Newcastle in the mid to late sixties had a vibrant night life which, outside of London, was probably the best in the country for wining, dining, dancing, music and gambling. There were around a dozen night clubs with top acts appearing in the city every day of the week. It’s no wonder that London gangsters such as the Kray twins were keen to get in on the action. Those of us of a certain age will remember clubs like La Dolce Vita, Greys Club, the Cavendish and the Club A’Gogo.

The Jazz Cafe in Pink Lane, Newcastle

The Jazz Cafe in Pink Lane, Newcastle

But who were the men and woman who owned and ran the north east’s iconic clubs and kept us entertained throughout the sixties? In 2011, north east photographer and author, Ian Wright who now lives in Las Vegas, had the bright idea of organising a get together for the people involved in the sixties club scene. The reunion took place at the Jazz Café, Pink Lane, Newcastle hosted by Keith Crombie who was involved in the day to day running of several Newcastle clubs back in the sixties.

reunion pic

Some of the other people there were Wally Nash (now a business man living in the USA) who managed the Marimba for Mike Jeffery and later the Blue Note in Sunderland for Ray Grehan; Sandford Goudie who owned the La Strada clubs in Sunderland and South Shields; Trixie Sullivan who was Mike Jeffery’s secretary and personal assistant (at the time he managed Jimi Hendrix), vocalist David Macbeth, Teddy Berg – owner of Greys Club, Barabara Berg and Joan Tenniswood who both worked at the Club a’Gogo in the sixties. Another of those in attendance was Marcus Levey, who with his two brothers ran La Dolce Vita before selling the club to the Bailey Organisation in 1965. Marcus now lives in Leeds and is a professional artist.

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(left to right) Barbara Berg (nee Young), Ian Wright, Jason Robson, David Macbeth and Joan Tenniswood (nee Young)

(left to right) Wally Nash, Marcus Levey and Keith Crombie

(left to right) Wally Nash, Marcus Levey and Keith Crombie

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Germaine Stanger (left), yours truly and Sandford Goudie (right)

(left to right) Dougie Vickers (ex-drummer with The Invaders, Trixie Sullivan and me

(left to right) Dougie Vickers (ex-drummer with The Invaders, Trixie Sullivan and me

There were one or two musicians there including Dougie Vickers who was the drummer in the Invaders, one of the first non-jazz bands to play regularly at the Club A’Gogo from around 1963. Also present was jazz singer Germaine Stanger wife of the late Nigel Stanger. Nigel, along with Chas Chandler was responsible for planning and building the Newcastle Arena (now the Metro Radio Arena). Nigel was also an excellent saxophonist who along with Germaine performed with the Newcastle Big Band. Yours truly got an invite because the Ready Steady Gone site was the catalyst that helped Ian Wright to get in touch with some of the guests. Having said that, I did play regularly as a resident musician at three of the Bailey clubs (including La Dolce Vita) during 1966.

Invaders drummer Dougie Vickers jamming with the Jazz Cafe's house band

Invaders drummer Dougie Vickers jamming with the Jazz Cafe’s house band

Rumour had it that the ex-Club A’Gogo bouncer Dave Findlay and his brother Tommy were going to put in appearance. In the event they failed to show up, probably much to the relief of the host Keith Crombie. I did overhear a conversation in which one of the guests asked the other if he had been present at the Gogo on the night that Dave Findlay knocked out Keith Crombie’s teeth!

Some of the guests hadn’t seen each other for decades so there was a lot of catching up to do. Amongst those talked about were two men who were heavily involved in the north east club scene in the sixties – Mike Jeffery and Ray Grehan. Mike Jeffery, owner of the Club A’Gogo and manager of the Animals and Jimi Hendrix was killed in a plane crash in 1973. Ray Grehan, who owned various night clubs including the Blue Note in Sunderland and the Crescendo Club at Whitley Bay, passed away about eight years ago. Without the contribution of these two men the club and music scene of the north east would have been considerably different.

7 Mike and Ray
The reunion was a great success so full marks to Ian Wright for coming up with the idea and organising the event.

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Here’s a reminder of some of those Newcastle clubs and venues and where they were. The top map is an old street plan of the city with the various venues marked with coloured dots. Below is a modern day aerial view with the same locations marked – (some of the original buildings have now gone).

Newcastle clubs map
Club menu
Newcastle clubs sat

The Club A’Gogo

The Club A’Gogo opened in 1962 and ran for just over six years. The club was initially owned and run by Mike Jeffery who went on to manage The Animals and Jimi Hendrix. Ownership changed hands around 1966 and eventually the Gogo closed its doors two years later after the Bailey Organisation opened a disconightspot called Sloopy’s above the La Dolce Vita

The Club A’Gogo was situated on Percy Street, Newcastle on the top floor of a building which was also above the famous Handyside Arcade (or Arcadia as it was sometimes called).

