Free Trade Hall



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Page from Blues & Rhythm Mag (266) of T Bone Walker @ the FTH in 1962
Images courtesy Brian Smith - Bran has snapped virtually all US blues, R&B and Rock & Roll artists who played in Manchester during the past 50 years.



These interesting items were supplied by Tony Burke of Blues & Rhythm magazine. The originals come from Brian Smith and Bob Groom.

They advertise a Howlin' Wolf with Chris Barber gig at the Free Trade Hall on March 25th, 1962. Unfortunately Wolf didn't make the trip to the UK through ill health (as can be seen on the flyer). Imagine the disappointment of the UK's small but dedicated blues fraternity to learn that the mighty Howlin' Wolf, one of the blues giants of all time was being replaced by ex Butlin's Red Coat and all round variety artist Clinton Ford! Also note the spelling of Wolf's real name (Chester Burnett) - as Bernett!

According to Brian Smith 'Jazz Unlimited' was run by Heaton Moor, Stockport based promoter Paddy McKiernan.

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I saw many bands here including The Rolling Stones and it was, in my humble opinion, The venue in the city centre. I have included an outside shot and an inside of what it has become a Raddison blu hotel (Frontage still remains as it is a listed building) !! It gets worse, The company I now work for runs a gym in the hotel (Harpers Fitness).

Phil Nadin - 25/1/13 

Hi Paul

I noticed you had some Free Trade Hall tickets on the site, so I thought you might like some more. All these concerts were attended by me (all tickets on right).

A few comments regarding them:-

  • The John Mayall concert was cancelled due to John being ill, but was rescheduled for 13th May, all tickets being valid for that night. His current guitarist was Mick Taylor.
  • The Fleetwood Mac – B.B.King concert also included a set by the late Duster Bennett.
  • Ten Years After did not play as Alvin Lee was sick. Also on the bill were Scottish group Clouds. They and Jethro Tull played extended sets to cover TYA’s absence.
  • The Houldsworth Hall concert did not feature Principal Edwards (reason unknown). Their spot was taken by Manchester group Greasy Bear.
  • I’ve included the ‘Gay Tyrolese’ ticket just to show what those funny Europeans were up to back then. Their show involved lots of leather shorts and much thigh slapping!
Regards ... Brian Stevenson - 9/2/13

Also check out Brian's excellent GIG DIARY

I first heard Simon and Garfunkel on Radio Luxemburg.

Later I was walking past the Free Trade Hall when I saw a guy pasting up a Simon and Garfunkel poster.
I asked if they were selling tickets and he told me that they had just gone on sale. We got front row centreOn the night the stage was bare except for a bar stool and a couple of mikes. (Some amps on the bachground). A guy in a dinner suit walked on stage and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen - Simon and Garfunkel.

Paul Simon walked onstage and sat on the barstool. Then Art Garfunkel walked on stage and stood behind him.

No band - just Paul Simon's guitar - those were the days!

Tony Roberts

Many memories of the FTH in the 60s: School speech days (Ducie), Tony Bennett (1966) The Halle orchestra (being told off by John Barbirolli for chatting during a school trip). 

Dave Jackson

Saw Howling Wolf amazing, also on the bill were Chris Barber and Otillie Patterson, and the great Long John Baldry, wonderfull night !!!

Judith Sandiford - 10/3/10

Over the years saw lots of bands there: Ten Years After, Yes, Move, Taste (Rory Gallagher), Jethro Tull, Fairports, John Lee Hooker, most visiting blues artists, folkies like Tom Paxton, MJQ, guitarist Paco Pena - so many.

Used to go to a pub neat the art gallery for a few pints of Boddies till doors opened at the FTH.

It is now the Raddison Edwardian hotel. I stayed there recently and I could swear I could still hear the ear splitting last chords from Alvin Lee in the corridor at night!

Tony Burke - 8/10/10

Great memories of the FTH. Saw some great and not so great bands there. Tull, King Crimson, Curved Air, Black Sabbath etc etc.

