Oldham Club Scene
by Steve Barclay
My earliest recollections of the Oldham club scene are quite nostalgic; it must have been the early 1970’s I was 16yrs old and previously had made appearances on YORKSHIRE TV’s JUNIOR SHOWTIME.
As you can imagine I was not equipped to tackle any clubland scene just yet!
I entered a talent show at the RAILWAY HOTEL, ROYTON. THE SUNDAY PEOPLE NATIONAL TALENT CONTEST if you please, ran by landlord Ken Thurston with heats every week then a Grand finale with the first prize a week’s holiday at a Butlins camp of your choice leading to the national finales at the LONDON PALLADIUM.
Ken had a pianist to back all the acts; it was a smokey ale swigging atmosphere but there was nothing but support for this new comedy impressionist on the block with his suit case full of hats and props. I won the heat, then the finale ended up at Butlins Barry Island then to my amazement after many more heats at Butlins on to the LONDON PALLADIUM, I didn’t win but oh what an initiation.
One day I was walking past the CANDLELIGHT CLUB, bumped into the owner Ken Naylor, and asked if he wanted to book me. Ken replied ‘I don’t know who the bloody hell are you’ or words to that effect. I told him I was 18 when in fact I was 16 and that I would do a spot as an audition. Ken shook my hand and said right lad I’ll see you about half past nine then.
I walked into the club I could smell a mixture of OB Bitter and Chicken in a basket, Ken Roy and his band were playing jazz in the back ground. I went through my dots with Ken Roy and at around ten thirty stepped onto the coloured glass stage … and died on my arse!
When I came off RUPERT the Elvis impersonator was ready to take the stage. Even after leaving the club I was convinced I played a date with Elvis!
I doubt very much a youngster starting out could have had such support from other acts with their tips tricks and introductions to agents and bookers. There was always some act ringing me up telling me about audition shows etc.
I remember many of the acts who helped me along the way including Oldham impressionist Ian Fenn who showed me how to arrange all the hats in order, so you could do the act quicker. We were at the PALACE THEATRE MANCHESTER auditioning for NEW FACES. I suppose we were in fact rivals but this didn’t matter to Ian he just let me into one of the tricks of the trade. There was Al Lewis who introduced me to my lifelong friend Jim Williams, the son in law of Jimmy Ryder.
Eventually I was working for JT PROMOTIONS doing net deals ‘doubling’ and now a proper paid act on the circuit. I remember being booked at the IRISH Land League CLUB in Oldham to do a show with Bunny Lewis and some other drag acts. One of the drag queens were on stage but left his fag burning in the dressing cupboard! When he came off I greeted him with ‘nice act …. by the way I put your fag out and threw it outside in the gutter’. He went berserk …. In addition, he called me a pratt as his fag was a joint he was saving!