The Southern Sporting Club (Birch Street, West Gorton)

The Southern stood on Birch Street in Gorton and was originally the 'Corona' Cinema. I remember being taken to the 'Corona' when I was a kid to see the first Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis film 'At War With The Army'. 

I don't remember ever playing at the Southern but it belonged to Sid Elgar who also owned the Palace Theatre Club in Offerton where I did play. Acts booked to play at the Southern had a double booking with the Palace and had to do both venues every night.

Every Sunday afternoon there was a band call at the Southern for that week's acts. I think that the organist at the Southern was a lady whose name I can't remember, neither can I remember the drummer or the compere.

Two things that stick in my mind from those band calls was that if the Karl Denver Trio were appearing that week, the bar at the Southern was opened especially for Karl. 

The other thing was that the lower the act was in terms of star quality, the bigger and more complicated were their band parts. Not that made any difference to me, they rarely had guitar parts and if they had of done, my music reading ability was of the usual p.poor guitarist's standard, so tough s***.

Some of the acts were particularly popular with the musicians, for example, Vince Hill, who had a big hit with 'Eidelweiss' used to do his act and then come and sing all the good standards with the band just for the fun of it. There were a few like that who after they'd done their act would come and sit in with the band. 

I also remember Al Saxon, another good singer from the Smoke who had just one hit with 'There I've Said It Again' coming home with me to borrow a string for his ukelele (which he used in his act). My parents were very impressed at having someone who'd been on the tele in the house.

Later the Southern became a rock venue - Stoneground. They had some good bands there. I do remember going there once to see some friends of mine, 'The Willie Eyfot(?) Band' who did CS&N type stuff. They were supporting 'Back Door' an amazing trio from Sheffield comprising alto sax, drums and the fantastic Colin Hodgkinson on bass and vocals. Colin plays chords on a Fender Precision like you're not supposed to be able to do. People like that make it hard for the rest of us. 

Pete Crooks - 19/5/09

I remember this guy telling me that he saw the Beatles rehearsing once at this venue. I happened to be reading Mark Lewishons book THE BEATLES LIVE, I said ''Wow what was it like ?'' to my surprise he replied ''They were bloody awful''. I said ''whaddya mean''and he said ''They were just a load of noise'' I dont think he was into the beat group scene !

Anyway a few years ago I was talking to the ex manager of the Southern Sporting Club and he told me he had The Beatles booked for a performance there and he said ''you know what they went straight over to the Palace Theatre Club in Stockport after the gig at The Southern'', which probably was a routine thing for groups in those days.

He also said that The Beatles wrote their signatures on the wall and he said he wished he would have saved the plasterboard which they were on as it would be worth a fortune now, yer not joking!

Philip Hindley - 13/1/10

I read a message in you column about the Southern Sporting Club. The compere was Alan Black - the very first compere to open the club. Brilliant singer.

Mavis Fluerty - 29/310

Played there a few times. Compere had a limp but a great voice. If I am right Dennis Lotus sang on the same bill,. I remember The Chants on another night.

We had the Buckley brothers from Danny & The Strangers,and a great lead vocalist Ronnie Smith, singer Haig Bramhall. I was only15yrs old - told 'em lies to get inthe band. LOL

David Ashton
ex Hobos drummer
20/6/10

I'm Alan Black. Thank you Mavis for saying such nice things about me. I am seventy five now living in Australia. The first lady organist was Anita and on the drums was her husband Bobby. Ronnie Ogden played there too.

After I left the next compere was the fellow with the limp, who even I can't remember his name.

Alan Black - 21/10/10

I'm Russell Elgar. Syds son. I'm 46 now so far too young at the time to have heard you guys but did visit rehearsals in the late 60s and certainly recall Alan Black and Kevin Kent of whom my father spoke very highly.

I often scan his old booking records and its amazing the acts that were persuaded to show up and perform. I visited both the Southern and Offerton (latterly Gladrags etc). My father enjoyed those days immensley as it seems did many others.

Russell Elgar - 11/11/10

Hi Russell, you didn't complete your email address so couldn't thank you or add your name to the newsletter (Paul) This message is to Rusell Elgar What year did your Dad pass on and was your mother that very attractive lady your Dad was with when I worked for him. She had long Black hair and was stunning.

