By Stuart Whittle

Sixty years on it is difficult to imagine what a thriving music scene Bolton had in the 1960s and how it played a full part in what became known as the ‘Swinging Sixties’.

Teenagers of that time will now be in their 70s, but I’m sure they will remember what an amazing variety of music was on offer.

This ranged from the big pop star touring shows at the Odeon and Lido to dancing at the Palais, Aspin Hall, Casino and Nevada, to grooving at ‘beat clubs’ like the Beachcomber, Boneyard and La Canva.

Then there was the opportunity to listen to the numerous local groups playing in local church halls – and not forgetting the many local record shops selling the latest vinyl records (and providing listening booths) and coffee bars with their iconic jukeboxes. Does anyone remember the Casablanca?

The Bolton News: Dancers 'groovin' at the Dungeons in Bolton

Did you see any of the touring shows? Can you recall the excitement of seeing the likes of Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Duane Eddy, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Del Shannon- in Bolton of all places?

Riding on the back of these, was the emergence of the town centre clubs which were following a trend started in Liverpool with the Cavern and in Manchester by the Twisted Wheel. Remarkably, you could see top British and American recording stars in the Beachcomber ‘dungeons’ on both Saturday and Wednesday nights.

Van Morrison, The Who, Lulu, Herman’s Hermits, the Four Pennies, the Spencer Davis Group, Manfred Mann, John Lee Hooker, the Drifters, the Graham Bond Organisation and Steam Packet (featuring Rod Stewart) were just some of the dozens of famous names to appear there.

The Beachcomber was the ‘brainchild’ of Eddie Grindrod, Norman Clements and Eric Eckersley who saw a gap in the market for a ‘teens club’ which combined a coffee bar on the ground floor (it didn’t have a drinks licence) and a music venue in the basement.

On group nights, there could be hundreds of people packed in there and I shudder to think what would have happened if there had been a fire as there was no means of escape other than up the narrow staircase!

It’s worth noting that the Top Storey Club fire had killed 19 people only a few year earlier in 1961 in premises just opposite the Beachcomber in Bank Street.

The Bolton News: Eddie Grindrod and Norman Clements with  Paul Jones and the Crystals at the Dungeons

Sadly, Eddie Grindrod is now no longer with us, but in 2015 he wrote extensively in the Bolton News about his ‘clubland’ experiences in Bolton which included three transformations of the Bank Street premises into the Beachcomber, the Cromwellian and finally Maxwell’s Plum.

He was also behind the Empress Club in Mealhouse Lane and Hawthorn’s on Spa Road.

As a member of one of Bolton’s leading groups at the time, the Invictors, I would like to thank Eddie and his colleagues for what they did for the Bolton music scene back then. We were privileged to play at the Beachcomber many times and the atmosphere was always electric.

The Bolton News: The Invictors

As teenagers (most of us still at school), we were amazed that, in a few short years, we could go from playing in church halls, to the Palais, Nevada and a range of Bolton clubs, then to Manchester clubs like the Twisted Wheel and Oasis and finally to being second on the bill at major theatres to the likes of the Hollies, Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders, the Merseybeats and Johnny Kidd & the Pirates (who we played with shortly before he was killed in a car crash on the outskirts of Bolton in 1964).

Such was the rapidly expanding nature of the music scene back in the 60s – they were exciting times!

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be many photographs of the good times people enjoyed at the Bolton clubs in the 1960s. However, there are two editions of the Bolton Beat Scene which was produced by two girls, Aileen and Terry, at the Beachcomber in 1964. The photos in this article come from those publications.

The Bolton News: Herman’s Hermits meet fans at The Beachcomber in Bolton

Looking at today’s music scene, I would say we were privileged to be part of the ‘Swinging Sixties’, when a town like Bolton was very much part of the new and vibrant music scene.

The Bolton News: Front cover of the Bolton Beat Scene magazine, 1964

The opportunities are certainly there for today’s teenagers to make music, but there don’t seem to be anything like the number of the live music venues available where they can develop their talent and feel the thrill of playing live – there is nothing like it!

Do you have any memories of the music scene in Bolton in the 1960s? If you have any photos of the clubs from the Sixties or the bands that played there, we’d love to share them with Looking Back readers.

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