speak and then you would hear the pennies drop down into the box below the phone and then you were connected, and press button B if you got the wrong number and wanted your money back.
It was a happy time with The Swinging Hangmen, but sadly they broke up in 1965.
From Swinging Hangmen Agent to a group Agency … and Bryan Yorke Enterprises was born
They might have gone but I was by now hooked on this business and wanted more…and so, I decided to go as a Agent for groups and can remember the first group I did the bookings for, it was a group from Rawtenstall called the Pagans. Not too clear but I think they were a 5 piece who was managed by the mother of the lead singer Geoff Lord, she had a clothes shop on Bank Street, Rawtenstall and the group practiced above the shop. They were a good average 60s beat group, who where probably at their very best performing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or the lighter stuff of the day which seemed to go down well.
I remember we entered them in a freebie competition at the Burnley Locarno (Mecca) where they had this weekly knock-out competition, to result in winning the final and securing a recording contract with Phillips. The Pagans won that competition above lots of other competitive groups at that time. They may have been good, but not that good. We probably helped them to win. We hired 3 coaches and filled them with young voters from the Rawtenstall area, this meant a guaranteed 150 votes in front of everyone else. They won OK, but I am still waiting for that contract!!! So Mecca – you still owe me one!
I remember a group who also entered this competition and came second "The Raging Storms" – a local band from Burnley – In my truthful opinion they where the group that should have won it, they were strong and tight and really good on the Rhythm and Blues. I was later to become their agent also and found them plenty of work without problem. I used to put them on in the Manchester areas where they would get repeat bookings and always in demand. One day Alan Arnison asked me if he could take over the group under his wing has he could offer them loads of prestige work. Although a little saddened at the time, I sort of reluctantly handed them over, because I did know that Alan could put them in the right places and that was far more important.
Probably the most prestigious venue in East Lancashire at that time was The Nelson Imperial Ballroom (Nelson Imp), I remember it with its unusual sort of domed roof on the style of a aeroplane hanger, this was owned by Bob Caine and managed by Derek Greenwood (the father of one of my best mates - David), here the cream of acts including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones had been top billers – I was given the opportunities many time to put the odd support band in there – there was usually about 3 or 4 bands on the bill on Saturday evenings. It eventually got ravished by fire and was never rebuilt.
Just down the road from me was another great venue called the Astoria Ballroom, in Rawtenstall. This was owned and managed by John Myerscough who then got his header bands from a agent in Southport called Lewis Buckley, and the support bands John booked himself. Regular top of the billers included The Who and the Yardbirds, and there where many others: Sounds Incorporated, Honeycombs, Rockin Berries, Small Faces, Unit 4 plus 2, Brian Auger Trinity, Merseybeats, Maurauders, The Moody Blues (31.12.64 for the fee of £85), David John and The Mood, and lots lots more – but he never got the Beatles or the Stones. Support bands included: Wynder K. Frog (Mick Weaver) – never away from the place- Darwen Nr. Blackburn, Avalons (Colne), Warriors (Accrington and Jon Anderson of Yes fame – and the drummer of this band went on to play with Bob Dylan), The Electones (Blackburn), The Dappers (Accrington – Lead singer Tommy Franks, still performing as artiste on Clubs 2007) The Swinging Hangmen (Haslingden), The Imps, The Breakers. and many, many more (see Astoria blog)
Occasionally John would let me put the odd support band in. The Astoria sadly was knocked down to make way for a close by dual carriageway, although there now a beautiful little park area on that very spot where Clapton, and many others got their trade together (the park and plaque is quite close to the new Asda Supermarket store built next door. John Myerscough went living in Southport where I believe he bought out Lewis Buckley Entertainments, that very agency that supplied his header names in the earlier days, And he carried on that Agency.
There was plenty going on with Folk and Blues also ...They were great days with folk and blues artiste also, putting blues acts on at the Manor House-Thornton In Craven, Nr. Barnoldswick and also at the Blue Scene Folk Club held at Nelson Nr. Burnley – Harry Boardman did loads of gigs for me, also Harry Ogden (who would often do a double with Harry B at the same gig), Gary and Very Aspey, Bob Williamson, John Haworth’s Oldham Tinkers, and there was a brilliant guy which Ian Hamilton sent me one day and I’m sure he was called Mike Stevens (now Meic Stevens from Wales) at that time he lived in Bolton – what a perfermer this guy was. Sometimes I would be stuck for folk acts and all I had to do was ring up Harry Boardman at Middleton and he would suggest somebody or fix somebody up for me. Victor Brox’s Blues Train did several gigs at the time including some University one nighters. A great local band whom I worked with then were from Hall Carr, Rawtenstall and called the Forresters Concertina Band who later changed their name to the Rawtenstall Concertina Band and later made a single on Virgin records- they were led by Lea Nicholson who then went on his own and became a recording artiste making several LPs and single records and is still very active in the business from Cambridge where he now lives. Jacqui and Bridie also made the trip up from Liverpool for us.
