I was so excited to be cataloguing the programmes for the Ardwick Hippodrome. I had heard so much about it from my parents and my aunts and uncles. I was especially looking forward to seeing famous names on the programmes.
I was surprised to see that it was originally called the Ardwick Empire and was built in 1904, it was a music hall with a good variety of acts. In 1935 its name was changed to the Ardwick Hippodrome when Sir Oswald Stoll took it over. It has been a real nostalgia trip for me to be able to see these stars names in the programmes and imagine them performing.
The programmes are so interesting for the number of novelty acts they had and also the very many famous people who appeared there. In 1928 Gracie Fields was on the bill and in 1934 Dinah Sheridan, the famous actress starred as Peter Pan in Panto when she was only 14 years old.
In the 1930’s its array of stars were so numerous, it was amazing to discover that Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli who later became world famous as jazz musicians, Hughie Green, Lupino Lane, Max Wall, Noel Purcell, Charlie Chester, Larry Adler and our own Coronation Street star, Betty Driver all appeared there. Betty as most people know went on to become as ‘Betty Turpin’, famous for her hotpots in the Rover’s return.In the programme in 1938 it says ‘A cute and clever kiddie in an irresistibly attractive act’!
In the 1940’s again another array of stars in the making include, Dickie Henderson Jnr, Joan Turner (singer and comedienne), Albert Modley, ‘Monsewer’ Eddie Grey, Bill Waddington ( he later appeared in Coronation Street as Percy Sugden and another bit of trivia about him was that in real life he was married to ‘The Chuckle Brothers’ sister!), Billy Cotton and his band (Wakey! Wakey!), Tommy Trinder, Nat Jackley, Jimmy Edwards, George Formby, George Robey and Arthur Worsley (the ventriloquist) So far I have only catalogued the programmes up to 1952 and in those two years another group of future stars appeared, the most fascinating one was Julie Andrews who appeared as a singer in 1951 when she was just 16, how amazing is that!!
Others were Joe Gladwin who later became the voice of the Hovis bread ad and a star in ‘Last of the Summer Wine’; Bela Lugisti appeared in ‘Dracula’, a part he had played in the movie; Webster Booth and Anne Zeigler; The Ray Ellington Quartet, Benny Hill, Jimmy Wheeler, Alfred Marks, Dorothy Squires. I am so excited at the prospect of find more famous people from my parents’ era and my childhood.
In 1954 the theatre had the most amazing artistes, too numerous to mention them all but here are a few; – Peter Sellers and Michael Bentine were on the same bill as Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson, who were top of the bill. Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson represented the uk in the Eurovision song contest in 1960.
Morcambe and Wise were bottom of the bill, as was Ken Dodd. Al Martino came over from America and performed there as did Alma Cogan. Another memorable act was Wilson, Keppel and Betty who were famous for their sand dance which I remember my father demonstrating to me. Finally Johnny Dankworth and his band with Cleo Laine played there. What a wonderful array of artistes in one year.
In 1955 There were Sunday concerts held there, which mainly featured Jazz Bands, amongst them Ronnie Scott, Johnny Dankworth, Chris Barber and Lonnie Donegan and George Melly, a true mix of Modern and Trad Jazz and Skiffle. Wow!! Amongst the comedians that appeared in that year who eventually gained fame were Frankie Howard, Harry Worth, Mike and Bernie Winters. What great days.
In 1956 Mel Torme took the place by storm and if you have not heard him sing go and listen to him on Youtube. Other American to tread the boards there were Beatrice Reading and The Inkspots. Our very own Frankie Vaughan, Bruce Forsyth and Larry Grayson, famous for his catch phrase ‘Shut that door!!’ when he hosted the Generation Game. Other famous stars to appear in 1956 were Petula Clark, Roy Castle, Don Lang, Eddie Calvert and Marian Ryan. An unusual show that was on in 1956 was put on by Paul Raymond (of Raymond’s Revue Bar in London and spend part of his childhood in Glossop), it was a Glamourous Revue with nudes!!
In 1957 The famous Cowboy Film Star Tex Ritter appeared as a Country and Western Star. I remember seeing him in films at the Saturday Morning Film’s at my local cinema. Another American to grace the boards at the Hip was Larry Parks who gained fame playing ‘Al Jolson in 2 films, it really didn’t help his career much as he didn’t appear to get much work after that. UK acts to appear in that year were Des O’Connor; main tv magician), David Nixon (the 1st Wilifred Atwell (famous pianist), Andy Stuart (‘Donald where’s your troosers’); Mikki and Griff (Folk singers), Chas McDevitt and Nancy Whiskey (Skiffle and folk group).
In 1958 there were some great acts like ‘Jonny Duncan and the Blue Grass Boys’; Marty Wilde, (one of my many teenage idols) and Terry Dene. Top comedians such as Dick Emery, Mike and Bernie Winters and Frank Carson and an old time music hall act which my parent’s generation loved – Old Mother Riley and Kitty O’Shea.
Wow!! Unfortunately, it was obviously starting to lose its appeal for many acts, perhaps they couldn’t afford them or they didn’t pull the crowds in so Paul Raymond (of Raymond’s Revue Bar) and a bit of trivia about him, he was evacuated to Glossop in the 2nd world war and went to Glossop Grammar School and Arthur Fox who was famous for owning The Glamour Cinema Club, which was next door to his George Street Revue bar in the late 1950’s and early 60’s.
In 1959 one of my all-time favourites was top of the bill, Cliff Richards but not with the Shadows but the Drifters. Apparently his backing group was called the Drifters but the American ‘Drifters’ group decided to sue over the name, so they had to change their name rather quickly. Lastly for that your year the show ‘Me and my girl’ was on at the Hip and starred Lupino Lane and his son Lauri Lupino Lane.
In 1960 the pop impresario Larry Parnes put on a pop show which had an amazing group of acts. Gene Vincent, Eddy Cochrane, Billy Fury, Joe Brown and the Bruvers and last but not least my favourite Georgie Fame. What a show that must have been. Also I forgot that in that year Emile Ford and Adam Faith appeared there. Its funny how the entertainment scene has changed as the years have gone by.
Sadly in April 1961 the Ardwick Hippodrome closed down to be idle for a long time before it started a revival.