The Savoy Ballroom (Oldham)

The Savoy Ballroom was owned by the Dance Band leader "Tommy Smith".

It was a popular venue in the 50s for ballroom dancing, but when "Rock & roll" took off, he had to make changes. So on 2 nights per week Mon & Thurs he tried a group along with his own Orchestra. This proved more successful.

The group he had regular at the time was the "Cruisers", who because of their popularity, were only able to do the Mon evening.

We played there for approx 2 yrs as resident, with other bands doing various nights.

As the Cruisers already had a big following, from being regular in the "Oldham Hotel", most of their fans followed on the Monday evening. But because the "Cruisers were already *doubling up on a Sat evening at another ballroom "Hill Stores" they lost the Hill Stores gig (thats Showbiz).

Over the years, the Savoy became a cabaret club, known as "The Candlelite Club"'.

Steve Jones

The early years:

In the 1920's a band contest was held at a club on Robson Street Oldham. It was alleged that the adjudicator (who liked a tipple) instead of being behind the screen listening to the bands was propping up the bar in another part of the club. However, he voiced his opinion and named the winning band. Tommy Smith, who was not participating in the the contest, disagreed with the decision, bustled his way onto the stage and gave his opinion as to which was the best band. Tommy was heckled and derided by the contesting musicians...........What do you know about music etc........Tommy brought a budding musician (who happened to be in the audience) to his aid, this person (a pianist) was called Clifford Harrison....Discussions on harmony took place until the wee small hours.

The following day Tommy turned up at Cliff's home, Tommy hinted that with my push and your musical ability there is no reason why we should not be able to form band. Tommy's first successful band came into being. At the time a new fashion had come out called 'Oxford Bags', so they named this band 'The New Oxfords'. In the ensuing years they had much success, they stole a march on most of the other local bands who played from standard arrangements, whereas, the New Oxford's had their own arranger, their musical director Clifford Harrison. Their best achievement: 2nd in the 'Melody Makers' all England band contest. They later turned professional and joined the Mecca circuit, Mecca required a named band so Tommy Smith's Band was born. They played at the Ritz in Manchester, Trentham Gardens and prior to the war were the resident band at the opening of the Locarno Ballroom in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. Because of the war the band broke up, Tommy and cliff had a disagreement, Cliff never played with the band again though he did do the odd arrangement for Tommy when he became a broadcasting band.

When Tommy retired he bought a bungalow in Blackpool, on occasion would still visit Oldham , whenever he did he would let Cliff know and we would spend the night (they reminiscing - I was thirty years their junior) in the Sportsman's Arms on Broadway Chadderton.
I played piano at a pub called the Primrose View on Ashton Road Oldham, Cliff came most nights, the highlight of these being when he got on the piano and gave me an ½hr respite.........he was a delight to listen to.

On the odd Wednesday night Tommy would turn up, being the local celebrity that he was he would entertain the crowd with a couple of songs: Secret Love and For You (where he would make jokes and blow kisses to the ladies).

One Wednesday Tommy turned up all excited, he was clutching a book called' And the Bands played On' by Sid Colin. In this book is a photo of 'The New Oxfords' under the caption of one of Ray Noble's early bands. In actual fact, their arranger Clifford Harrison had won a 'Melody Maker' arranging prize, the prize being a session for the band with Ray Noble. For the record: Ray Noble is seated at the piano, the New Oxford band at that time was clockwise: Tommy Smith (double bass), Clifford Harrison (piano & arranger), Frank Gamble (trombone), Harold Sutcliffe (2nd alto), Bill Smith (drums), George Jackson (1st alto), Tommy Barnes (trumpet) and Bert Collins (tenor sax). 

David Renshaw - 17/11/11

The venue was the home of the Tommy Smith Orchestra. They made a few broadcasts for Music while you work but I remember a broadcast on the then, I think, home service for a program entitled 'Meet The Band' which lasted for six to eight broadcasts. This featured all the local semi pro bands such as Phil Moss(Ritz), Ernie Mills (Rochdale Carlton)etc.

There was an article and photo of Tommy published in the Oldham Chronicle just after Tommy's 80th birthday report. . In that article there was mention of records produced for but were metal and 16inches so were not playable on domestic equipment so were kept in the garage and eventually destroyed. Now of course they could easily be remastered.

There was some mention also of a part recording held by a collector which I asked if it could copied in an article I wrote but I never heard any more of it but if anyone knows of its existence I would be very interested in it. I will watch this space for any news.

