The Coventry Nightspot Where Crowds Danced to Rock Legends; YOUR Nostalgia ROCK Fan Pete Clemons Recalls When the Locarno/ Tiffany's Put Coventry on the Map as a Major Music Venue and a Must-Play for Big Name Bands. Pete, Who Is Compiling a History of the City's Music Scene, Recalls When the Building Rocked from the 60s to the 80s during Its Pre-Library Days
THE recent death of Donald 'Duck' Dunn, bass player for Booker T and the MG's, had me casting my mind back and reminiscing about one of Coventry's major dance halls - The Locarno/Tiffany's.
The link, as tenuous as it is, being the fact that for a time Booker T's hit record 'Time is Tight' would welcome in the beginning of another night of dancing and frivolity at the venue.
For those too young to remember, The Locarno was the nightspot in the city centre that operated from the upstairs room where the main Coventry library now is. However, you didn't enter it via the doorway that now exists. The entrance was at the bottom of a tall glass atrium type tower that once stood in the centre of Smithford Way. It was linked to the main building at top floor level by a glazed bridge cum walkthrough.
This old dance hall is arguably as important of any venue Coventry has ever had. Over the years the list of live acts that appeared there, whether it is visiting the city or a local band, quite simply reads like a who's who of British music. The history is quite staggering and I can only touch on it here.
The Locarno was run by the Mecca Leisure Group who, during the 1960s and 70s, were at the forefront of the entertainment industry in the UK. They ran clubs and bingo halls up and down the country and staged TV programmes such as Come Dancing and Miss World. At their peak they owned 80+ similar dance halls. The group opened the Locarno in Coventry during August 1960 and, despite a name change in the mid 1970s to Tiffany's, continued to operate through to May 1981.
Initially it staged regular Friday and Saturday dances led by the big bands such as the Harry Gray Orchestra but it did not take long for the then popular jazz and 'pop' acts to jump on board with early one off concerts by Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, Shane Fenton and Screaming Lord Sutch.
For the majority of its 20 years The Locarno was, in the main, a dance hall but it did play host to and is widely remembered for numerous and some quite legendary events. One such event was held on October 22 1966 when John Mayalls Bluesbreakers, I assume with lead guitarist Peter Green who had earlier that year replaced Eric Clapton, along with Ronnie Jones and the Blue Jays held what was thought to be Coventry's first 'all nighter' at the venue. Although that had indeed been an all night event I can safely say it was not the first. Five years earlier, on Friday May 19 1961 The Clyde Valley Stompers, a New Orleans styled jazz band from Glasgow played an event that ended not long before the shops opened on the following Saturday morning.
The rest of the 1960s also saw The Locarno build a rich history of one off concerts as the likes of The Who, The Small Faces, The Yardbirds, Manfred Mann, Ike and Tina Turner and many many others all appeared there.
This rich vein of talent kept coming as the 1970s continued where the 60s left off by staging concerts by rock bands such as Pink Floyd, Slade, Mott the Hoople, Judas Priest, Hawkwind and Led Zeppelin. …