Birmingham in the 60s
Birmingham was radically developed in the 60s. There was a new ring road system, which, like most city centres, was of a unique design and took practice to master. Smallbrook Ringway, left, was one of the first sections built. The buildings were designed by J A Roberts.
The Bullring Shopping Centre (which has been redeveloped recently) was also a 60s development. It replaced a historic market with a modern design. The Rotunda, also designed by J A Roberts, was started in 1960. It was a circular tower of 24 storeys. There was a rumour that it had a slight list, making it the leaning tower of Brum.
Architectural critic, Ian Nairn, was complimentary about Birmingham and the Bullring. He thought Birmingham was much improved for the development and that the prosperity of the 60s suited Birmingham well.
HRH The Prince of Wales, however, was less than complimentary about the 60s architecture of Birmingham; now there's a surprise.
In 1974, the IRA planted a bomb in the Mulberry Bush Pub situated in the ground floor of the Rotunda. This, and another bomb at the Tavern in the Town in New Street Station, killed 21 people. This incident will forever be known as the Birmingham Pub Bombings.
On a lighter note, I remember a life size model of King Kong in Birmingham in the 70s. I wonder if anyone can shed any further light on this?
Comments on Birmingham in the 50s and 60s
"I grew up in Birmingham in the 1950s and 1960s. There used to be a menswear shop on the corner of Navigation Street and John Bright Street called Chetwyns. If you could afford it, they sold imported suits, jackets, shirts, ties etc directly from the United Sates and loose drape jackets cutaway collar shirts etc. Then in the early sixties the fashion changed. Most young guys got their Italian style suits from Burtons or Colliers, although Chetwyns did survive with the American look. I myself couldn't afford to shop there, but would visit the shop to check out the gear." Andrew Eves
Above Chetwyns was the The Whiskey a Go Go, a club hosting live bands. Local bands played there as well as Motown and R&B bands from the US. Their Friday and Saturday nights went on until 8am the following day. See www.brumbeat.net/letters for more details.
The club above Chetwyns in 1963, before it was Whiskey a Go Go was -- Lora Dixon's: rock and roll, no booze only soft drinks or tea or coffee. The pub in Hill Street and on the corner of Swallow Street was the Eagle, now gone. I have cine film of it. Gordon
I know about Lora Dixon's because I got engaged to a girl I met there in January 1963. Besides I worked for the GPO till mid 62. In 1963 the Beatles appeared on the balcony (above entrance) of the Odeon - new street. I frequented Billy Ponds Dance Studio in Green Lane, Small Heath opposite Millward Street where I lived then. Gordon
On the corner (right) where Coventry road joins Digbeth by the railway bridge and the old flyover was the Dolls Club. A night club at the time where booze could be purchased, entered through turn stiles like at a football ground. This opened in the 50s Gordon
"I remember the big King Kong statue in the Bullring. I believe it is up North somewhere and belongs to a car dealer." Chris J
Some more on Birmingham nightlife in the sixties...
"You might be interested in the night life in Brum in the 1950s/1960s. In the 1950s night life in Brum was very austere due mainly to the fact that Lord Cadbury was on the Birmingham watch committee and being a devout Quaker did not believe in entertainment and booze for the masses. You won't find a pub in Bournville the home of Cadbury. Anyway, when he died Birmingham started to become alive at night. "
"Up until the 1960s there was only really the Westend Ballroom, I believe, in Suffolk Street. There was the Reservoir Ballroom in Reservoir Road, Ladywood. Then, in 1961, they opened the Locarno ballroom at the bottom end of Hill street and Monday night was Rock'n'Roll night. They would play the records of the current top 20 artists. I had just left school so every Monday without fail dressed in my winkle picker shoes, Italian styled mod suit and bright red narrow tie of course (and we thought we were the Bees Knees). "
"I left Brum in 1963 then returned in 1966 and the night clubs were happening. There was a club in Great Hampton Street, Hockley (I cant remember the name). It was owned by Eddie Fewtrell he and his brother. They were the gangsters of the time. Then there was the Rum Runner just off Broad Street; you went down an alley way, it had a gambling casino on the left hand side. The nightclub had a huge patronage it cost 10 bob to get in. Yes, those were the days; you could have a good night out for a fiver or less. "
"Further up Broad Street, down at the end of Gas Street, was a nightclub called the Opposite Lock. Even though it was opposite a lock on the canal the terminology was taken from the motor racing language. The club attracted the motor racing fraternity and it was an older clientele than were attracted to the Rum Runner. "
"Then in the late 60s the Fewtrell brothers opened a couple of really large night club venues one in Lower Severn Street, just up from the Hippodrome and the other just off Broad Street. I think it was somewhere near the old Bingley Hall Centre. Both clubs had girls names [Rebeccas in Lower Severn Street and Barbarellas up off Broad Street] they were fairly large and attracted a large following from older teenagers up to late 20s and early 30s. They would attract International stars mainly artists that were currently in the charts. Of course, suits and ties were the dress of the day. Although dress codes were getting more relaxed, although ties were mandatory you could get away with a leather jacket and trousers (No Jeans of course). "
"I spent many a late night in most of them, not only was the entertainment good, but the drinks were always reasonable and they attracted lots of single females. In those days very few had their own transport, so if you had a car you were pretty right."
"I did spend a helluver lot of nights clubbing around Brum late 60s and early 70s. There were a couple of great pubs, besides the Tavern in the Town, which was a regular watering hole for me. There was a pretty large pub on Hill Street Close to Navigation Street, where you would go around 9:30pm at night for a few bevies before venturing on to the clubs at around 10:30pm -11pm, then getting home at around 4 to 5 am. What a life! "
"In the early 70s the fashions were changing. Shirts had those large penny collars flared trousers were happening. Also there was period where the smart dressed man wore a double breasted blazer with a matching tie and shirt rather wide ties. If I remember, with the girls wearing platform sole shoes, they were taller than the men. So platform shoes became the style for men. Of course, by the mid 70s men wore skin tight see through shirts open to the waist."
Eddie Fewtrell was Birmingham's night club king in the 60s and 70s. There is a book about his life available on Amazon, right.
There is also an article on Wikipedia about the Rum Runner night club in Birmingham see Rum Runner - Wikipedia.
