Piano playing in Kirkgate pubs

Old, disused, forgotten and converted pubs
John Ramsden
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JoinedCOLON Tue 15 Dec, 2015 4:32 pm

Piano playing in Kirkgate pubs

Postby John Ramsden » Sat 19 Dec, 2015 9:13 pm

In the early sixties,when I was in my early twenties, I played piano part time in Leeds City centre pubs. Pubs always had a drummer to accompany the pianist. We used to play standard evergreen songs, that everyone knew , most of the time, plus the latest pop songs as soon a The sheet music was printed and released. The most popular songs were Beatles numbers or songs by Tom Jones or Engelbert Humperdink. The pub customers would get up to sing Tom Jones numbers such as Delilah, It s Not Unusual, or The Green Green Grass of Home. They would sing Engelbert songs such as Release me or There goes My Everything. Or they would sing Beatles numbers such as I Wanna Hold Your Hand or Twist and Shout. However , the most popular song at the time that customers wanted to sing was The Wedding, recorded in 1964 by Julie Rogers. The words, "You by my side......" We're sung to the tune of Schubert's Ave Maria. Anyone getting married around that time had this song played at their wedding.

When I played at The Star and Garter at the Corn Exchange, customers would race to be the first one to sing The Wedding or Tom Jones songs and two or three customers, one a middle aged prostitute, one a normal guy, and one an Italian type opera singer who used to get down on his knees as part of his performance, used to dash in and say, "Has so and so been in yet?"

After a stint at The Star and Garter, I performed round the corner, down the road, at The Mucky Duck, (Black Swan). This pub had a music room upstairs with a stage. My outstanding memory of the pub was a group of lesbians who were regulars. They dressed mainly a bit butch, not very feminine, except for one who was beautiful, very feminine and looked like Marilyn Monroe. On of them would get up on stage and sing, "They Tried To tell Me I'm a Man" to the tune of, "They Try To Tell Us We're too Young". Another regular was a worker from the Leeds Market nearby, who sang My Old Man's a Dustman".

Later I played a few weeks at The Golden Cock on Kirkgate. The Golden Cock effigy is still in existence at the edge of the roof at the front of the building. The premises below, became a disco pub renamed The precinct for a stint of about ten years. It is now a shop, Superdrug.

For a period, I took up position of resident pianist at The Robin Hood pub on Vicar Lane. While I was there the police were trying to clamp down on prostitutes frequenting the pub. The landlord was obliged to impose a rule that prostitutes had to leave the pub after they had been there 15 minutes. After 15 minutes he would have to shout out the client's name saying that their time was up. It reminded me of when we used to take out paddle boats , when were kids, on Roundhay Park small lake, and the boatman used to shout out to us to bring the boat in. I believe the 15 minute rule for prostitutes was also imposed on The Star and Garter.

After that I took up residency as pub pianist at The a Palace, next door to the Parish Church, Kirkgate. The drummer who accompanied me there loved me to play Wipeout, recorded in 1963 by the Surfaris, so that he could play a long drum solo. We played Wipeout four or five times a night and the drummer would play long drum solos while I broke off for a drink. The Palace , at that time, was a traditional basic town centre pub but now it has been transformed into one of the smartest and most popular real ale pubs in Leeds.

There is one pub in The Kirkgate area, actually on the road named Kirkgate,in which I have never had the privilege of performing. This was The Brougham Arms, commonly known as The Brooms. The singers who used to race each other to be the first ones to sing The Wedding or Tom Jones songs, at The Star and Garter, also frequented The Brooms. They would dash into The Star or The Brooms to see if their competitors had got there first. This pub is still in existence, it is a popular rea ale pub now called The Duck and Drake. John Ramsden
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Re: Piano playing in Kirkgate pubs

Postby Bruno » Sat 19 Dec, 2015 9:35 pm

Very interesting recollections John, thanks for posting.
The older I get, the better I was.
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JoinedCOLON Mon 27 Jan, 2014 4:54 pm

Re: Piano playing in Kirkgate pubs

Postby j.c.d. » Mon 21 Dec, 2015 11:19 am

Regarding John's playing In the Palace, Kirkgate, in the very early 60s there was a Piano player who used to sing and play Jerry Lee Lewis numbers. I believe he was resident there on weekends. as I worked round the corner in Cross York Street we used to go in there at lunchtimes One young lad who came with us was called Jeff Christie, he used to bring his guitar and practice.I thought he was he was bloody awful...... only made the record "Yellow River" which sales ran into millions around the world. "Christie"

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