The Suedettes

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This content is probably only interesting to persons from the Isle of Man

This is a true light hearted account of life in the Isle of Man in the late fifties and early sixties as remembered through the eyes of Terry Clough, the bass player and a founder member of the Suedettes. The original group members are: John Harrison - Vocalist and Guitar : Tom Courtie - Lead Guitar : Terry Clough - Bass Guitar : Lenny Chatel - Drums

Submitted: June 25, 2017

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Submitted: June 25, 2017

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St Ninians High School

For me in the 50s the greatest thing about school was the four o'clock bell and the subsequent race for the bike shed, school was just an inconvenience to be put up with between fishing and spending time in the the local glens or on the beaches or playing cricket. Back then getting an education was just years to be endured; no computer lessons or interactive whiteboards it was simply heads down, no talking and get on with your work! However, it has to be said that it wasn’t all doom and gloom, we did have woodwork classes; Shacky’s woodwork lessons, I remember them well!.

One of the highlights was being able to stir evil smelling, boiling, glue in a big pot which we named ‘The Witch’s Cauldron’. This foul concoction I believe was manufactured from dead horses sent to the knackers yard, anyway it what we used used to stick wood together long before Evo Stick, did they think it was too dangerous to provide us with hammers and nails, yet, thinking about it Old Shacky probably did us all a huge favour by putting us off glue sniffing forever. Thanks to ‘The Witch’s Cauldron’ there would be no empty crisp packets with a dash of Evo stick for us young woodworkers. Although we would be denied the high that allegedly came from sniffing glue we were also spared the accompanying spots and pimples, as if we didn’t have enough.

Mr Shackleton was a really a nice, even if eccentric, type of guy but he was also the worst woodwork teacher in the world. Shacky had however, one saving grace. He had an absolutely fantastic asset which came in the shape of a 'Grundig Tape Recorder'. I can tell you that in 1957 this was ‘Big Magic’ to a class of thirteen year old adolescents lads itching to become Teddy Boys. Rock 'n' Roll was then just beginning to have an impact on Britain and was mainly to be heard, if you could get a signal, on 'Radio Luxembourg'. With ears glued to our trannies and old valve radios we budding Teddy Boys came to worship names like: Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and many more, equally famous names who were there, waiting in the wings, ready to enter the Rock and Roll arena.

So, returning to Shacky, because of that tape recorder, Shacky became our hero, especially as he would let us record our own voices and mess about with his ‘Grundig’ to our heart's content.

It was probably just as well we had our ‘Big Magic’ to look forward to because apart from science lessons where we would make rocket fuel using weed killer and sugar {unknown to the teacher of course} we used this after school in our home made rocket devices, once we made an impact explosive powder and using a nut and two bolts, one nut was screwed on the bolt a little, we then placed the powder in the nut and then screwed on the second bolt lightly compressing the powder in the nut between the two bolts, when thrown on a solid surface it would explode.

We tried this in the school playground during a break and the device exploded almost according to plan, we hadn't counted on part of the device flying a hundred yards or so across Glencrutchery road and breaking a bedroom window of one of the houses opposite the school. This we found out in assembly the next day when the headmaster asked those responsible to own up, we did as there were witnesses, giving the excuse that we were swinging a bolt around on a piece of string and it broke, this was believed and we got off with just having to pay for the glass to be replaced.

I was not the academic type and I just couldn't wait to leave. Eventually the final day of school arrived and to my credit I feel I went out with a bang, There were two games masters, 'Venebles,' a right pompous git, not at all a gentleman and 'Orry' our other and far better PE teacher. Venables had never liked me, not since the time I bowled him out three balls in a row during cricket practice. I actually had been taught how to play the game of cricket properly as my father was then an excellent cricketer and bowler.

Venables appeared to dislike the fact that one of the ‘brats’ could, and had, wiped the floor with him. So, on that fateful day and final PE lesson, there erupted a blazing row with the said Venables and myself. In a fit of temper, I picked up a shot put ball and threw it directly into a wall of hockey sticks. I can still see the look of shock on his face! I think I surprised him more than a little as in previous games lessons I could hardly throw the heavy ball far enough to reach the school standard, which wasn’t very far. I was out of the door, on my bike and half way home to Onchan before the sticks hit the floor.

 

Elvis By Lamplight

My best mate at the time was 'Sandy'. Most days after school we would go back to his house in Willaston, which was a lot nearer to school than where I stayed in Onchan, Sandy’s mum would feed us a good meal. This never stopped me eating another ‘good meal’ when I got home. Sandy;s house, however, had an added bonus: Sandy's house was directly opposite 'Pauline's' house and, I was in love with Pauline. 

Not that Pauline knew that, in fact she had never even spoken to me. I like to think she could sense my love for her as she would peep at me from behind her upstairs bedroom curtains. Spurred on by such encouragement, I would woo her by doing my Elvis impression under the street lamp outside. This Elvis impression consisted of me combing my hair, in the cool way Elvis combed his hair in the movies and this combing had to be done every two or three minutes for greater effect. Now, having said that, it was not a very bright street lamp and I reckon all she could see was my luminous orange socks. Nevertheless, Elvis combed on.

When I did finally manage to wangle my way into Pauline’s front room, it was for the most part under the supervision of ‘Hitler’s Sister’, under the guise of Pauline’s Mum. Now Pauline’s mum was as tough as old boots but luckily she worked at nights in a bar which meant she was out most evenings. This woman, who was not to be messed with, put me under the threat of death, or, perhaps even worse, having my bike tyres let down, if I even touched Pauline’s leg anywhere above the ankle. I must have proved myself, however, because within a few weeks we were trusted to stay in and watch TV, alone! Perhaps we were not quite alone as Pauline had a sister, June. June was a couple of years older than Pauline which made her about sixteen and June had a boy friend, Eric.

June and Eric’s relationship was a problem for Pauline’s mum so when she left for work we were under strict instructions not to let the amorous couple go upstairs alone. Fat chance we had of stopping them. Pauline’s mum was hardly out the door on her way to work when Eric was up those stairs dragging an unresisting June behind him. Eric was a big lad and who was I to argue. Anyway, I had better things on my mind. What better thing could there be, when hormones were racing, than necking and fumbling on the settee with my beloved Pauline. I suppose what could have been better was doing exactly what Eric was up to. As I was practising my fumbling on the sofa he was busy doing the real thing in the bedroom. It has to be said that some nights that bed was doing so much creaking and groaning that the noise nearly drowned out Jerry Lee on the Dansette, I know now that he was far more interested in his own ‘Great Balls of Fire’ than Jerry Lee’s. The fun and games didn't last too long. After only a few months Pauline’s mum went up in the air, June was up the spout and the amorous pair went up the aisle.

 

The Palais de Dance

Around this time, during the summer season, there were several Big Band venues on the island the biggest being the ‘Douglas Corporation run Villa Marina Concert Hall and Gardens. For several summer seasons the island was privileged to host top UK bands including Joe Loss, and the all girls Ivy Benson Band, and Ronnie Aldrich and The Squadronaires.

The saxophone player in the Squadronaires was Cliff Townsend, the father of the now legendary Pete Townsend of The Who. When Pete was young, it must be said he was a cheeky lad and once received a clip around the ear from my grandmother for being cheeky to clients in the café which was situated locally in Noble’s Park..

Members of the The Ivy Benson’s Girl band put up a good show for us lads. We were there panting and ogling at the front of the stage. Yes, ogling! The band was great but it must be said that it was the female drummer who made the biggest impression; she certainly was a huge hit with us lads. This drummer was rumoured never to wear any knickers, and the way her legs were positioned in order to play the drums meant everything was potentially on view ! Yep ! forever hopeful... 