"I worked in the top room at Rebecca's in the 60's as a barmaid on both sides of the room...it was one of the most exciting times. Initially I started working weekends only since I had a full time office job but it soon developed into more and more evenings. loved the work and it was one of the best times of my life. Finally I sat at the door on reception along with the bouncers admitting guests. That was the most fun! We would just be so professional all dressed in our evening gear..and the guys were so handsome in their suits...that was how we dressed in those days..the ladies wore long to the floor dresses too! There were huge long lines at the weekends to get into the clubs..Rebecca's was no exception. I worked at Barbarellas for a stint but the "magic" wasn't like at Rebecca's. Rebecca's was also three floors with dedicated music on each floor..The Sin Bin at the bottom, the Blue Soul in the middle. There was never a dull moment on our club scene. On the weekend we always went on to another club after work or for a curry at the Eastern Moon or ended up at the Tow Rope on Broad Street for breakfast. I had a million friends and after I quit (exhausted)ha,. I had a standing invite to come whenever I could..Oh what I would give to relive those days!" Eileen
"As the 60's came to an end I DJ'd at Rebecca's between 1971 and 1974. I started in the Cabasa on the top floor then 'graduated' to the Blue Soul on the ground floor which was a fabulous club room. John Fewtrell was my boss and other jockeys at the club were Pat Martin, Pete King, Bob King, Pete Allen and Sam T. We were also occasionally seconded to Barbarellas or the Cedar Club. I remember Nick and Ken on the door. I have never stopped DJing since and am always respectful and grateful of being able to do my 'apprenticeship' working for the Fewtrells. The King Of Clubs book is good reading by the way."DJ Barry John
"Reading all about Rebbecas takes years off me. It’s four o clock in the morning as I took over running my favorite place after john got moved to run Barbs. All the names mentioned bring very happy times back to me. What a good night it would be if we could all meet somewhere. My last contact with Eillen was in Canada where Tony Leung and Jane is wife past members of the clan. It was a time and place like no other. It’s great to have been there at the time I hope somebody will contact me sometime."Tony Hallam
"Wow, u have ressurected a lot of memories for me! The Whiskey used to be just off the Ringway from what I can remember, with that dodgey staircase? Do u remember the West End at the old cinema just up from 5 ways island at the end of the Ringway? With the bouncy dancefloor? Every Monday nite down the Locarno....great! I used to go with my first love Pauline, what a berk I was to lose her!!!!!
Then it was the Top Rank club, Tuesdays! Do u remember the Midnite City, Digbeth, then on to the all nite cafe in the Midland Red bus station. Saw the Who at the City, that was an all weekender! I'm lucky I survived that one!!!! Then there was the Apollo in New st, West Bromwich, Walsall Town Hall, Spencer Davis band, thanks Pat! Riding around from one club to another on our scooters. But the best was the Surfside Stop at the bottom of Constitution Hill, Crazy Horse strip club above it.
Of course everyone will remember the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town, in the late 60's they were the pubs! Who can remember the pub that used to be opposite Lewis's just on the circle, set back in the shopping centre?
Remember the Heartbeat at the ice rink off Husrt Str? As for suits there was only one tailor...Philip Collier, Smallbrook Ringway, Mohair and Wool, I had a chocolate brown one, that cost me 21 quid back in 66,and considering I only earned 5quid a week it was a hell of a sacrifice, but worth it. 12 in centre vent, just the business, then my mom stuck it in the washing machine about 6 months after I had it....buggered it completely! I was inconsolable for weeks!!!!!
Not forgetting the Metro down Livery str either. But the best of them all was the Locarno, fantastic Motown, walking round anti-clockwise, top button done up with a certain swagger. The tiniest knot u could get in ur tie. Sat mornings down the Diskery, with Erskine T, I'd spend all day in those telephone boxes listening to the imports from the States...Ursulena with ur washing machina by Bill Cosby, and all those...great!
I was born in Aston, B'ham then moved to Great Barr late 50''s (Up the Villa), then on to Four Oaks, Sutton Coldfield. I've lived in South Africa for the last 20 years.
Does anyone remember the Friday nite down at St Andrews, where we were supposed to shout and scaream as Paul Jones from Manfred Mann, came in on the back of a limo? He got pelted with whatever we could lay our hands on...Jesus Christ Superstar I believe....anyway after about 3-4 attempts they slung us all out and aborted the mission, we ended up down the Surfside.
Me & my mate Al, worked as glass collectors and barmen at the Opposite Lock club in '72 / '73 then at Barbarellas, Rebeccas and The Tower Ballroom, those r yet more memories!
What great memories. Lets have some more! "John Dangerfield
"Does anyone remember the Heaven Bridge Chinese restaurant in the walkover across Smallbrook Ringway? I use the word restaurant very loosely...!"John
"What about: Victor Sylvester's ballroom under the Odeon in the city centre The Cavern by small heath park The Ritz in Kings Heath"sue jagger
"Remember the Cedar club and was it le metro under the railway arch in snow hill. What about the rainbow suite over the co op? The dolce vita was pretty smart in small brook ring way and had great acts"Robert Cotterill
"In the late 1950s I was a student at the College of Arts & Crafts (as it then was) in Margaret Street. One regular haunt used to be the Second City Traditional jazz club that had several locations - perhaps the best being in Digbeth. I spent many a splendid night there, after being welcomed by Madge (by the way, for many years I have tried unsuccessfully to track down a recording that was made called tribute to Madge any info would be most welcome) I would head for the left hand side of the stage where most of the arty crowd hung out and search for Stevie with her bright and ever cheerful smile for a nights dancing. All the stars appeared here - George Melly, Humph, Ken Colyer and others, but still my favourite was the house band. I have lived in Canada since the late 60s but still miss Brum. Memories, memories, memories. " Maurice
"I was born at Bel barn rd in 1952 then in 1954 we moved to 4/74 Irving st and i went to Bristol st school i wish somebody had some photos of the school and put them on the website i loved that school it was demolished in the 60s i only have my memories Wat a brill time to grow up happy days. "Peter Marriott
"Hey, Lora Dixons, I learned ballroom at her Dance Studio above Chetwyns (I think that was before the Rock and Roll era) I was about 14/15 at the time (1950'ish) and one of the quickstep favourite tunes was 'Mountain Greenery'. I can remember the tram terminus from the Bristol Road was right opposite and by the tram stop was a wall, which I could just see over, which hid the New Street railway lines (pretty much the same now I think." Colline
"Can anyone recall the location, in the 50's, of the Masque Ballroom. I have a thought that it may have been in Erdington but could be wrong!" Ken
" I remember the Tower Ballroom in the 1950's especially the New Year's Eve Dance where we all queued outside for hours, rain, hail or snow to get a ticket to go in where a live band played. It was great fun with a wonderful party spirit and everyone was happy and we rock and rolled to our hearts content. Me with my very flared skirt and stockings and suspenders showing in front of the band where I thought I was the cats whiskers!
