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Engelbert one of the highlights of my life...

In the final series of extracts from Small Town Saturday Night, author Trevor Simpson recalls the days of jazz in Halifax

A CONCERT called Jazz Unlimited at the Victoria Hall on Sunday, December 2, 1956 featured The Bluenote Jazzmen, The White Eagle Band, Martin Boland Skiffle and The Saints.

This was followed on Sunday, March 10, 1957 by Chris Barber's Jazz Band with The Skiffle group and "sensational blues singer" Ottilie Patterson. In January local band Aub Hirst and his Orchestras had put a jazz interlude into the Friday dance as a taster to attract more young people. By the time Acker Bilk performed on May 19, 1961, the new Halifax jazz club, The Plebians, had been open for almost two months. It was initially situated in Martins Mill, Pellon Lane, and I went along for the first night with my mate Ken Duffy.

Ken became a regular and in John Wharton's book, Plebs, The Halifax Jazz Club 1961-1968, he is pictured dancing to The Drag Kirby Jazz Band.

The Plebs only lasted three weeks at Martins Mill and eventually re-opened in the The Upper George yard, on May 27, 1961.

Alan Gill, the left back for King Cross Youth Football team, talked me into going to see Acker at The Vic-toria Hall. We had a wonderful evening. I was a sceptic about traditional jazz until that Sunday evening of October 23, 1960.

On June 5, 1965, the Soul Agents and 21-year-old Rod Stewart performed at the club.

He returned on other dates as a member of Steam Packet (September 10, 1966) and Shotgun Express (December 17, 1966.) He was not the famous star he is today and most people who attended the concerts do not remember him, but with three Halifax appearances under his belt we must take some credit for his rise to fame!

To celebrate Release Me at the top of the charts, Engelbert Humperdinck came to Sowerby Bridge to open the White Windows summer gala on June 24, 1967. He sang his number one record from the balcony of the house to the fans in the grounds below.

Being there to hear this impromptu performance from a future world superstar was one of the highlights of my life and the saying about being in the right place at the right time was never more apt.

* Published with Trevor Simpson's permission. Small Town Saturday Night is available at Fred Wade for 15. All proceeds will go towards Calderdale Hospital Radio.

Extract 1: Billy walked on... and there was nearly a riot

Extract 2: When Ricky stole Emile's thunder

Extract 3: The night Cliff's band became the Shadows

Extract 4: Scandalous secret of Hollywood's blonde bombshell

The story continues...

Trevor is working on a sequel to the book, which will look at the competition between the three major dance venues in the town – The Princess Ballroom, The Marlborough Hall and The Alexandra Hall.

It will feature more local groups and the re-emergence of the Victoria Hall as a major concert venue.

But there are still photographs Trevor is anxious to track down, such as Tommy Simms and his Orchestra, The Belvederes, Freddie Fawcett, Colin Parkinson and his orchestra, the Eddie Bell Orchestra, Norman Mindenhall and Ashton Jones Concordians.

"I would also love to have any old pictures of Pearl Palin who, with her husband Bert, ran the Princess Ballroom."

Anyone who can help should ring Trevor on 07799 792893.

 
 
 

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