THE CUBIK CLUB and More
I did not know that Conway Street, Birkenhead, was the roughest, toughest area around in those days. The 'CubiK' as I called my club, was on a corner-facing a pub called the 'Conway Arms'. I soon learned the local's name for it, for I had chosen by ignorance and fast decision to open my second club in front of the 'Blood Club' on 'Blood Corner'. From the word go, a miniature war raged against the 'CubiK'. 'Blood Corner' was so called because it was the most used battleground in town.
Tommy Harley, the Jacaranda bouncer, came to help me out on the door but even with him, I decided to get an Alsatian police-trained dog as it was so rough. The gangs were in groups of hundreds per gang. The 18 year olds would pick on the 16 year olds and the 16 year olds would pick on the 14 year olds and so on. The gangs lived in huge blocks of flats, which were rather like a big round multi-layered cake. They were about five floors high, with a verandah running around the inside of each floor. The circular buildings had a central yard with a large entrance and exit. The gangs would beat up and rob anyone they could find. Birkenhead was a port for the bigger passenger and cargo boats and so there were always worthy targets for the waiting gangs to rob. If the gangs were chased by another gang or the police, they would run into the 'Bull Rings' as they were called, then disperse onto the various levels and from there would throw down missiles such as dustbins, building bricks etc. The gangs were rarely caught once they went to ground. Each 'Bull Ring' was rather like a fortress from which the warriors went forth to rape and pillage the enemy.
Freddie Starr is now a well-known comedian but in those days he entered show business in a classic film 'The Blackboard Jungle'. This was a film about those days and shows the type of situations and violence in the streets of Liverpool. On many occasions I called the police and they in turn called the Fire Brigade to quell the riots outside the club. They would use high-pressure hoses to disarm the yobbos. One night some yobs actually drove a stolen van into the club smashing in the whole of the front. I called the police so often that eventually they told me not to bother them any more. Most of the members of the 'CubiK' were students and as I would not let the local hardcases in, they would wait outside to beat up the privileged members as they left. Several of the members were filled in on their way home.
My dog 'Rex' was a great help. He was trained to attack on command and he did so on many occasions but the yobbos devised a plan. They would wait until the door of the club was opened to let a member in or out and then they would throw a tortured cat in through the door onto Rex. Even with all this violence the club flourished for a while.
It was about this time that I became good friends of Rory Storm & Ringo Starr as they used to like swimming. As the New Brighton swimming baths was on that side of the Mersey, they used to call in at my house either on their way there or on the way back. Sometimes I would go to the swimming baths with them.
My house in Birkenhead was more like a private club for the groups in those days. I was very easy-going and attracted all the young entertainers as I too was the youngest club owner around. Cilla Black was also one of the gang and used to spend most of her free time with us.
Unbeknown to me, my first contact with Cilla’s family was with her dad, John Patrick White. I was seventeen years of age, and worked on a Blue Funnel cargo and passenger ship called The Theseus. I remember one day I had got so hot below decks on a hot sunny day that I decided to take a dip in the dock. The iron ladder which was embedded in the dock wall made my cool off possible . But I was not prepared for the filth which seemed to float at me out of the blue. There had been a party on the docks to welcome our arrival back from Australia, as we had just been on a three month cruise trip around the world. Many coloured balloons were released into the sky as the band played on.
One little girl was crying out as she had lost her own balloon which was shaped like a little bear. As she saw me going down the ladder, she screamed out, “Please get that balloon for me.” So I swam out a few yards, pushing my way through the film of floating balloons, flip-flops, celebration streamers, and walla bags. Luckily I was able to reach the little blue bear balloon, but as I emerged from the water up the metal ladder, my shoulders and head were covered in what I thought were long sausage type balloons with a knot tied to keep the air in, but they were now deflated, I thought, as they must have hit some sharp shell on the side of our ship. I gave the little girl her balloon I went for a shower, was only in the shower that I realised that some of these rubber objects were in fact condoms.
Later that day I was in the dock’s Greasy Spoon cafe, which was full of all the dock workers, and they thought I was a joke as they laughed and ridiculed me, calling me the ‘Mersey Goldfish Boy’. One of the men, I was to find out later, was in fact Cilla Black’s father John Patrick. Several years later I opened a music coffee club called the CubiKlub, next door to and under the same roof as the Majestic Ballroom, in Conway Street, Birkenhead, where there is now a blue plaque on the wall next to where the CubiKlub was, which states, “The Beatles played here 17 times in 1963”. That is the reason I did not need to book the Beatles to play in at the CK club, because they were so often there gigging – they would spend all of the waiting time in the CK club.
I think it worth mentioning now that the large C and K in the name CubiKlub really stand for my initials. At that time Cubism was the fashion, so I integrated it into the name.
In front of my club on Conway Street was a pub regularly used by the dockies, and known to my members as “The Canteen on Blood Corner”., In fact it was so rough that one day I had to call the police because of the gang fights. The police told me they did not come out to Blood Corner as too many policemen had been stabbed, and to call the Fire Brigade. And when they have hosed everybody down, then hit them on the head and throw them into the police station, and if there's room in the cells, if they're not already full of their parents, then we will lock them up. You don't need to make a charge as we know what to do with them.