The Club A'Gogo building (top floor) on Percy Street, Newcastle

The Club A’Gogo building (top floor) on Percy Street, Newcastle

After it’s demolition, the building was replaced by the Eldon Garden Shopping Centre. The position of the doorway to the club was below the pedestrian walkway that links the Eldon Square complex with the Eldon Garden Shopping Centre near the entrance doors.

Read more about the Club A’Gogo on this link.
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The Downbeat

The Downbeat was another of Mike Jeffery’s clubs. It opened in 1959 and ran for around 6 years. Initially the Downbeat was a jazz venue but towards the end of its life it featured mainly Rhythm & Blues bands.

7 downbeat club bernie

The Downbeat was situated in Carliol Square, Newcastle not far from Worswick Street bus station. The building that held the club has long since been demolished. It was originally the Clergy Jubilee School, which opened in the early part of the 19th Century

The Clergy Jubilee School in the 19th century - the building that would house the Downbeat in the 1960s

The Clergy Jubilee School in the 19th century – the building that would house the Downbeat in the 1960s

The same building in Carliol Square.

The same building in Carliol Square.

Read more about the Downbeat Club on this link.
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The Quay Club

The Quay Club, which opened in 1965, was a popular venue in the sixties. The club was situated on the ground floor and in the basement of an old building on the Side, almost opposite the Crown Posada public house. The original building has been demolished and has been replaced by a modern block, which now houses offices and a restaurant.

In its hey day the Quay Club was a popular late night watering hole for both local and national musicians after completing their own gigs in the city.

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This is a 19th century picture of Side. The building that housed the Quay Club was on the right just before the bend leading under the railway bridge.

Read more about the Quay Club on this link.
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Greys Club

Greys club is one of the few Newcastle Clubs that has been running since the sixties. The club, which is in Greys Court at the bottom of Grey Street, has had several makeovers since opening as a cabaret club in the early sixties.
During the seventies it was run by David Macbeth, a popular northeast singer in the late fifties and early sixties.

Greys Club, Newcastle - once owned by Teddy Berg

Greys Club, Newcastle – once owned by Teddy Berg

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The Mayfair Ballroom

The Mayfair Ballroom opened by the Mecca organization on 12th September 1961 and continued to be a major venue in the city for 38 years. It was situated at the junction of Newgate Street and Low Friar Street. The Mayfair finally closed its doors in August 1999 and was later demolished to make way for the Gate Leisure Centre. During the sixties, seventies and beyond the Mayfair hosted some unforgettable nights featuring many of the top chart and touring bands of the era; bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Queen, Black Sabbath, The Clash, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Motorhead, Thin Lizzy and Nirvana, to name just a few.

Entrance to the Mayfair

Entrance to the Mayfair

Read more about the Mayfair Ballroom on this link.
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La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita was situated on Low Friar Street not far from the Mayfair Ballroom. The club was opened on 6th February 1963 by the Levey brothers from Wallsend. La Dolce Vita included a large cabaret lounge with seating for 500 and an illuminated glass dance area in front of the stage. The club was taken over by the Bailey Group in 1965.

La Dolce Vita, Low Friar Street, Newcastle

Inside La Dolce Vita in the sixties

Inside La Dolce Vita in the sixties

Newspaper ads for La Dolce Vita

Newspaper ads for La Dolce Vita

Joe Brown at La Dloce Vita. The photo shows the illuminated glass floor used by dancers when not used by the cabaret acts

Joe Brown at La Dolce Vita. The photo shows the illuminated glass floor, which was a dancing area (when not being used by the cabaret acts).

In October 1968 the Bailey Organisation opened Sloopy’s disco above La Dolce Vita. By this time the Club A’Gogo on Percy Street was in decline and the opening of Sloopy’s was probably the final nail in the Club a’Gogo’s coffin.

sloopys

La Dolce Vita went into decline in the seventies and had several name changes before finally closing its doors as a venue in 2002. The building which housed La Dolce Vita still stands but now contains luxury flats.

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Guys & Dolls

The Guys & Dolls club is less well known than some of the other Newcastle clubs of the early to mid sixties. It was situated on the forth and fifth floor of a building at 1 Pink Lane, opposite Bowers restaurant. The Guys & Dolls ran as an unlicensed venue and described itself as a ‘coffee dance club’. The club ran for about five years and closed around 1966.

guys and dolls

The building that housed the Guys & Dolls is still standing.

