The Rex Hotel, an impressive looking Victorian building on the sea front at Whitley Bay, was a popular venue for both local and national bands from around 1967 through to the late seventies. I first played there in 1968 with a band called the Village and for the next three years or so it became one of my favourite venues, both as a performer and a punter. I remember seeing the late great Robert Palmer singing at the Rex sometime in 1969 with the Alan Bown Set just after he had replaced Jess Roden.

Local bands were booked at the Rex for a weekend or for one night only. Sometimes you got to support a named band. I recall supporting a couple of chart bands there in 1969 – Love Affair and Simon Dupree and the Big Sound who had charted a couple of years earlier with ‘Kites’.

Cutting from October 1969

Cutting from October 1969

A 1969 Rex ticket

A 1969 Rex ticket

The Rex Hotel in 2009

The Rex Hotel in 2009

In his memoirs “Beats Working”, Keith Fisher, the drummer with 70’s band Beckett describes what it was like to gig at the Rex: –

“……it was an unusual and attractive booking for bands in more ways than one: the principal oddity being that you could be booked to play the weekend as residents, or purely on the Monday night, as the guests. This is how it worked. . .
If you were booked to play the weekend you started on the Saturday night. The dance floor, which was huge (a proper ballroom), was cleared of tables and chairs which were set up around the perimeter. The stage was overhung by a balcony above, right in the middle at the back, just where the drummer set up; a nightmare for me, sat up high behind my over-indulgent kit and grossly elevated cymbals. The bar was immediately ‘stage-left’ and amounted to little more than a walk-through closet which you entered by the stage and bought your Dog (Newcastle Brown Ale) from the bottle-juggling-barman: Don. Forget ‘Cocktail’, Tom Cruise wouldn’t have lasted five minutes keeping up with the pace that Don achieved. Then you exited through the other door out into the ballroom. If you were a musician, you stood in a line by the side of the stage to better scrutinise the competition; your bottle tucked under your arm, ready to top-up your half pint glass.

Mr Poobah’s Chcago Line at the Rex in 1969. The downstairs bar (mentioned above) is on the right of the picture

Mr Poobah’s Chcago Line at the Rex in 1969. The downstairs bar (mentioned above) is on the right of the picture

Sneeze on stage at the Rex in 1970

Sneeze on stage at the Rex in 1970

“The dressing-room (a supreme euphemism) was stage-right and was the kitchens for the ballroom. Big, shiny, stainless-steel benches in abundance, but no mirrors or chairs, and certainly no gratis drinks or nibbles to fortify the body and soul. You played two hour-long sets and left your gear set up for the following night’s show. The Sunday show differed in that the dance floor was set-out with all the tables and chairs to produce what was essentially a concert room. Again, you played for two hours, and again you got to walk away from your gear, which stayed for the Monday night show. Monday nights were the best in some respects: namely that you shared the bill with another group, who were booked for just the one night. I do remember the confusion as one band attempted to shift all their gear off the stage and into the dressing room, as the other band tried to do the opposite. Finally: and I am sure we were all guilty… it is human nature… but we never played The Rex without striving to “play-off” the other band; either as guests or residents. It was good natured competition, and it promoted a hearty determination to be as good as possible: which is never a bad thing.”

6 Rex 60's

The Rex in the sixties

Another person who remembers playing at the Rex is Eddie Martin, who was the vocalist with both Mr Poobahs Chigago Line and The Sect: –

“I used to love playing at the Rex, sometimes we would do the Saturday, Sunday and Monday off the belt and sometimes just the Monday. I remember playing with the band – the Downtown Faction from who a couple of players went on to form Lindisfarne. We played on the stage and they set up at the opposite end of the ball room.”

1969 advert for the Rex

1969 advert for the Rex

Eddie Martin from Mr Poobah's Chicago Line (on the right)

Eddie Martin from Mr Poobah’s Chicago Line (on the right)

Steve Thompson, the bass player from seventies band Bullfrog also has memories of the Rex: –

“A regular gig was the Rex Hotel in Whitley Bay. This was in a large ballroom and quite a big gig, always with TWO local bands. The first band to arrive was told to set up on one stage and that they would be performing first. The next to arrive was told to set up on the other stage at the opposite end of the ballroom. They would perform last. This meant that if you arrived last you had the appearance of being top of the bill. You can be sure that we always tried to arrive last and if we got to the venue and did not see another van unloading, we drove round a bit to delay even more.

The embarrassing thing that was we often saw other Transit vans (looking potentially like the other band) also driving aimlessly around the streets of Whitley Bay.”

(More about Bullfrog on this link).

Rex advert for 31st July 1969

Rex advert for 31st July 1969

Brethren, an early incarnation of Lindisfarne (before Alan Hull) were regular performers at the Rex in 1969. Around this time Alan Hull had left his full-time job in nursing to concentrate on performing at a folk club which he organised at the Rex. Artists that are said to have performed at the folk club early in their careers are – Gerry Rafferty, Billy Connolly and Ralph McTell. After Brethren teamed up with Alan Hull they performed for the first time as LIndisfarne at the Rex in December 1969. They returned to perform at the folk club a year later with their first album ‘Nicely Out Of Tune’ under their belt.

More photos of Sneeze and Mr Poobah’s Chicago Line at the Rex: –

9 sneeze rex1

10 Poobah at Rex 2

11 Rex pic 4

  1. Maxene Wells

    December 28, 2014 •

    My dad was Syd Warren and played at the Rex Jazz Club on a Sunday night. He played the saxophone. His group of merry men were called Syd Warren Six I think. Just wondered if you had a photos please.

  2. Paul Jones

    July 1, 2015 •

    Do you have any information about those two old dears - Mitzi and Minnie I think they were - a pianist and violinist who played blues locally frequently appearing at the Rex, the Station Hotel and the Glen Ogle guest ?

  3. Peter Fraser

    July 20, 2015 •

    HI Maxene

    You will not remember me i used to come to your house at wellfield for saxaphone lessons and used to go to the rex every sunday night i ended up playing at the Empress ballroom whitley Bay and at the Roxy Ballroom blyth in my opinion your dad was the besy tenor sax player out side LONDON and if he had gone there he would have been one of the top players in the country

  4. Peter Fraser

    July 21, 2015 •

    Has any one have a spare copy of the tape or record of the RIVER CITY Jazzmen

  5. Peter Fraser

    July 21, 2015 •

    Hi Paul

    i was a very goog fried of mitz and mena mity was taught by the well known violinist CANPOLI they played mostly on the coast but did appear on Tyne Tees Television as to wether they made any recordings or not i dont know

  6. Harry

    October 13, 2015 •

    Are there any members of Mr Poobah's Chicago Line still in the area and on facebook.

  7. Mike Peacock

    September 2, 2016 •

    Hi,Sometime around 1970 to 1971 I went to the Rex Hotel to a mid week band night . The Band advertised to be on were called Paladin but for some reason a replacement band turned up instead and performed their Second album Trespass. It was Genesis and I was blown away by the sound and was a big fan of theirs until Peter Gabriel left in 1975. I cannot find any mention of Genesis playing there but I can assure you They did. Not a very big crowd in the ballroom so Peter Gabriel asked us all to move forward to create a better atmosphere. I will never forget that night.

  8. Dawn

    October 9, 2016 •

    Does anyone have any photos of ballroom dancing competiotions that were held here in 1974/75?

  9. skida

    August 23, 2017 •

    I also saw Genesis at the Rex, probably around 1970/71 and the audience consisted of about 10 people. I saw it advertised in advance as Genesis and think this must be a different night to the one Mike Peacock refers to.

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