Note I did not sell alcohol in my club, so those that liked to get a bit of alcohol would crossover the road for a quicky. My club was a great success; in fact it was really popular with the students and nurses from Liverpool University. My resident band, The Roadrunners, was also very popular - one of the very few bands that used to play saxophone, and really good rhythm and blues music - so good that The Rolling Stones came to see them unexpectedly late one night.
During one of my many all-night sessions, Cilla Black came into my life (at the same time as Rory Storm; The Beatles - George Harrison, John Lennon, and Ringo Star, who was then with Rory Storm; Beryl Marsden and many more).
Before karaoke became popular, my microphone at the CK was always on for anybody to have a try. Cilla was such a lovely bubbly natural entertainer, she was constantly requested to sing perhaps a happy birthday song, and then she might just sort of try out one of her favourite songs and sometimes even sing with the bands. She used my club to get audience reaction to see which of her songs would be more popular when she was ready to be a paid club act.
At this stage I think I should mention that Brian Epstein, my personal friend from many years before in Blackpool, would often park his car on the other side of the road just to watch me in action on the door. And he would see me with Cilla as she spent a lot of the time with me on the door, because she knew all of the in-crowd, and also all of the troublemakers - she was my “Let In” adviser). Brian actually said he was a little jealous of Cilla .Our little gang used to go to parties together, and to the gigs maybe at new Brighton tower or The Iron Door, or even to one of my other clubs, as at that time I also owned. The Witches Cauldron club in New Brighton, and the Preston Cavern Catacombs club. (I was later to open the Bluesville Club in Wigan, the Ponderosa Club in Bolton, and the CubiKlub in Rochdale, Manchester. That’s six clubs, plus the regular promotions at other public halls in Bury and Preston.)
Our little gang got up to lots of mischief. We used to go on regular ghost hunt - that is, we would all pile in to this great big furniture van owned by one of the members, and he would take us to some mysterious graveyard or old abandoned ghostly looking mansion, where we would wonder around, sometimes with a full moon, sometimes without, trying to make each other very much afraid. Even inventing things, like a man hanging in the tree (which really was one of our friends with a noose round his neck, but another rope lower down holding him up so he looked as if he was hanging dead). One night we actually got surrounded by police with the cars and sirens screaming, as we were trying to open up a tomb in the Liverpool Cathedral graveyard. Fortunately John Lennon had a flat right there next to the cathedral so we had a fast hidey hole. The next day it was printed in the Liverpool Echo, “Black Mass Gang Strikes Again in Liverpool Cathedral”.
One day Cilla’s dad, John Patrick, came with our Cilla, and after he got to know myself and my dear mother Ma Kelly, better, both he and Cilla came home with us for tea and buns. It was then that he told me that he knew me from the dock canteen, as I was now famous as the “Mersey Goldfish Catcher”. When I asked him what he meant by Mersey Goldfish, he replied, “Hey Our Lad, you won't see many of them now because they brought out the birth pill, but before that the River Mersey was full of them, you know, Durex. Johnnys. Birth control rubbers.”
Brian Epstein was then a young man in search of an identity. He would spend hours on end just sitting in the corner of the club, watching and learning the ways of the young people. He came from a very wealthy Liverpudlian family which owned most of the music shops in and around the North of England. The businesses were run by Brian's brother Clive and were known as 'NEMS' music. Brian told me that his family were ashamed of him as he was a homosexual and preferred to pay him a substantial allowance to keep out of the way. I first met Brian at the 'Catacombs' in Preston where he loved to listen to the groups. He had just finished a course at R.A.D.A. but as he said, "I just don't have the confidence". He was a very shy sort of person but a perfect gentleman, which made him a sort of 'oddball' in that rough-and-ready environment. As time passed by and we got to know each other better, he told me of his desire to break into show business as a disc jockey, so I let him practice in the club. It was here that he first heard of The Beatles. As Allan was my partner, he knew that I had told Brian that things were not working out for them.
We had just returned from Hamburg. Allan and I had gone there to see how The Beatles were doing. You see Allan had sent out many Rock & Roll bands to play in the Kaiserkeller club on the Reperbahn. This was the newest top international rock venue in Europe and the most important training ground for the new up and coming music boom known as the Mersey Sound. The Beatles were, in those days, still the least impressive of our groups. Rory was then 'Mr Showman'. He was the biggest thing that Butlins holiday camps in England had ever known. I remember reading his name in lights above the door of the Kaiserkeller club. "Rory Storm, straight from a successful season at Butlins, England". What a laugh!
The Beatles were at that time newcomers to the German scene and they were playing at a dirty dingy little club around the corner. It was a strip club called the Indra. They all lived in one small room backstage. There was no hot water and all they had were five camp beds on which to lay their weary heads. They were fed up with the German scene. It was because of those hardships and frustrations, that Stuart left the group. He fell in love with one of the local girls by the name of Astrid. She offered him the comfort of her flat and so he said goodbye to the boys and left. He remained good friends of The Beatles though and became a well-known artist. He had always been a good painter and now he had time to practice his art. As fate would have it, the next time I went to visit Hamburg, Astrid told me that Stuart had died of a brain tumour. Poor Stuart.