Alan Black - 19/11/10

I remember playing at The Southern Sporting Club many times in the sixties with The Answers who played for dancing in between the other acts and of course bingo. It was a brilliant night club and there would be 4 or 5 acts on the bill plus the compare and organist and drummer. I remember working with Kevin Kent there who also worked Offerton Palace and ended up as compare at The Golden Garter in Wythenshaw where I also worked in a band called Family Affair. Kevin was a class act, and a great guy, superb. The compare at The Southern Sporting Club who had a limp was a great singer and compare called Paul Kendal.

The organist I remember was Pete Marsh who was brilliant and the drummer I think was Frank also excellent.

Acts I remember there are, Freddie Star and The Delmonts, Little and Large, Paul Ridgeway, The Bystanders, Bonzo Dog Band, and Marty Wilde to name a few, what a fantastic club.

Brian Gibbs - 25/11/10

My husband Frank and I used to go to the Southern most week-ends when we were courting. One of my most vivid memories was when Freddie Starr played there and we only had enough to get in and one drink each. we had to make it last all night (he was the last act on) but it was worth it.

Does anyone remember Big Pete who worked on the door. He was a regular at the Imp across the road. Happy Days (1967)

Mary McPartland - 2/11/10

Just reading up about venues and saw a piece from Brian Gibbs. I was bass player with "The Answers". We did play quite often at "The Southern" and the compere was indeed at that time Paul Kendall. Great compere, great voice and one of the nicest guys around.Sadly a few years ago he passed away. I will never forget Paul. We also played at Offerton, once we were support on the night Vince Hill recorde a live album. He was brilliant. He did the whole album with just one retake. Great times.
Graham Wray.

p.s. I would love it if Brian would get in touch.

Graham Wray - 10/12/10

Just read the comments that Graham Wray entered on the 10th. Yes it's true Graham did play with the Answers he was our bass guitarist before leaving when he married Christine?

I have some fond memories of the Southern Sporting Club supporting all of the acts previously mentioned by Brian Gibbs (lead guitarist) particular fond memories of Kim Davies & the Dell Five from Peterlee Co. Durham and Faith Brown & The Shades (Liverpool).

Dennis Shuttleworth then joined the band and then we went onto release numerous singles recording on Spark Records until we found out that their Managing Director "Freddie Poser" was a dirty bent crook who was selling our songs abroad in France/Holland/Denmark etc. Who knows we may have had a number one abroad and never known it????

If Graham reads this or anyone who saw The Answers I would love to touch base and catch up.

Tom Casey - 18/12/10

I was delighted to come across this website, quite by chance. Paul Kendal, the compare with the limp was my dad he died seven years ago and would be delighted to be remembered for his voice. As a child I was often taken to Sunday afternoon band calls with dad. Peter Marsh used to pick us up as we had no car at the time. Dad was devastated when The Southern burnt down.

Veronica Martin - 9/4/11

Paul was the compere after me. He had a very good singing voice and always made me very welcome when I visited the club. Whatever happened to Anita the organist and her husband Bobby?

Alan Black - 15/9/11

I used to go to "The Southern" every Friday night with my friends around the early 60's. I was 17 at the time! What a great night out. Only ever had ten bob (50p) which lasted all night! Saw some great acts there, including The Springfields (with Dusty of course), Shane Fenton who later became Alvin Stardust and many more. Many years later, my niece went to see The Beatles there. Happy happy days. 

Sylvia Williams - 21/2/12

I worked the Southern Sporting club for years as a waiter. I know most of the people that have written on here. On the eve of my 22nd birthday 13th June 1962 we had the Beatles perform at both the Southern and Offerton they were very noisy but you could hardly hear them because of the girls screaming.

Other nights people like Johnny Ray, Guy Mitchell, Marvin Rainwater, Eric Delaney even Alma Cogan with Edmundo Ross, Nat Gonella all topped the bill but the one that packed it regular was Wee Willy Harris, the crazy rock and roller.

Nobody mentioned the Managers Big Mike Sullivan, Johnny Feian, and Harry Harrison - all nice people. I could go on forever about this place, Iloved it and the people in it and sadly I lost my love there too.

Alan Bowden - 22/6/12

While with the duo Jason & Gee, booked on the same bill as Jackie Wilson who was advertised to be on stage at 10 o'clock. He was late so the compere told us to fill in.The audience who were expecting JACKIE, booed and jeered our opening number Proud Mary, and I thought "bloody hell it's Little Green Apples next".

Great days, great memories.Got a bollicking from Kevin Kent for being late at the Palace.

