Bygones: Happy nights spent at Winter Gardens' gigs
DESPITE Ade White, Dave Jeffries and friends' valiant efforts, the South Bank Renaissance Club (formerly the South Bank Jazz Club) finally closed in the early 1970s, just when Grimsby's music scene was reaching its zenith, writes Jeff Beedham.
This left only a few suitable venues in the area for nationally-known artistes to appear.
Two of these were the Winter Gardens and the Pier Pavilion at Cleethorpes, which enabled local groups, such as Amazing Blondel, Calmen Waters, Messiah and the Rumble, to perfect their stagecraft.
In 1970 on the Warner Brothers label, Rumble released their first and only single Rich Man Poor Man on the A-side, written by Dave Ranshaw and Noel Skelton, with B-side Let Me Down, credited to Dave Ranshaw.
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During the 1960s, Rod Stewart and Country Joe And The Fish had both appeared at college dances at the Gardens before achieving worldwide recognition.
The Gardens, originally named Olympia, was designed in the 1920s as an amusement hall and rollerskating rink and housed the Olympia Restaurant advertised as "the most up to date cafe in town".
After wartime refurbishment, it reopened in December 1947 as the Winter Gardens Ballroom.
However, by the 1970s it had seen better days with its outdated décor and battered gold-painted furniture.
It had beer-sodden carpets that in places stuck to the soles of your platform-heeled boots. Despite this it had a strangely comfortable and welcoming ambience.
It also had three licensed bars staffed by mainly female staff who, in hindsight, deserved a medal for their endless patience.
The front of the dance floor, close to the stage, was reserved for the "idiot dancers" or "headbangers" (both male and female) in various states of undress, some high on drink or drugs wildly shaking their heads and hair while flailing their arms and legs in time to the ear splitting music.
The decade kicked off with two memorable Monday night college dances. On January 12, Mott the Hoople of All the Young Dudes fame, appeared. Tickets were 8/6d in advance from Rumbelows. They were supported by Audience.
On March 23, Liverpool Scene, tirelessly promoted by the John Peel Show and led by Poet Adrian Henri, appeared with Quintessence performing their Blues parody I've Got The Fleetwood Mac Chicken Shack John Mayall Can't Fail Blues.
On November 30, there was a mammoth five-hour show from 7pm to 12pm (with a late bar until 11pm) with four groups appearing.
Tickets were 15 shillings from the Gough & Davy music shop in Victoria Street, Grimsby. Stone The Crows with bluesy vocalist Maggie Bell, dubbed by the Melody Maker as "the gritty growler from Glasgow" shared top billing with Wishbone Ash, supported by Stray and Mogul Thrash.
The year 1971 saw the College Students Union book an unknown blues pianist from Pinner, Reg Dwight, aka Elton John, who sang his hit Your Song and songs from his acclaimed Tumbleweed Connection album, which was penned with Lincolnshire lad Bernie Taupin.
From 1971, Sunshine Entertainments promoted artistes such as Atomic Rooster, Caravan, Free, Juicy Lucy, King Crimson, Nazereth, Thin Lizzy and fellow Irish Bluesman Rory Gallagher at the Gardens on Monday, Tuesday or Thursday nights with the Wharfrat Disco and Light Show.
Late buses to Grimsby for two shillings were provided and waited outside the Bathing Pool, departing at 11.30pm. However, boarding them could be risky as fights often broke out and bus windows were broken.
Often the driver, fed up of the verbal abuse, terminated the journey at the bus depot where police would board the bus and arrest the protagonists.
The year 1972 saw Vinegar Joe with Robert Palmer and female vocalist Elkie Brooks, who gyrated provocatively on stage, flashing her silk knickers to the wide-eyed boys at the front of the audience. She directed a torrent of four-letter expletives at anyone who dared heckle her.
This was the same lady who later in the decade would have a hit with Pearls A Singer.
A memorable year was 1973 with Savoy Brown, Sharks, and on Tuesday, March 5 (for just 70p), Freddie Mercury and Queen, billed by Sunshine as "Well worth waiting for!", appeared to a packed house.
On April 4 at the Medicine Head gig, I met my future wife, Julie, a secretary in Ross House and former head girl at Odhams High School Of Commerce in Mill Road.
From then on she would accompany me to the Gardens, stopping off like many others at the Lifeboat Hotel bar before waiting patiently in the long queue along the Kingsway to get in.
Tuesday, August 2, saw American Rocker Suzi Quatro appear, belting out hits such as Can The Can and 48 Crash.
On a frosty night in November 1974 we decided for a change to visit the Pier Pavilion to see Leo Sayer and his band.
Julie was wearing a fashionable long white dress and high platform shoes, a deadly combination as she slipped on the frozen wooden decking on route to the entrance.
The pavilion was packed full as the diminutive Leo belted out hits such as Just A Boy, Long Tall Glasses and The Show Must Go On.
On Thursday, June 15, 2006, shortly before it closed I attended the Gardens for the last time to see tribute band Led Zep Too and it was sad to see the neglected venue stripped of furniture.
It closed in 2007, nearly 60 years after opening, and was rapidly demolished to create what is now a blot on the landscape of Cleethorpes.
I feel sorry for today's youngsters who attend the austere Auditorium, that has all the atmosphere of a lunar landscape and a licensed bar remote from the music.
I look back fondly at the many happy nights spent at the Gardens – they were just priceless.