Langley Labour Club, Martindale Crescent, Middleton used to run star nights on a Thursday and I got the job of supplying the named acts and we would get Dave Berry and The Cruisers (who just came from over the hill at Sheffield), Ivans Meads (Sins of a Family), The Fortunes (again from Sheffield) The Toggery Five, etc etc etc. I do clearly remember booking the Bo Street Runners who had a top ten single out at that time and I think I got them from Harold Davidson Agency in London. We signed contracts for this band and arranged bandcall for 7pm, and the Concert Secretary of the Club rang me at 8pm – where’s this “bl..dy group? Anyway little do’s and big do’s they eventually arrived at the gig at 9pm. They where immediately dismissed and told in no uncertain terms to bugger off!! It apparently turned out that they where only part time and had jobs during the day and did not in fact set off from London until about 5.30pm. Can you imagine now knowing that I was responsible for bringing up to Lancashire the great Mick Fleetwood (eventually Fleetwood Mac) who never got to play because they sent packing……
I used to book some great bands, some I would get from Ian Hamilton whom I used to deal with when he worked with Danny Betash (Kennedy Street) and also again when he went on his own later (Ian Hamilton Organisation). One fabulous group springs to mind, and they where Frankenstein’s Monsters, who doubled on the second spot as Roy Stuart and The Sheffields. I also think I got Ivans Meads and the Fortunes from Ian.
Another great band I used several times was Keith Fairhurst’s band The Chosen Few, who eventually changed their name because I think another band had the same name, so they changed it to the Hush and I believe eventually made a record. One of the last gigs they did for me was the Rossendale Labour Gala in the early to mid 60s where they played from a elevated position on top of this old flat wagon in the middle of a sports field (Newhallhey-Rawtenstall), I remember the Prime minister Harold Wilson was guest of honour at this gig. They where a great band but we seem to loose touch with Keith. Since writing this he has been in touch from Australia where he his still gigging.
The Majestic Ballroom at Barnoldswick had a good Sat or Sun noon show with beat groups, it was owned by Boris Hartley, who now and again would come to Haslingden and pick me up and I would go with him to the Rochdale, Oldham Clubs, where we would call on his mates whom also owned Clubs down in them areas.
A great crowd puller who eventually came under our wing was Vidors Skiffle Group who later became Billy Kerr and The Dynamites (from Haslingden) who later called themselves The Dynamites, James Turner Four and finally the Second Time Around – this group spanned from the 50s right up until the 80s with odd changes but in the main Ronnie Green (rhythm and vocals), Gerard Navin (lead and vocals) John Tillotson (Bass and vocals), the late Noel Smith RIP(drums) other earlier members included: the late Billy Kerr RIP (vocals), the late James Turner RIP (vocals), John Turner (drums), Ralph Clarke (in the 50s on washboard and teabox string bass)
Other Local Bands where:
Other local bands from this area (East Lancs) where: Mark Day and The Knights Lennie and The Teenbeats – (Great Harwood) – This group was fronted with Lennie Herbert whom also played a big part not only with the Band but also promoting bands at the Mercer Hall, Great Harwood which I do remember on one occasion included Nero and The Gladiators. Other local bands included, Lionel Morten Four (later Four Pennies), The Vampires (which included Ken Shaw ( Later Argent fame and session musician) also Trevor Edwards (Haslingden), The Fourways (with Mick Sullivan and Mick Barratt whom later joined the Pagans), The Avalons (Colne), The Electones (Blackburn), The Levellers (Colne), Mike Sax and The Vikings (later changing their name to Mike Sax and The Idols and finally The Idols – which later included Terry Bannister drummer from the late Swinging Hangmen- Rossendale), The Warriors (Accrington – Jon Anderson/Yes fame), The Dappers (Accrington – managed by Norman McFarland from Haslingden), The Vikings (later Nosmo Kings – Great Harwood), The Strangers (later Kris Ryan and The Questions) -Burnley), The Mustangs, The Boneshakers (Darwen), The Beethovens (Darwen), The Atlantics, The Victors, Kris Ryan and The Questions (Blackburn and Burnley), Dr. Pill and The Purple Hearts, Curt’s Creatures. The Soundcasters (Accrington).