Brian Epstein was all ears to hear of The Beatles. He would repeat over and over to himself, "such magnetic personalities these boys have". He was absolutely hypnotised by them. I told him that their only weakness was the drummer Pete Best, and that Ringo Starr, who was playing with Rory at the Kaiserkeller, was just the man. If he could get Ringo together with John, Paul & George, then he had a sure-fire winner. It was then that Brian decided that he would be the 'fifth' Beatle so to speak. He would be their manager. On their return to Liverpool, Brian was waiting to offer them stardom. He had the money and the connections to get them a recording contract. On hearing this news, Ringo did not hesitate to join them.
Brian kept me informed of all the developments and I often accompanied him to the television stations to appear in 'Top of the Pops' and other rock programmes. He asked me to keep him notified of other groups and artists that he could manage. I introduced him to Gerry and the Pacemakers, and to Cilla Black who was helping us out serving coffees at the CubiKlub. But we asked CILLA to keep quiet about that because Brian was visiting me late at night after the club was closed, and he wanted to avoid people knowing that he was gay.
One night Brian came to visit me. He was terribly sad with tears in his eyes. He told me that John Lennon had hit him in the face. I did not ask why, as I guessed the obvious. Brian was as I have previously mentioned, a homosexual and on several occasions he tried to kiss me but I was honest and told him straight, that I liked him as a person but not as a lover. From then on he treated me as a true friend. I consoled Brian and took him home with me. He stayed in hiding at my place for a week until his black eye was back to normal. I tried to find John for several nights until eventually I decided to wait outside his flat. He came home about three in the morning and I talked him into coming round to my house with me to see Brian. He did come with me and they made it up. A mutual understanding was agreed - "Hands off mate, don't finger the merchandise".
On 5th October 1962, the Beatles led by Brian released 'Love Me Do'. Brian arranged for all the records to be bought up. He sent out 'envoys' all over the country to buy records. He invested a small fortune in his scheme but it worked out for him. They would return with arms full of records, which Brian stored in my flat for a few weeks. There seemed to be thousands of them. Dealers were visiting and buying from record shops all over the place. If a record sells fast and in extra large quantities, then, of course, it moves up the charts, and 'Love Me Do' did just that. It became Brian's first bestseller. I asked him what he was going to do with all the records in my flat and he said that he had an outlet - and time. I cannot say how he got rid of them as it would involve slander on other people. I was later to learn that 'Payola', as they say in the business, was the term for arranging a chart entry record and was not uncommon in those days.
Brian took on more artists and I had to tell him to store his records somewhere else as I was running out of rooms. One day I spoke with my milkman, he was waiting on my doorstep when I returned home from the club at 5 in the morning. He told me that he had a cellar that would be a perfect place to open up a club. I went to see it straightaway and agreed to open it up as a club with the milkman as 50% partner. He supplied the property and I supplied the know-how. Three weeks later we inaugurated the 'Witches Cauldron' coffee club. Ringo helped me decorate the place and he and Rory played on the opening night.
I then left the milkman to manage the club as I had decided to open two other clubs, one in Bolton and the other in Rochdale. The Bolton club property was five floors high above an Indian restaurant called the 'Kismet'. The owner of the property, a Mr Syed who was a very religious Muslim, had met me in Preston as he had a 'Kismet' restaurant there, just around the corner from the 'Catacombs' club. He had once told me of the protection money that he had paid to the local hardcases and I had told him to let me know next time they were due. He did and Tommy and I were there, waiting for them. As we gave them a good kicking, one of the guys turned round from the bottom of the stairs and fired a bullet into the ceiling but then he was off. There was a car waiting for them at the door. Their last show of arrogance was no more than a last show of defiance, for they never returned again. From that time on, I never had to pay for a meal in an Indian restaurant in the North of England again, provided that I introduced myself to the owner and showed Mr Syed's visiting card on which he had written a message in Hindi. I never found out what it said.
We opened up another club in Bolton. It was previously used as a small dance hall. We didn't have to do much structural alterations because it had already had its toilets made and everything, so I called the club the Ponderosa and on the opening night I used Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. So on the opening night the opposing gangs turned up to fight it out. That's five floors above because the club was on the fifth floor. That was the first club I've ever had that wasn't in the basement. Paddy and I were our own doormen and bouncers. I hadn't expected that Bolton could be so rough. We didn't notice the trouble brewing until it was too late.
The group was on stage playing, a small fight broke out, so I rushed in, grabbed one of the boys by the tails of his coat and suddenly from behind me a gun was fired. All hell let loose. Everybody seemed to be involved. I had somebody jump on my back clinging, punching and biting. I couldn't get him off. I could hear the girls screaming, and I managed to carry my backpack to the front of the stage. I was going to use the stage to help me pry him off my back when all of a sudden Ringo and Paddy were waiting. Ringo had ripped a table apart so he and Paddy with a table leg each beat the gang back. We all just stood on stage protecting the instruments and watching the two gangs lay into each other. I can still hear the sickening crunches of boot to bone as they kicked in the faces of the fallen, the blood spurting in all directions.
Eventually one gang decided to make a run for it, but the five floor high staircase took its toll as it turned into a waterfall of human bodies. Thirty-seven people were taken to hospital that night, and I decided to sell that club fast and cheap. I decided that my next club would be once again in a cellar. Ringo was a good help that night, he certainly saved me from I don't know what.