The pianist with the band at this time was Heather Nicholl who was a local girl and a true genius on the piano. In the mid sixties she played as the main backing pianist for cabaret turns at the Isle of Man Palace and Casino. Sadly, as seems to happen with truly talented people, she suffered a serious illness and tragically died very young in her mid thirties.

 

White City Amusement Park

Living in Onchan I was very handy for the White City amusement park on Onchan head where myself and the gang would spend summer evenings eyeing the girls, listening to the Juke Box, and playing on the many penny slot machines in the arcade, the Isle of Man at this time was still a very popular holiday destination and the place was packed most nights with tourists mostly from the north of England, Scotland, Northern and Southern Ireland.

A close neighbour of mine was the doorman at the most popular show on the resort,
Joseph Karma the Lightning Hypnotist, with his assistant Elizabeth, she was gorgeous with the biggest boobs I had ever seen, armed with my complimentary tickets I used to go to the show a couple of times a week, I loved it. Apart from the very funny situations he would put people into when hypnotised, he also would stop people smoking if they wished, and very successfully, when in the trance he would suggest to them that every time they put a cigarette in their mouth it would taste disgusting, it apparently worked and he used to offer this service privately as well.

He was also the person who got me into rock and roll, in the intermission at one of his shows one night he announced a New Form of Hypnotism, rock and roll, and introduced the islands 1st rock group, Bernie May and the Sinners. The band consisted of Bernie the vocalist and rhythm guitarist, John Lightfoot on tea chest bass, John Forrester on drums, and Kenny Radcliffe on piano. They sang Tommy Steels Elevator Rock and from that moment rock and roll was all I ever wanted to do..

At this time I had a summer job in a Chemist shop in Douglas, washing equipment, mixing ointment and putting it into jars, labelling etc. and running errands, this was the best bit as on my way back from the bank each morning I would stop at the stage entrance, back door, of the Palais de Dance ballroom in Strand Street, where there was a big band playing and the place was packed with early jivers, I had to drag myself back to work after sciving off and watching for about 20 minutes..

The owner of the shop a Mr Purcell was a Catholic, and I was under instructions to say to anyone asking for Condoms, sorry we are Catholics and do not sell contraceptives, many a customer went out red faced. John, the bass player from Bernie May and the Sinners worked there also, I think he was about 17/18, and there was a girl assistant about the same age, they used to leave me in charge of the shop at lunch times so they could STOCK TAKE in the storeroom, on interrupting them on one occasion I found out that in fact stock taking was the lunchtime code for shagging, this was a bit of an eye opener for me as a young teenager, there was not much sex education in those days.

Myself and the ''Onchan Gang'' however, were fortunate to have a couple of friends who were well past the sex theory stage, they were well into the practical on a regular basis in a grassy enclave above the rocks at Port Jack beach, and from time to time we had front seats not to far away, we learned a lot from Arthur and Hillary.

Hillary was to become famous in later life as an actress, best known for her work on The Princess and the Cobbler, She'll Follow You Anywhere, The Avengers, Under the Doctor, and, Are you Being Served..

 

John Harrison

My life changed direction late one night as I was on my way home from visiting my mate Sandy in Willaston. There was a bloke sitting on the garden wall of his house playing a guitar, he sounded great so I stopped to listen. This, my first encounter with John Harrison, was to be one of the major turning point in my life. John could obviously see how impressed I was with his playing and I couldn’t believe it when he suggested that if I got a guitar he would teach me some chords. I leapt on my bike and peddled furiously back to Onchan where I was living with my Grandmother and pestered the life out of her for days as I pleaded with her to buy me a guitar.

Then there were few music shops on the Island that I knew about, and certainly not in the modern sense of a Music shop. What we had then was Blakemores in Douglas where they used to sell classical sheet music, violins, pianos, classical instruments, etc. At my request for a guitar the two very nice old ladies that owned the shop suggested that if I wanted such a thing, that the best thing to do was ask the CO-OP ! Although their advice was a surprise, I did exactly that and ordered a Hofner Congress six string guitar straight from a brochure. To my delight it was delivered in less than a week and I was the happiest person in the world. All I had to do now was learn how to play.

John kept to his word and started off by teaching me to play the chords to Living Doll,
the Cliff Richards hit at the time. As it happens the various chords used in this song were to help a great deal over the coming months as all the basics were there for most Rock & Roll songs. Learning to play the guitar was hard work and it took weeks of practice with the tips of the fingers on my left hand hurting like hell but gradually getting harder and harder as I struggled to move my fingers into the correct positions on the fret board, at the correct time.

By now John and myself were good mates and he introduced me to his best mate, Tom Courtie. Tom had previously had a group called Tom Courtie and the Tom Cats, which I believe had just disbanded. Tom was now singing and playing with John and they also had another member, Howard Grey, who I was told was a relation of Alma Cogan, a big star at the time. I was told Howard was having to leave the group as he was moving away and they were looking for someone to replace him on bass.

They were looking at me. I was happy to join and this meant John giving me a few more lessons, this time on bass. The problem being, of course, that I didn't have a bass at this time so I had to make do with my six string Hofner Congress guitar. The great thing about Tom was that he could actually play the guitar properly. Tom’s father had been a jazz guitarist and consequently Tom knew chords that most other guitarists could only dream about. This of course was a fantastic advantage when learning new songs as it was all by ear of course, no written music involved.

We used to go to Fox & Lanes, a record shop in Douglas where they had listening booths and talk the shop assistants into letting us listen to all the latest hits. We would listen to music from the USA: Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Chuck Berry, etc.. We couldn’t afford to buy many records, just the odd one or two, so Tom would memorize all the chords and guitar solos and we would go back to Tom’s house, named Avalon, and practice in his front room.

It was round about this time that I started work as an apprentice carpenter with the Isle of Man Harbour Board. Being a carpenter was not the career I had planned; I had spent the last two years at school studying engineering. My then gurus, Tom and John, both worked in the offices of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and I was aiming to become an apprentice in their engineering department. However, there was a two year waiting list for apprentices. Unsure about what to do on leaving school, I was pondering my options when fate took a hand. Our next door neighbour spotted me repairing the fence in our back garden - I was always pretty good with my hands - he was so impressed with the workmanship that he asked me to consider becoming an apprentice carpenter. Two days later, after due consideration, I was signed up for the five year apprenticeship, I remember my first weekly wage was thirty two shillings and sixpence, less tax, and like the other Harbour Board workers in those days I had to queue up at the Douglas Swing Bridge, come rain or shine, snow or gales, to collect my little brown pay packet from the paymaster sat in his cosy gas heated booth ...

 

The Queens Toilet Seat

The work at the Harbour Board was varied and interesting. I was involved in projects such as making furniture for the offices, building a new clinker built rowing boat (that
really got my interest going), shaping and steaming planks and oak ribs etc. One job
particularly sticks in my mind is assisting the head joiner Billy who had the job of making a toilet seat for our very own queen, Queen Elizabeth! This project perhaps sounds ridiculous and believe me, it was. The seat was a standard shape made from oak and was so highly French polished, you could see your face in it, not that I believed that was what it was intended for! Some bright spark came up with the idea that even though the Britannia would be in Douglas harbour during the Queen’s Royal Visit, there was a chance that her majesty might be 'caught short' within a hundred yards of leaving the ship and would be forced to use the nearby toilet facilities. Madness !