Other local East Lancs gigs that had bands on them days and which I would occasionally book were: Majestic Ballroom-Accrington (Mon and Sat), The Majestic Ballroom, Baroldswick (Sun noon), The Arts on Knowlemere St Accrington (Bands on Sundays), Cavern Club- Milnshaw Ln – Accrington (run by a ex Bolton Wanderers FC player and had on John Lee Hooker), Empire Picture House in the centre of Burnley (booked by the Manager Lew Askew whom before that was the Manager of the Burnley Casino on York St) Burnley Mecca (then called Locarno, then called Cats Whiskers), Bank Hall Miners Club- Burnley (Tuesdays). Haslingden Ambulance Hall (Thursdays), The Regency Club, Waterfoot (Saturdays), Bacup Irish Club (I remember Dr Pill and The Purple Hearts and Curts Creatures appeared regular here). The Seven Stars at Heywood (here they had the Band on for a full weeks booking).
Agents in the 60s ...
During the 60s there did not seem to be too many agents around as I can remember, in North West area the only guys I recall where: Kennedy Street Enterprises (Danny Betesh, Ian Hamilton, Stuart Littlewood) Paddy McKiernan (McKiernan Immpressarios), Ace Artiste (Madame Ace at Broughton), Sonny Ross, Alan Arnison at Stockport (now lives in Spain), Ian Hamilton Associates (in his own right and later moved to Australia) Ronnie Cross (TDC Enterprises of Chorlton Cum Hardy). Alan Lewis Enterprises (Four Pennies and The Peddlars), Don Read at Bolton (Beachcomber Club) and Norman Teal in Blackpool (Roy Castle’s ex showbiz partner). Billy Forrest down in Stoke (sorted lots of Bands for Germany etc). Mike Hughes (over in Liverpool – the man for the Comics, nowadays London Theatre owner), Bert Lomas at Heswall, Garth Cawood in Leeds.
Most of the Northern headliners them days came from Kennedy Street or other large London Agents in particular Harold Davison. There must have been many more Agents around, but these are the ones I can remember.
Again in the late 60s I used to have to try and find the bluest comedians I could for Norman Smith who had The Embassy Club, Burnley (now called Circulation) and originally it was a double with his other Club The Black Knight Club, which was in Waterfoot-Rossendale. Norman them days also owned bookies shops and lived in Bury. Regular star nights were held with one of Manchester’s greatest comics - Al Showman’s – “Cinderella” and “Chamber of Horrors”, and these shows had about 5 strong blue comics and about 12 strippers. At the Embassy there where two giants as bouncers who were brothers – Duggie and Jack. (Duggie and Jack also did the bouncing at the Majestic Ballroom-Accrington (on Mondays).
Another good old pro who was about them days was Vic Rawlings who was the organist at the Starlight Club, Plane Street, Blackburn and he was also the booker for Brian Tattersall’s Clubs, - The Cabaret at Rosegrove-Burnley, New 77 Brierfield, Nr Colne and the Starlight in Blackburn. Now and again he would let me put the odd act or two in at his Clubs.
(This is my registration certificate from the 60's. All Agents used to have to have one of these before you could trade as a Agent - To qualify you had to place a special worded advert in the "Stage and Television" newspaper for two weeks and if anyone objected to you holding the licence you did not get it granted).
By the end of the 60s it all started to change and I sort of drifted like most agents around at that time into a CABARET/CLUB AGENT (late 60s, 70s early 80s)
From the late 60s and through the 70s, early eighties I continued in the business, yet in the main the set up had changed more to variety and cabaret. I suppose it was a natural progression at that time and the money was there because you got a bigger pick of the cherry because of the vast versatility and quantity of cabaret/club acts and venues that where around them days.
