The original building was a railway stock building and is still situated adjacent to The East Lanc's Heritage Railway stop, at Rawtenstall, the line that used to run from Bury to Bacup. Oh! Happy days the Saturday night train to Rawtenstall an and the Astoria Ballroom .
Prior to the formation of the the Jazz Club the upper part of the building was occupied by John Ashworths Co Hurstwood Delevopments and the lower part became vacant. John Ashworth had a recording studio at his home and a number of musicians recorded there including the band WINGS. The two founder members John Ashworth and Alan Greenhalgh where friends as they Both ran successful company's in the area.
I don't know who came up with the idea for a club but Alan Greenhalgh was at the forefront Of the concept and indeed his company J.J. Ormerod did the refurbishment nessesary to Complete the opening in April 1997. The original concept was a Ronnie Scotts of the North however JOHN DANKWORTH & CLEO LANE where asked to open the club but Alan thought them to exspensive and settled on the group THE ANIMALLS. I did not attend this concert as I was not yet aware of the club at this time. I live some 9 miles from Rawtenstall and had not been there since the 50'S and the Astoria ballroom days .The Astoria & The Queens pub both had Live jazz on. The Astoria big band led by Jimm Hayworth it was a great outfit with some noteable members in the band Brian Duff, Jack Howarth, Alan Thacker Jimmy Holt. They did win the Meloday Maker big band competition at BELL VUE .The prize presented by Johnny Dankworth as he was known then.The QUEENS PUB had a reular jazz night with local muscians and the occasional guests, I do remember seeing Ian Carr &Don Rendal there So the seeds for jazz where already sown for a long awaited jazz club.
An advert in my local paper caught my attention a tribute to GENE KRUPA with a host of jazz stars on the night. If my memory serves me right they included ROY WILLIAMS, BRUCE ADAMS ,LENNY SKEET ,VAL WISEMAN AND MAYBE ALAN BARNES. I did attend that gig, I had known Roy WILLIAMS since the nineteen fifty’s when we both frequented a Bolton jazz club called CLUB CHANO. I had just finished my national service and he was about to start his. Sadly lost touch for many years but met up with him in the nineteen seventies, another gap until the mentioned gig in the 90’s at the RHYTHM STATION. These where special weekend gigs the last one was with GEORGE MELLY and the feet Warmers. George was not in the best of health and sat down until his turn to sing, he sprang up as if energised by jump leads, then sat down just as quick at the end of his chorus. He joked the last time he was in this locality the fields where full of soot. Back then at the club you could have a meal like "chicken in a basket" as they did have their own chef.
Later during the latter part of the 1990's Sunday became a jam night led by TONY THORPE the guitarist from the RUBETTES. Great talented and enthusiastic guys formed the regular band and encouraged who ever had the courage to jump up on the stage to join them. This Sunday night event ran for a good few years very succesfully and really was a great chance for musicians who needed to gain confidence on a stage. The club really was appriciatted by all who attended on these nights. There are even some surviving recordings from the sound desk from a few of these nights and we will put some on here soon.
photo "Jam Band" with Tony, Bert, Mike and Stewart
After the jam night years came to an end I started A Sunday night BIG BAND NIGHT THIS DID NOT TURN OUT TO WELL .YOU CAN’T WIN them all……..
A friend of my son told me that there was now jazz on at the club on Tuesday night, I went along, and the rest is history as they say.
The jazz night was run by Tommy Melville Tenor Sax aided by Dennis Feedman piano,
Ken Marley bass and Jim Scaiffe drums. Tommy had previously run jazz clubs in Blackpool and Ashton u. Lyne with different quartets, he along with a host of musicians from the U.K. & U.S.A.
He knew several jazz musicians who were only to eager to appear at his venues.
I don’t know if Tommy was poached from the Broad-Oak at Ashton or not but
Alan Greenhalgh managed to persuade him to put jazz on Tuesday nights. I soon got know Tommy quite well and he asked me to help with the publicity, that involved sending
BIO’S to the press, Jazz Uk, and C.FAX as it was known then, they intern placed them in the
National press like THE TELEGRAFF THE DAILY MIRROR. Sometimes they would choose the RHYTHM STATION as pick of the week which could improve numbers for that evening.
Local press was covered by both MANCHESTER EVENING AND BOLTON EVENING NEWS.Criss Lee M.EN and Fred Shawcross B.E.N. Chris Lee was a regular attendant at the club and always gave an honest review of the night, and what great nights and superb guests
"A who's who of jazz".
Tommy booked most of the artists by personal contact he was not to keen on agents as they didtend to up the fee and Tom liked to barter with the musicians, he would differentiate between what he describe as local and others eg London based. Tommy had a tendency to
book individual musicians to play with the house quartet which meant he could sit in with the guest, he did book a lot of saxophone players.
When tommy wanted a night off he would ask me to book a big band or a small group, there were a few local big bands to choose from THE NORTHERN JAZZ ORCH MARK GILBANKS BIG BAND,SHADES OF KENTON(NOW S.K.2. )
SOUNDS 18, GENTLEMEN OF JAZZ AND BLACKPOOL BIG BAND I also had contact with some of the U.S.A. College bands like ELMHURST COLLEGE USA & THE SOUTH FLORIDA university.