At one gig the headliner was Hawkwind, who were supported by a new group called Supertramp, who were brilliant. This was unfortunate for Hawkwind because they were dross on the night and got booed off the stage!! All good fun (:-)

Brian Nuttall - 2/12/10

I remember going to a midnight concert in the very late 60s, with Jethro Tull and Procul Harem as the main artists.

Many years later, I was working for a construction company as a joiner, and the contract was to improve the fire regulations. We had the run of the place so I visited the dressing rooms and noticed various artists autographs on the walls, I also went on to the stage and gave an impromptu song, so now I can say "I have sung on the stage at the Free Trade Hall"

We had to create a new fire exit,with a large vestibule, on the right hand side, looking towards the stage, and I remember collecting a few days newspapers, wrapping them in some plastic, and creating my own time capsule, by depositing it in the wall cavity. I dont know if the exit is still there after the change into a hotel, because I havnt been to Manchester for a few years.

Dave Moore - 7/2/11

Some great nights there Zappa, Softs, Floyd with Atom Heart Mother, Byrds, Stones in 71, Incredible String Band with half the audience on stage in 68 but for me personally Ravi Shankar when he ordered no smoking and we gave him two fingers and went for a Matching Mole supporting Mayall had a problem with equipment and couldn't play, I was the only person who asked for their money back..."but they are only the support act"... 

Alan Houghton - 14/4/11

Bob Dylan - I was there at the 'Judas' concert - a-mazing - I was on a secretarial course at South Trafford College and bought the ticket from a fellow student - 7/6d ticket but paid 10/0d for it - worth every penny!

Fran Morris - 21/1/12

Saw Howling Wolf with at least one of the American Blues Festivals in the early 60s. Still have the vinyl for 61, 62 and 63. 

I see Long John Baldry is mentioned up there. Met him at a blues festival at Shawnigan Lake, Vancouver Island some 20 years go. (He lived in Vancouver) Had a few drinks in the bar with him before he performed the following day. 

Chris Jones - 17/12/12

In about 1960 Pete Bocking, Derek Quinn and myself went to see American R & B legends Sonny Terry and Brownie MaGee the place was packed, I remember it wasn't quite what I expected, they sounded more like a hill billy duo.

Also in about 1961 we saw a rock & roll "package show" there, the star was Billy Fury who for some reason or other didn't turn up ?, so he was replaced by Marty Wilde.

I was amazed when the audience started to boo as he came out and this continued through his performance, I personally preferred Marty Wilde to Billy Fury anyhow, and still go to his shows.

John 'Butch' Mepham - 16/2/13

The Bob Dylan Concert of May 17th 1966 was recorded live. The album came out, but because the Free Trade Hall was unknown in the USA, the album was entitled Bob Dylan Live at The Royal Albert Hall. You can indeed hear somebody shouting out "Judas", because he was being backed by "The Band".

Frank Renshaw - 21/2/13

Diana Ross and the Supremes appeared at the Free Trade Hall in November 1968. In the days when there were two concerts in one night.

John Dillon - 21/2/13

On May 25th, BBC4 aired the made for TV documentary 'Smokey Dives' - which focused on how the drab post-war Britain was enlivened by the trad-jazz scene in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Fronted by George Melly, who died in 2007, the documentary was made in 2001 and revisited some the pubs, clubs and concert halls he once played in. 

The programme features Melly entering a then derelict Free Trade Hall, sitting on stage and in the dressing room reminiscing about jazz gigs at the famous venue (now a plush city centre hotel). Thankfully the promotional clip contains the whole of Melly's visit to the FTH. 

Tony Burke - 8/6/13

Saw Roland Kirk, (Intro:"I can only hear the drums" referring to a chap at the back shouting this about the previous band, the sax player was Tubby Hayes, Oh, and the drummer was Philly Jo Jones)

Keith Jarrett, stopped playing in the middle of a solo because a man on the balcony was using a power drive on his camera.

Buddy Rich stopped playing mid solo because someone ran up to the stage with a camera to take a shot, the whole orchestra also stopped, Buddy walked up to the guy and asked "what camera have you got", and some wag sat next to me on the front row shouted "a Brownie 127".