The head joiner at the Harbour Board was Billy Cubbon. I really liked Billy, he had a
great sense of humour and despite my cheeky know-it-all attitude he put up with me
somehow. My first job everyday was making the tea. There were half a dozen workers in the carpentry shed so the tea pot was gigantic. The water was boiled over a wood burning stove in the lunch room which was an add-on small shed about eight feet square. Every morning I would ask Billy if the tea was OK and the only thing he would ever say was, ’I'll be glad when I've had enough!’, another thing he used to say every morning when the lads asked had he been to the toilet and how his bowels were, was 'Yep ! three solids and a pound of mash... Good Isle of Man humour..

Billy and myself had a narrow escape one day, we were hanging over the end of the pier on a platform held by ropes repairing one of the wooden piles that protect the pier from damage by any ship that came to close when approaching the harbour. The ferry was due in at any moment and as it was quite misty with sea fog Billy decided that we would take a break and climb back on to the pier, it was a good move as two minutes later the ferry appeared out of the fog and ripped the wooden pile that we were working on off the harbour wall, we were very lucky not to be crushed.

A perk of being a 15 year old apprentice at the Harbour Board, was that about once a month I was given the job of servicing the cubicle locks in the toilets next to the harbour, this meant opening each lock and oiling the moving parts, the bonus was keeping the pennies, sometimes as much as one and sixpence which was a great boost to the basic apprenticeship weekly wage.

However, this job came with a warning from the other carpenters and people I worked with, I was told to keep a careful lookout for ''Brown Hatters'' which apparently was a nickname for certain gentlemen who used to meet in the toilets, easy to spot though with their rolled up newspapers tucked under their arms.

My continuing education of the ways of life was added to one morning. At 8 am I arrived at work as normal and was quickly pulled to the side. Billy explained that tragically the body of a man had been found that very morning behind the carpenter’s shed. The shed was situated at the foot of a sheer cliff face just below Douglas Head, the cliff was probably about about seventy foot high or so. At the top top of the cliff was a field which was regularly used by courting couples as it was well out of view of the main road to Douglas Head. Apparently the man had climbed over the fence to spy on the couples, slipped, and fallen to his death.

Overlooking our work yard was a castle, a private residence used by a family of local
hoteliers. Wasn’t I the lucky one as their daughter, Susan, used to wave to me from one of the windows. One night while I was in the local Strand cinema to see ‘Love Me  Tender’ (Elvis Presley's best ever film in my opinion) I spotted Susan a few rows back with some girl friends. After the film we met outside and from that moment we dated, wrote love letters to one another and, of course, plus plenty of waving to each other at work. It was mid-summer and one Sunday I took her for a walk in Groudle Glen and found a nice private spot among the ferns. It must be said that plenty of kissing and cuddling took place before I walked her back home. We hadn't noticed that her dress had been covered in mud, trouble ! This proved to be our last date as her posh parents forbade her to see me again and sent her off to a finishing school in Huyton, in Liverpool, we still wrote to each other but that was the end of that budding relationship

 

Douglas Holiday Camp

A favourite pastime of John, Tom and myself was to hang around the Douglas Holiday Camp during the summer holidays where there was always lots going on; girls, entertainment, girls, cafeteria, Juke box, girls, swimming baths, girls, roller skating rink, the list could go on! One day John and I were sitting in the lounge and John was playing his guitar. He was singing ‘Living Doll’ and pretending to be Cliff Richards. Some girls thought it really was Cliff as he did look very similar, however, the effect was ruined when John’s dad appeared and dragged him home by the scruff of the neck to attend a family outing or something...

On another occasion we really fancied two girls we had spotted on the roller skating rink, there was a problem though; neither of us could skate. So early each night before the girls were about we would hire skates, get onto the rink and practise. We did this for a week and when we thought we could skate well enough not to embarrass ourselves we went to meet them only to find that they had left for home that day. I haven’t skated since.

We were trying to think of a suitable name for the band/group and by chance this was decided on at the holiday camp. The entertainment’s manager was Gordon, famous for his daily advertised ''Games in the Quad with Gordon'' he approached us one day and asked if we would be interested in performing in the Sunday concert which took place in the ballroom. We agreed instantly, however we were stumped when he asked us the name of the band; we were forced to think of something immediately, I believe it was John who suggested that as we were all wearing suede jackets which was the fashion at the time, that the group would be called The Suedettes, the name struck a cord, was adopted by the band and lasted years.

While I was still struggling to get to grips with the bass guitar it was decided that Tom and John would perform as a duo on the Sunday night with me taking charge of the sound. Now while this was great in theory, in reality the P.A. System ''Tanoy'' consisted of four squares boxes of plywood, one in each corner of the ballroom containing a loudspeaker covered in frayed linen, an amplifier from world war one, and having only one knob on it saying 'volume' alongside big glowing valves and a microphone from the nineteen thirty’s. Still, it had to do!

Anyway, on the evening John and Tom performed a few Everly Brothers numbers which went down a bomb. However, we were never asked back! This might have had something to do with hearing that Gordon the entertainment manager had been sacked for stealing blankets from the camp and selling them in town to supplement his wages.

Also around that time there were Talent Shows, which were held in a pavilion at the Villa Marina gardens in Douglas, they were always popular with musicians and singers trying to make their break. As I was still learning the bass guitar Tom and John decided to again enter one of the shows as a duo. The pair went down well and were placed third: first place was awarded to a man playing the spoons with second place going to a little known singer who was trying his luck; Gerry Dorsey, later to become a household name as the legendary Englebert Humperdink! Yep! He was second to a man playing spoons, I wonder if he ever remembers that ?

 

Manx Radio

I think around about this time Manx Radio had been created and was broadcasting to a small section of the island from a Caravan/Mobile Studio in a field on Hillberry Road, between the Manx Arms pub in Onchan and Signpost Corner on the TT course.

One of the presenters, John Grierson, had asked us to record a song for the ''Christmas Show'' . The recording was done in the Manx Radio offices at that time in or near Victory House on Prospect Hill in Douglas. We set up all the equipment and John Harrison and Tom Courtie sang a rock rendition of White Christmas, and later we were invited to the studio in the field in Onchan to listen to the broadcast..

At that time the Manx Radio signal was only available to a small section of the islands population, and it was a year or so later before full island coverage was attained, however this did not matter to us, it was just good to be on the radio..

People on the island still do ask me if I have any recordings of the Suedettes, the answer is unfortunately no ! apart from the Manx Radio recording as above and the Abbey Road audition, the only other recording if I remember correctly was done by Roy Colebourn of T. H. Colebourn's TV and Radio store in Douglas at the Jive Club around 1962, and I expect that the tape of that is long gone... 

 

Electric Piano

We were told by one of our local boffins that he had invented an electric piano and better than that if we could get a normal upright one to him he would convert this into an electrical one. So on a bright and sunny Sunday morning we cadged an old upright piano from one of Tom’s friends.

However, first there was a small problem to be dealt with as the piano was located in an area of Douglas which was about a mile away from the boffins house. The said piano had to be moved manually as there was no one around with a van to transport it for us and we were to young to hire one. Undaunted, John borrowed a small goods trolley from his place of work, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

We managed to get the piano onto the trolley and set off through the streets of Douglas, this was hard work and naturally we had to have frequent rest breaks where Tom would entertain the passing locals by playing 'Go Now' (a big hit at the time) on the piano which was, of course, on top of the trolley.