I returned to check out my New Brighton club. I was not worried about the 'CubiK' because my mother, sister and brother-in-law had taken over the management. Before having them in charge I had employed a bouncer to help Tommy. The new bouncer had impressed me. He told me that he was Black Belt Karate and Kendo expert. I saw him arrive at the club on his first night. An unusual sight in his loose fitting karate clothes, riding his bicycle, Kendo stick in hand I thought to myself as I drove away "He should scare 'em".
On arrival at the 'Witches Cauldron', I was confronted by a Polish man that I had never seen before. 'Hi' I said, 'is Wilf the Milkman about'. 'No' was the serious reply. 'Oh', I said as I went to enter but the strange man stood in my path. 'Are you a member' he said. I looked at him in disbelief. Who is this joker? I thought. I said 'who the hell are you?' he replied, 'I'm the new owner' 'What!!!, how the hell can you be, I've never even met you before. He then explained that he had bought the club legally from Wilf the Milkman who had left the country. I had been conned! For the first time in my life someone had pulled a fast one on me and there was nothing that I could do about it. I had been so misled into trusting the innocent looking milkman that I had not drawn up a legal contract with him. I had planned to do that on my return. Oh well. Easy come easy go. I had to look at it that way. I lost over £1,000 and learnt a lesson the hard way: Never trust even the Milkman!!
I returned to the CubiK to arrange a promotion to raise the cash I had lost. I had an idea to open the CubiK for a two-day non-stop dance competition in conjunction with the 'Jacaranda'. Alan agreed to the plan and so on the Saturday night he had a competition. The winning couple was planned in advance and the winners were to be put to bed immediately. I had attached large wheels to a double brass bed and the bed was to be pushed through the Mersey Tunnel with the couple laying snugly underneath the sheets to conserve their energy for the all-night-and-day dance. The club was full. People had come from afar to see the two-day snake hips dance marathon. We got excellent press coverage and I made up the money that I had lost.
I loaded up my Citroen car and headed for Rochdale, Manchester to find new premises. I had heard that there were lots of students in the area and so there was lots of potential for a club. It didn't take me long to find a suitable place. I managed to rent a whole cellar of a building in the centre of town in what had previously been a cotton mill but was now a warehouse. The cellar was 'ginormous', the biggest I had ever seen. This was to be the biggest Rhythm & Blues club in the North of England. I was thrilled by my find. The place lent itself perfectly to the type of club that most club owners could only dream of in those days. It was made up of many tall arches with no dividing walls only pillars. I figured I could get about 2,500 people inside. The toilets were already installed and the floor was of a well-used flat stone - perfect for dancing. All I had to do was to make an entrance and fire exits, put in lighting, a bar and a stage and also seating, a cloakroom, changing rooms, offices and a cash desk at the front door when we had built one.
I decided to call this club "CubiK 2" the 'C' at the beginning and the 'K' at the end being my initials. It was my plan to open a chain of 'CubiKs' all over England, then the name would become my trademark. I was by now managing several well-known artists and had a theatrical agent's licence in the name of 'CubiK'. Up until the opening of the Rochdale club, the agency address was at the 'Catacombs' in Preston and was run by my girlfriend, Maureen. We were also agents for The Rolling Stones' appearances in the North of England and I arranged to open 'CubiK 2' with the Stones. The publicity would go out to the media in a way that suggested the Stones were opening their own venue of the North. It could not fail.
I needed a small house with a telephone, and bought a second hand van. I then went to the Labour Exchange and employed three builders to assist me in mounting the club. However, I had not taken into account that Rochdale was the home of the up-and-coming M.P. Cyril Smith. He was then only Councillor Smith but he was against the idea of such a young outsider, so to speak, coming into his territory to open one of those now-becoming-infamous private clubs. They were known places of violence, sex and drugs. He was the speaker of the Youth Movement and I believe he was responsible for the Young Liberals, and I was about to show them the debauchery of the fast-spreading Rock Cult.
The Rolling Stones had just been headlined in the newspapers for pissing on a petrol pump attendant, so that was just another obstacle that I had to contend with.
I remember the day that Cyril Smith arrived, accompanied by a group of large-looking black-suited men. Cyril Smith was so big and fat that he could hardly get in through the door. He was the most voluminous human being that I had ever set eyes on. The club was well on its way to being finished and word was spreading throughout the town and suburbs that the Stones were due to appear. People were arriving day and night from near and far to pay their membership fees.
The men who accompanied Cyril Smith were the leading dignitaries of the town and included all the officials that one normally tries to avoid or at least delay until the club was open. They were the ones who were able to stop or delay the opening until the strict requirements were met with. On their arrival I was high on speed pills, as was the norm in those days of fast living. Had I been normal, I would probably adopted my servile attitude but under those conditions and in the dim light of the temporary bulbs, I did not notice the uniformed Chief of Police and Chief of the Fire Brigade standing at the back of the huge form of the Councillor and dignitaries. I had been told that Manchester club life was controlled by a group of heavies that collected protection money from most of the venues.
