Former Club Entertainer Michael Fisher shares some of his experiences with Club Historians. Be prepared to laugh out loud!
Michael was not only an entertainer but is married to one as well. They both worked the working men's clubs from the 1960s to the 80s though not together as they only met and married in the 1990s
‘My wife was known as Marrianne and worked with her brother for sometime - his name is Tom Goulding. All three of us have now retired though my wife and I are still entertaining in a very small way in our local area.’
When they first started playing in about 1961-2, they had a residency at the Barber Street WMC in Hoyland, near Barnsley. They were there for several months which helped them to polish their act and get known in the area.
One evening, something bizarre took place.
‘We had a singer with a bit of a temper and one night he was directing his vocal talents towards a girl in the audience and upsetting her boyfriend. During the last session, quite out of the blue, our singer threw himself off the stage, across two tables, and sent beer and customers flying in all directions. Needless to say, he was soon sent packing by the club and the band.’
Michael remembers a club in High Green back in the sixties called The Lane End Club, which had been approached in order to gain an audition, with a view to further paid work.
We turned up at the club with our gear and proceeded to set up. We had been given a short spot between the usual artists. I don’t remember much about the evening except for one thing, I had taken to wearing sunglasses on the night to look cool- no don’t laugh! Well, the resident drummer told me I ought to learn to play the drums before I started wearing sunglasses! To which I replied, 'Where are yours then?', which didn't go down very well.
In the 1970s, Michael was in an Irish folk band for a while and they had some very unusual gigs. He remembers fondly the The Groves WMC in Conisbro', South Yorkshire.
It had a superb resident duo and a brilliant audience - it wasn't really like a working men’s club more like a private country club - light and airy and very clean. The resident musicians were very amenable and whenever we played there the drummer would let me use his kit, even when the drummer changed he was still as amenable and we always enjoyed returning there.
Many clubs used to have resident musicians, Ruth notes, but sadly few can afford them anymore. They were always on the entertainment agenda.
Michael recalls ‘another great club, the Red Rose in Burnley Lancashire, the only downside was the enormous staircase one had to negotiate to reach the concert room on the top floor.’
Our first time there we started with our usual up-tempo rock 'n' roll number which went down like a lead balloon, so Dick, the frontman, picked up his fiddle and gave them a taste of some Irish jigs and reels - the place exploded! All we played that night was jigs and reels. When we came back after a few months, Dick tentatively went for the saxophone then picked up his fiddle and it was jigs and reels all night, and we didn't have to buy any drinks!
Whilst on the topic of ‘great clubs’, Michael remembers the Wosbro' Dale in Sheffield but the only resident drummer was one of the committee who openly admitted he wasn’t exactly skilled in the art. (At least he had a go! ) But all in all, not bad club.
A club with a dressing room which was an adjoining garage with an earth floor and snow blowing through the door.
Another with a dressing room two feet wide and with an electric cable running down the whole length of it.
Several clubs where the man on the door tried, vainly, to get the artists to pay the admission fee.
A club in Sheffield where we were asked to do two numbers then there would be some bingo - then two more numbers and then there would be some more bingo - and so on until 11pm and then were asked to play until whenever!
They never went there again.
Michael has his views about the smoking ban and its effects on clubs.
‘One thing I would like to say about the dreaded smoking ban; even though I do not now smoke, I think it would have been possible to set aside a smoking room for those who didn't want to stand outside in the cold and wet and still be able to enjoy the entertainment.’
Thanks for the memories Michael and good luck with your local entertaining.
Ruth Cherrington, Aug. 24th 2010
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