The arrow points to the Waldorf Hotel.
The car park below is the site of the now
demolished Blue Note Club
- Gore Street in 1963. The building that housed the Bluenote can be seen next to the Willams Deacon Bank. Picture courtesy of Manchester Library©
the beginning …
The Blue Note Club, Manchester was a Soul / mod Club quite close to the Whitworth Street Twisted Wheel. It was located on Gore Street, right next door to the Waldorf Hotel which until recently was the home of the Hideaway Club which played R ‘n B as well as classic sixties soul. The Hideaway moved to The Deansgate Hotel before going into permanent retirement. Makes you wonder if there was something in the air on Gore Street. The club was demolished many years ago and has been reassigned as a car park – not the most exciting developments of urban renewal we have encountered. The Waldorf Hotel, however, where many of the club members used to pop after having got their pass out stamp on their wrists, is still flourishing, more or less unscathed with one or two internal alterations.
The legend runs that originally The Blue Note Club was owned by Alex Fogel and was a drinking den and gambling joint in the late fifties and early sixties. The drinks licence was lost to no one’s surprise and Alex’s daughter, the robust and formidable Debbie decided to reopen it as a soul club after stealing the Twisted Wheel’s veteran DJ, Roger Eagle by the simple device of paying him more money. Debbie managed to get the drinks licence back before emigrating to Australia with Mike the bouncer.
Debbie deserves her own biography but this is all we’ve got at the present. I remember two incidents with Debbie. One was when she asked me to take off my fedora (Elliot Ness was big among mods at the time but we had no conception of when wearing a hat was appropriate, ie, never!) and the other was when I decided to talk to her at the same time as drinking a pint of Guinness. Needless to say, the Guinness left a nasty stain on my Tonik mohair (biscuit was the colour) which never left it.
John Fogel then took over the family business as well as doing his day job as a loss adjuster. This man was the last word in cool at the time. In fact, the Bluenote Club was the coolest club in Manchester for a fairly brief period.
Johnny’s French girlfriend Vivienne (how cool was that?) basically ran the show with Johnny mainly walking about in his cool white suit, smoking black Russian cigarettes and talking in a Mockney accent. For the car enthusiasts among you, Johnnie drove an metallic oyster Ford Corsair two litre GT, followed by a metallic blue Alvis which fitted with his cool image. My own small part in the story centres around the fact that I used to print the membership cards and so never had to pay admission. To be honest, I don’t think many people did.
DJs Dave Lomas and Dave Phillips inside The Blue Note DJ booth, circa 1967, obviously before it lost its drinks licence
The club also became the headquarters of another John Fogel’s business ventures, Balfodem Management group which looked after such luminaries as The Famous Watson Browne Band and the singer Leicester Montrose. The other partners were Nicky Balcombe and the infamous Pat Dempsey (ex Ivan’s Meads) who allegedly ran off with the company’s money, as well as the DJ’s girlfriend (sorry Dave).
Not totally sure what happened in the end. The drinks licence was lost – not sure why. The club was attacked on several occasions by disgruntled would-be members who appeared to want the whole night to be devoted to Bluebeat and Ska. A bunch of `gentlemen’ turned up every night in the end period of the club’s existence who could well have been understudies for the film `The Ladykillers’. The only name we can remember was Louis who appeared to have a wooden leg as well as a cauliflower ear. The trouble on the door certainly diminished after they arrived on the scene but may be their presence led to the problem of the licence renewal (this is speculative) as they were possibly related to the notorious `Quality Street Gang’ – Manchester’s own Mafia in the fifties and sixties. Names like Jim Swords were bandied about and Alan Tottoh the boxer made an occasional appearance.
One night John took us to a new club for a drink and a talk about the club’s future. The club was the Avenida situated off Albert Square, Manchester and now the home of the excellent Croma Restaurant. His new idea to secure the club’s future was to run all nighters on a Saturday night. We didn’t think this would succeed as all our friends who used to go the Twisted Wheel all nighters had stopped and moved on. Besides, clubs such as Time and Place had arrived with massive investment, several bars and dance floors and the whole disco movement had just begun.
The last time we saw John Fogel was in the New Grapes pub on Quay Street, Manchester in 1971 where he suggested a trip to Paris to visit the girls who worked behind the bar. As I was out with my future wife, this idea wasn’t I goer and I had to decline the offer.