When the piano eventually reached its destination all the boffin did was to open the piano lid and stick a microphone inside which was his idea of an electric piano! The idea worked, of course, but in our minds we had imagined something a little more spectacular.

 

Party Nights

Thursday night every week was Party Night. This highlight of the week was when
Beverley’s parents were out and all the gang would gather to play records and drink
Coca Cola; there were no drugs on the island in those days, not that we had heard of
anyway! and in those days Coca Cola used to taste like ''Coca Cola'' only to be served in an ice cold bottle straight out of the Cola fridge, not like today where often the true taste is ruined when it is poured over blocks of ice, its not the same..

Then, I was in love with Diana. We would sit for hours necking and smooching with Roy Orbison’s, ‘Only the Lonely’ playing over and over again on the Dansette record player, oblivious to the world...

Meanwhile the more adventurous, Tom to be precise, had decided to try Beverley’s bedroom with Beverley, unfortunately the room was occupied so there was nothing else for it but to opt for Beverley’s parents bedroom. Now, at the bottom of the stairs on the wooden hat-stand resided a trilby hat and raincoat which belonged to Beverley’s dad, who also happened to be Tom’s boss at the Isle of Man Steam Packet. Full of mischief, one of the lads donned the hat and coat and crept upstairs and opened the parent’s bedroom door. Tom later confessed that he nearly shit himself when the door opened and he looked up to see this apparition standing in the doorway complete with trilby hat and raincoat. He definitely thought it was his boss.

A great laugh but the parties ended a few weeks later when Beverley’s parents spotted a number of used condoms hanging from the apple tree in the back garden; now they and the neighbours knew what had been going on in their house on Thursday nights..

Diana was the love of my life at this time with an added bonus, her dad owned a fabulous limo with white walled tyres. Diana lived about a ten minutes walk away from Beverly and I lived in Onchan, which was a further two miles away. So, after each party, I would go home with Diana and hang around for a while hoping that her dad would offer me a lift home in the limo. He always obliged, the best night of the week.

 

Liverpool - Mardi Gras Club

One of the advantages of both Tom and John working in the offices of the Isle of Man
Steam Packet Company was that they often managed to get cheap travel tickets to
Liverpool. The best trip, which we used about once a month, was the ferry which left
on Friday at midnight from Douglas, arriving in Liverpool around seven on the Saturday morning and returning on Saturday at midnight from Liverpool.

This meant we had a whole day in Liverpool. On arrival we would walk to the Punch & Judy café near Central station for breakfast and as we had virtually no cash this meant tea and toast. However, even on our meagre rations it was a bit off putting to once see the waitress scoop her cigarette ash off the top of a cup of tea before serving it.

A small snag on these sea trips was that John could not set foot on a ship even in the harbour without feeling ill, luckily Tom and myself were ''good sailors'' and never had a problem. One trip sticks in mind where the sea was very rough and because of this we had arranged a cabin so John could get his head down for the journey, this he did not expecting Tom and myself to arrive back at the cabin with a lunch of fish, chips, and peas. This was to much for John who ran out on to the outer deck with his pants around his knees heading for the ships rail and had a good old hughee over the side, we split John's portion of lunch between us...

On one of the trips we learnt that Carol Levis was holding a discovery session at the
Liverpool Empire Theatre; Carol Levis Discoveries was the top TV talent show prior to Opportunity Knocks. The Empire Theatre was handy for us as on this occasion we were staying in a B&B, the Atlantic Hotel in Lord Nelson Street, directly behind the theatre.

We thought all we would have to do was to get up at nine in the morning, wander down to the theatre and become famous. However, morning arrives and we look out of the hotel window to see hundreds of acts, guitarists, groups, etc., all queuing up along the street to the stage door. Trying to look cool we wandered down past the queue listening to all the guitarists practising their party pieces and we decided to chicken out. I found out years later, when reading The Beatles Book, that in fact Johnny and the Moon Dogs, who later became The Beatles, were actually in that very line, they were signed up by an agent called Larry Parnes and the rest is history.

So it was off to visit Frank Hessy's music shop; a shop now famous for apparently selling the Beatles their equipment. This seems logical as it was just around the corner from Mathew street and very close to the Cavern. We would spend most of the day in the music shop and must have driven both the owners and the staff mad; we never bought anything other than a few strings and plectrums but they never threw us out. I remember there being a big man in the shop, he was called Jim Getty, who was very friendly and offered Tom a few tips on guitar.

On one of the trips to Liverpool we walked into a music agents office and announced
that we were from the Isle of Man and wanted to become famous ! He told us this
wouldn’t be a problem and told us he would book us into a ‘shop window’ that night in Willesden. We were thinking; ‘What the hell is a shop window? And where is Willesden, anyway it turned out to be a club on the outskirts of Liverpool where acts perform free in the hope of being spotted by a record company..

We learned a lot that night. We took what bit of gear we had on a double decker bus
and stashed it all under the stairs. On our arrival at the club we were immediately asked to set up as we were going to be first on. There was just one microphone but, not being put off, John and Tom did their Everly Brothers rendition to mild applause from a dozen or so people and, that was it! The important thing we learned from observing the acts which followed was that every group had brought along their own P.A. System and not simply relying on old house tanoys. Times were a’changing..

We heard that management were looking for groups to appear in the Mardi Gras Club in Liverpool so we went along to suss out the lay of the land. On the door was a huge black man; we only had one black man in the Isle of Man at that time, Charlie, who worked at the Empress Hotel on the Douglas Promenade. Charlie was a friendly sole and used to ride his pristine green bike along the prom always wearing his bow tie and a big smile, this bloke, however, looked tough. Bravely we asked for the manager and, give him his due, he soon appeared. We told him who we were and what we did and after a little consideration he said that if we came back on the Monday night he would give us a slot.

This piece of luck called for a celebration and off we went to Central Station for a cup
of tea. It was worked out that if we pooled our resources and stuck to tea and pork pies we could just about eke out our cash until it was time to catch the Tuesday morning boat back to the island. However, disaster struck. John turned a bright yellow colour, which turned out to be jaundice, and we had to take the next boat back home. So much for our début in the Mardi Gras Club!

 

The Cave Club {Jive Club}

Just prior to this visit to Liverpool we had been playing at the Manx Cat, a coffee shop and dance hall in Douglas. The owner of the Manx Cat must have been the meanest man in the Isle of Man: we knew him as Mr O'Season, he looked to be in about his mid fifties, he was a bit rotund and he used to wear a white cap to go with his white hair and white handlebar moustache. Mr O’Season let it be known that he wanted to sign us up on a contract. To talk over the signing of the contract he took us to a fish and chip café in Douglas. After fish and chips all round he produced the contract which we read but said we would think about it. However, at the next dance when we he came to pay our wages he had deducted the cost of the fish and chip supper...tight git.. so we refused to sign anything.

Anyway, we got back from Liverpool with John and his jaundice. John was out of action for three weeks but during that time we had an offer from a bloke called Phil Collins, not the Phil Collins! to play in his basement club in Douglas, the Cave Club, from the very first night it was a huge success and continued to be so for a number of years. The Cave Club booking made the Suedettes a household name on the island.

The Jive Club, the other name for the Cave Club, had to be moved to Phil's restaurant two floors up because of lack of space in the basement, the Anne Hathaway restaurant was run by Phil and his beautiful wife, who's name slips my memory, and used for the jive club on Friday and Saturday nights during the winter months. During the summer there was a Cabaret every night of the week except Sundays and we were employed to provide the dance music and backing for the cabaret acts, another local act were the Meteors harmony vocal group with their pianist Jimmy Maddocks, we backed them and the 'Guest Star'' from the UK, Wanda L'mour.