Looking back an area which held on to its groups nights far longer than anywhere else was Cumbria. We used to send lots of groups from Lancashire and Yorkshire up to Whitehaven and Workington areas, there was always a shortage of bands up there and I think was more or less set at something like £25-30 a shot. This was great money at the time, but yet it was still hard to find bands wanting to travel such long distances. We did manage to get most of the Groups ourselves, however we did need a helping hand from time to time and Mark Jordan (Agent) over in Bradford way who got some of the bands for us at the time.
Other Northern Agents in the 70s ...
By the 70s most of Manchester’s Agents had changed from the good old 60s beat group days and a lot of the new Agents had arrived, a more sort of Cabaret/Clubland affair agent. These agents included: Stuart Littlewood Associates (Stuart now having left Kennedy Street and running a Agency in his own right) Stuart Marti of Urmston, Brian Mills of Salford, Dave Lee of Whitefield, Barry Lomas, Brian Durkin Associates with Brian Durkin and Roy Hastings. Barry Lomas, Frank Birchall at Wigan, Bill Leyland (L.E. Agency at Wigan), Dave who left LE and joined Hughie Mather in Newton Le Willows. Neil Johnson and Charles Fox in Warrington, Roy Mozley. Tony Yorke (managed Brian Rossi), Fred Screeton (Greengage and Dustin Gee), Steve Draper in Darwen, Harry Pope in Blackpool, The Royale Agency in Chester, Tony Birmingham running Mike Hughes old office in the Liver Buildings, Liverpool, Dave Warwick of Dave Anthony Promotions at Warrington. Ricky McCabe and Tony West over at Liverpool, Bob Deplidge at Beverley (North East) There must have been lots of others.
Most of us at that time where members of the Agents Association and the Northern meetings where usually held at Belle Vue and later at the Manchester City Football Club, Maine Road, and also I remember them once being held at a large pub somewhere in the Wythenshawe part of Manchester.. here agents from all over the North of England would assemble and discuss general topics, our Northern controller at that time was Stuart Littlewood (Stuart Littlewood Assoc) and also Peter McLeod (from McLeod/Holden of Hull) had something to do with it, and usually there was “agent celebrity visits” with people like Cyril Berlin from London Management and also Gordon Blackie (from London) who was our Secretary at that time. I can still vividly remember at one of the meetings at Belle Vue and there was this guy running about in the wings in a sort of crazy fashion with a striped sort of tee shirt and striped top hat. We were all wondering who it was and Cyril Berlin said “Its that new guy who has just joined the Rolling Stones” -- none other than the great Ronnie Wood….
From the Bury area – and probably one of the greatest mime acts to every come out of Manchester or for that matter the North of England, besides of course the great Jimmy Gordon was Dave Oliver – he was a absolute gentleman and professional in every sense of the word. I can remember going back to the 60s when I first met Dave whilst we as a group were performing at the Devonshire Sporting Club and he was really good then, but It was the 70s before I ran into him again, he was doing a summer season at the Layton Institute, Blackpool, and by then he had also started doing regular gigs for me and would reserve several weeks a year for me to book out for him. It was a honour to have this guy on the books. Another great mime act who worked for us regular for some years was Jimmy Conway from St. Helens.
Workingmens Clubs regular had star nights and I would regularly book the Karl Denver Trio (Wimoweh and Lion Sleeps Tonight) for headliners– I used to book them through the big guy in the band whom played rhythm guitar the late Kevin Neill – another gentleman of the good old days, who went on to play for the Bachelors.
Drag acts were a massive pull in the early 70s especially in some of the low budget venues and I can remember regularly booking: Bunny Lewis, Barry Louise, Bobby Dawn, Dizzie Trent, all from the Manchester areas plus lots of others.
The Comedians - Granada Television – Early 70sIn 1972 Johnny Hamp produced “The Comedians” for Granada Television and the show featured in the main Northern stand up comics together with interval set pieces from Wythenshawe’s Sheps Banjo Band. The show was very successful and made a lot of the comics household star names. Many of these comedians worked through our Office at one time or another. I remember Bernard Manning whom did lots of gigs for us and I think I used to get him from Stuart Littlewood.
Also Colin Crompton, George Roper – worked direct through us on many gigs, Tom O’Conner ex schoolteacher who we used to get through manager Billy Uke Scott from Southport. Freddie ‘parrot face’ Davis, Ken Goodwin, Eddie Flanagan, Steve Faye, Dave Evans, we got from Mike Hughes in Liverpool, also we used to use Charlie Williams from Yorkshire along with Duggie Brown, cant remember whom I got them off, we used to also work with Stanley and Michael Joseph at ATS (Leeds) or Les Morgan or Johnny Peller in Sheffield, it could have been any one of these notable agents. I had previously had the pleasure to meet Charlie Williams many moons before the Comedians was ever thought of, when he would be playing football for Doncaster Rovers he would come to Accrington Stanley’s Peel Park and I was nowt but a lad collecting the football players autographs.
