New Orleans bluesman... who lived in Ovenden

In the second extract from his new book, Small Town Saturday Night Volume II, Trevor Simpson recalls legend Champion Jack Dupree. Virginia Mason reports

William Thomas Dupree was born in the city of New Orleans on July 4, 1910. In 1949 he signed a contract to record for King Records (some authorities have the date as 1953) where he drew on all his past experiences to write and perform songs that had appeal to the blues record buying public.

Trevor goes on to recall how Jack came to Halifax after meeting and marrying local girl Shirley Harrison, when she was 18 and working as a waitress at the London club where he was performing. He has traced the couple's eldest daughter Georgiana, who still lives in Halifax and who describes her late father as "a larger than life character who was quite funny most of the time but also serious on some occasions.

"When we were young we didn't realise he was famous but we saw famous people come to the house and then we would see them on television and be excited because they were friends of the family.

"Eric Clapton came to visit us in Ovenden. John Lee Hooker and BB King also visited us among loads of other people and dad loved to cook. He would do gumbo, red beans with rice and black eyed peas with fish which everyone loved."

Trevor goes on to recall the Alexandra Hall, which opened on March 11, 1931.

"This classy building, owned and built by the Halifax Building Society, was a sophisticated cafe, theatre and hall that could seat 600 people. The Saturday dance at The Alex was the brainchild of Charlie Lucas JP OBE, owner of Sugden's Fireplaces."

It was at these dances that the likes of Denny Laine and The Diplomats, The Cyclones, Keith Powell and The Valets, Roadrunners, The End, The Pitiful Soul, Bedrocks, Art Movement and Frankenstein and The Monsters took to the stage.

"The Halifax dance hall crowd have been treated to some of the best in ghoulish macabre performances but the most prolific band delivering the dose of visual gruesome entertainment was without doubt the Sheffield group, Frankenstein and The Monsters.

"Big Ray Stuart – real name Frank Raymond Brookes – was Frankenstein, following his creation, not in some dark laboratory but in a dingy nightclub in Sheffield by the owner Pete Stringfellow. Ray was a big lad, standing 6ft 4ins and he shocked the Halifax crowd with his performance which involved blood-curdling yells and gruesome make-up, with the climax of the show being the stabbing of a body, wheeled on to the stage before he ripped the 'heart' out (it was actually a sponge dipped in pig's blood.) Then he would run into the audience wailing and waving the 'heart' above his head and scaring the pants off the local girls.

"It was a wonder than anyone knew that David Garrick was performing at the Alex on Saturday, November 26, 1966, because not only did the newspaper adverts spell his name incorrectly but neither was the title of his current chart hit correct. The latest hit was the very catchy song Dear Mrs Applebee which was still in the charts on the night that he appeared.

"The big year for Crispian St Peters and for English football was undoubtedly 1966. The soccer players won the World Cup and Crispian had three records in the charts, You Were On My Mind, Pied Piper and Changes. On his appearance at the Alex on Saturday, March 18, 1967, he was accompanied by the Candy Choir with the Bob Davies Mood as the back-up band.

"Who said sex sells? In this case the adverts said it all and the virile young males of Halifax flocked to the Alex in great numbers to look at curvaceous 37-26-36 – Tiffany's Dimensions.

In reality, the lead singer of this Liverpool group, Tiffany was Irene Green who before fronting this band had been one of the vocalists in the all girl group The Liverbirds.

"The man behind most of the bookings for the Alex was theatrical agent, entrepreneur, compere, promoter and all round good egg, Garth Cawood. His network of contacts included a Merseyside connection and he recounted the tale to me of the night Brian Epstein handed him his card after first introducing the two young men at his side as 'Paul Beatle and John Beatle.' Shortly after the introductions he wrote some prices on the back of a card with the Beatles being available at 35."

l Published with the permission of Trevor Simpson. Small Town Saturday Night Volume Two is available at Fred Wade, Halifax, priced 16.95 with profits going towards Calderdale Hospital Radio and The Forget Me Not Trust. On his appearance at the Alex on Saturday, March 18, 1967, he was accompanied by the Candy Choir with the Bob Davies Mood as the back-up band.

“Who said sex sells? In this case the adverts said it all and the virile young males of Halifax flocked to the Alex in great numbers to look at curvaceous 37-26-36 – Tiffany’s Dimensions.

In reality, the lead singer of this Liverpool group, Tiffany was Irene Green who before fronting this band had been one of the vocalists in the all girl group The Liverbirds.

“The man behind most of the bookings for the Alex was theatrical agent, entrepreneur, compere, promoter and all round good egg, Garth Cawood. His network of contacts included a Merseyside connection and he recounted the tale to me of the night Brian Epstein handed him his card after first introducing the two young men at his side as ‘Paul Beatle and John Beatle.’ Shortly after the introductions he wrote some prices on the back of a card with the Beatles being available at 35.”

l Published with the permission of Trevor Simpson. Small Town Saturday Night Volume Two is available at Fred Wade, Halifax, priced 16.95 with profits going towards Calderdale Hospital Radio and The Forget Me Not Trust.