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SMALL TOWN SATURDAY NIGHT
THE CHARITY DANCE REVIEW
STARRING JOHN LEYTON and THE FLAMES.

[ photo taken during rehearsals. ]

On Thursday May 15, 2008 the Victoria Theatre in Halifax, West Yorkshire played host to the first ever charity dance organised for the Calderdale Hospital Radio Charity. The charity has broadcast to the patients of the local hospitals for over 26 years and the dance was arranged following the success of the book Small Town Saturday Night - Pop Music Memories Of Halifax In The Sixties, by Trevor Simpson. Trevor is the president of the Hospital Radio and all net proceeds from his book are going to the charity.

Over 350 enthusiastic dancers, many dressed in their finest authentic sixties outfits, danced the night away to those great nostalgic numbers from the heyday of British popular music. Many ladies had on their full skirts and net petticoats with stockings and suspenders in evidence as they were twirled around the floor by the equally elegant men. Brothel creeper shoes, luminous coloured socks along with the customary drainpipe trousers and Edwardian style jackets for the fellas brought the memories flooding back to those long gone dancing days at the Victoria Theatre.

Two local warm up bands, reformed specially for the night (Dino and The Travellers and Tree) who, along with Halifax Rock 'N' Roll Club DJ, Derrick Jackson kept the dancers on their feet until the stars of the show took to the stage around 10.00pm. The Flames were nothing short of outstanding with their authentic sixties sound and the instrumentals done in Shadows style, had the crowd open-mouthed in admiration. The rocking numbers, such as the Carl Perkins song Matchbox filled the dance floor with twirling skirts and jiving gents who were keen to have a great time and enjoy the quality musicianship of this perfect sounding group. Their professionalism throughout the set was exemplary with witty announcements and the perfectly chosen song selection ensuring that the dance floor was full throughout their set. The introduction of the star of the show, John Leyton, was done with great humour and the theme to the movie The Great Escape.

John walked onto the stage to a great reception, wearing black leather trousers and jacket over a frilly lilac shirt, as he belted out Shout Shout (Knock Yourself Out) followed by the Ricky Nelson song Hello Mary Lou. His stage presence was electrifying as he fronted the quality backing provided by The Flames. Was it James Burton on lead guitar for Hello Mary Lou or the same John Burleigh lead guitarist of The Flames who had done the Hank Marvin lead guitar on the earlier Shadows numbers? The sound and mixing of John's voice with the backing was perfection and the hour spent at the afternoon sound check to get John's voice just above the backing was all worthwhile. The crowd loved John's versions of the Johnny Burnette songs Dreamin' and You're Sixteen which along with Poetry In Motion and the Everly Brothers song Walk Right Back were all very well delivered with the consummate easy of a top class showman. The leather jacket was discarded half way through the hour set as the Gene Vincent (another black leather pants performer!) song Say Mama and Buddy Holly's Oh Boy had the Yorkshire jivers working up a sweat on the well sprung dance floor.

The original Joe Meek produced hits for John Leyton were also given authentic treatment as Wild Wind, Son This Is She and Johnny Remember Me were all delivered, as expected, to the Halifax faithful. Of course it was the big number one from the summer of 1961, Johnny Remember Me that was the show stopper and the song that everyone was singing as they made their way home. A lovely interlude by John was the tip of the hat towards the musical television adverts of sixties, where he sang the first line and the audience responded with the punch line - "You'll wonder were the yellow went" sang John, with the audience completing the advert with "When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent!" John Collier, Shell, and Esso Blue all got the same treatment! John's humorous stories of working with Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra and his meeting with Elvis all gave added value to the evening and the crowd's appreciation of the sixties icon. The standing ovation after Johnny Remember Me was well deserved and after a rocking version of the Frankie Ford hit Sea Cruise, he was gone. The cries after the concert for more shows of this sort were endorsed with letters to the Halifax Courier newspaper in the week after the concert and through John Leyton and The Flames manager, Steve Etherington; you can bet your boots (or brothel creepers!) that a repeat will be on the cards for 2009.

From the moneymaking angle for the Hospital Radio Charity, almost 4000 was raised and many photographs of John and the Flames in action are on the website www.radiocalderdale.org.uk with the Halifax Rock And Roll Club www.halifax-rocknroll.co.uk also putting photographs on their site. The book by Trevor Simpson of Small Town Saturday Night Volume One is still available at www.smalltownsaturdaynight.co.uk and Volume Two is currently in production, featuring more unpublished photographs and memorabilia on John Leyton plus many more artists (including a large feature on Joe Meek related performers) and will be available before Christmas 2008.

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