Sunday, 18 October 2015

When you could see Tom Jones, Ben-E-King, and Dell Shannon in the Princess on Barlow Moor Road

Fothcoming entertainers at the Princess

There will be many who remember the Princess Ballroom on Barlow Moor Road and many more who will have been there when it was variously known as Valentines, Ra Ra’s and Adam and Eve’s.

I guess its heyday was in the 1960s when as the Princess Club it played host to a variety of entertainers from Del Shannon, and Tom Jones, to Lonnie Donegan, and Bob Monkhouse, Ben-E-King and the Drifters.

Nor were these acts performing alone.  What you got for your ticket was a selection of turns which on the night of our poster included the group Paper Lace from Nottingham alongside Hollywood, Korky and Chugalug.

And one of the real strengths of clubs like the Princess was that they offered an opportunity for local groups to perform allowing young hopefuls the chance to be discovered, or just somewhere to act out the dream and learn from the professionals.

And it was here that the Big Chuckles played in the mid 60s.  They had been formed in 1963 but lacked a singer so they advertised for one.   In the words of Graham Gill who was one of the group, “a young lad called Chris Neil from Wythenshawe turned up.

The Big Chuckles
Chris was a choir boy at the Holy Name church and had grown up in the Moss Side, Hulme area before moving to Wythenshawe.

He played with the group for a few years before leaving to perform in Hair at the Palace Theatre and went on to become a record producer, songwriter, singer and actor.”

I missed out on this period in the club’s history which is my loss.

Now I know that the forthcoming Chorlton Arts Festival offers an opportunity to sample a wide range of live events and that there are also the Edge Arts Centre and Jellyfish Rooms but places like the Princess, and the Golden Garter should be missed and mourned.

But they were commercial enterprises and at the mercy of commercial trends and the odd disaster.
The Golden Garter had opened in 1968, and closed after a fire in 1990. There are still many who miss it today.

Johnathan Young in the centre of the picture
“The Garter', as it was affectionately known locally, had lavish, thick carpets and gold and crimson décor as well as décolleté plaster goddesses smiling in pairs on either side of the movable apron-stage. There were 50 barmen, who wore green and gold-striped waistcoats and there was room for 1,400 diners. 

A 3-Course meal at the Golden Garter would cost you 15 shillings (75p), a bottle of champagne 39 shillings (£1.90p), a glass of brandy 3 shillings and 6 pence (33p) and a pint of bitter 2 shillings and 7 pence (23p).”*

Added to this it could draw the top performers of the day.  In 1979 the list included Gene Pitney, The Supremes and Mary Wilson, The Drifters, the Dooleys, and Showaddywaddy along with Les Dawson, Cannon and Ball and Tom O’Connor.

The Princess Ballroom, 1959
And here in Chorlton once you mention the Princess the memories of magic evenings are recounted with a mix of pleasure and a sense of loss that eventually it became just a place to get a late night drink and dance to records.

It had opened in the 1920s as the Chorlton Palais de Dance.  Ida remembers it from the mid 1960s when "it was always busy" and Adge told me that "we went to the Princess Club ('the Prinny') on a regular basis in the late 60'/early 70's, it was always rocking! 

Saw some great acts there inc' Ben E King Emile Ford and Long John Baldry amongst others. 

It was always packed to the rafters and, at the end of the night, the last song was always "Hi Ho Silver Lining", everyone in the place joined in (all well lubricated) I can see and hear it now in my head. It was also the place I had my first dance and snog with my (now) wife."

My thanks to Graham who provided the handbill, and the pictures of the Big Chuckles,  Jonathan Young and card for the Golden Garter.who not only hosted many of the night in the Princess but wrote Manchester Morning.

The New Golden Garter
He also reminded me that "the Golden Garter started as a Bowling Alley with a night club attached I think it was called Darrens. One thing I do know is that I made the ventilation system for the bowling Alley in 1963 when I worked at CWS Engineering Knowsley Street Cheetham."

And I suppose it reflects the time, because just as the Garter moved from bowling to live acts so our own Palais de Dance became the Princess Ballroom.

Pictures; Princess Ballroom, R.E.Stanley, May 1959, m17616, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and remaining images courtesy of Graham Gill


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