Buddy then calmly walked over to the man and said "Who the hell asked you" OHH! the tension, given Mr Rich's reputation. 

David Walker - 15/7/13

Apart from the club scene The Free Trade Hall Manchester & Granada TV plus the Palace Theatre & Opera House attracted big name Blues players,Jazz Bands/singers & groups in the 60's.

Here are in no particular order the ones I can remember with personnel( Plus I still have all the programmes & entrance tickets plus numerous autographs ) -

  • Ray Charles Free Trade Hall 18/5/63 & 11/7/64 An evening with the Blues FTH 6/12/64 - - Howling Wolf,Chris Barber,Ottilie Patterson,Long John Baldry,Hubert Sumlin
  • American Folk Blues FTH 22/10/64 -- Willie Dixon,Sunnyland Slim,Hubert Sumlin,Lightnin' Hopkins,John Henry Barbee,Sleepy John Estes,Hammie Nixon,Sugar Pie Desanto,Sonny Boy Williamson,Howling Wolf,Willie Dixon,Clifton James
  • American Folk Blues FTH 15/10/65 -- Mississippi Fred McDowell,Dr Ross,Roosevelt Sykes,J B Lenoir,Eddie Boyd,Big Walter 'Shakey' Horton,Buddy Guy,John Lee Hooker,Big Mama Thornton,Lonesome Jimmy Lee,Freddie Below
  • American Folk Blues FTH 29/9/66 -- Sleepy John Estes,Yank Rachel,Sippie Wallace,Robert Pete Williams,Junior Wells,Big Joe Turner,Little Brother Montgomery.
  • Blue & Gospel Train Chorltonville Station 7/5/64 Shown Granada TV 19/8/64 -- Muddy Waters,Sister Rosetta Tharpe,Rev Gary Davis,Otis Spann,Cousin Joe Pleasants,Brownie McGhee,Sonny Terry.
  • Granada TV Date unknown 1964 ? Sister Rosetta Tharpe,Sonny Boy Williamson,Five Dimensions,Moody Blues.
  • Jazz at the Philharmonic FTH 3/12/66 -- Dizzy Gillespie,Clark Terry,Coleman Hawkins,Zoot Sims,James Moody,Teddy Wilson,Louis Bellson,Bob Cranshaw,Benny Carter,T Bone Walker.
  • Duke Ellington FTH 29/2/64 & 27/2/65 + Duke & Ella Fitzgerald 10/2/67
  • Jazz from a Swinging Era FTH 18/3/67 -- Earl Hines, Buck Clayton, Bud Freeman, Roy Eldridge,Vic Dickenson, Budd Johnson, Earle Warren, Sir Charles Thompson, Bill Pemberton, Oliver Jackson.
  • Thelonius Monk Quartet 20/3/65
  • Louis Armstrong FTH 1/6/65
  • Count Basie FTH 25/9/65
  • 10/6/64 Chuck Berry Show Palace Theatre - with the Animals, Nashville Teens, King Size Taylor & the Dominos
Peter Fone - 6/8/13

I saw Ella Fitzgerald twice at the Freetrade Hall. The first time, which I believe was the late fifties or early sixties, was when Stan Getz also appeared, and I think Roy Eldridge. The next year she was with Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown (who was her former husband). At least that's what my memory tells me. It was Norman Granz's Jazz at the Phil programme. I'd appreciate someone reminding me of the two years and who else played with them.

Margaret Dickinson - 3/11/13 

In Crowd Records have just released 'The Complete 1960 Live At The Free Trade Hall' a full live concert by the Miles Davis Quinitet. The recordings made at Miles' appearance in Manchester on September 27th 1960. The recordings have previously been issued as two CDs.

This set features the complete show, where Miles (on trumpet of course) was accompanied by Sonny Stitt on tenor and alto sax; Wynton Kelly on piano; Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums. The 120 minute set also features three tracks cut in St. Louis in 1963.

It would be interesting to know of any readers who may have attended this gig.





