Thursday, July 14, 2016

'Dig that Crazy Beat' - Friday night at The Savoy in Catford, 1960

From the Daily Mirror, 1 October 1960:

'The Mirror drops in for a night out at The Savoy in Catford SE6'

'from Dixon Scott, Catford, Friday Night'

'Lots of hugging - but no kissing! Tell her you love her - but no kissing! Ask her to marry you as you whirl around the dance hall - but no kissing! I dropped in tonight on Britain's unique youth club - the Savoy Social Club, Catford, London SE6. And that name, borrowed unashamedly from the famous hotel in the Strand, sets the tone of this club. 

Apart from the no kissing rule (which surely applies to the Savoy Hotel) the boys must wear a jacket and tie (which they would have to do in the Savoy Hotel, anyway)...tonight is night of the Annual dance. In the main ballroom, where Bobby Johnson and his Orchestra are playing, most of the 600 couples are dancing... dancing... dancing. Downstairs in a smaller, intimate Number Two ballroom, the rest of the Annual Dance's guests "get with it"

The club was originally an ordinary money-making commercial dance hall. Below it was a billiard hall. Five years ago the dance hall owner, Mr Christopher Reynolds thought "What a good youth club this would make". He put his thought into action. The billiards hall was taken over... Listen to Councillor Alfred Hawkins, a former mayor of the borough of Lewisham, which includes Catford:

"We as a council are pleased with this place. So are the police. And any mother knows she can send her daughters her - safely". What a testimonial'.


'Dig that crazy beat! Some of the hop-happy folk swing right into a good time at the club's dance'


Emile Ford, who moved to London from Saint Lucia in the 1950s, had a massive hit with his band (Emile Ford and the Checkmates) in 1959, with their version of  "What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?" staying at the top of the UK singles chart for six weeks.

The upstairs at the Savoy later became known as The Witchdoctor (from October 1965) with bands who played there including The Who (April 1966), The Creation (April 1967) The Skatalites (three times in 1967), Jimmy Cliff (May 1968) and Marmalade (in 1967 and 68) - the excellent Garage Hangover has a long list.

The downstairs was also known for a period as  Mr Smiths, scene of an infamous fight between members of the rival Kray and Richardson gangs in 1966 which left Kray associate Richard Hart shot dead at the back of the club.



(photo of the Savoy ballroom from Alamy)


The site of the former Savoy today, 75 Rushey Green

See earlier post on Mods in South London which has lots of great discussion about this and other venues from that time.

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