I also spent every night of the week ballroom dancing, rocking and rolling at the West End ballroom, Saturday included, which is where I met my husband. Mind you there seemed to be a shortage of young men until the last dance, when they rolled out of the pubs - (ladies did not frequent the pubs much in those days. The idea was for them to ask us for the last dance and then ask if they could walk us to our nearest bus stop! (Very crafty I used to think!) The only problem I had, although I was aged 20 years, I used to be warned by my mother that I had got to be back home by 11.0.pm, much to my disgust, so unfortunately I had to leave the dance before the dance had finished" Margaret Blake (nee) Sanders
"really glad I've found this page, I was begining to think that my mind was going. I've spoken to lots of people about the westend at the top of the queensway, and the sprung dance floor but know one remembered it. but now it's been mentioned in other letters. days of our lives, I also used lora dixons, the whiskey a go go. my era in town was around 1962 the music was the best there's ever been. on my side of town we also used the atlas ballroom (the telstar club ) the macadown in tile cross. and mothers in erdington. we were out dancing 5 nights a week, my girlfriend then was a girl called joan xx she was the best but I messed that up. the sixties were the best days of my life. Bob." Bob Gilchrist
Add your comments on 50s and 60s Birmingham
I remember all of these places, I was miss West End about 1960 0r 61 Im not sure of the year. I was looking for the name of a ballroom dancing school in the 60s, the daughter was a british champion, she had red hair.
I need to end a bit of a disagreement.
If anyone can help please." Josephine Williams 08/11/2010
Happy Days.. Hope more of you will post your memories here. It makes some really interesting reading
Best regards to you all
John Smith" John Smith 22/11/2010
along with stuart king & bobby gee,still good friends with the heartbeat dj frankie lee" dave keen 07/12/2010
Mike" Mike D 15/12/2010
The Heart Beat with Frankie Lee dj-ing was the fist club I visited where I met and got engaged to my first husband," Jacqueline L Miller 16/02/2011
Great nights at the Elbow Room and Sunday nights at the Cedar for people working in the clubs." Jacqueline L Miller 16/02/2011
One other place from the 60's not yet mentioned was the pie wagon outside snow Hill station. If ever you missed your mates or walked a girl to the last bus you would always regroup at the pie wagon, especially if you had no nightclub money left- 2 shillings would get you a steak and onion pie whilst you froze your duck off and waited for the night service bus's in St Philip's place - happy days!" Phil Surrey 23/03/2011
My mohair suit was from Burton's - 10 shillings a week with a 10 pound deposit for 20 weeks. It soon went by, especially if you asked for a fitting after 6 weeks and a second fitting. It would never stay on the hanger as the 16 ounce cloth wasn't heavy enough to hold the weight of the waist band.
Midnight blue, 14 inch vent, fish fin cuffs, quarter cross pockets with no pleats (for the French look) flat bone buttons with a four button front jacket. Inch and a quarter hand picked stitching on the lapels with no lapel button hole; slanting pockets with a ticket pocket.
When you picked up the suit you got measured for the next one.
We used to wear the jacket with jeans when the trousers wore out - my mate ordered two pair of trousers with his to make it last, but burnt a hole in the jacket.
Mohair was great for night clubs - lightweight and cool but freezing on the scooter or at the bus stop. American parkas and long leather coats helped - happy days" Phil Surrey 24/03/2011
"Carwardines" spring to mind" John Smith 30/05/2011
I've seen the place absolutely packed for Georgie Fame, we'd have been dead if there had been a fire
The girls were beautiful, the guys dangerous, the music [The Sue Story Vol.1 the standard] fantastic - a great start to a new era" Spike Davis 18/06/2011
Michael my mother, Barbara Seaman, occasionally sang with the Sony Rose Orchestra. She took part in a competition called 'Stairway to The Stars' in April 1950 at the West End Ballroom and sang Blue Moon. Mum came a very close second to Johnnie Romero who sang 'My Dream is yours'. Both songs were recorded live with the Sony Rose Orchestra and made into a record by Hollick and Taylor of Grosvenor Studios in Handsworth. I remember hearing it a few times when we were very young.
A couple of years ago my brother managed to get the last acetate copy of the record from the studio, miraculously just before it closed for good. We had it made into a CD for mum who hadn't heard the songs since the 1960's when she gave her last copy of the record away. It sounds pretty good and she was delighted to hear it again after all these years. Please let me know if you would like a copy of the CD.
Phil Brolan" Phil Brolan 10/07/2011
I used to work weekends in the 60,s to supplement my art school grant at the Elbow Room,and I remember all the other clubs.
Does anyone out there remember the DJ Andy Ferris whose signature tune was"Green Onions"" judith wainwright 19/07/2011
Try the Birmingham Reference Library failing that The Birmingham Post and Mail does have an archives section on line
Good Luck" judith wainwright 26/07/2011
The Locarno was a must on Monday nights and I have a photo of me and my partner when we came second there in a Twist competition sponsored by Brooke Bond Tea. The winners had to go to London for the final, so I'm glad I only came second. I didn't even know the chap who I danced with as he just grabbed me on the dance floor and we started dancing the Twist!
Saturday (afternoon) was the day to go to the West End. There were all these big sofa's around the dance floor and the music was fabulous.I used to hang about with Spider and Alan Tisdale but just can't remember any one else's name.
I lived in Highgate and could walk to town so was always going dancing with my mate Brenda, who lived near to me. Saw many famous singers and groups at the Rainbow Suite which was above the Co-op in High Street, where I worked.
