Locarno (Sale)

Johnny Peters and the Jets were the first group to break into the Mecca ballroom circuit. We were asked to do every Thursday night at Sale Locarno about 1959/1960 by Bill Bloxham the manager.

When we used to come round on the revolving stage, we used to play the theme music to Sunday night at the Paladium.

The trouble was there were no electrical sockets on the revolving part of the stage, and you were lucky if the amps didn't go off as the plugs pulled out when you came round to relace the dance band."

Butch Mepham

The Sale Locarno had become a local Mod venue from the early 1960s and a friend of mine was chucked out of there for stomping in cuban heels on the sprung? dancefloor to Dave Clarke Five's 'Bits and Pieces'. By around 68 it had become the Blue Rooms and was full of suited smart mods, in grey, brown and lastly tan/green mohair. They had the silver glitter ball hanging from the ceiling and the bar sold Double Diamond in traditional pint pots. Cliff Bennett, One Way Love ...Zoot Money, Big Time Op, James Brown. There was a Time, Bill Moss, Sock it to 'em Soul Brother and Carolina by the Folks Bros were some of the hippest stuff played along with the Atlantic and Tamla more well known. Oh How Happy was played a lot by Edwin Singers? as well as Beach Boys, George Harrison ' My Sweet Lord'.

Scooters lined the back of the tunnelled entrance alll over the car park. Lots of these guys never got into the hard rock newer sounds, prefering to stay loyal to soul and the place probably became a precurser and recruiting ground for Wigan Casino, as the scene drifted into the seventies and the Blue Room remained a soul venue by the late seventies. Though I myself didn't really attend after 69.

Carina Star was a lesser known venue on School Road and also a casino. The mod sounds here were more mainstream, I think, and 60s things by the Tremoloes, Call me Number 1 and Eddison' Lighthouse, Love Grows were played often. Although obscurities like the Ethiopians, Hong Kong Flu were played alongside the Contours, A Little Misunderstanding. As we teenagers left around midnight, the same club but casino area upstairs, there was no downstairs, the club was filling up with older Teddy Boy gamblers and there Beehive girlfriends who would gamble on the tables until early hours.

Warren Taylor Fantastic venue - as were all the Mecca Locarnos. Revolving stage, great atmosphere, appreciative crowd. I even remember there was an internal CCTV system and tv screens - quite an innovation in 1965!

The Vincents played Sale Locarno on a few occasions. Vincents biog shows the ad for Thursday 18th November 1965.

Good memories.

Peter Royle - 11/3/10

I remember Billy QT working on Sunday nights at the Blue Rooms at Sale Locarno.

I was told he was called QT after the then popular, and probably the only, Quick Tan lotion.He was always tanned but not "tangoed" like so many youngsters these days. God, I must be getting old!! Any way I was probably about 14-15 then so it would be 1967 onwards. What happy memories.

Ann Read (was Pickersgill) - 7/10/12

Well here's a trip back in time, I have stumbled across this page once or twice whilst catching up on recent events ie Ray Teret and his pal.

I lived at the time three doors away from the Locarno and spent many a happy hour exploring the interior, previously it had been a splendid swimming pool and Lido known as the Sale Lido with shops either side (Lido parade) where I lived.

Not wishing to bore readers with a long post I will just list some of the events I remember during those years...

1960's

Met the then Manager's son Bill Macleish, we both went to the same primary school Urban Rd. We had mock battles usually with wooden swords and shields using those blue bottle trollys from behind the bars as chariots all over the ballroom and auditorium up stairs, even the dark dank tilled swimming pool under the dance floor. Shared some target practice with Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders in the car park -where the air rifle came from I have no idea.

1968-69

The Blue room at the rear down the smelly tunnel almost became my second home. I was either outside listening to the music and drooling over the two wheeled or two legged delights or as I grew a little older or looked it, inside clutching a half of bitter and being only 15 hoping my father would be asleep when I got home.

I remember the night Dave Kelly the DJ was involved in a RTA and sadly died.
After the funeral I think there was a kind of a send off in the club, John Richardson dancing all alone on the dance floor to one of Dave's favourite tracks.

