Liverpool was always
recognized in Britain as a breeding ground for comedians (the joke was that you had to be a comedian to live there!) and they included Rob Wilton, Tommy Handley, Ted Ray, Arthur Askey, Norman Vaughan, Jimmy Tarbuck, Freddie Starr, Ken Dodd, Stanley Boardman, Les Dennis – and many others, right up to the current time with Ricky Tomlinson, Paul O’Grady and Chris Cairns.
Ken Dodd was to say “Mirth-yside is the capital of laughter.” He was also to comment, “Liverpool has supplied the country with more comedians than any other city and that’s because we’re a melting pot of culture. This wonderful city is made up of people from different backgrounds with diverse viewpoints, giving us all a unique take on comedy.”
The clubs belonged to trade unions, factories, stores, political parties and various other
organizations. I haven’t a list of all 345, but they included Longview Conservative Club, Waterloo RN Club, Stanley Social Club, Liverpool Supporters Club, Everton Supporters Club, Kirkby Labour Club, Crawford’s Biscuit Factory Club, Reads Social Club, Walton Trades and Labour Club, Valley Social Club, Harlan & Wolffes Social Club, various NUR clubs, the ODVA Social Club etc etc etc.
Ricky Tomlinson’s first group were called the Guitanjos, and the other members were Wilf Neilson, Brian Craig and Alan Jennings. In his autobiography he recalls, “Deciding to branch out, we went along to a Sunday afternoon audition at a local club called Ozzie Wade’s. This was where all the concert secretaries from the social clubs and working men’s clubs would gather to hear new bands and comics. Each act was given ten minutes.
“The Guitanjos were hardly what you’d call ‘polished’, but we did have a certain style…miraculously we finished up with six bookings.
“Our first gig was at the Knowsley Labour Club and the audience seemed to like us. Brian was the main vocalist, but I did a bit of singing and a few comedy turns, while Wilf had a banjo solo.
“The social clubs would book a handful of acts for each night. Usually this included one or two comics, a singer and a band. It was a huge business and there were dozens of acts doing the circuit.”
As I mentioned, our Clubland columnist was Ted Knibbs who made his debut with the column in Issue No. 11. In part, it read:
“Walton Lane Social Club.
“What better to introduce a new feature than to turn the spotlight onto the above club known affectionately wherever Merseyside club folk gather, either here or overseas, as ‘Ozzie Wades.’
“Let’s meet Mrs. Ada Taylor, nee Wade. Ada, as known to her friends, greets you with a smile and as you converse with her you soon
realize that good looks are not her only asset, her views display uncommon sense.
“Her work for the Old Age Pensioners and kind acts to artists prove her to be a very human person. Long may she continue her good work as owner.