Memories of 1960s Sheffield club where Joe Cocker sang in house band after his gas board shifts
It was 60 years ago that a venue opened that truly caused a seismic shift in terms of what was on offer for the youth of Sheffield.
But Club 60 – which opened on Shalesmoor in 1960 and provided a launchpad for future stars like Dave Berry, Jimmy Crawford and Frank White – was a mere test run for what was to follow in the shape of the Esquire and its resident band, Vance Arnold (better known as Joe Cocker) and the Avengers.
The club was based in the upstairs rooms of the building that now houses the Leadmill.
John C Haywood – better known as Johnny Hotdogs way back then - worked behind the bar every Saturday night, waited patiently whilst Joe Cocker finished his tea and once ferried a bloodied Screaming Lord Sutch to the Hallamshire Hospital.
He said: “The Esquire Club in itself was quite unique, There was three levels, nothing much downstairs, then a very steep set of stairs with a flat section halfway.
“As you came around at the second level there was a pay desk and the girls’ toilet, then upward to the dance floor and stage, which was at the far end.
“The stage had a round roof support right in the centre and it was this round support that Dave Berry crept around with his gloved hand.
"Around the dancefloor was subdued lighting, along with fluorescent lighting that showed up anything white.
"On the top floor, you could sit on a stool around a full-size beer barrel.
"People that went to the Esquire Club consisted of rock and rollers/mods/rhythm and blues and country. There was music for everybody.
“The club was a success right from the start, we had to turn people away a lot of nights. I don't think, looking back, there was that much rivalry between the Esquire and the Mojo.
“The latter tended to go for more expensive entertainers. The Esquire had a lot of rhythm and blues acts straight from America.
“The relationship between the Esquire/Twisted Wheel and the Cavern was great, everybody was looked after at all three clubs.
“To work at the Esquire was great. I was known as Johnny Hotdogs as I cooked the burgers in front of everybody and sold Coke. No beer, you had to go to the 'Rodney' just down the road for that.
“Joe Cocker was the resident band and he was still a gas fitter for the then Gas Board at that time.
“Sometimes he was late and I had to go and pick him up. He would rush around to get changed as his mother shouted ‘Joe, your tea is on the table’.
“He would wolf it down and I would drive like billy-oh to get back to the club.
“The Black Swan used to have talent nights and the winner was paid cash. Joe seemed to win every time. Joe was always on early so that we could all rush back to the club.
“I did not think that he would go any further than the club and talent nights and I don't think we wanted him to.
“One night when Screaming Lord Sutch was on stage, he jumped up, hitting his head on the ceiling, biting his lip and tongue, there was blood everywhere. I drove him up to the Hallamshire Hospital.”
Arthur Brown of Fire fame also had his own altercation with the ceiling.
“He was another jumper who jumped up while on fire and nearly set fire to the roof of the stage. It was quickly put out, and he sang on as if nothing had happened.”
Despite tales of rivalry between the two clubs, King Mojo's Peter Stringfellow was regularly there.
“The first time he came to the club he came around the corner to the pay desk and walked past it, thinking he could walk in for nothing. He was told he had to pay.
“He said, ‘I’m only here for a quick look at the group and I might book em’. The answer was, ‘you still have to pay’. He came in nearly every weekend after that, and he paid. The only time I did not see him pay was when Terry (owner Terry Thornton) was at the desk.”
*You can read more about the Esquire in Neil Anderson’s book, Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to 1960s Sheffield, from www.dirtystopouts.com. It retails at £13.95.