All nighters and famous names in 1960s Sheffield

Pre-lockdown you would normally have found John Firminger on drumming duties for the weekly jam night at the White Lion in Heeley.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 6:00 am
Author John Firminger, right, with Mojo club king Peter Stringfellow.

But for now the former sticksman with Dave Berry and the Cruisers is marching to a different beat in his role as author and journalist.

John is currently seeking sources for a book with fellow musician Adrian McKenna on the world’s first rock and roll package tour.

Headlined by Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent, it arrived in the UK in early 1960 and ended with Cochran’s tragic death in a car crash in Wiltshire.

The tour included a stop in Sheffield and John is hoping to to track down anyone with memories of the gig. If you were there, you can reach him via [email protected]

Asked to name a few of his favourite things, John took a trip back to the Sheffield of the swinging sixties.

The Gaumont

Formerly known as the Regent it became the Gaumont in 1946 and was one of three cinemas in Barker's Pool. In February 1960 it began featuring live shows, starting with American stars Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. It was a sensational performance from Eddie, well remembered by those who were there.

Gaumont manager Harry Murray then began presenting Saturday morning teenage shows combining films and live appearances from local talent such Dave Berry, Frank White and Ron Lindsay, aka Jimmy Crawford.

Club 60

Sheffield's first real venue for the younger generation. Run by Terry and Audrey Thornton, it was initially dedicated to jazz, but soon added regular Saturday night rock sessions.

The club's décor was suitably garish – archways and walls painted orange and purple, with exotic artefacts hanging in a bar area which had barrels for tables. In an adjoining cellar, the stage was just a few inches high but bands still crammed in.

The Esquire

Terry and Audrey’s successor to Club 60, the Esquire took up three floors of the former warehouse today known as the Leadmill. It was the first venue to present 'all-nighters', with sleep-eyed teenagers stumbling out on Sunday morning.

The venue hosted true legends like Memphis Slim, Sonny Boy Williamson and John Lee Hooker, rock'n'roll wildman Screaming Jay Hawkins and the 'godfather of rockabilly' Carl Perkins.

There was local talent too, including Joe Cocker's Big Blues, Scott William Combo, Dave Hawley, Jimmy Crawford's Messengers, and Johnny Hawk and the Falcons.

Sidewalk

Half-way down Chapel Walk, this coffee bar was full of shoppers in the week, but on Saturday lunchtime you could find local personalities hanging out, making one cup last an hour or so.

Among the regulars were Dave Berry and the original line-up of his band the Cruisers, and Johnny Tempest, usually still wearing his stage-make-up from the previous night.

Sidewalk staff could be either friendly or a bit 'snotty', depending who they were serving and how long it took them to drink up.

Violet May

Violet was a lady with formidable mood swings who ran a succession of record shops – most notably on Broad Street and Matilda Street. She catered for the more discerning buyer with the kind of records not found elsewhere.

One Saturday saw the emerging band Fleetwood Mac make a personal appearance, and occasional visitors included blues giant Jimmy Witherspoon, Billy Connolly, Irish songstress Dana and jazz legend Chris Barber.

King Mojo

Formerly Deyes Dance School, it was taken over by the enterprising brothers Peter and Geoff Stringfellow and by the late 60s it was the most popular venue in town for young people.

It had its finger firmly on the pulse of the British music scene, and presented an impressive array of talent such as the Hollies, the Small Faces, and John Mayall's Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, through to the soul explosion with Ike and Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder Jimi Hendrix, the Temptations, Isley Brothers and Elton John.​​​