By Bill Harry  

The George Neild TrioThe diversity of the Mersey scene with its country music, folk, black doo wop and poetry has always been generally neglected due to the impact made by the rock groups. Another major Merseyside scene, similarly almost forgotten, was that of ‘Clubland.’

Clubland is the name we gave to the almost 350 clubs of the Merseyside Clubs Association who provided regular work for hundreds of local entertainers – rock groups, country groups, folk groups, solo singers, solo musicians, comedians, variety acts. This vast network of clubs was the breeding ground of a lot of talent and alumni included Michael Holliday, Ken Dodd, Jimmy Tarbuck, Johnnie Hackett.

There are too many Clubland artists active during the period covered by the Mersey Beat newspaper to list here, but they included Karen Francis, Eric Morris, Arthur Lonsdale, Paul Ridgeway, Jimmy Cummins, Sandra Wayne, Kenny Bell, Jimmy Shannon, Shirley Gordon, the Sky Hi Two (Pat and Robbie Russell), Les Arnold, Rita Rogers, Joan Burgess, Chris Kenny, Vera Quigley, Helen Dodd, Chris & Marie, the Billy Frith Trio, the Miller Brothers, the Connaught Vocal Group, Mike Burton, Mike Coyne, Ryan & Ross, the Barry Brothers, Dunne & Markey, Tommy Ward, Sonny Day, Ken Page, the Squires, the Westonairres, Phillip Woods, Marie Rose, George Thornton, Pat Mooney, Jim Vance, Lennie Rens, Arthur Scott, Teddy Martin, Sadie Tonge, Freddie Corless, the Brenna Brothers, the Kingfisher Four, Tony Walters, Hilda Priest, The Granadas, the Al Reno Quartet and the George Neild Trio (George Neild, vocals, John Neild, rhythm, Harry Chambers, lead). 

Virginia and I used to enjoy going to the Walton Lane Social Club, affectionately called ‘Ozzie Wades’ to watch the various acts auditioning on a Sunday afternoon. Numerous booking agents from the various clubs would spend the afternoon having a leisurely drink and watching the various acts performing, notebooks at the ready to jot down the name of the artists they wished to book for their clubs.

Mersey Beat included a ‘Clubland’ column, written by Jack O’ Clubs, who was actually the late Ted Knibbs, manager of Billy Kramer & the Coasters. Mersey Beat also used a regular Clubland photographer – Harry Watmough, who we also recommended to Brian Epstein to take photographs of the Beatles. Harry actually had his studio in Moorfields, directly opposite Brian Epstein’s office when Brian moved his Nems organization from Whitechapel to Moorfields.

As the Quarry Men, John, Paul and George appeared at Wilson Hall, Garston on I January 1958 as part of the New Year celebrations of the Speke Depot Social Club. At the time, George’s father Harry was the club’s chairman – a bit of nepotism there! He also booked them into other bus depot clubs in Wavertree, Huyton and Prescot. Other such clubs the Quarry Men appeared at included Lewis’s Department Store, Merseyside Civil Service Club, Childwall Labour Club; Lee Park Golf Club; Gateacre Labour Club, Stanley Abbatoir Social Club and Picton Road Bus Depot.

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