I live in the Cotswolds now but those days in Brum will always be special to me. Fran 27/8/2011" Fran Lewis 27/08/2011
Now living in Ireland and not getting over too often but oh! the changes now,Buildings forgotten or gone even if they were listed My old school[Moseley school of Art] falling down. Such wonderful architecture once it is gone it is gone forever" judith wainwright 04/09/2011
Rebecca's was my favourite club then - loads of reggae. Tex was on the door and one of the DJs was Lionel. Downstairs in the Sin Bin they played some pretty heavy dub. Wonderful time for me.
Really enjoyed reading this it's brought back loads of memories." Sam 16/11/2011
@Paul, the old Tow Rope didn't open til about 11 oclock at night and the battered fish was so fresh ... or was it me that was so drunk" Phil Rogers 21/12/2011
hope you can help
vjm" valerie mucklow 23/12/2011
It was a great club with its motor racing theme and all the bent steering wheels behind the donwstairs bar. It also put on some good jazz music, but everything really got going when the dj came on at midnight.
When I started glass collectors had to wear pale blue 'Dunlop' racing overalls. Felt like an idiot, but the girls seemed to like the outfit!
I remember a bouncer from another club came in one night and caused a bit of trouble, so we threw him in the canal. I can still remember him shouting about his £100 suit. We got him out, the police arrived and when he knocked one of their helmets off he got arrested. He came back the next night and there were no hard feelings. We always called him 'flipper' after that. I also worked in the Factory next door. Once we had set all the bars up before the club opened we used to play footie on the roof ( we climbed up via the old lift shaft). The factory used to produce toys that went into christmas crackers.
After clearing up and leaving the club about 4am we would sometimes head for the Tow Rope, an interesting experience in itself with a motley mix of prostitutes, late nighter like us and assorted villains.
Sometimes we would go to the Flowerpot in Digbeth, a reggae club and play the pinball machines. What we never did was go home, except to sleep until the next night's exertions. It was truly great to be young and footloose in the sixties.
N. Cav" Nick Cavalier 17/01/2012
Dave Barber" dnbarber 20/01/2012
Hi Phil. I have only just seen your reply to my request about my father Sonny Rose, and the amazing news that you have a recording of his orchestra with your mother on vocal. I would really appreciate the opportunity to hear this. I hope that you are still visiting this great site." Michael Rose 29/01/2012
Clubbing in Brum now is manic!" Dina Kindle 13/02/2012
Hi Michael, I'm pleased you have seen my reply to your request. You can hear the song on YouTube. Search for Barbara Seaman and The Sonny Rose Orchestra. It would be brilliant if you could leave a comment.
We have some cds if you would like a copy. Please Friend request me on Facebook." Phil Brolan 14/02/2012
Thank you so much for the information. Heard the recording on You Tube, excellent, I would love to get hold of a copy of the CD. I will make contact via Facebook. Do you know if the recording of Johnnie Ramero also available?
Michael Rose" Michael Rose 20/02/2012
Hi Michael, Yes we also have the recording of Johnny Romero on cd too.
Looking forward hearing from you.
Phil Brolan" Phil Brolan 21/02/2012
I'm really interested in Elbow Room, Carlton, Mothers, West End in 1960's and Opposite Lock, A little later, the Whisky A' Go'Go. Do you remember the Aero Club at, what what was then Elmdon Airport?
Does anyone remember a local DJ named Micky Twitch? He worked at the Elbow Roon, Carlton & Mothers in Erdington. Would love any repsonse" Liz Pyke 24/03/2012
memories of 60's: Stage Door cafe in New meeting Street: Elbow Room Aston - seemed as though everyone who visited Birmingham at that time went there after their performances!!
Carlton - later known as Mothers above a shop on Erdington High Street. Whiskey, all nighter, just behind New St Station
Later I frequented Aero Club: Opposite Lock. Cedar. I also remember some one getting shot at the club by Hockley Flyover - think it was Dolls Club (what was I doing there??) & loads of other places: Went out evry night. Have recognised every club/cafe mentioned.
Does anyone remember Micky Twitch who was DJ at Elbow Room, then at Carltons/Mothers?
He was good friend with Steve Winwood and often brought people back to our parents home - I once cooked bacon & egg sandwiches for the Walker Brothers at about 3.30am!!
Jim Capaldi wrote a song about him
Really love to hear anything. He was my brother (Good or bad just anything would do) Not looking to write a book, just trying to give some information (again good or bad) to my children and now, grandchildren. My nephews are Gaz & Robbie Coombes, of (ex) Supergrass and I often see Michael in Gaz. I was very close to my brother and know what happened to him in Nepal and know his ex wife has died. Would just love to hear from anyone who knew him.," Liz pyke 12/04/2012
Also I am looking for a name for a 60`s club I am starting in a june at the bear tavern bearwood its everything sixtys clothes music go go dancers the lot but we need a name if you can think of a name that sum`s up the sixys and the mod scean drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
colin." colin roberts 22/05/2012
Nothing to do with Birmingham, but am just going through some paper work of my late dads, before shredding, and found a letter from your dad, to my mum, she used to sing with him sometime during the war, she heard a radio programme of him in August 1973', and wrote to him, he did remember her and was telling her about his life since they had last met, how he and Pearl had a son Tony who was 29 in 1973 and 2 other sons aged 25 & 22 and a 12 year old daughter. My mum was Delene Webb. Sorry no recordings just some memories" Christine Twemlow 08/06/2012
i attended the college jewelery and silversmithing in vittoria street.to get extra money as a student i worked at night.the wandering minstrel in the bull ring center.what abusy pub that was with all the staff from the shops. i then went to long johns in new street opposite the abc cinema.then finally the old crown and cushion in perry barr. at the time i was going out with a girl called maureen who worked at the heartbeat club above the silver blades ice rink.what a great club that was.lots of the places mentioned on the site i went to the west end yates the greyhound the locarno ballroom and the surfside stop.does any one remember a club out at brownhills they used to have aband playing all buddy holly tracks. i remember as astudent you could drink 24 hours a day if you had the money.in between the pub opening hours you could get a drink in the snooker club on new street down the arcade.then night clubs the casino and so on. i recentley visited birmingham after many years what a change. i lived in alum rock for a while what a shock.but apart from that i had a brilliant time. if anyone remembers me get in touch. one more thing gillian thorogood the one that got away." george loggie 10/06/2012
The 60's in Brum were the best for live Mod bands, specially at The Whiskey a Go Go above Chetwyns on the corner of John Bright Street and Hill Street. The whiskey was unique in the fact that not only did the local bands King Bee's, Modonaires, Jugs O'Henry,Graham Bond, Moody Blues, Denny Lane, Spencer Davis play there, but also people from the states. "Motown" & "R&B" greats like Sonny Boy Williamson & Ike and Tina Turner sang there. All nighters on Fridays till 8am Saturday mornings and again on Saturday nights till Sunday morning. The owners Chris & Steve Healey were two great guys who were there to welcome us all every night the Whiskey was open. They both wore natty striped jackets as I recall. A great guy named Ronnie Whichello ran the club as the manager, DJ, sweeper uper, toilet cleaner and booked all the blues and stax bands from the UK and USA and gave The Spencer Davis band their first gig.
remember Georgie Fame playing virtually all night. They couldn't get him off the small stage until he collapsed with exhaustion, or lack of stimulation's.