The only Rolls Royce I have ever travelled in was registered BM1 – Bernard Manning’s. Bernard would regularly do star nights for me in various Workingmens Clubs and this particular night he was doing Padiham Unity WMC Nr Burnley, I was at the Club and had no wheels to get home, so I plucked up courage asked him if he would give me a lift back to Haslingden on his way back to his hallowed Embassy Club. He agreed and gave me a lift back to road-end which lies about 1 mile South of Haslingden (my intended destination but at this point it was probably easier for him to get back on the Motorway from here without having to double back on himself), he then told the chauffeur to stop the car and said “now f**k off Yorky” you can walk the rest, and that was Bernard…..
Another time I remember we had him doing the Christmas Party for the Royal Ordnance Factory and this was at the King Georges Hall, Blackburn along with the Northern Dance Orchestra. As usual he went down a absolute bomb even at such a late hour as 10pm (a mean! Who in their right mind would put a comedian on at such a late hour, but the trouble was, and always were with Bernard, how did you follow that, it was almost impossible trying to get a comic who was strong enough to follow him and didn’t we always have trouble with this one.
This gig brought back other memories also, at that time I was agent for the Northern Dance Orchestra alias NDO, alias New Dance Orchestra and they where a great 36 pieces orchestra with lots of personalities like Brian Silvester and Harry Burgess, and the leader was Leslie Douglas from Cleveleys, They used to do lots of stuff for us especially Rotarys, Lions, Parent/Teacher evenings and Works do’s, anyway on this particular night we had them doing this gig at the King Georges Hall, Blackburn for the Royal Ordnance Factory Annual Dinner. About 3 weeks before the gig I received a phone call from (as it was then) Radio Blackburn (now Radio Lancashire) and this guy was asking me all sorts of questions, but in a very aggressive sort of tone, “Do you know you are not supposed to offer the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra on private gigs”, they don’t do moonlighting etc etc and he was accusing me of allsorts of antics. Strictly at that time I was not aware that the Royal Ordnance Factory had put “BBC” on their tickets, they where told strictly at the time of booking that they could use NDO but certainly not BBC, which they had obviously done. Anyway getting back to the tale. This guy is giving me some stick, and I give him some also, but at the time didn’t know that the conversation was being aired over the Radio (without warning "naughty", well didn’t I feel such a fool when I eventually realised what was going on.
New Faces – ITV Central Television – Mid 1970s
When New Faces started on the television, me and Steve Draper teamed up initially and put auditions on at the Spinning Jenny, Oswaldtwistle Nr. Accrington and invited Les Cocks (Producer), who came along with John Pullen (Director) and selected some acts cant remember but they did include: Jimmy Crow (Comedian) and the Jolly Brothers plus others.
Later on I was to start arranging auditions directly with ATV which we held regularly at the Irlam and Cadishead Royal British Legion (one one day) and then we used Keighley Variety Club in Yorkshire (the following day). The producer of the show at this time had changed to Albert Stevenson, yet the Director was still John Pullen.
We would probably show almost 100 acts during a day and what fabulous backing they had at the Irlam and Cadishead, we always used their resident guys which did include George Galway (James’s Brother – The Man with the Golden Flute).
Albert once asked me if I could get George to go on New Faces and he readily accepted. After the show we got lots of follow up bookings for him from Ireland, they where all in local Town Halls where George turned our to be a celebrity, great gigs.