Find enclosed scans of the program from the Miles Davis concert at the Free Trade Hall (above).

I saw many of the jass concerts in the early 60's and still have the programs. Basie, Ellington, MJQ, Brubeck, Art Blakey, Monk and Kenton. I also remember seeing Emil Ford and the Checkmates at the same venue.

Pop concerts were stopped there for a time, after girls wrote in lipstick, on the wood panelling at a Cliff Richard concert.

The "Hall" was a great venue beeing built for purpose and home to the Halle orchestra.

Pete Carroll - 17/2/15

record collector  

From Record Collector, May 2014




Back and front cover of the programme for the B.B. King concert at the Free Trade Hall 16th October 1972.

Thanks to Chas. Eastwood - Bassist ‘’The Silks’’ and ‘’The Stuart Charles String Band'' - 21/5/15

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers at The Free Trade Hall, 1961

Released in April this year on Solar Records: One of the Jazz Messengers best formations: Art Blakey, drums; Lee Morgan, trumpet; Wayne Shorter, tenor sax; Bobby Timmons, piano & Jymie Merritt, bass. A rare live recording of the quintet performing at Manchester s Free Trade Hall in May 1961.

Full review in The Morning Star

Tony Burke - 25/7/15

B.B.'s first tour of the UK in 1968. Note that B.B. closed debut UK tour at the Free Trade Hall on 29th April. What a line up as well: Fleetwood Mac, Sonny & Brownie and Duster Bennett. 

Tony Burke - 25/7/15

American Folk Blues Festival, Free Trade Hall, October 21st, 1962


A CD is now available covering the two concerts at the Free Trade Hall on Sunday, October 21st 1962, which acted as a catalyst to the nascent British Blues & R&B boom, on the verge of breaking out of its suburban home in Ealing, West London.  

The shows which appear on a CD released by Rhythm & Blues Records were promoted by Stockport-based Paddy MacKiernan under the Jazz Unlimited banner and attracted a crowd of around two thousand blues enthusiasts, who saw the first major concert in Britain to feature American bluesmen. 

Manchester was the only UK date on the 1962 American Folk-Blues Festival tour and it was attended by blues fans from all over the country through what Manfred Mann singer, broadcaster and actor Paul Jones called ‘the bush telegraph’. 

With Jones were Alexis Korner and Macclesfield-born John Mayall, plus extraordinarily a contingent of younger fans who had made the trip in a clapped out van from London. 

Why extraordinary? Because the van contained some of the future superstars of the British music scene: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page.  

The Stones by this time had just a dozen gigs under their belts and Page had recently embarked on the first stage of his career as a session guitarist. 

David Williams dedicates a whole chapter to the road trip in his book 'The First Time We Met The Blues’: “It must have been around early September 1962 when news filtered down the grapevine. We could hardly believe that real blues artists were going to appear here in our country. They were regarded somewhat like mystic gods within our circle. Jimmy Page realised that he would not be able to make the journey with us as he was already booked to play a gig with Neil Christian on the Saturday night so it was agreed Jim would travel up by train on the Sunday and we would find space for him in the van for the journey back overnight. Graham Ackers was a pretty good driver and soon managed to find his way through Central London to a square - where we picked up Mick, Keith and Brian.”

Keith Richards remembers it differently, “Mick sometimes had the use of his parents’ Triumph Herald at the weekend and I remember we went to see a big blues show in Manchester.” 

Jimmy Page recalls: “When David Williams told me of the impending visit of the initial American Folk-Blues Festival to England, I was keen to join the pilgrimage to Manchester. It was not only the first time that I would actually see artists like John Lee Hooker and T-Bone Walker perform, but it was also the first time I met Mick Jagger, Brian Jones and Keith Richards, who came with us on the trip. We were all like-minded enthusiasts and in those days we regarded the artists we were going to see as idols.” 

Appearing on the CD are T Bone Walker, Willie Dixon, Jump Jackson, Shakey Jake Harris and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee - also on the show were John Lee Hooker and Helen Humes but they did not appear on original vinyl album release - probably for contractual reasons. 



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