Swinging Sixties days at The Beachcomber
From the Lancashire Evening Telegraph, first published Saturday 22nd Mar 2003.
LESLEY RICHARDS looks back at one of Leigh's famous old nightclubs - The Beachcomber The beat rolled on for Sixties teenagers with the opening of their own trendy Leigh nightspot -- The Beachcomber.
Three weeks of hard work converted a former furniture warehouse off Bradshawgate into the coffee-bar-club which brought some of the biggest names in blues to town.
Opened in December 1964 on the site of the present burned out Boulevard, dedicated followers of fashion flocked to the club which had all the facilities of a grown-up nightclub -- minus alcohol. That was sneaked in hidden in handbags!
Grateful teens had managing director Norman Clements and fellow directors Eddie Grindrod and E. Eckersley to thank for their foresight in creating a great atmosphere for both Mods and Rockers to meet in a more glamorous place than the in-place youth clubs of the time at Bedford and Leigh Parish Churches.
Clubbers stepped into the brightly lit foyer through double doors and into the main section of the club which was decorated like a smugglers' den.
Ships' lanterns lit the low room and oak beams strewn with yards of fishing nets and painted beer barrels, used as coffee tables, added to the atmosphere.
To the right was a large raised section with tables and red leather upholstered seating for 30 surrounded by a cleverly designed weather-beaten sea wall.
The stone bar stretched almost the length of one wall and the Spanish room was a favourite haven.
The club, which was open seven nights a week until 11pm, incorporated many features of its successful mother club in Bolton, and on the first night teenagers from surrounding towns crowded into their new nightspot which pulled in some of the biggest names in the music world including The Moody Blues, The Who, Lulu, Long John Baldry, The Mojos, the Pretty Things, John Lee Hooker, Wilson Pickett, Alexis Corner, Them, and Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
Former Beat Boy Ronnie Carr recalls good times at The Beachcomber backing Hawkins. The group changed its name to The Blues Set to accompany the rock 'n' horror act on his 1965 British tour. They were matched up by Don Arden, Sharon Osbourne's father, and watched by her future husband, wildman Ozzy then at the start of his career.
Gun totin' bluesman Hawkins, who dressed from head to foot in black complete with cloak and carried Henry, a skull on a stick, stayed at Ronnie's Holden Road, Leigh, home. He scared the local newsagent's wife to death when he went into the shop with flames shooting from his fingertips.
Another regular group was Atherton's The Foresomes, who once had the task of standing in for Them and lead singer Van Morrison when they were two hours late after their transport broke down.
Former Leigh Parish YC member John Rayman's memories of the club are many, but the sight of the ill-fated Graham Bond resplendent in black sombrero and poncho being "waited on" in the Nelson next door by Teddy in his white coat certainly stands out.
He says: "Bond, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker et al all playing together in Leigh. It is true. Spencer Davis with a 15-years-old Stevie Winwood singing "Every Little Bit Hurts". It did happen.
"I may have not lived in Leigh for over 30 years, but I do remember we saw all these and more then went off to Manchester for the all-nighters. Aah, sweet youth."
Leigh DJ Norman Wilcock was in at the start and recalls regular footy matches between the Leigh and Bolton clubs.
He has memories of the original Drifters, the St Louis Union, Unit Four Plus Two, Hedgehoppers Anonymous and the Rev Black and the Rockin' Vicars.
The club was opened in response to Leigh members of the Bolton club calling for a place of their own. Mr Grindrod and five immaculately dressed and well groomed security men kept their eye on the going-ons. There were strict dress rules and anyone considered not up to standard was refused membership.
Before the club opened Mr Clements invited parents along to see what was on offer and show them around.
He said he was not really worried about long hair if it was reasonably smart and well groomed.
He said: "What we are against is scruffiness. We firmly believe that anyone who is badly dressed is usually badly behaved!"
The club eventually faded out with the end of the coffee bar trend and after becoming a bingo hall changed to The Way Inn for a new set of teenagers!
Went regularly when the Beachcomber became the Way Inn. Smashing disco. You could get a stamp on your wrist as a pass-out. The DJ’s introduced us to the Northern Soul records played at the Twisted Wheel such as ‘At the discotheque’ (Chubby Checker) and ‘Seven days too long’ (Chuck Wood). I think the owner was called Jimmy O’Brien.
David Brown - 20/10/13