Sunday, July 12, 2009
Syncopating Sandy at the New Cross Empire
'Syncopating Sandy' Strickland made his name in the 1950s as an endurance piano player, travelling the country trying to set records for playing the piano without a break. One of the venues he used was the New Cross Empire music hall, situated in Deptford Broadway opposite Addy & Stanhope school (pictured below in 1910).
According to Gramophone (August 1974) 'Sandy Strickland, was a non-stop piano player in the barbaric days of marathon dancers and other bizarre feats of endurance. Strickland would book the New Cross Empire from 9 am on a Monday through to 11 pm on the Saturday, during which time he would play the piano without stopping—no sleep, and being fed at the keyboard. The audience came and went as they pleased, and by Saturday they could be standing in the aisles'.
Linda Neesham recalls: 'the New Cross Empire... was demolished in about 1960 and I think a garage now stands in its place. In about 1959 I saw one of the last, if not the last, act to appear there. He was called Syncopating Sandy and he was trying to set a new endurance record for piano playing. He went on for days and it was free just to wander in and sit and watch him for a while. Screens were pulled round periodically for normal functions to be carried out!'
Strickland apparently died in 1975, 11 years after his last public appearance 'in Hampshire, in 1964, when he played non-stop for 132 hours'.