The Redcar Jazz Club began as one of many such clubs formed during the jazz boom between the end of the second world war and the 60s. Having started out in a local pub, after a succession of venues it found its final home in the shape of the ballroom at the Coatham Hotel in Redcar, where it stayed until its demise in 1973.
In the 60s, the music promoted gradually changed to what became known as ‘progressive rock’ and began to feature bands from the rapidly expanding rock genre. Many, many bands that were eventually to become rock music icons played there, and it was well known that bands WANTED to play the venue, as the audiences were so good. Since I had always fancied playing guitar, but distinctly didn’t have the drive to study nearly half enough to succeed at this, my obvious next step was to photograph the bands, which I started to do in the mid sixties, and continued to do whenever I was in the area. (In 1967 I began a professional photography course at Blackpool Art College, so wasn’t at home much of the time).
As my photographs eventually came to the notice of the club’s management committee, I was able to enter as a guest of one of the committee members and so get front row seats, and thus the opportunity for great close shots, before the doors opened to the queues of punters waiting patiently outside. In return I gave them prints for display in the foyer. This also led to print sales and thus began my fledgling career as a rock photographer! (I even have the distinction of being given ‘ten bob’ (50p!!) for one of my shots of David Coverdale by the man himself, who was at the time lead singer with local band ‘Government’, before he hit fame and fortune with Deep Purple, etc.
Over the years, I pictured many of the bands that are now household names. My only regret is that I couldn’t afford more films at the time, (I loaded all films from bulk rolls myself, head under the bedclothes, since that was the only darkroom I had!), as I was often allowed into the bands dressing rooms after the gigs to meet them, and could have had many candid images to complement the live shots.
After the club folded in 1973, due in the main to the rising costs of the bands and the onset of the disco boom, my negs languished in my files, only to resurface in the early nineties, for an exhibition I did with Montage Gallery, before I became involved more fully with the gallery. This led to a further exhibition at the local Kirkleatham Hall Museum, curated by Phil Philo, who saw the collection as an important document relating to the area’s social background. The museum also purchased a number of the images to add to their permanent collection, which they display from time to time. To coincide with the exhibition, a book ‘The Redcar Jazz Club and Popular Music 1959 – 1973’ was published, which proved very popular. Copies are still available from this website, but stocks are now extremely limited and it is doubtful it will be reprinted. There is also a range of ten of my rock music images produced as greeting cards, also available from here. (Trade enquiries welcome!!)