Showing the bigger picture of small town Saturday nights

THEY might have been from Brighouse, but that wouldn't stop Shirley Crabtree - better known as British wrestling superstar Big Daddy - from announcing a beat group live on stage in Todmorden as "direct from the U.S." in the 60s!

Calderdale's famous wrestling family were among the major promoters of live beat music in the 1960s and feature heavily in Trevor Simpson's superb studies of the decade's music and dancehalls in Halifax, Small Town Saturday Night, the second volume of which has just been issued.

Trevor says the Big Daddy anecdote was one told to him by a former group member promoted by the Crabtrees, who may have occasionally been billed as a group "formerly backing Bobby Darin, from the U.S."

Having been a fan and DJ, among other things, Trevor, from Halifax but well known in the upper Calder Valley either as a DJ at venues including Todmorden Cricket Club or as a local football referee, says the Crabtrees actually laid on some superb Saturday nights of entertainment in Halifax in the 60s, as well as promoting shows throughout the area.

The second volume of Small Town Saturday night has a special feature on them - their venues included Everlys, Big Daddy's, 2+2 Club and The Scene, in addition to other venues such as the Marlborough Hall, the Alexandra Hall, Studio 44, the Princess Ballroom and the venue that took over the Scene premises, Clarence's, featuring another top local promoter, Paul Mountain, who had previously run the town's famous Plebeian (known as "Plebs") jazz club.

It's a book packed with great stories, including the day the Crabtrees brought folk, pop and rock star Donovan to town, the day the Kinks appeared in Halifax when they were the hottest chart property around (they later returned for a couple of dates in the early 1990s) and the stories of two well-intentioned but fairly disastrous rock festivals (more bad luck than bad judgement), at Thrum Hall rugby ground and then at the famous Krumlin Festival, as the 60s turned into the 70s.

The spotlight is placed on one of the most amazing blues musician stories too. Brilliant barrelhouse blues pianist Champion Jack Dupree was raised in the same children's home in New Orleans as Louis Armstrong but chose to settle in Halifax after marrying a Halifax girl

Trevor met Jack, whose car could be seen parked up in Halifax town centre, emblazoned with the gold leaf legend "Champion Jack Dupree - Blues Pianist - of New Orleans, La, USA" on the side once and many years later was trying to hunt down the great B. B. King in Beale Street, Memphis, to gather his recollections on Jack.

B. B. was out of town, but he was directed to a blues record shop. He says: "I was the only white face in there and stood out like a sore thumb, but after telling them I was from Halifax where Champion Jack Dupree had lived, they were fascinated to hear of his time in our town and that B. B. King had visited with Jack during his tours of England."

B. B. King, John Lee Hooker and Eric Clapton all made their way to visit Jack (who died in 1992) at his home in Ovenden. It's an incredible story.

There are pen portraits of many of the acts who appeared at the venues, from local bands fondly recalled to groups like Wimple Winch - probably more highly regarded by freakbeat and psychedelic music collectors now than they were in their heyday - who have grown legendary reputations to the top stars of the day. Trevor says the equivalent would be to get Robbie Williams coming here now. It would be unlikely it would happen, but it did back then. That includes the Jacksons, including Michael.

The book is superbly, lavishly, illustrated with photographs of venues, artists, memorabilia and record label scans. These sections should have fans of music of the era salivating. Much of it is Trevor's own memorabilia and this reviewer can't praise his marshalling of his material high enough.

The book is a rarity in that its local narrative is top notch, a valuable and entertaining slice of our area's social history, which will be enjoyed by anyone who got on the bus and strutted their stuff in the ballrooms of the day in Halifax. And it has enough in it - unpublished photos of people like famous record producer Joe Meek, permission given by the Joe Meek Society, for example - to make it a real page turner for fans of 60s music too.

l Small Town Saturday Night Volume 2 by Trevor Simpson is available from the Bookcase in Market Street, Hebden bridge, and in Todmorden from Lyalls Bookshop on Rochdale Road and from the Border Bookshop on Halifax Road, at 16.95. It's also available to order from Trevor's website www.smalltownsaturdaynight.co.uk. Copies of Volume One are also available from some of the outlets.