'It was a very good year' with ol' Blue Eyes

One of Ken Dodd's bits of doggerel is 'Woman is fickle, give her a tickle. . .'

Sunday, 26th March 2017, 11:00 am
Frank Sinatra - mobbed in '50s in Blackpool

Doddy fans can complete the rhyme.

Everyone else, don’t worry – because this week’s piece is about memory being fickle.

It can be especially fickle among older people.

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Sammy Davis Jnr

A memory slip can lead to an argument.

A few years ago, I was giving my talk about the Blackpool Opera House to a visiting party at the Imperial Hotel. Part of the talk covered the American singers who starred in Sunday shows in the 1950s and questions inevitably led to Frank Sinatra.

For the record, Ol’ Blue Eyes did Sunday concerts there on June 16, 1950, and on July 26, 1953. Two shows on each visit.

One male member of the visiting party recalled that during his honeymoon in Blackpool he had seen Frankie at the theatre.

Sammy Davis Jnr

Quite naturally, I asked him the year. It was 1953.

Having a bank of research at my disposal, I replied: “Yes, he was here in July.”

“It was September,” he replied.

“I’ve got it down as July 26,” said I.

“Are you telling me I don’t know when I got married and what I did on my honeymoon?” the gentleman rapped.

The great Eric Morecambe might have said: “There’s no answer to that,” but as a guest speaker, I detected stormy water ahead and said I would check it.

In 1953, New Jersey-born Frank Sinatra made a seven-week British tour in June and July and returned to America early in August.

The gentleman at the Imperial Hotel could have seen him in another town on his UK tour and the passing of 60 years could have merged the experience with the honeymoon!

All together now – “It was a very good year...”

So what is this preamble all about?

Simply that memory is fickle when we look back 60-odd years.

Who can actually date the visits of the American recording artists who appeared here?

(Note to quizzers: All my research into “who and when” they appeared is available in the local history section at Blackpool Central Library).

The scope of those twice-nightly Sunday concerts, presented by Harold Fielding in the 1950s, can be seen in the list below.

In most cases, they topped a bill of four or five individual acts.

Guy Mitchell heads the list – with seven Opera House visits.

Al Martino and Billy Daniels were each there six times, Frankie Laine five, Johnnie Ray and Billy Eckstein four.

There were two visits each by Vic Damone, Connie Francis, Eartha Kitt, the Andrews Sisters, Charlie Gracie and the guitar-vocal duo Les Paul and Mary Ford, while Judy Garland, Eddie Fisher, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Marlene Deitrich, Hoagy Carmichael, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne and Sarah Vaughan made single visits during the 50s.

Sammy Davis Jnr (pictured), Lena Horne and Tony Bennett headed charity concerts by the CADS organisation in the 60s.

We know there are some great memories of the 50s and 60s concerts among local residents.

Memory Lane would love to hear them. Write to: Emma Harris at The Gazette, Avroe House, Avroe Crescent, Blackpool Business Park, Blackpool, FY4 2DP, or email [email protected]

But don’t worry about the dates!