We had scores of acts on new faces from these auditions, I cant remember everybody, but some of the acts that where picked and did appear where: Gerry Aiden (Brian Murphy) Comedian from Warrington (he used to do gigs for me years earlier in the 60s also and also later ran an agency from the Warrington area) Steve Allen (Comedy/multi instrumentalist) though we changed his name for this one to Marti Stuart (this name came from his friend and agent Stuart Marti Ents of Urmston). Mr Leslie Rae (a comedy mime act from Frank Birchall Agency) Aiden J. Harvey (Immpressionist), Yorkshire Groups which did include - Black Lace and Gingham. But there where scores more which I just cant remember…
Once while at Irlam, Albert Stevenson whispered over to me and said, have you seen the two guys stood over at the bar, both these guys had large sombraro’s on! Well the small one is P.J. Proby, we have seen him at our Auditions before. I remember not long before this he had been on Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks under the title of Mr. X
Spin offs from the New Faces, brought in loads of private work, including some very prestigious clients like Jack Solomons (Boxing promotor) at the World Sporting Club, Grosvenor House Hotel in London, Harry and Jack Levine (Boxing Promotors) 20th Century Sporting Club, Honda UK Ltd, Showboat on the Thames at London plus lots and lots of other very prestige work.
In them early days of New Faces, I can remember seeing this cockney comic and boy he was great he was called Jim Davison, so I immediately contacted his manager at that time who came from Surrey and arrange under contract to book several weeks with this guy for appearances in Lancashire – he did a bomb once Lancastrian's could get used to his cockney twang….
Probably during that lively 60s 70s period one of the greatest Northern agents for comics had to be Mike Hughes who was based at the Royal Liver Buildings in Liverpool. I used to get loads of acts from him and Mike just did recognize quality. Bonk Shaw (who later came under my wing) Hayes and Benny (who later came under my wing), and Joe Kenyon from Widnes who also ended up working for us.
Sadly I don’t have my diaries these days to reference or for that matter any paperwork on the old Agency days, but just from memory, there where literally thousands of top professional acts we used to use on a regular basis, and a selection of these acts where working for us under sole representation 365 days a year and some of them just casually now and again. Some I can remember:
Pat O’Hare (Saddleworth, Oldham), Claude Powell (Doncaster), Freddie Corless (Liverpool and Manchester), Johnny Meadows (St. Helens), Johnny Duffy (Blackpool), Chuck Layburn or Wayne McKenna or L.J. Roberts (Keighley), Robbie Dolan (Sheffield), Ricki Allan and Paula Bentley (Merthyr Tydfil), The Spencer Brothers (Eccles and Blackpool) who were Dave and Graham (Graham went on to be Barnaby the Comedian - Winner of the New Faces.. Barry Wyndham (Comic from Chorley), Roy Stuart (Bolton, originally Sheffield), Spencer King (Stoke On Trent), Debbie and Tony Royale, Blind Margo from Liverpool. The late W. Hickory Smith (Warrington), Mike Donohoe (Ormskirk), Johnny “Goon” Tweed (Manchester), Ivor Davis (Comedian from Manchester), Mike Rose and The Colours, Reg Coates Experience, Joe Kenyon (Comedian from Widnes), the late Bonk Shaw (Comedian – Liverpool) Hayes and Benny (Comics from St Helens – first appeared with them in the early 60s at Levenshulme Sporting Club), Eddie Flanagan, Steve Faye, The Singing Nolans, later called the Nolan Family (from Blackpool – later hit the big time), Ramon (Southport), Jimmy Crow (Comedian – Accrington), Paul Ridgeway (Parbold), Jimmy Cricket (Comedian) and his sisters the O’Brien Sisters. Lee Brooklyn (Comedian from Cleveleys), Jack Diamond (Comedian from Manchester and later Cleveleys), Al Showman (Comedian – Manchester), Harper comedians- Oldham area, Brian Rossi (Blackpool), Ken Lomax (Burnley), Brian Fenton (Rochdale), Ray Merrell (Herts), Brian Massey (Comedy – Blackpool), Jeannie Weir (Harrogate and Scotland), Shiela Steele (Bradford), Howard Jones (Keighley ex Joe Loss), Johnny Spillers, Mel Williams (Blackpool), Colin James (Bacup), Jimmy Quigley (Guitar/Vocal - from Nelson). Sorry to the hundreds I have missed.
This has been but a small sampling of what actually went on -There are probably still hundreds of tales I could tell, and some more will probably come back to me as I now bring my pen to close.
But what we had then was something really special, which we did not realize we had when we had it. Great while it lasted.
(Reported: 20th February 2012) I have just been notified of the sad news that Harry Eastham has died. Harry was the former drummer with Haslingden's Swinging Hangmen beat group in the 60s.
Hi, I am Harry Easthams nephew, unfortunately Harry "the man" has just passed away on the 15/2/12 after a battle with cancer. He always loved to talk about his days in the groups. Trev. Gibson