As they came in through the doors, I shouted out from the other side of the club, "Get out of here. We don't need you guys. We have our own ways of dealing with trouble". I was cut short by the Chief of Police as he came forward saying something to the group of heavies. "Mr Kelly", he said, "This is Councillor Smith and we are here to check certain things." I realised my haste and stupidity, "Oh". I replied, "Sorry I was expecting someone else!" They did not appear to even hear me. "We would like to see your fire exits and emergency lighting system" "What emergency lights?" I said that I had never heard of emergency lights. "Mr Kelly, before you open this club to the members, you will require a viably operated emergency lighting system passed by us. Now let's see the fire exits."
I showed them a staircase that I had built with a weight-operated trap door, which led to the yard at the back of the building. They told me that I needed to build at least another two exits but that would mean tunnelling under the next building. I said nothing just listened. "Now let's see the bar area". I led them to the bar and the health official now had his say. "Yes you will need two sinks and the walls must be tiled," and so on. Then they condemned the toilets, ventilation system, in fact just about everything was at fault. It was obvious that they did not want me to open.
I told them that I would see to it and they left. I was determined to open on time. The money from the memberships was pouring in and so I consulted with my lawyer who told me that the law states that a private club was not classed as a public place, so provided that all the people inside are members and guests, the officials could not stop me from opening. He went on to say however that they could still make it difficult for me by creating problems through the press. He advised me to do as much as I could to show that I was at least willing to comply with their requirements. I only had three weeks before we were due to open and so I called in some professional help. We rebuilt the toilets and put in emergency lighting. We also made two very hurried tunnels rather like large rabbit holes, which led to the next building's cellar.
The work of organising the building and selling membership was too much for me and so I called Paddy from Preston and we left the 'Catacombs' in the care of a friend called Steven who was showing great interest in buying Allan's half share of the club. Allan now did not have the time to devote to the club.
On our way back from Preston to Rochdale, we stopped off at the pub for a couple of pints, then went on our way again. Feeling a little more lubricated I put my foot down and we shot forward. I had now transformed into a maniac speed merchant and soon we were doing 100mph in a 30mph zone. I overtook all the cars in front of me and then realised that I was approaching a Zebra Crossing. Before I could hit the brakes, I saw a figure lurch out from a building and onto the crossing right in front of my car.
Smash!! The windshield was transformed into a red filter as the man's head deposited its wet contents in a glancing blow as he flew over the top of the car. My foot went down hard on the brakes as I screeched to a stop. I got out to see the man's foot jammed in between the bumper and the hood. I looked at Paddy just in time to see him throw up. I was also sick myself in the pit of my stomach. I began retching uncontrollably.
The police arrived within minutes but they were not heavy. On the contrary, they were kind and gentle. They started to measure the distance from where the car had stopped to the zebra crossing. I could see the ambulance in the distance, picking up the pieces of the dead man. The police measured 150 yards from the collision to the stopped car. I realised that I was in big trouble. There was no way that I could hide the fact that I had been speeding. I was stunned as I watched the aftermath. The ambulance man was obviously searching for the last piece of the man. One of the police, noticing this told me to pull the bonnet release button from inside the car. As I did so some glass fell to the floor with a clinking sound. I got out to look at my headlights as I saw the policeman pass the foot to the ambulance man.
The lights were intact, nothing broken, then where did the glass come from. I picked up the bloody pieces of glass to examine them. They were pint beer bottles. I walked back up the road with the policeman and we found pieces of glass everywhere. The Police collected all the glass as evidence. It seems that the man that I had killed had just been thrown out of a pub and straight onto the zebra crossing. In his pocket were six pint bottles of beer. The police took statements from Paddy and me and then let us go. As I drove away very slowly still stunned, I remember thinking that the police did not even suspect us of drinking because the air around the car was thick with the smell of beer from the man's broken bottles.
We arrived at the CubiK about 2am. The night shift was busy building, so Paddy and I went to bed. Next day the reality of the previous night's situation hit me like a ton of bricks. I would surely be charged with causing death by dangerous driving and that meant surely that I would go to prison. I knew it would take a few months for the hearing to take place and decided to try to forget it until after the club was opened. I would then get a good lawyer to help me, thinking that perhaps I could get off with a light sentence.
The Rolling Stones' manager decided to visit us to see how the new venue was coming along. We owed him some money for previous bookings so he could kill two birds with one stone. He was very impressed by the size of the club and as he was coming from London, his words gave me lots of confidence. I paid him £350 in advance for the opening night's appearance by the group. Now we had to open and open on time. I had a couple more visits from the authorities but they could see that the work that they had recommended that we do was in progress and they could not say too much. We were trying our best to comply.
The opening night was headline news in most daily newspapers. Two days before we were due to open, people started to arrive in town. Bedrolls on their backs, they slept anywhere they could on the first night but the second night the sleeping queue began to form from the door of the club around the building and down the road to the Town Hall building. Cyril must have been livid, as his office windows in the Town Hall overlooked the masses of young longhaired louts. He had a surprise for me however, which must have been brewing in his mind for some time. On the day Rochdale was a seething mass of duffle-coated youngsters. There were thousands. Of course I could not get them all in the CubiK 2. I had sold 2,500 membership cards and tickets and so I had to tell all those others that tried, that I could only sell them membership cards but not tickets. The membership cards were always good for other nights when the club would not be full to capacity.
The supporting groups began to arrive. Each time anybody with longish hair entered or left the club, the girls and boys outside would scream. The police were there in their hundreds. A whole circle of them linked together, arm in arm, around the entire building. The rooftops in the immediate vicinity were the temporary homes of the T.V. cameras and the Press.