Great Brummie characters of the time also frequented The Whiskey; Sean Mahoney, Billy Sutton, Billy & Dodger Thompson (rip), Colin Mythan (rip), Noel Barnes, Chris and Gary Burgess, Jock Ellis, Duffy, Bugsy, Chris Wolsey, Mushy Moriearty, Kenny Frazer, Rob Marsh, Popeye, Dicky Martin, Bobby Summers, Henry O'Neil, Eddy The Jew, Jonnie Hutton, Percy McIver, Tony Parker, Tony Baker, Jim Cheesby, Kenny Bull, Dorian Walford. Black H (rip) and Spencer, who were both 60's & 70's local Brummie DJ's with Caribbean and soul backgrounds learnt their trade at the Whisky.
The place buzzed for three years until it changed hands and became the Marquee in 1968. And the chicks that went there were out of this world. One group were called "The Magnificent Ten" which included Esther, Cherrie, Lela, Betty & Jean Smart, Pat Smith, The O'Brian Sisters, Linda Walton, Oriel Teeger & Heather. Other male groups of people were nick named "The Martini Set", "The T-set" and the "Coca Cola Boy's". It was cult and leading edge for urban 60's live Motown & blues band music, dance styles and fashions emanated from the "Whisky".
They used to pack in nearly 250 townies and mods onto both floors in those days with no fire escapes only a small front door with narrow wooden steps up to the 1st and 2nd floor's. Live bands on the 1st floor and DJ's on the top floor. Many dudes where "knocked back" at the door if you weren't part of the crowd, as they could not get everybody in the gaff.
People would fall asleep on the wooden floor after they tired from dancing at about 5pm, but the bands and DJ's played on till about 8am. the following morning. Money and stuff all over the floor, came out of peoples pockets, it was like an "Aladdin's Den"
Do you remember that the phrase 'Nice One' which spread all over the country came from the Whiskey? There was a west Indian guy of about 40 (seemed really old then) who used to come up and dance on his own. After each record he would shout 'Nice One' which was soon picked up and used by all. Can't remember his name.
After we crashed out again in the mornings at the KD (Kardoma) coffee bar in New Street, we went on to the West End Dance Hall Saturday afternoon dance. We then had the energy to go to the "All Nighters" at the Town Hall. Spencer Davis with Steve Winwood were classic, along with the other Blues bands of the time. The Whiskey attracted people from all over the midlands, including Coventry and London scene, to dance and hear live music of the era, that was very ahead of pop culture in England at that time! If the Town Hall gigs weren't on, we used to go to "The Twisted Wheel" in Manchester that also played Motown & Blues".
In the summer of 1966 & 1967 you would find most of the guy's and girls of the Brum scene in Margate our favorite haunt on Bank Holidays, the centre of Birmingham used to be empty. it was a mad exodus by scooters, cars, thrumming and by train, jumped of coarse! We used to get of the train too Watford, where the local geezer Phil Manall used to offer us shelter and food after he took us to the local clubs and the "Milk Bar" in Watford High St. Sometimes we would go to the "East End" where another cockney dude Barry Lane looked after us in transit to Margate. Barry Lane also came up to Birmingham and came with us to Jersey in 1968, we made him an honoree Brummie.
In 1968 after the Whisky days ended we mostly took of and all worked the season in Jersey, well that's another story for another day.
Other live Mod band venues we frequented where the "Lafayette" and "The Connaught Suite" in Wolverhampton with Brian & Judy Franklin, the local leader Aggie and his mates.
The Matrix Club, Fortythievs & The Leofric hotel, in Coventry were other great venues where we mixed with the Cov crowd of Terry Green, Terry Shone, Tony Rieley, Paul Gardiner, Paddy McGurk, Guy Marshall ,Freddy McFarland, Rodney Joyce, Jim Snow, Ernie Clark, Wally Parker (rip), Frank Guin, Owen Ferry, Ernie Sower, Tilley /graham Rutherford, Con McGrogan, Dave & Mickey Snape, Brian Fanning (rip) and many more that also joined us at the Whisky agogo and in 1968 in Jersey.
We had our 1st Whiskey reunion in 2007 at Solihull Arden Tennis Club. Organized by Chris & Viv Wolsey and Bobby Summers, 150 original people including the Whiskey owner Steve Healey attended.
The reunion was DJ'ed by the refreshingly knowledgeable Mike Hollis of "Smooth Radio", 40 years after the Whiskey a Go Go closed in 1967. Nobody was knocked back at this gig though!! People came from as far away as Norway, France and all over the U.K. to meet each other again for the first time in all those years. It was a great nostalgic and emotional night . We intend to do it again in 10 years, God willing!!" BobbyS 10/06/2012
He was a great friend of mine,played with him occassionally in The Mike Collins Combo.Took him to see and meet Steffane Grapelli at the Town Hall,Steffane remembered him from playing in the past,Frank also played at the Town Hall in the 50's keeping the audience entertained with Fats Waller songs.He was a mate of George Shearing, also blind,George went to his house in Sparkhill after the war before going to the States,asked Frank to go with him but he thought it too risky.Hope this helps Lynn. Cheers! David" Dave Banks 11/06/2012
I am sad to hear that Black H has passed away, he was a hero of mine. we were both lucky to survive after winding up the bouncers about the first 'Punk' fans at the Rum Runner one night and only avoided a severe kicking when Eddie Fewtrel, who H knew well, appeared and H scrounged a cigarette from him in front of his gorillas who were just about to see to us.