Wanda was a Turkish belly dancer who as part of her act used to dance on the tables, this was a bit of a shock to diners who were doing their best to eat while a wobbly women with sweat running down her legs was trying to entertain them under the ultra violet lights, one poor bloke was trying to read his paper but it didn't put Wanda off her act, a sight never to be forgotten..

 

The R.A.F. Show - Gaiety Theatre

One of the highlights of the Manx music scene was the end of season R.A.F. charity
show at the Gaiety theatre which was organized by Benny Fingerhut, a local entrepreneur. Benny had roped us in, The Suedettes, to try and attract some of the
younger generation to the show, which usually consisted of songs from well known
musicals and light operatics. The Gaiety by the way is a fabulous theatre with near
perfect acoustics and a beautiful atmosphere. In the music hall days and just after the second world war many famous acts appeared there, I remember seeing posters for a show called ''Sailors in Skirts'' probably an act originally formed for entertaining the troops during the war, I am told that Florrie Ford started her career at the Gaiety. They were boom days and hundreds of thousands of UK and Irish people took their summer holidays in Douglas..

We had decided that we were going to include in our performance a few Cliff Richard songs, Move It, which is probably the best British rock number ever, Theme for a Dream, and Living Doll, and we planned to open the set with a popular instrumental at the time, Ghost Riders in the Sky. To add to to the effect for this number we thought it would be an excellent idea to record some cow sounds, mooing etc. to be played in the background as we played the number.

One of the lads had an uncle near Peel with a farm so we set of in a friends old ford van with a portable tape recorder to record the moo sounds. Nothing often goes to plan of course, as we approached the cow sheds the cows were making one hell of a noise, but as soon as we walked inside there was silence. We were there for an hour and all we managed to get on the tape was the farmer saying, al right boys.

We scrapped the idea and changed our opening number to Apache, the Shadows big hit, it was a huge success and it went down a bomb, however, in the local paper the following day I think it said something like, screaming teenagers spoil an excellent night out where the Suedettes were the hit of the show, my grandmother kept the cut out and I till have it in an attic somewhere to this day.

 

The Majestic Hotel

After the summer season it was back to the Friday and Saturday Jive Club nights, apart from our drummer, Lenny, the only other member of the band who had transport at that time was our other drummer Stan Rimmer, most Fridays and Saturdays I had to cadge a lift back to Onchan with him or walk, the last bus was around 10 o’clock and as the Jive Club finished at this time I was always to late for the bus. The only snag with this arrangement with Stan was I had to sit outside his girl friends house in the back of the van on the way home and wait while they were having it off in the front porch, I used to think, lucky sod...

Apart from the Jive Club there were other gigs we played at throughout the island, our favourite was the Majestic Hotel in Onchan, a fabulous place run by a bloke from Blackpool, big Jim Parkinson, it was a swinging place with dancing in the ballroom, dining room, night club, and with an organist in the lounge bar, the place was packed.

Jim was way ahead of his time, there were telephones on every table in the ballroom,
numbered so dancers could scan the available talent, and phone their number asking for a dance, if you were told to sod off there was no embarrassment so it was great. The place was really rocking, one of the best spots of the night were the duel-ling drummers, there were usually a couple of bands on and our main drummer Lenny Chatel, who was fantastic, used to challenge the other band drummer, Joey, each would start their solo and then each would take turns to try and outdo the other. When we the only band on Lenny was always requested to play his drum solo, this was called ''white sticks'', and was truly fantastic, going on for around 10 minutes or more, from time to time we had guest singers, and our favourite was ''Billy Chase'' {Dave Brown} from Ramsey, he really used to get the place rocking. ..

My most enjoyable summer season at the Majestic was after leaving the Suedettes and joining with Jimmy Maddocks [piano and vocals] and Lenny Chatel [drums] to form a trio booked to play in the Nite Club, this was situated downstairs below the main ballroom. The place was heaving every night with people rocking along to Jimmy,s original type of music, a mixture of boogie woogie, Nat King Cole, and Wilson Picket.. Later that year Jimmy and myself joined with Ray Norman and Tony Teare to form the Ray Norman Combo. [more about that on later pages]. There was a fabulous girl working in the gift shop, drop dead gorgeous, never got off with her though but I did spend a lot of my wages on Fry's Chocolate Cream bars.

One of the other gigs took place at the Witches Mill in Castletown, a popular rock n roll venue in the south of the island. Lenny was our drummer for these gigs and we used to pack all our equipment into his car, a ford prefect, that’s drums, guitars, amps, and girlfriends, and off we would go, the car got the nickname the 'Virgins Hearst', for the gigs in Peel, we used to all pack into one of Harry Lamb's coaches, again all the gear, plus all our fans who fancied a night out at Peel town hall...Harry was happy with two and sixpence per head, he would go to the pub while the gig was on leaving his coach parked on a hill just in case it didn't start..

 

Lenny's Card School

When we weren't inflating condoms at the Sunday matinee at the cinema and floating
them off the balcony we would attend our drummer Lenny's Card School, it was held
in the winter in the front room of his parents guest house on Douglas prom. The card
school really was just Strip Poker, and strangely it was usually the girls that lost most of their clothes. Lenny was good at cards.

Lenny and myself would at times in the summer season cruise the promenade at night in the virgin's hearse after we had finished playing in the band hoping to pull a couple of girls, with never any luck, but one night we did spot a women being screwed up against a wall outside one of the hotels just off the promenade, no big deal you might say, but she was eating a bag of chips at the time behind her lovers back as he was going at it in great style.

On one particular occasion Lenny and Myself decided that what we needed was a holiday in Spain, so we booked one week in a resort on the Costa Brava, Malgrat de Mar, and duly arrived and signed in at the hotel. This was late summer/autumn taking advantage of the Manx Holiday period but on our arrival in Spain we had expected better weather than what greeted us, it was quite stormy and wet with just a few good days where we could go on the beach.

This didn't bother us however as we spent most of our time exploring the local bars and shops with the help of a nice French bloke of our age we had chummed up with in the hotel, he spoke Spanish which was a definite bonus. There was one particular leather shop where Lenny had spotted ''The Big Jacket'' which it was to become known as.

We went in looking at this tan coloured leather jacket everyday of the holiday, Lenny loved it but we all agreed it was slightly to big for him, but he bought it anyway and on his return to the island wore it for many years, he probably still has it..

I have never been a late night person, which I suppose is strange for a Rock N Roller, but on the midnight shift at the Casino with the Combo I could stand up and play while virtually asleep...anyway back to Spain. Lenny had met some blokes from the UK and they were all determined to make a night of it at the end of the holiday, so I had decided on an early night instead of a booze up.

However, I was woken at three in the morning by one hell of a row coming from the corridor outside our room, the UK lads were shouting abuse at a German gentleman who had opened his door to complain about the noise, I can't print what they said, however their wives made them apologize shame faced the next day so all was forgotten. Lenny was his usual self after having a few to many, he just smiles and says nowt, so at three in the morning Lenny invites the lads back into our room to play cards.

I was angry and told them if they wanted to play cards they would have to play in the bathroom, so they did with the coffee table in the bath, unfortunately one of them slipped and grabbed the shower for support ripping the whole unit off the wall and bringing the card game to a halt, the lads left.