Brian Jones and Mick Jagger arrived and advised me that the rest of the group were on the outskirts of town in the van but the police had stopped any more traffic entering town, including a van load of Rolling Stones. I sent Paddy out to show them another route into town. Meanwhile Mick and Brian proceeded to get drunk in my office at the back of the club. They had brought with them a bottle of whisky. They seemed to be terrified of the situation, which I thought must have been an everyday occurrence in the life of a Rolling Stone.
The club was now open. David John and the Mood, the Rolling Stones' supporting group were on stage and playing. I was getting afraid, already there were 22 people stacked up unconscious in the stageside dressing room. They had been at the front near the stage but the pressure of the pushing from behind and the extreme heat had made them pass out. The bouncers had passed them over the stage to the group's road managers, who in turn, put them on the floor in the dressing room and pulled them underneath the stage.
It took me half an hour to get from my office to the front door. The place was so packed, I could not understand it. I had estimated 2,300 to be a comfortable number. Surely there must be many more inside. It was an extremely dangerous situation inside. When I arrived at the front door, people were still being pushed in - by the police! There were gangs of youths throwing stones, bottles and anything else they could get their hands on, at the police. The police nearest the door were more interested in dodging the missiles than being gentle so anyone who could get near the door and showed a ticket had to be pushed inside as fast as possible. As I picked my way through the new arrivals, I heard somebody say that they had paid £3 to get in. I asked to see their ticket and they showed it to me. On close inspection, I realised the ink looked too new and the printing looked slightly different. A Forgery! "Oh No, Where did you get this ticket?" I asked. They said that there were a couple of guys outside selling tickets. I instructed the door staff to refuse entry to any more people. This aggravated an already dangerous situation. There were an increasing number of people at the door, demanding their money back or the right to enter. It was an impossible situation, I felt like running away and hiding.
I was so tired, the previous couple of nights I had not slept. I had to work on the finishing touches but I dropped a couple of speed pills and pushed my way back to the office. Mick and Brian were not there, only an empty bottle of whisky and a strong smell of dope. I sat down; I was at my wits end. The phone rang; it was Paddy. He had found the other Rolling Stones but the van had broken down so they tried to walk into town. When they saw the situation in the streets around the club, they caught a taxi and split to a hotel somewhere in Manchester.
I made my way to the stage but on the way my bar staff told me that they had seen two drunken girls go out through the fire exit. I now realised what I had to do. I went onto the stage and announced over the P.A. that the Stones could not get near to the club and so I would refund all the money to those holding legitimate tickets. I am sure that if it had been possible for the people to riot they would have done so. They were packed in so tightly however, that all they could do was murmur their disgust. The heat of the sardine-tin situation was melting them beyond temper or violence. The supporting groups carried on playing as the club slowly emptied and my cashier refunded all the money. The last person finally left the club at 3am and I closed the doors on the first night of the biggest Rhythm and Blues club in the North of England.
The next day, I bought all the newspapers, sure enough there were photos taken from the outside, and I was amazed at what I had created. Even the television news that night showed the riots. One thing was for sure, I had certainly created publicity. "CubiK 2" was now a household word. I was invited to the television studios to do an interview, which went out at peak viewing time. The CubiK 2 was famous. The London agencies offered me all the top R&B artists of the time and so I booked in top names for 6 months in advance.
I made a claim through the V.A.F. [Variety Artistes Foundation] for the Stones to pay me back. The committee agreed that the group should pay me back my losses but to this day they have not even made me an offer.
But the show must go on. I could have taken the matter further to a normal court but that would have cost me a fortune and maybe I would have lost the case. Who knows? They could have said anything, like the changing rooms were not up to standard or the toilets were too small. Anyway I always hoped that they would play for me again in the future, free of charge a few times. Hope lies eternal.
The following months at the CubiK 2 were not fantastic but it was building up. I took a partner into my theatrical agency, Jimmy Powell was his name and he had his own group called The Five Dimensions. Jimmy was himself at that time one of the top blues artists in England. He was mutually interested in promoting R&B. He had played at most of the other R&B venues throughout Europe so he knew the scene better than I did.
He came to live in Rochdale and ran the agency from the offices of the club. I set about trying to create a good impression, or should I say, clean up the bad impression of the club.
On Saturdays, the club would usually run all night, normally featuring two well known groups and up and coming bands that were only too happy to play for expenses i.e. petrol and coffee. These were the 'auditioning' groups and depending on how they were accepted, they would get a fully paid booking or be accepted into our agency and booked out to other venues such as Pete Stringfellow's club in Sheffield, 'The Black Cat' and 'The MoJo'. Pete Stringfellow continued in the business and now owns the famous 'Stringfellows' club in London.
On Sunday mornings after we had served breakfast, the local Salvation Army band was invited to play and even though they were a miserable floperoo, I felt that the local authorities i.e. Cyril's mob, would look more favourably on me. Cyril however showed his hand. He was out to close the CubiK 2. I heard that he had gained permission to open a coffee club beneath the Town Hall buildings, only five minutes’ walk from the CubiKlub. The buildings were plumb in the centre of town and were impressive Victorian architecture. At a distance, they resembled the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. The clock tower could be seen for miles around. The police station and all the other civic amenities and offices were housed within those buildings. Some months later they opened the cellar club. The membership fee was so low that everyone could afford to become a member.