I remember all of the crew mentioned by Bobby S (above) at the Whiskey. There were also a couple of girls who wore full length leathers, thick layers of Panstick and huge false eyelashes who we called the 'Margate' dollies. Other 'faces' were Bobby Fields, Leo Ryan, Brian (chimpy) Harris and Johnny Montieth.
Carol Bergonzi and I used to catch the same bus home (no 48) and we were pretty close before she married Jimmy Barratt. I too was a friend of John Walsh and used to hang around the Stage Door cafe. Some people used to get confused because our names sounded so similar and to add to the confusion we had another mate called Dave Walsh.
The Ritz in Kings Heath was owned by the Regans who also owned the Plaza in Handsworth. I saw some great names at the Rit including Johnny Kid and the pirates, The Ronnettes, Alexis Korner, Alex Harvey and mny others.
There was a a record shop called the Diskery at the top end of Bristol Street. Erskine who worked there also DJ'd at the Elbow Room at the time as Micky Twitch, who was a close friend. Micky and I spent a lot of time riding around in my battered old Wolseley together. He was at the Elbow Room when Traffic first got together for gig. He told me that Steve Winwood had turned up there late one night with some of the Hellions and were going to form a band. This was hot news as Steve was still with Spencer Davies at the time. I know Mickey met a sad end (in Goa I thought) but I never heard the full story.
Other favourite venues were the Kardomah in New Street and the Picadilly Snooker club, were occasionally Johnny Prescott (Brum's own Heavyweight) used to play." John Balch 12/06/2012
I last saw Chimpy Harris at
Leo Ryan funeral apsox 2 years ago." BobbyS 08/07/2012
oh memories" kathy weldon 12/07/2012
I have only just seen your message regarding the letter from my father. Do you still have it? If so we can make contact.
Michael Rose" michael rose 09/08/2012
Knew Jimmy and his brother "H" from many years ago, knew many of the people mentioned on this site,went to the same clubs from sixties & seventies, a little to young for the whisky though,
regards and good health to all" BRENDAN O'REILLY 31/08/2012
Good to know you're still around - Hope life is good for you. Read your comments particularly interested about Micky Twitch.
If you are the John Balch I knew then you may remember me as I am Micky's sister (then known as Betty) and you and I were together for quite a while. I certainly remember your old Wolsey - drinking gallons of Duckhams Oil!!! I think we once drove to Cornwall in this
I recall most of the people you have mentioned. Whatever happened to Bobby Brown? I'm sure he was one of your close friends?
If you are the same John Balch I knew, then I remember your Nan, stepgrandad Ron, Your Mom & stepdad, your sister Adele (who was a great person) and visiting your Dad and stepmom.
I have many, many memories from those times. particularly of the stagedoor, clubs, and people. Do you remember Savo? He was an "old hippie" type but a good guy
My Brother Micky, has never been fogotten and I have found out more about his death and about Cindy, his wife. There are no bitter memories only good ones.
My life is good. I also have friends who have fantasic memories for clubs, bands etc.,
No problems if you don't respond (or if I have the wrong person) but if you are John, then I wish you wellxx" Liz pyke 01/09/2012
Many thanks again Lynn" Lynn D 02/10/2012
Also lots of good groups playing at the 2 uni's. Free as well to us nurses. I remember Robert Plant playing there.
The Kardoma was a good place to wind down after a busy shift.
Those were the days." christine kennard 20/11/2012
I do not see any mention of a club called 'daddy long legs' in Camp Hill. Really rough but good music played. Someeher to go when the normal clubs finished." Tom flaherty 22/11/2012
I am still riding a bike today. Happy days" Dave Robinson 02/12/2012
A D.J. at Elbow Room & other places.
From what I understand quite well known on Birmingham circuit.
He travelled to Goa with his wife.
Mentioned as quite a main character in a book called 'In The Web of the Spider, written by an American, travelling through India / Afghanistan.
Mickey was my uncle.I'd like to know more about him." rich jones 05/12/2012
i'm looking for any info or pictures off the dolphin cafe.
101 coventry street Digbeth.
iv'e reason to belive my late uncle may have stayed there in the early 1970s
william" william mcgrath 06/12/2012
like to speak again to John Balch.
John hope it's you and hope you're happy.
My family (and of course me especially)
want to find out more about Michael - warts amd all.
You know we always had a big family and thid year there was over 50 people including many children - 2 of them my grandchidlen (How mad is that, when do grandchildren arrive???) at our family "get together"
Love to know how life haa turned out for you, really hope it has been good.
Would be nice to know how you are and how Adele is, I won't expect quick return (or any) Bettyx" Liz pyke 23/12/2012
I'm trying to find my cousin Janet Dudley, she introduced me to music when I was about 5 years old. She worked at Avery Scale Company in Digbeth and then emigrated to the U.S somewhere - of course I was just a kid and nobody would tell me anything. She loved Elvis Presley!!! Didn't we all. My other cousins in the same family were Frances and Vincent.
Loved reading everyone's comments - used to go to the Opposite Lock, Top Rank, etc. and I well remember the night of the bombing -was not far away from the Mulberry Bush with Les and John and a bunch of others and we were headed down there for a drink before going dancing when the thing went off. Brought back memories.
Also cider and blackcurrant - no-one's ever heard of that in Canada!!
Remember ending up in the Tow Rope on many a night, and does anyone remember the jazz sessions at the Grand Hotel, Colmore Row - Think they were either Sunday afternoons or Thursday evenings, memory's a bit dodgy about that.
Oh and I remember going to see the Move (at the Plaza Handsworth I think) and meeting this sweet photographer called John, who sent me a bunch of photos from the night.
Oh and getting on the 159 bus from Brum to Coventry to see Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Amen Corner and Engelbert Humperdinck (aaargh) on the same bill, when all our parents thought we were whizzing round the skating rink!! Those were the days, we had a very good time...was nice to be in at the beginning of the real change in music, don't think we realised how lucky we were at the time.
Anyway i could go on for ever, so will stop!
Thanks for bringing back all these fond memories...
Jules" Jules 24/12/2012
I think the name of "club" you are thinking of in Hamstead was "Kings".