John Turner - 8/3/12 

I have a couple of records made by Tommy Smith's New Oxford Band at National Recording Studios, 14 St. Peter's Square Manchester

Electric Recording of "Wa - DE - Da- De" & "My Sweetie and Me"

I also have a Dixon - Roadhouse High Fidelity Recording that states "Play this master disc with trailer or fibre needles Moss Side 1944" - "Love in Bloom" and "Honky Tonk"

David Renshaw - 10/6/12

I was a Savoy regular in the late 40s, and early 50s, wonderful memories of a great dance hall, as they were then known! Tommy Smith certainly gave us good music, both with accurate arrangements of well known swing bands, Miller, Billy May, Earl Bostic and some not so well known.

He also had visiting bands almost every month. Johnny Dankworth 7, with a young vocalist called Cleo Laine, Ray Ellington,with Marion Ryan, and a great dutch band - Hazy Osterwald.

Then there was Freddie Randall's jazz outfit, with Kathy Stobart and others, all returning many times.

His own vocalists in those faraway nights were Gerry Brereton, Alan Reynolds, and Molly Pritchard, making sure that Savoy visits were a must for our gang. Imagine my surprise when I searched "spotify" for any "Gerry Brereton" and heard his songs played after 60 or so years.

Happy days !!

Roy Stott - 10/10/12

Thankyou David Renshaw for your comments about the New Oxfords and mentioning a book entitled 'and the bands played on'. From this and our nephews diligence in managing to purchase a copy of the book we now have an early photograph of my father Frank Gamble (trombone). As you say the caption reads an early Ray Noble band I know my father was never in the Ray Noble band and the occasion related to me by my father is exactly as you state. I estimated the photograph was approximately 1930 and as the book states Ray Noble was with HMV from 1924-34 this would appear correct, soon after this photo my father went to London playing with Teddy Joyce and The Tommy Finnegan bands, Funny enough those two bands do not appear to be mentioned in the book. After the war my father played also played with Lou Prager, Teddy Foster and broadcast with the BBC N.V.O. I remember my father telling of sessions with american jazz musicians who visited Oldham round about 1930. I seem to vaguely remember him saying they were held in a church or school hall but I wonder now whether they were actually at the Savoy.

Thanks to you the family are thrilled as they now have an early photo of my father.

Margaret Johnson - 27/10/12

I was present when a recording was made, I think to be submitted to the BBC when Tommy was trying to appear on Music while you work? This was made on a wire recorder which preceded tape recorders. Happy days !

James Duxbury - 2/12/12

Tommy Smith was my great grandad!! I have been looking so long to find articles and evidence about him. I had heard stories about him from my mum and other members of the family and was never 100% sure I was on the right track. This is an amazing article for me to read and any more information that you could share and pass on would be massively appreciated.

Thankyou so much, kindest regards

Zoe Galloway - 2/2/13

Hi please help.

I have been trying to find Tony Smith, Tommy's son for over 20 years or his daughters. His wife was Linda, Tony is my step brother, Ivy was my mum.

B. Brown nee Tupman - 25/3/13

Sorry cant help about Tommy Smith but my dad talked about a Tommy Cheetham who had one leg (keys). Did summer seasons in Jersey CI. Also last Christmas was in panto and Cannon and Ball and myself remembered Gilbert Lorain (drag act) Bunny Lewis and Royton Band Club. Brilliant days if we made a tenner it was all worth it! What happened to those great days of Oldham club scene?

Steve Barclay - 20/4/13

Tommy Smith Band at Savoy in Oldham, few of his band moved to Blackpool. Tenor player Albie Hilton has moved further now to Moreira nr Benidorm. he still comes over to Blackpool in summer, hope thats useful.

John Pixie Roylance - 21/4/13

This message is primarily intended for David Renshaw's attention. I have enjoyed reading your article Re Tommy Smith's New Oxford Band 10/6/12 and wondered if you had considered putting these couple of records on to YOUTUBE I am sure quite a number of people, albeit a relatively small number, of Oldhamers' would be most grateful to you to hear this early Tommy Smith Orchestra or indeed any other person who may have examples of Tommy's music.

Perhaps if you wish to reply you can do it through this site as I have had a number of bogus Emails sent to me in the past so use it only sparingly.

In 1962 I purchased quite a good tape recorder and toyed with the idea of recording the band but I had only just got married and went to the Savoy basically to sort out the possibility but unfortunately a fight broke out, not something that ocurred too often there, but we left and never returned. Something I have regretted not doing ever since.

John Turner - 13/10/13

In reply to John Turner's request: The old wind-up or electric turntable gramophone that used loud, medium or soft old type needles will produce sound from one of the records, the fibre needle record, though in my possession I have never heard. No present day record player will produce sounds from these two records. However, if you have the means or wherewithal of getting these Tommy Smith recordings on to 'youtube' I will gladly loan them to you.

P.S. Somewhere amongst my stockpile of sheet music, I have got the actual arrangement by Clifford Harrison of one of the numbers on the record. 

David Renshaw - 1/11/13

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