In the meantime we had booked groups such as The Nice, Eric Burdon and The Animals, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, John Mayalls Bluesbreakers, Alexis Korner, Donovan, John Lee Hooker, Manfred Mann, T Bone Walker, Sonny Boy Williamson, Bo Diddley, Bill Haley and the Comets, Little Richard, The Drifters, Little Eva, Millie, Long John Baldry and the Steam Packet featuring Rod Stewart, Georgie Fame, Alan Price, The Pretty Things, The Scaffold, featuring Paul McCartney's brother Mike McGear and Tina Turner.
So we continued; now with completion on our very doorstep. I thought that with the agency running in parallel with my clubs, I would always maintain better shows.
I had also just opened another club in Wigan, about 20 miles away. The club was in a disused cinema and I had made Paddy into the managing partner. The club was called ‘The Bluesville’. At the same time I was promoting various dances on a weekly basis in the outlying towns of the North.
It was way back around about 1963, when I found this old cinema in Wigan. It was full of character, with a very high round ceiling. We converted the projection room into our living accommodation. The very old steam operated projector was still there and we used to climb on top of that to get into the loft, which had a plank running all the way down from the round ceiling to the stage, where the curtain was operated by chain and rope system. This is where we had to crawl along to change the ceiling lights. And from there we could also watch the people below and see what they were up to with their hands, if they were feeling up a chick or rolling a spliff. We had all the top groups there as well and sometimes they played half the gig at the CubiK club in Preston, or Rochdale or Birkenhead, and then the other half here in the Bluuesville club. The Bluesville was of course another unlicensed club, we did not sell alcohol, only coffee, soft drinks, and the very best rhythm and blues music. David John and the Mood were the resident band, but we had all the top names, including The Roadrunners, Ringo Star and Rory Storm, Screaming Lord Such, The Drifters, etc, etc. Ohhhh and of course Elton John and Rod Stewart.
The Wigan club ‘Lankybeat’ is now what you could consider to be a type of continuation of that club, because Bill Hart of Lankybeat and I thought that it was a great idea to do a lanky beat venue there in Wigan where we know the bands that are good, and would be prepared to play for old times sake and charity causes.
I also had a new partner in the Catacombs club in Preston. My young friend, Steven, had bought Allan’s share but he was not to enjoy the fruits of his investment for he died some weeks later in a car crash. I did not hear about the accident immediately as one of his friends had taken over the running of the club. As the lease on the property was up for renewal, he was negotiating a new lease. I heard the news at 9:30pm on the night of the expiry of my lease. It expired at midnight. One of the groups told me that something was going on and that Steven’s silent partner would be the new leaseholder.
I was livid. I took my dog Rex, Woody’s cutlass and a large 22lb hammer. I drove my car like crazy and arrived at 11:15 pm to find the club in full swing. On the door was the boy claiming to be the manager. I took the cutlass from the car and gave everybody one minute to get out. Rex was straining at the leash. He sensed my tension. Nobody was going to argue with me. When everybody was out, I set about destroying my first creation. I smashed the place to pieces. I broke down everything we had built in there and then I smashed the drains and broke the main water pipes. I stayed in there seething with anger, crying with frustration as the water rose to my knees. Somebody had called the police. They came charging down into the flooded cellar only to be faced by me, the owner, at least for the next 10 minutes. They knew me to be the true owner and so they left. I left also. ‘The Catacombs’ was now just a memory.
I was passing through Preston a couple of years ago and I called by Derby Yard and sure enough, there is a lake full of water. The home of many dreams, the meeting place of many whose children will now be grown up enough to read this attempt to show how it really was for their parents.
I stayed in Preston for a few days and went to visit Maureen. Her parents put me up and helped me to get myself together, to return to face the Crown Court and the charge of causing death by dangerous driving. I will not go into lengthy detail of this episode as I was acquitted on the first instance. The family of the man I killed came to court and told the jury that the old man was a hopeless alcoholic and was dying in any case of an incurable and painful disease. The publican gave testimony to the fact that the old man had been thrown out of the pub and into the road with six pint bottles in his pockets. Any car passing at even 30 mph could not have avoided hitting him. Luckily for me, the charge was reduced to speeding in a residential area. I had my licence revoked for a year and the case dismissed.
I returned to Rochdale much lighter. I felt as if the world had transformed into something beautiful. The agency was going well. My girlfriend, Maureen was helping Jimmy and myself as general secretary.
A few interesting things worth a mention happened in the next few months.
Long John Baldry and Rod Stewart were featured quite often and in those days most if not all the musicians used to like to get high one way or another. ‘The Steam Packet’ featuring Long John and Rod, used to arrive early in the afternoon to set up their equipment and rehearse. Rochdale had a beautiful park with tropical plants. One day one of the group returned to the club after a walk in the park. He was very excited about the fact that he had found a certain type of plant in the park that would get them high if it was dried. They all set off excitedly to see the plant.