They would have been on cultural tours of Europe and they cost us very little as they were supported By the U.S.A government usually around 15-20 musicians and their tutors, they always went down well all they required was a drum kit and refreshments.
As you can see the list is extensive and amongst them the Tommy Melville Quartet, the main stay of the club The original four where.. DENNIS FREEDMAN Piano / JIM SCAIFE Drums / KEN MARLEY
Bass. We had many bass players over the yeas they came and went, I think the longest serving was our LOOSE TUBE Man Steve Berry and even he could not change his night when we moved to the Chambers. He has a very busy work schedule teaching at R.N.C.M. L.I.P. & Cheat hams school of music.
We then had a succession of bass players Frank Grimes, Edd Harrison, Nick Blacka who all played the Cricket Club & the Chamber each and every one contributing to the clubs reputation.
Other pianists where also required to accommodate the special needs of some of the visiting musicians. I had the good fortune to be able to call on superb pianists even at short notice the likes of Richard Wetherall, Chris Holmes, George King, Paul Killvington , they were all equal to the task.
The only reason DENNIS FREEDMMAN did not play on these occasions was the fact that Dennis was visually impaired if they would have sent the parts up to Dennis He and they would have had no problem at all, Dennis had the ability to cope with anything they could throw at him, in fact most of the U.S. MUSICIANS loved Dennis as did all the regulars that attended the club.
I recall BUD SHANK Sitting onstool with Dennis captivated by his technique. I equally recall BUD’S wife asking me who is this (shanks ) that Tommy kept announcing , when I told Her they made sanitary ware she was not overly impressed to say the least.
Dennis and wife PIA where a remarkable couple, they never ceased to amaze me with their courage
and determination and above all their wicked sense of humour.
Dennis had an unfortunate accident whilst he was cooking at home; he suffered severe burns and was not able to play for several weeks. I organised a benefit night for him we raised almost £1000
Less the catering cost for the night this was a pot pie supper. The management declined to pay for this saying we have paid him every week. On the other hand Alan Greenhalgh would pay for a table
For 8-10 people at a cost of £1200 and invite regulars at the club free of charge. This was THE SWINGING JAZZ PARTY AT THE HILTON BLACKPOOL. Alan was a friend of TOM BARRON who put this event on for several year with a fantastic line up of U.S. & U.K. JAZZ STARS during the May bank holiday.
Dennis’s wife PIA was literally the driving force behind him she would drive him to & from gigs in their specially adapted van the reason for this was because PIA had been involved in a horrific car accident some years before and had lost her lower limbs.” Now that’s one hell of a woman”
Dennis and Pia
This gave me the opportunity to speak and invite some of the U.S. GUYS to play the rhythm Station.
Most had to return to the states but some stayed to tour the UK- EUROPE .The likes of Ken PEPLOSKI Warren Varcha Marty Grosz Randi Sanki Houston Person Beccy killgore Dan Barret
all played the R/Station. Sadly I did not manage to persuade DICK HYMAN JAKE HANNA
BOB CRANSHAW and EDD METZ because of their commitments.
During our time at the Rhythm Station there where many alterations to the club for example
At least three carpets the reason for this was that jazz was only on two nights at the most, the
rest of the week the club was invaded with a younger audience who did not seem to care how they treated the club .Cig ends and beer all over the place, our lovely white Yamaha piano had two protective covers to stop thoughtless people causing damage, I think Alan played in the region of £16000 for it .To have a baby grand was an asset and a bonus for the pianists who played the club.
Refurbishments where carried out without too much disruption to our jazz nights but sometimes not quite finished. I remember a visit by GEOF EALES his drummer Mark Fletcher said it’s the first time to play on a building site. A new stone floor and a back drop of breeze block. It does not get better than that. No more complaints about sticking to the floor.
I think that the largest refurbishment was the removal of the main stage to convert to a ladies cloakroom and toilet . Throughout the full term of the club we had a general manager MARTIN SHAWCROSS, he and his staff where superb, Martin himself was a musician so I had a great relationship with him. He would go out of his way to accommodate our needs especially out of hours sound checks, raffle prizes and the setting up of sound equipment and operating the sound desk from his hideaway above the bar and even I am glad to say not on JAZZ NIGHTS the man who could evict awkward customers in fact an all-round great guy ( Thanks Martin )
Tommy and I continued to work together he began to rely on me more than eve he himself was not in the best of health and suffered several T.I.A’s mild strokes but he continued to font the quartet. We had a core number of people that attended the club on regular basis most of which lived
some distance from the club some travelled as far away as Lancaster and Liverpool, very few from the immediate locality. The club had a great atmosphere and a deep respect for the musicians who played the club. Some said it was like an extended family everybody new one another by their first names and I made many friends that continued long after the club closed and still see at gigs we attend. This is testament to the character of the fans of this great music called JAZZ!