There are so many happy times to remember also but I will leave that for another day, Many thanks.

Peter Miller - 12/10/12

Pictured on right is my membership card for The Tudor Dance and Social Club at the Locarno. I remember you had to obtain a photo from the booth and give it in with an application form and if you looked to be 18 or over you were in and could purchase alcohol. Although I was only 15 at the time, I passed the photo test. 

Douglas Gill - 18/11/12

I used to work in the cash desk at the Blue Rooms in the early 1970's when Colin King and Dave Dixon were the DJ's there, what good times they were, the place was packed every night.

Does anyone remember Phil Watton, he was the DJ upstairs at the Locarno at about the same time?

Sue Lockett - 18/11/12

My dad, Bill McLeish, was the manager of the Locarno in 1963/4. He had previously managed the Bolton Palais for six years before a relatively short stint at the Sale Locarno before moving on to manage the "Tottenham Royal", a Mecca dance hall in London.

It was quite a surprise for me to see the post by Peter Miller, my old boyhood pal, talking about our exploits as kids around the Locarno. I haven't seen him for almost 50 years but I still remember our adventures. Hi Pete, if you see this post.

One of my abiding memories of the Locarno brings to mind the old cliche about everyone remembering where they were when JFK was assassinated. Well I was watching the band rehearsing one afternoon not long before opening time when the band leader - can't remember his name - stopped to tell everyone that the president had just been shot. Soon after we got the news he was dead. Not a nice memory but one I'll never forget. 

Bill McLeish - 6/4/13

I was a regular at the Blue Rooms for many years in the 70's and for some time was the bar cellarman and pot collector. Ted Scantlebury was the manager then, a great guy originally from Bermuda I think. Dave Dixon was a good mate of mine and it was a great place to be but sadly became infested by scum and eventually closed.

Many happy memories.

Gary Betney - 6/4/13

The Blue Rooms for me was my first real introduction to Northern Soul (take the northern out and it's just soul music). The phrase Northern Soul was coined by Dave Godin around 71/72.

I have lived in Sale all my life and the Blue Rooms was the place to be and be seen especially on a Thursday night with Ian Lavin and Colin Curtis spinning rare unheard/demo soul records with a distinctive up-tempo beat. 

Those early 1973/74 days when I was 15/16yrs old, Thursday Northern Soul nights pulled a crowd as far a field as North Wales, Preston etc. At this time and to be into this music and able to dance was the epitome of "coolness".

Friday and Saturday nights were normal club/disco nights with a fantastic atmosphere. I seem to recall that Watney's Red Barrel was the flavour of the day for beer lovers. They were great times which people can reflect back on.

Graham 'HERBY' Hibbert - 4/8/13

The Locarno Ballroom was in Washway Road, Sale, Lancashire.   The manager of the Locarno was Bill Bloxham (b. Ronald B. Bloxham).

In 1956 19 year-old Freddie Garrity (b. Frederick Garrity Jnr, Saturday, November 14, 1936, 123 Crescent Road, Crumpsall, Manchester 8, Lancashire, England d. Friday, May 19, 2006, Gwynedd Hospital, Ysbyty Ifan near Bangor, Gwynedd, North Wales) won a talent contest here at The Locarno Ballroom with an Al Jolson song 'April Showers.' His prize for winning was an electric razor. Garrity was later lead vocalist in Freddie and the Dreamers.

In 1958 a four piece Manchester band called The Red Sox (Skiffle Group) were runners-up in a north-west Skiffle championships held here at The Locarno Ballroom. This group included 21 year-old Freddie Garrity on lead vocals and younger brother Derek Garrity on tea-chest bass. 

Johnny Peters and the Jets played every Thursday here at The Locarno Ballroom in about 1959 and 1960. They were asked to play by Bloxham.

Later Bill McLeish (b. William McLeish) managed The Locarno (1963 - 1964). He had been general manager (1957 - 1963) of The Palais de Dance in Bridge Street, Bolton, Lancashire.

They also had a D.J. called D.J. Dave.

It later became The Sale Ballroom.

John Warburg
14 April 2020