This was still Franco days in Spain and Lenny and myself visualized being in jail the next morning when the management found out, so with my joinery skills and some match sticks as wall plugs I managed to fit the shower unit back on the wall hoping the staff would not notice when cleaning the room. As it turned out we needn't have worried as the hotel manager informed us the next morning on checking out that we were the last guests and the hotel was being demolished..

 

Art School

One of the conditions of my apprenticeship and working for the Isle of Man Government Harbour Board was that I attend night school at the technical college in Douglas on two nights per week for the full five years of my apprenticeship.

Our carpenter teacher was Mr Wood, yes ! Mr Wood. He was a great bloke and I got on really well with him, the usual woodworking projects were the different joints that a carpenter would use, making tables and chairs, staircases etc. but I was over the moon when he agreed that I should make a solid electric guitar, he was as interested as I was to see if I could create a working model. I did with his help and I used it in the band for a while before selling it on.

Another aspect of night school were the architectural drawing lessons, for some reason these were not held at the tech school but at the Art school in another area of Douglas. It was fun on one occasion when after lessons we bored a whole in the wood paneling to view a naked girl who was posing in the art department, we had a good skeet but were caught by Mr Wood, who seemed very understanding about the whole escapade and turned it into a lesson, how to plug up a hole in wood paneling without leaving a visible mark...He was a good teacher and a good bloke.

 

Girlfriends

Tom had a steady girl friend called Monica, but according to Tom he could not get
anywhere with her, he could not even access ''the chuckle'' this is the upper area of
the leg and inner thigh, it was called the chuckle because if the girl would let you get
that far you were ''laughing''.. Tom also had a raver on the quiet, Dawn, Tom said she
taught him things about love making and sex that he hadn't even dream't about...

Young love was not running smoothly for me as I had drifted apart from Diane, mainly because she had fallen for our drummer, Lenny's brother Norman, this was serious stuff and she married him eventually. However I then met Ruth at the Jive Club and we hit it off straight away, eventually after a couple of weeks she invited me to her house in Douglas to meet her mum, dad and sister, they liked me and that was a bonus, not like the reception I had from my earlier girl friends parents with the castle, the fact that I was a rock & roller and a carpenter didn't bother them at all, they were just a nice normal working class family, I even introduced Ruth to my grandmother who I think was hoping that Ruth was 'the one' and she was for a long time.

I was 18 years old now and despite all the posing with the band and talk of sex I had never actually ''done it'' , my virgin status however was short lived as Ruth had a job house sitting a guest house on Douglas promenade for a friend of her family, we had full run of the house but spent every night that I was not playing in the band in bed, not just watching TV. I always used to catch the last Onchan bus home though at about 9-45 each night looking a bit worse for wear.

Ruth and myself were an item for a couple of years before she met the man of her dreams and emigrated to Australia, I think they stuck it out for a year or so and then returned to the island with stories of living on a farm with an outside toilet and huge spiders..

I eventually decided I needed my own transport and for a while I had my heart set on buying a bike that was all the rage at that time, an Aerial Leader, all streamlined and
wonderful. So I had saved my Eighty Pounds and set off to buy the bike cash, however on the way to the bike garage I spotted a Hillman Minx car in a showroom that I could buy with a deposit of Eighty Pounds with the balance on Hire Purchase over three years.
 
I had again to beg my grandmother to sign the HP forms, which she did eventually, I think she thought the car was the safer of two evils, so I was now a car owner. The Hillman Minx was two tone with a maroon lower body and cream top and best of all, white wall tyres, I felt I was now king of the rock 'n' rollers, and it was ideal with the deep leather bench seats for love making...

My next girlfriend after Ruth was Audrey, I met Audrey at night school and we hit it off
straight away, we were meant for each other and deeply in love, we spent endless nights throughout the next couple of years making use of the back seat in the Hillman Minx. The car was essential with Audrey as she lived in Ballasalla about eight miles south of Douglas. We had a terrible scare once when Audrey was convinced she was pregnant, so feeling sick with worry we both decided to face up to her parents and tell them the situation, her Mum was lovely about it as I explained how much I loved Audrey and wanted to marry her, her dad however was another story, he went mad, fuming at both of us calling us idiots and worse, which was true of course but it was to late, or so we thought then, the very day after Audrey started her period, probably as a result of the fright of the meeting with her Mum and Dad, so all the soul searching, worry, and shouting was for nothing.

 

Abbey Road Studios

A friend of ours in Douglas, Dave Smith, wrote a song for us, ''Nothing but Love'' which we entered into the Norrie Paramor Song Contest, Norrie was a well known and respected musician and producer at that time connected with E.M.I. and Cliff Richards, one of 40 prizes was an Audition with E.M.I. John our vocalist received a letter around April 1962 asking us to attend Abbey Road studios in London for our audition, I think this was about six months before the Beatles went for theirs, it was just a recording studio and not widely known outside the recording business at that time. We duly arrived after a horrible trip for me on a coach from Liverpool to London, I suffered travel sickness, it never affected me at sea just on bloody buses, the coach had to stop to allow me to throw up by the side of the road somewhere in deepest England at three in the morning..

We booked into a B&B somewhere in London and the next day we called a taxi to take us to Abbey Road, we were well into our trip when our drummer, this time Stan, had noticed that the bass drum was missing, he had left it sitting in the middle of the road outside the B&B, it was still there when we got back, we were impressed, if it had been Liverpool it would have been nicked and sold within that period of twenty minutes.

Nothing against Liverpool, I loved the place, but we did have an earlier experience which made us a bit wary, outside the Empire Theatre a supposed photographer pretended to take our photos, yes ! the old no film in the camera con, and we fell for it. Also in a local pub in the city centre where we had popped in to fill in time before we went to catch the Ferry back to the island a man approached us furtively with a suitcase, he opened the case saying, combs, combs, and under his breath whispering, Durex, Durex, he was selling contraceptives in little blue round tins, they were not Durex though they were called Clarion, we bought a tin each of course just to prove we were men of the world, anyway back to London..

Our first impression of Abbey Road Studios was that it was like a terraced house,
nothing special, however when we went inside to the reception it was more like a palace, very plush. A gorgeous receptionist took our details and ushered us to a
waiting area, apart from us there was only one other person there, a very smart man
in a bow tie with an accordion and a huge amplifier, at that time the biggest we had
ever seen, we thought what the heck does an accordionist want with an amplifier..

Anyway, our time had come so we were asked to follow an A&R man, we understood this to mean 'Artists and Repertoire' his name was Bob Barratt who later became a top record producer for E.M.I. and this was the person who had signed the letter to
John asking us to audition. We walked down this corridor with numbered studios on
either side, there was a red light outside a studio on the left and we peered in through the small window in the door, there was a recording in progress with a big orchestra and the well known singer Danny Williams, we were impressed..

Our studio was on the right of the corridor and I am sure it was the same studio as used by the Beatles later that year, it was set up for recording groups, with baffles in various locations to stop sound transfer between recording microphones for better separation, and there was a separate area surrounded by baffles for the drummer. As we walked in our voices disappeared due to the sound proofing, it was very quiet and strange. The engineers were situated in a room high up nearly in the roof, accessible by a flight of stairs from the studio floor.

As we set up our gear the E.M.I engineers spotted an immediate problem, our singer
John also played guitar, unlike Cliff Richard for example who used to sing without his own instrument at that time, this meant that Johns voice mike would also pick up his acoustic guitar making it harder to mix correctly. The decision was made for John to take the acoustic into the Singers Box with him as it was only an audition and not a serious recording. The playback sounded fantastic to us but a few months later we received a nice letter from Bob Barratt explaining that we were not commercial ! end of a dream but a great experience.