Dave Garnett - 2/7/12

I also worked at the Southern as a pot lad from November '61 for around six months together with some of my family, my mam Lily, my brother Gordon and sister in law, Eileen Partington all worked there. I met my future wife, Veronica (June) Partington whilst working at the Southern. Have many great memories of the place, and some of the names I remember, Phil McGuiness, Keith Harrison, John Murray, Bill Robb, Cliff Smith, Johnny Waters, Gordon Britland. Roddy Entwistle worked wth me as a pot lad and his brother worked behind the bar, with another lad, called Mitch/Midge and Alan Parsons. Harry Harrison was manager whilst I was there.

At the end of the night, Paul Kendal would sing 'the party's over' after a night of great entertainment from some of the top names in the industry. I remember Colin Granger appeared there, a former England international footballer turned singer! The night I started, there was a yard of ale competition, and a girl won it! My first job was to mop up sick at the back. Donald Peers and Jimmy Wheeler were both on the bill that night. Anyone remember the little Australian who would weave his way round the club on a unicycle, only to part ways with it over by the back wall where the lads used to sit? And Brutus and his feats of strength, having four blokes either side with a rope attached to his neck having a tug of war! Great memories, that will stay with me forever. 

Jim Connell - 13/1/14

I was most interested to read about the Southern Sporting Club because I was the drummer there for six months in1961. A very happy six months.

The club was owned by Syd Elgar. He had a secretary Jean. Someone told me that they later got married but I don't know if this was true. The manager was Harry Harrison, the organist Anita (surname forgotten) and I took over the drum chair from her husband Bob. He went to do a management job for Syd but I understand he returned to drumming later on.

The compere, the one with the bad leg, was Paul Kendal. I did not have a lot to do with him then but I got to know him very well later on after we had both left the Southern. He was a really nice chap and I was sorry to read that he is no longer with us. I never worked at the Southern with Alan Black but we got to work together later on when we were both working for Ralph Birch at his clubs in the Stoke area.

Every week the bill consisted of six or seven acts. Sunday to Saturday with two shows a night doubling and a joint band call on Sunday afternoons at 4 PM at the Southern. The acts would usually be doubling with either the Sale Palace or the Offerton Palace, both owned by Elgar. Occasionally an act might double with the Cromford club.

Among the billtoppers I accompanied were: Jimmy Young, Donald Peers, Frank Ifield, Al Saxon, Vince Hill, Mike Preston, The Springfields, The Avons, The Dallas Boys, The Viscounts, Teddy Foster and Julie Rolls (who later changed her name to Julie Rogers), Chas McDevitt and Shirley Douglas, tTrumpeter Kenny Baker, guitarist Bert Weedon. Wee Willie Harris had his own backing group and comics included Jimmy Wheeler, Colin Crompton and Daily and Wayne.

Someone referred to the cycling Australian. His name was Banner Forbut.

Happy Days.

Michael Dynan - 3/2/14

The Southern Sporting Club was at 1-3 Birch Street, Hyde Road, West Gorton, Manchester 12.  It was opposite Belle Vue Speedway Track.

It was originally called The Corona Picture Theatre opened in April 1915 and operated by the New Century Cinema Circuit. In March 1928 it was taken over by Denman/Gaumont British Theatres. It was closed by Gaumont British Theatres on Sunday, April 30, 1950 and from Tuesday, May 30, 1950 it was reopened as The Corona Cinema by the Snape circuit. It finally closed on Saturday, October 4, 1958 and was converted to a dance hall.

The club was owned by Syd Elgar (b. Sydney Elgar d. ) and managed by Harry Harrison. 

Elgar also owned The Sale Theatre Club and The Palace Theatre Club, Turncroft Lane, Offerton, Stockport. 

Other managers were Big Mike Sullivan (b. Michael Sullivan) and Johnny Feian (b. John Feian). Another manager of the club was Frank Fean who helped Audenshaw, Lancashire group The Factotums develop their stage act, having taken a shine to the band. The group had a lot of slots here.

The compère was Alan Black followed by Paul Kendal (b. d. 2006). One of the waiters was Alan Bowden (b. Saturday, June 14, 1941).

In 1962 and 1963 The Peter Marsh Trio who included Marsh on organ played here every Thursday and every other night of the week they played as The Peter Marsh Duo​ without their bass player Pete Crooks (b. Peter Crooks) and just the drummer Mal Riddle (b. d. Sun City, North West Province, South Africa).

In the early 70's it became The Stoneground and became a heavy rock club.

John Warburg
13 April 2020

 

 

 

 

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