Bradford’s Gaumont package shows were a blast
MANY of my best teenage memories were spent at the Gaumont in Bradford. Leading bands and singers touring the country have performed there. In the early sixties, my favorites were the Everly Brothers, Del Shannon and Billy Fury. I saw them all at Gaumont.
Every week I bought the NME (New Musical Express) and brought it to school (Ilkley Secondary Modern). I would spread it out on a desk at dinnertime and flip through the pages to see who was on tour and if they were coming to the Gaumont or the Odeon in Leeds. I sometimes organized the purchase of tickets for me and my school friends. I used to go there often with my girlfriend, Jen Oliver – the Gaumont was a great place to woo couples.
I first saw Billy Fury in Great Yarmouth in the summer of 1962. I had gone on holiday with John Ellis and his family, I knew from reading the NME that Billy Fury and Marty Wilde were playing at the Windmill Theater for the season. We were looking forward to seeing the show and booked four times. We would sit in the cafe bar next to the theater during the day and watch in awe as the Tornadoes chat and plan their set. They supported Billy Fury. Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers supported the other singers, and they often chimed in. We made contacts that allowed us to meet Billy Fury. He was very shy for such a famous pop singer, and very handsome with his distinctive hairstyle. We chatted and he signed autographs. The theater manager even invited us to Billy’s party, but John’s dad wouldn’t let us go, because he said there would be “fun things.” And there were, because Karl Denver was seriously injured in a car accident on his way home from the party. We regretted not being there, but looking back, Mr. Ellis was right.
When we saw Billy Fury arriving at Gaumont on October 23, 1962, we were so excited. I still have the program to accompany the memories. Marty Wilde, Jimmy Justice, Mark Wynter, Karl Denver, Joe Brown, Mike Sarne, the Tornados and Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers also featured. I was saddened when Billy died. If I’m ever in Liverpool, I visit his memorial statue and think back to the times I’ve seen him. It’s a reminder that there was talent coming out of Liverpool before the Beatles.
The same year, I saw the Everly Brothers at Gaumont. I still remember how brilliant they were, how their close harmonies made your spine tingle. On the same poster were Bo Diddley and Little Richard. Both had a profound influence on the bands of the sixties but were at the twilight of their careers. I remember Little Richard taking off his sweaty shirt and throwing it into the audience. I think he was still hanging out in the aisles at the end of the show.
At the bottom of the poster was a band I had never heard of but I said at school the next day if they ever came back I would go see them and encouraged the others to do the same. They played a Chuck Berry song, Come On, which they were to record as their first single. Some journalists gave them a maximum of two years, but I thought they were great. The Rolling Stones are about to celebrate their 60th anniversary in show business, and I saw them for the first time at Gaumont. I saw them several times afterwards.
The first record I bought was Del Shannon’s Runaway. I had heard it on Radio Luxembourg. I went to Vallances in Otley and looked after him carefully on the Ledgards bus back to Burley. The only problem was that I didn’t have a record player, so I took it to a friend’s house, to play it on theirs. I persuaded my mom and dad to buy a record player that my brother and I looked at in the window of Sonny Slater’s electrical store. It was an AER Monarch, red and cream, costing 21 guineas on hire-purchase. And so Runaway was played endlessly and pushed my dad into the wall. It remained the only record we had until it was joined by Everly Brothers’ Temptation and John Leyton’s Johnny Remember Me.
I saw Del Shannon five times, including the show at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax, which happened to be one of his last in England. A few weeks later, he died by suicide. In that same show, there was Gerry and the Pacemakers, who coincidentally were on Gaumont’s show. Went to see John Leyton who had a #1 hit with Johnny Remember Me. Mike Sarne was supposed to be on the show but had been sick, announcer said disappointed fans can go to the box office and get their money back. Nobody moved, especially when it was announced that he would be replaced for three nights by the Four Seasons. What an amazing replacement. The audience was thrilled!
Other memorable shows were Dion and Del Shannon in 1962 with the Allisons and Joe Brown; Bobby Vee and the Crickets, November 7, 1962; Cliff and the Shadows, December 15, 1962; Brian Hyland and Little Eva, March 2, 1963; Roy Orbison, April 8, 1966 Package tours were popular. Larry Parnes was the organizer of some of the best. On March 22, 1963, his show Lucky Stars arrived at Gaumont. On the bill were Daryl Quist, Rolf Harris, Susan Maughan, Shane Fenton and the Fentones, Jess Conrad, Eden Kane, the Tornados, Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers and Joe Brown.
The Beatles appeared on one of their first Gaumont tours, along with Helen Shapiro on February 2, 1963. It’s another reminder of Gaumont’s reputation for giving rising stars, as well as established international artists, an opportunity. Like many theaters in the early 60s, it gave teenagers a chance to watch a Package Show and see their favorite recording artists.
l People with memorabilia, photographs and memorabilia from Bradford’s former Odeon building are invited to contribute to the Bringing the Beat Back to Bradford exhibition at Impressions Gallery in City Park which opens on July 23 this summer.
To get involved, head to the Impressions Gallery. com/BringingTheBeatBack, or email [email protected]