Later that day we were walking down a street in Soho when this lady of the night standing in a doorway, stopped us asking, are you coming in boys ? John's reply was a classic, No Thank You ! very polite, if it wasn't the reply it must have been the gaberdine raincoats we were all wearing that made her correctly think that we were definitely not London lads looking for a night out.

Villa Marina Rock Events

There were many other rock & roll groups now from all parts of the island, and some
fantastic characters, there was ''Treble Ball'' real name ''Trevor Ball'' from Ramsey, he was an excellent guitarist famous for the tone of his guitar, he used a treble boost unit and it sounded like breaking glass. Then there was George Jolly from another of the Douglas rock groups, ''The Falcons'' he and the band were known most of all for being able to play all night while pissed out of their minds.

My favourite Island group were ''The Phantoms'' , they were from the south of the Island and first came to my attention during the popular Rock & Roll Competitions held on a regular basis at the Douglas Town Council's main entertainment venue, the Villa Marina.

At this particular event we ''The Suedettes'' thought we were sure to win as we had bought the very latest VOX amplifiers and Fender guitars. Our band were on first and the band sounded really good and with the screams of the fans we thought we had it in the bag, however we had not counted on the performance of ''The Phantoms'', the curtains opened and the whole band were wearing bright PINK suits, the whole place erupted in the loudest screaming I had ever heard, that was it, they had won without even playing a note, fantastic. They played great as well and definitely deserved to win the event without a doubt. I was taken by the lead guitarist ''John Nelson'' , known as ''Nellie'' and we became good friends, and over the years played in many groups together, wrote songs for an LP for one of the groups ''Jygsaw'' , I wrote the lyrics, Nellie the music...

After this event our singer John Harrison lost heart with our group the Suedettes and joined the Phantoms. Our group carried on and John was replaced by another excellent rock vocalist ''Derek Clague'' formerly from a group in Castletown called the Saphires

 

Greeba Castle

At this point I had finished my 5 year apprenticeship with the Harbour Board and was working with a private building and joinery firm in Douglas, the firm was known as ''Frank Large's Circus'' Frank was a real character and used to watch the pennies very closely, when business was quiet he would have us straightening nails taken from old timbers that he had rescued from derelict buildings... Yes ! Really ..

Anyway, I was given the job of replacing the rotting floor joists in Greeba Castle, this
was the ancestral home of the famous Manx writer, Hall Caine. The floorboards were
covered with oak parquet flooring blocks, all which had to be lifted, numbered, and
stored while the rotten parts of the floor supports were replaced, the blocks would
then be re-laid in their previous locations to protect the authenticity of the castle..

I loved Greeba Castle, it was so peaceful, there was just something really calming and beautiful about the house. At lunch times everyday until the job was complete I used to sit in the castle lounge and eat my sarnies, but I also took the opportunity to read a number of Hall Caine's novels that were on the lounge book shelves, the books, The Manxman and The Christian in particular transported me to a different age where I could visualize the castle being part of the local culture at that time, in the bedrooms there were still the pull ropes connecting to bells in the kitchen to summon the servants. I think being in the castle for some reason helped me to make up my mind to leave the Suedettes, I knew I would always want to be involved with music but at this point I had no definite plans.

 

The World Cup

Blakemore's music shop in Douglas had now been taken over by Manx Radio Rentals, the two old Blakemore sisters had retired and the owner of Manx Radio Rentals, Guy Dickinson, was looking for someone to run/carry on the music department of the now TV shop. I was a friend of his son, Bill Dickinson, one of our Onchan gang of a few years ago and I was asked if I fancied the job, I said yes of course though at that time had no idea of retailing.

There were still drawers full of old sheet music and this was left intact and available
for sale as this is what the Blakemore's would have wished, however, I started to introduce to the shop, singles, L P’s, and various musical produce such as guitar strings, plectrums, guitar tutor books etc. LP wise I was lucky as The Sound of Music had just been released and I had orders for box loads, also one of my favourite singles of all time was top of the charts, Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks.

The football world cup was being played at this time, up until this competition I had
never been a big football fan even though I had played for Onchan school team as a kid, but cricket had always been my game, my dad was an excellent cricketer and bowler in particular and taught me how to play. However, as England had got to the final and as I was working I thought I would watch the game on one of the shop TV's, it was fantastic of course as England won, and from then on I was a football supporter.


 

The Ray Norman Combo

I had a set of P.A. speakers advertised for sale in the local paper and I received a phone call from a bloke wanting to look at them, Ray Norman appeared at the house
and we decided that I would set the system up for him in a pub in Douglas where he was playing, the Jamaica Inn, Ray liked the system so that was that, he bought it. I stayed and we got chatting, it transpired that he and his guitarist, Tony Teare, were looking to expand the band and were looking for a bass player, I joined there and then.

I then remembered that my mate Jimmy Maddox, a fabulous vocalist and piano player was also looking for something to do, and he only lived a few doors away in the same street. I went round and asked Jimmy to pop around for a look, he did, and when we had got our gear together and started playing it was as if we had been playing together for years, it all gelled instantly, Ray on the drums and vocal, Tony on guitar, Jimmy on piano and vocals, and me on bass. The Ray Norman Combo was born, a name we all decided on because it felt and sounded right, it really worked and our first night at the Jamaica Inn despite rain leaking through the roof was a huge success.

Tourism in the Isle of Man at that time was the lifeblood of the local economy and the
summer tourist trade was vital, however the summer of 1966 started off bad with a
Seaman’s Strike, which stopped all ferries to and from the Island, goods and visitors
were still flying in but not in great enough numbers, it was a difficult time for the Island, but lucky for us !

The new Palace Hotel and Casino had just been opened by Sean Connery as James Bond and everything was looking rosy until the strike, all the cabaret acts had been booked and were due to arrive for the season, and the band that had been booked to back the cabaret, none arrived, so in panic they asked us as The Ray Norman Combo to fill in as we were local and on the island.

We played our first gig in the foyer of the Palace Lido as there were not sufficient visitors to justify opening the ballroom, after a few nights word got around and the place was packed with locals all having a great time, this went down very well with the management and The Ray Norman Combo were offered a full time professional job with Palace Hotel and Casino, which thankfully lasted years. The seaman’s strike was settled after a few weeks and the island got back to normal and enjoyed a fantastic season.

 

Palace Hotel and Casino

The first Cabaret season at the Palace Hotel and Casino opened in disarray, when the acts finally arrived on the island, delayed by the seaman’s strike as mentioned earlier, the short comings of the design of the cabaret room were becoming apparent. 

The changing rooms of which there were two, were nowhere near large enough to accommodate all the artists, bands, acts, and dancers that had been booked. Our band the Ray Norman Combo, as locals had commandeered one of the dressing rooms for our now five person group, Doug Davidson had now joined the combo on saxophone and flute, which gave us more versatility in choice of music. So, the rest of the cabaret artists, comedian, dancers, cabaret backing band {trio} were expected to share one dressing room about eight foot square.

I think the architects of the hotel had been so busy concentrating on building the hotel with the minimum 100 rooms, as required by the gaming board of control, that they had little serious thought about the entertainment side of the business, and another error was designing a cabaret stage without an independent P.A. System, professional singers were expected to use the hotel ''Tanoy'' system.