I did not take too much notice as it was time to go home and prepare myself for the evening’s show. On my return there was a strange and powerful smell coming from the bar. The group had gone out to the local Wimpy bar for their dinner and the club already had about 100 people in it. I passed through the dancers who seemed delighted at the smell, to find the glass fronted-bar, which normally had food displayed, was now full of some kind of herb. The bar girls said that the group put the herbs in to dry and that before the boys had left, they had been rolling the herbs into cigarettes. "What!" I exclaimed, as I started to remove the smouldering bushes. I put them all into a rubbish bag and as the group returned I was stuffing the bag into a dustbin. They were hilarious, they could not stop laughing. They were obviously stoned. The incident passed and that night after they had gone, I went out to the dustbin to retrieve the bag and to dry the herbs for myself but they had gone.
The next time they played, Rod Stewart took one of the girls out of the club to sleep with him at my house. The next day, she returned to the club crying. Her back was cut in many places. She told us that Rod Stewart had whipped her and that he was a crazy mad sex maniac. Maybe the imagination of a little girl, but the cuts and welts on her back were not imaginary. She did not take it any further as she did not want the scandal to affect her career as a nurse. Rod played a few more times after that, but his reputation went before him and he never seemed to score for any more local chicks.
The named artists were appearing at the club every Saturday night and Jimmy was in charge of arranging them. He would book a well known artist to appear for two 20 minute appearances, the first or last appearance would be at the CubiK then they would appear at a second club nearby for the other spot.
Little Richard was to appear first at the CubiK in Rochdale.
Little Richard, if you don’t already know, is the self-crowned King of Rock & Roll. He arrived at the CubiK in a taxi. He had just flown in from the States for his appearances. He was wearing a gold suit and a cloak covered in sparkling stones. I welcomed him at the door as his taxi pulled away. He seemed a little perturbed by the lack of fans and photographers but once inside and he saw the vastness of that underground labyrinth with the multitude of wailing fans he was once again the picture of self confidence. He so loved strutting around and being admired that I had to periodically drag him into the dressing room to prepare him for his show. What with his makeup and pomposity, it seemed like hours before he finally made his appearance. He started off by telling everybody that they were the luckiest people in the world to be able to witness the True King of Rock & Roll in action. I was impressed. His show was great, 6ft and more of wildfire. The fans went crazy and three encores later he finally left the stage.
I was his acting agent whilst he was in England, and I had booked him in to do two spots on this night, one at my CubiKlub, and the second half at the Nelson Palais, which meant I had to drive him the 20 miles over the Pennine chain, which is called the spine of England, in my Cadillac car. As the lanes were so narrow and I was going so fast Little Richard got the horrors, and ordered me immediately to stop. We came to a halt by a stream. Little Richard got out the car and came round to the driving door, opened it and pulled me out, saying, “You have been chosen by God to be baptised by his messenger.” He then pulled me down to the stream, and took off his gold ring which he threw into the deep waters. He took off his shoes and socks and rolled up his pants and waded out into the middle of the stream. After calling on his God, he told me to get my shoes off and join him, which I did. He took handfuls of water and placed them on my head and rubbed them into my hair, saying, “Alleluia, Alleluia, welcome into God's Kingdom. Now you are my brother, let's drive more slowly.” I was a bit spooked, but we arrived at the Nelson Palais just a few minutes late. The London booking agency's representative Tony King took over from me and led Little Richard into the manager’s office. That was the last I saw him. I split with a chick.
I befriended a Chinese boy who loved to listen to Buddy Holly. He was only seventeen and I could see that he had problems. He was constantly stoned on any drug he could get hold of. On several occasions I had to refuse him entry to the club. He was the first person that I had knowingly met who was a Heroin user. I tried hard to get him off drugs as he was such a good artist. He painted murals on the walls of the club and everybody admired his work. I could see that he had a good future as an artist if I could only get him off drugs. He lived in a one-roomed apartment in an old decrepit apartment block on the second floor. I had not seen him for several days and decided to go round to his room to see if he was O.K. It was midwinter and the snow was lying thickly on the ground. As I drove up I could see that the light was on in his room so I thought surely he must be in. I climbed the stairs, making my way to his floor then along the dark corridor to his door. As I arrived at his door there was a terrible smell and on the floor oozing out from under the door was a sort of grease. I knocked on his door as I could hear the sounds of Buddy Holly singing. There was no reply. I knocked again, this time loudly. Again there was no reply. I forced open the door, and found my Chinese friend. He was slumped forward over the one bar electric fire. He was no more than a charred piece of charcoal. His bodily fats had just melted into a puddle on the floor. On the table by his side I found a letter and an empty box of sleeping pills. The letter read quite simply:-
“Gone to join Buddy in the sky”
The next week after that terrible incident, Mick’s mother; remember Mick he was the one I was at sea with, came to see me. She said that Mick had finally opened his own club in a place called Rawtenstall but within the first few weeks he had killed himself in his brand new car. To top it all, one night, a group of my close friends decided to visit my other night club in Wigan. On their way back they crashed their car and there was only one survivor.
I’d had enough, I wanted out and so I advertised for a buyer. I had several interested parties but I settled for the one most likely to succeed. He had ideas to apply for a drinking licence and to turn the club into a more respectable type of cabaret venue. His name was Harry Allan, the public hangman; it was not until the negotiations were well underway that I found out his true occupation.
I left my lawyer to wind up the final details and I left Rochdale for good.
My destination: LONDON.