I've spent over an hour reading these messages etc on here. I was born in 1955 so I missed a lot of the 1960s stories etc, but I was around the city in the early 70s, I remember Rum Runner, Barbarellas, Sloopys, Rebeccas, Opposite Lock etc etc and of course the Elbow Room in Newtown. Living in Indonesia now, but fond memories of Brum." Graham Batchelor 01/01/2013
They opened a club upstairs called the key club. where I also worked" mark smith 13/01/2013
Cheers, Jules" jules 17/01/2013
We definetly had fun in them Days going down to London West End after an Allnighter or heading for Watford Gap Services. I think one of the guys was called Colin and he was the only Mod with a Bonny instead of a Scooter. Was John Walsh who everybody is asking about was that Blocker?" Ron Arrowsmith (Jagger) 05/02/2013
nic" nic wood 07/02/2013
Hope you respond, would be just good to hear from you. If you read this just say hello." Liz pyke 01/03/2013
well well what an amazing read, i too grew up in birmingham, born in balsall heath 1940,s spent many a good year in the pubs and clubs the city, from whisky ago ago to brum cavern, hippodrome rum runner and more,i still have great thoughts about my time there, there also were Paul and Shaun Mahoney ( gangsters of the day )with guns, there to was Barney, and chippy Harris and pete Harris all bad guys of there time, I know because i new them well, we were mates and very good friends, myself i don,t get into the bad stull, i liked having a laugh and going out to meet peple, parties, bands, and the daily pub crall, hehe
that was me in the 60,s in 1968-1970 meet a wonderfull girl Lynn Darwood from out of town we spent many a late night at pubs and parties plus travelling the world to rock festivals meeting and seeing rock stars from Bob dylan, hendrix, who, zappa, beefheart..........so many on my list,
we moved from birmingham in 1972 to cornwall and traveled back to birmingham on weekend visits 1972-74 to see old friends and meet up in the tavern in the town, we were going to meet friends for a drink and food the day the pub got blown up, i parked my car up and we were walking to the pub tavern in the town with my wife ( lynn darwood ) and some friends we meet earler in the day, it was by chance we meet another friend in the street who said the pub had been hit with a bomb, lots of thoughts and fear had set in,we turned around, went back to the car and left the city for cornwall, we never went back, only to visit our familys,
what became of our friends is unknowed, we know a few had died of drugs, drink, and jail for some, and some friends just left the city.
I still hold great thoughts about my life in the 60,s birmingham its a wonderfull city, hehe i still chat and tell stories to my children and friends about the 60,s, my life with the bad and the good people of birmingham
regards Terry" Terry Brampton 26/03/2013
Happy days indeed. Does any one remember the Peddler brothers who bounced at almost every pub and club around Digbeth. I remember they worked in the meat market in Bradford Street, I think they were carcase swingers or cutters, both hardy lads.
I could write a book about Brum in the 60s and 70s, maybe I should!
The greatest thing about those times was that legendary bands played two feet away from you, and you could drink with them at the bar during the breaks.
What about the All Stars Jazz Club under the arches at Snowhill?
George Melley was resident crooner, and Monty Sunshine was there every other week.
I could go on for hours but better not.
Cheers 'n' beers, Rab." Bob Grey 29/03/2013
Haven't been over for a year or so and can't say it is still there.
Cheer 'n' beers, Rab." Bob Grey 29/03/2013
As a Mod in the 60's the numorous venue's that we frequented were The Midnite City in Dibeth,The Factory-half way down Gas St,The Rum Runner-Broad St,The Metro-Livery St,The Rainbow-above The Co-op in High St,The Penthouse and Cedar-Constution Hill,Elbow Room-Aston,The Carlton and Queens Head-Erdington,Locarno-Hurst St and of course not forgetting the Major Mod hang-out The West End-Suffolk St.All great places and great faces,by comparison today as a fit bloke in his 60's I have to say Birmingham clubland is Crap-honest but true!Keep the memories alive for God's sake,thats all we seem to have left." Colin Ford 21/04/2013
left.work till 1971 .with dj peter barclay and the graham tyson trio.any one remenber?." peter james 27/04/2013
He's working his way back home!" John Mack 02/05/2013
promoters run discos & clubs thats how it should of worked .Shame about the crap money tho' ." Bob King 07/05/2013
And what's more, the only time I ever saw a fight in a G.O. was at the weekends when the 'ladies' were allowed in!
Call me a dinosaur, but I think segregated bars were wonderful thing.
Something else I thought was great was that almost every pub had a Crown Bowling Green and there was a fantastic city wide league.
I used to bowl for the Gun Barrels in Edgbaston. Like many other pubs, the greens were lost for car parking and bowling leagues died.
I was also a member of the Tally Ho Bowling and Social Club which used to be just opposite the Edgbaston Cricket Ground below the gates to Cannonhill Park.
Happy days they were.
Cheers 'n' beers, Rab." Bob Grey 07/09/2013
to all the pubs and clubs who were doing medi-nights.
The game pies were usually semi-raw, but the wenches were a hoot, and didn't stand too much nonsense from the guests.
I still believe Brum was streets ahead of London as far as clubs and night life was concerned. The Smoke was contolled by old firms of entrenched gangsters and Brum was still fairly free of the mob syndrome throughout the 60s.
Cheers 'n' beers, Rab." Bob Grey 19/09/2013
I'm currently working on a new television series that helps people find people from their past that they've lost contact with. The idea is to reunite people where they would like to be able to say thank you or make amends with someone important to them.
I'm particularly keen to speak to anyone that remembers the 1974 Birmingham Pub Bombings.
If you would like more details or have memories you wouldn't mind talking to me about, please get in touch via email Sonia.email@example.com or call 0203 301 8486." Sonia Sohal 26/09/2013
Sure there were youngsters getting hold of booze, but they were usually 16 and 17 year olds serving their apprenticeships.
I remember an incident at the Cross Guns in Kings Heath in 1969, I think the gaffer was Jim McLean, but I may be wrong.
My missus and I, who were married the year before at All Saints in Kings Heath at the age of 21, went in one night for a jar in the front snug.
The barmaid, who we didn't know, asked how old the wife was, and we laughed and told her we would both love to see 18 again.
She told the boss we were underage, he came out and asked us if we were old enough to drink, we told him we were, but he called the cops.
The cops arrived and asked us to leave, but we dug our heels in and refused, gave our names and addresses, and the addresses of both sets of parents plus telephone numbers, and despite threats of being arrested, we stood our ground.