This was rectified temporarily on the opening night when the manager of the hotel, Alex O’Brien, of ''Alex Inn Fame'' {see below} asked us could the cabaret use our mobile P.A. System, this was OK of course except that we were also booked to play in the dining room for the dinner dances, and we would be taking the system with us, anyway, we sold Alex a similar system the next day and that solved the sound problem. An excellent act booked for this season was a limbo dance act that had appeared in the latest James Bond movie, a dancer called ''Stretch Wilcox'', it really was up to the minute class entertainment and the place was full every night.

Before the opening of the Palace Hotel and Casino and the relaxation of the drinking
laws for Casino Members, the Alex Inn, owned by Alex O'Brien on the Castletown road was by far the most popular night spot on the island, with a host of island groups and entertainers playing there at the weekends, one particular excellent duo springs to mind and that was ''The Hayseeds'' from the south of the island with their own brand of infectious rock and country music .

Alex though could see the writing on the wall for country venues like the Alex Inn after the opening of the Casino, there was no answer to the late night drinking and entertainment offered at the Casino, so he was offered and accepted the managers job at the Palace Hotel and Casino, Alex had a great way with people and his management style definitely helped to put the place on the map..

Going back to the lack of dressing rooms at the hotel, it was suggested that several of the hotel guest rooms could be used for changing, however, this was not practical as they were to distant from the stage area. So it was decided to fix a curtain rail about four feet from the end wall of the cabaret room, the full width of the room, and these professional artists would get changed behind it, except for the dancers who got changed in our band room, I told you it was a good summer !

 

Terry Clough - The Early Years

I was born in Heywood, Lancashire in 1943 during the later stages of the war. I have been told by the family that as a baby they used to place me in my ''Carry Cot'' and
put me under the dining room table during the bombing raids on Manchester a few
miles away, there was also an Air Raid Shelter at the bottom of our garden but I have
no idea if it was ever used. At the end of the war my mother and father moved to the
Isle of Man to try and start a new life away from the dreariness of the Manchester
area, and to give them time to settle I was left with my grand parents in Heywood.

My grandfather also loved the Isle of Man and had a season ticket with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company who ran the ferry services to the island. I think I made twenty seven crossings before I was seven years old, I used to love the ferry, or boat as I used to call it, and would spend most journeys sat on the mooring ropes at the stern of the ship, you could do that in those days, no health and safety..

I remember one trip in particular in 1947 where the boat was delayed in Liverpool by
bad weather and heavy snow, to pass the time my grandfather took me across the
river Mersey on the local ferry to Birkenhead, he bought me a wind up toy aeroplane that I played with on the deck. Another feature of sailing from Liverpool at that time were all the ship wrecks in the Mersey and the dock area which had not yet been cleared after the German bombing raids on the port, there were dozens part submerged with their masts sticking out of the water..

I started school at the age of four in Heywood, Magdala Street School which was about half a mile from where I lived on Middleton road. I was a lucky lad and had a nice home and a three wheel bike that I used to peddle to school each day, as I had to cross a main road to get to the school my grandfather had arranged that a man from the garage at the bottom of our road would take me across, he use to put my bike in a shed on top of a pile of tyres and at four o’clock would see me back across the road and dig my bike out. I don’t remember to much about the school except that we had to drink Cod Liver Oil and Orange Juice every morning, it was horrible. Another thing I remember was that one day in assembly there were two poles with flashing orange lights on them and a black and white stripes painted on the floor, they were Belisha Beacons that had just been invented and we were given road safety advise on how the crossings should be used.

As I said I was a lucky lad and lived in a nice house ''Pendennis'' on Middleton road,
however a mile down the road in Heywood itself the kids were not that fortunate, I
remember them being very dirty with cloth caps and clogs but we got on great. One day after school we were playing next to a bomb crater that had filled with water, I fell in and can remember clearly to this day lying on the bottom of the pool looking up at midges floating above me. Luckily for me the lads pulled me out and took me home. I remember my grandmother telling me how my grandfather used to buy sacks of coal for families living in Heywood to help them through the winter nights.

In a different world to Heywood a few houses away up Middleton road our neighbours were the 'Pilkingtons' of Pilkingtons glass fame. I was friendly with the youngest, forgotten his name I'm afraid, we used to play in each others gardens. However, one bonfire night I was watching the firework display in our back garden from inside the house as it was raining when the two older Pilkington boys decided to liven up proceedings by jamming a bottle into our back fence and pointing a rocket at the house, the rocket smashed through the window and burnt my chest, an early bonfire night casualty. I remember also that this year during the school summer holidays I had contracted ''Scarlet Fever'' and it laid me out for the whole six weeks of the holidays, I think shortly after that I must have moved to the Isle of Man with my grand parents to join my mum and dad and started school at Onchan at the age of five.

Onchan School was OK ! Nice teachers and milk to drink everyday instead of that horrendous cod liver oil and orange juice of my former school in the UK, the milk was
warmish though being kept in open boxes in the school cloakroom, small bottles with
cardboard tops, we used to prise the tops of and drink the cream off the top first, no
semi-skimmed in those days. I had a girlfriend, Lizzy Layfield, and I used to walk her home everyday to her house a few hundred yards from the school, years later I was there replacing windows as a carpenter and hoping to see Lizzy again, but her parents explained that she was away at college in the UK, never did see her again.

I liked sports and was good at cricket, running, and football, I was chosen for the Onchan footie team as a right winger, I could have been a forward but every time I headed the ball I got a nose bleed, so they stuck me out on the wing to cross the ball. It was great in the team as we used to be invited to play other schools on the island in tournaments which meant we had a day out on a coach, charabanc !

Our favourite School to play was Castletown as they put on an excellent spread of Shiphams paste sandwiches at the end of the game, our least favourite was Peel School, uneatable rock cakes, I suppose they were meant to be scones but....

My best mates and neighbours in Onchan at that time were Shaun and Laury Loader, and their younger sister Cherrie. They were part of a Burmese family who lived a few hundred yards up our road, there was the large house and garden nursery where their grand father and grand mother lived, and a smaller bungalow where they lived with their mother and father. I think the grandfather was a retired Burmese army officer, he never said much to us at all, just the odd grunt, but a great thing was that they were one of the few families in Onchan {1950} who had a TV ! We were allowed once a week at teatime to watch Bill & Ben followed by the Lone Ranger & Tonto, heaven..

I remember clearly one morning their mother arriving at my grandmothers door on the way to her divorce hearing, very sad, however, she looked stunning, beautiful, in what I now understand was her traditional Burmese dress. Sometime after this the mother moved away with Laury, no idea where to, but Shaun stayed on the island and was a friend for many years, I believe Cherrie ended up at university in the UK.

At the age of eleven I moved from Onchan school to Ballerkermeen High School in Douglas, and from then on had to wear long trousers, I hated them at first but I got used to them as they wore in and then wore out over time. The first day at school was an eye opener, we had all been allotted ''Forms'' to go to each containing around thirty boys per class, it was separate sexes in those days and the girls were next door at the Girls School. The teacher arrived and we all stood up and quietened down, He said, right lads would all the RC's move to the right of the class, and all the Protestants to the left, and all the Jews stay where you are! I hadn't realised until this time that our family were non religious, it had never been mentioned to me, anyway I remembered the word RC's so I stood with what I now know to be Catholics, the teacher pointed to me and said, Clough, get with the protestants your not a catholic, lesson one over, and I had learned that different religions had to have their own religious instruction, and that some of my best mates were now Jewish !!

I spent two years at Ballerkermeen doing OK and then had to move to Douglas High
School for Boys for the remaining two years of education, leading to page one of this
account.

Terry Clough


 


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