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The Marimba Coffee House

The Marimba Coffee House on High Bridge, Newcastle (off Grey Street) was another venue opened by Mike Jeffery. The Marimba opened in 1959 serving Italian food and snacks during the day at prices students could afford. However at night it became a private membership club with jazz being served up by some of the best musicians around. These included Tommy Henderson’s Latin American Group and others such as the Bernie Thorpe Trio and Mike Carr’s Emcee Four. Unofficially, the jazz sessions at the Marimba continued long after midnight.

The Marimba was open for just over a year before being gutted by fire. The building that housed the Marimba no longer exists. That building and those surrounding it were demolished and have been rebuilt.

6 Marimba

Read more about the Marimba on this link.

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The Majestic Ballroom

The Majestic Ballroom on the junction of Westgate Road and Clayton Street was originally built as a cinema. In the late 1950’s it was converted to a ballroom and became the Majestic. During the late fifties and early sixties the “Maj” was a very popular venue for dancing. A Cumbrian group – Rue & The Rockets were the resident band at the Majestic for a number of years and had a massive following in Newcastle.

Rue (left) and the Rockets

The Majestic Ballroom is probably most famous for hosting the Beatles very first appearance in the city on 28th January 1963. Other acts that appeared at the Majestic Ballroom in the sixties include; The Moody Blues, The Kinks, The Spencer Davis Group, The Hollies, Van Morrison and the Small Faces.

The Majestic in the sixties

The Majestic in the sixties

The Majestic closed as a music venue in 1967 and became the Gala Bingo Hall. When the bingo hall closed in 2005, the Academy Music Group bought the building and converted it back to a music venue.

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Change Is

‘Change Is’ opened with a flourish on 9th February 1969 with a promise of first class entertainment from the best acts around. The club was situated on Bath Lane, Newcastle and was spread over three floors with a reception, a disco and a cabaret room, all with curved walls. The lavishly decorated premises had once been the Piccadilly Club, which was run by Dennis Stafford who was later jailed for the 1967 murder of Angus Sibbett in the notorious ‘One-Armed Bandit’ case.

The opening of the club was preceded by an intense advertising campaign in the local press involving some quite off-beat and quirky adverts: –

‘Change Is’ was financed by comedian, Bob Monkhouse who teamed up with Newcastle entrepreneur Ronnie Markham in an attempt to open a club that would offer something different to the many other clubs in the city at that time. The concept was that the club would not be the same from one week to the next. It was said that the floor levels could be permutated fifteen different ways and that the décor could be changed at will by projecting images onto the curved walls. The sound system was said to be second to none.

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The Change Is building on Bath Lane

The Change Is building on Bath Lane

The dance floor at Change Is

The dance floor at Change Is

Things started to go wrong the following year when Bob Monkhouse found out that Ronnie Markham (who later rebranded himself as the hypnotist – Romark) had been helping himself to the club takings and cooking the books.

The club closed as ‘Change Is’ and reopened as Bloomers.

Bloomers news ad

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The Oxford Galleries

The Oxford Galleries opened as a ballroom in 1925 and was a popular haunt for dancers through to the late sixties. From then on it changed from a dance hall to a night club and over the years had various names – Tiffany’s, the Ritzy, Ikon, The Studio, Central Park, Diva, Liquid Envy the latest being Club LQ.

Aerial view of the Oxford Galleries (top right) on New Bridge Street

Aerial view of the Oxford Galleries (top right) on New Bridge Street

Queues outside the Oxford Galleries in its hey-day.

Queues outside the Oxford Galleries in its hey-day.

Oxford interior 2

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Cavendish Club

The Cavendish Club at the bottom of Grey Street opened as a nightclub in the early sixties and became part of the Bailey Group. Along with La Dolce Vita, the Cavendish featured some of the best acts on the cabaret circuit. When the Grey Street premises closed in the mid-seventies, the New Cavendish opened at the site previously occupied by ‘Change Is’ and ‘Bloomers’ on Bath Lane.

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Cavendish advert

A Cavendish poster from 1972

A Cavendish poster from 1972

cavendish card

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Here’s a few other pictures that should bring back the golden age of northeast clubbing: –

Bailey organisation

From the Chronicle

From the Chronicle

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La Strada

La Strada in South Shields opened around 1962 and ran throughout the 1960s. Owner, Sandford Goudie, opened a second La Strada in Sunderland in 1967.

Sanford Goudie's La Strada Club in South Shields

Sandford Goudie’s La Strada Club in South Shields

The casino in La Strada (photo courtesy of Rob Quinn)

1963 advertisement for La Strada (courtesy of Rob Quinn)

1965 Advertisement for La Strada (Courtesy of Rob Quinn)

Resident group – the Crusaders with La Strada owner, Sandford Goudie on the right with a conga drum (photo courtesy of Rob Quinn)

1967 Advertisement for La Strada in Sunderland.

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Latino, South Shields

The Latino, South Shields

The Latino, South Shields

latino card