Ten minutes later, a tray with a vodka and orange and a pint of mild arrived, with profound apologies from the boss, and a message that there was another drink in the till.
He did come and speak to us later on, but still said he would do the same again and advised us to carry out birth certificates as we looked far too young to drink.
I have to say that now, that old problem is a boon as we are both nearer 70 than 60, and people say we should still be at work!
The only reason we had no problems drinking at the Highbury at the bottom of Dads Lane in Moseley was the wife's old man was a regular and we had been drinking in there for years and knew the gaffer well.
I know there was underage boozing going on at the time, but nothing like the scale it is now, and nowhere near as blatant.
Times have changed for the worst, and all you old uns on this site know we lived through the best of times in the 60s and 70s in Birmingham and the West Midlands.
Cheers 'n' beers, Rab." Rab 19/10/2013
Cheers, Rab." Bob Grey 23/10/2013
What about the Ritz in Kings Heath? I saw Geno Washington there. I also went to the Odeon to see Little Stevie Wonder, Lee Dorsey, Arthur Conley etc.
Does anyone remember a temp dj at the Locarno called Warren (first name - can't remember his last name). He was there in about 1967.
I came second in a dance competition at Rebecca's - Tony Blackburn was the dj and judge. When Edwin Starr played Rebecca's he pulled me up onto the stage - I wasn't clapping like everyone else and he kind of showed me up a bit about it and then at the end, he got me up on the stage - loved it.
Les Ross used to dj downstairs at Rebecca's - he loved James Brown. Early evening when it was quiet - he'd play Cold Sweat and get out onto the dance-floor.
I've lived in London since I was eighteen but am eternally grateful to Brum and its fantastic clubs for giving me such terrific experiences and memories during my teenage years." Sue Price 01/01/2014
All the best
Joe Kinney 12.01.2014" joe kinney 12/01/2014
It was mainly a rough cider house for the residents or Rowton House a couple of streets away.
There was a jazz club which met at the Civic Centre in Digbeth, but most of the jazz clubs were in the pubs up towards Snowhill.
Hi Dave Curtis, I remember the Chateau at Droitwich well, and we used to hang around the Silver Blades and also the ten pin bowling club downstairs.
We used to have a drink at the Raven in Droitwich, head to the Impny for something to eat, and then head back to Brum to finish off on a Saturday night.
I remember at the Chateau we used to double up on beer before midnight and put a few pints in the lift up to the residents floors, and go up and down for an extra 20 minutes before having to leave.
Had sad news this week, on old friend from the Opposite Lock days died, he was only 59, the baby of the gang.
Cheers 'n' beers, Rab." Bob Grey 26/01/2014
Carl Lanchester" carl lanchester 05/02/2014
The meat market was where all the faces of the day pitched up after the clubs kicked out for the early morning booze in the local pubs.
They were great days. Carl Wayne's sister was a pal of mine and Roy Wood was the 'serious' musician, who gigged with a few bands before The Move.
The folk who are now untouchable rock stars were then just local mates who played in groups, and got pissed with their pals.
I still have a photo here of Jet Harris peeing in an empty cider flagon in the dressing room at the club in the Kingfisher Centre in Redditch, with me peeing in the sink next to him.
I'm nearer to 70 than 60 now, but my memories of Brum are still fairly vivid.
Just imagine what the archives would have if we had had mobile phones with video back then??? It doesn't bear thinking about.
Cheers, Rab." Bob Grey 09/02/2014
My old man and my brother were meat inspectors and did all the wee bacon factories and slaugherhouses all over the Midlands.
I have just looked out three old pics I took at Bywaters with one of the guys sticking a pig, and I just can't remember his name. I don't think you can post pics in here but I bet you probably knew him.
Wee Bunny Checkley used to work with me at Bywaters and the market, he was a hoot.
The other guy I worked with at Bywaters was an old Scottish guy called Jock Hay, fat and bald he was then, worked the scales and checkweighed there till he died.
Hell I saw some cracking accidents at Bywaters, all the slaughtermen were nuts.
Let me know if there is some way I can send you copies of the pics as you will recognise the place straight away.
Cheers, Rab." Bob Grey 14/02/2014
Think I'm your cousin - if you have brothers Tony and David; mother Pearl and father Sonny.
Would love to be in touch. Please contact me on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Frances Fox (Rosenberg)" Frances 16/02/2014
BN" Brian Noble 16/02/2014
When there was a big kill and the line piled up, I used to get a cleaver and split the pigs to get things moving at the scale end, and then I used to use the electric circular saw when it was installed. If my bosses at the MAFF had ever caught me it would have been an official bollocking, but it was better than standing around waiting.
I am trying to remember the factory manager's name, I think it was Davidson, tall guy. He arranged for old George Hay and me to get a swag bag every Friday. Saved me having to hang 'pork fillet belt' under my white coat :o))
His assistant manager was a guy from Denmark who used to wear white clogs, but I forget his name.
The biggest laugh was every time an artic-truck had to back into the loading bay at the side of the slaughterhouse with the back doors open as they couldn't open them when the lorry was in because of the pillars. I never saw as many boxes disappearing in less than two minutes in my life.
Tell you what Carl, here is an email address you can use contact me directly, and we can take it from there.
I used to go to Devis's, Thompson and another wee slaughterhouse in West Brom, I think it was Stoddards.
Do you remember a mear inspector called Terry Cresswell from Bourneville. I used to knock about with him a lot?
Cheers, Rab." Bob Grey 18/02/2014
For regular readers of this forum, Carl and I have now worked out that we did work together nearly 50 years ago, and the pics I mentioned, one of them is Carl, taken in the late 60s.
Talk about turning back time?
Just a shame you can't all read the private e-mails we have recently exchanged, but it might lead to a series of historical arrests :o))
The internet is a powerful tool when used properly, on forums such as this.
The 60s were happy days, lots of work, money to be earned, and legendary rock stars were local piss artists the same as everyone else.
Been great hooking up again Carl after so many years.
Cheers 'n' beers, Rab." Bob Grey 21/02/2014
I now live in Canada but I have such fond memories of Birmingham in the 1950's and 1960's
Barry Phillips" Barry Phillips 03/03/2014
Retro furniture, fashion and collectables