Lifting the lid on Sheffield's legendary Club 60 to celebrate Frank White

With the sad news of Frank White’s death, we thought we’d lift the lid on a venue that hosted some of his earliest gigs – Club 60.

Tuesday, 28th April 2020, 2:58 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th April 2020, 3:00 pm

Shalesmoor’s subterranean Club 60 was probably as near as we got to the underground feel of Scouse-style rock’n’roll Mecca in the sixties – the Cavern Club. It was definitely Sheffield’s only cellar club of the era.

Before former draughtsman Terry Thornton opened the Sheffield venue in 1960, the city’s youth were fighting a largely losing battle against mainstream ballroom entertainment dominated by the foxtrot and the tango.

The entrepreneur, speaking at the time, said the city portrayed a dark and dour image to the outside world.

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Crowds at the Esquire looking over the balcony

It was a ‘rough, tough, working class city, slow to recover from the devastation of the Blitz and the aftermath of World War Two’.

He decided it was time to move on from church hall dances in the suburbs and spice things up a bit.

The jazz-orientated Club 60 venue – dingy, dank and looking more like the kind of communal air raid shelter most people would rather forget – created waves from the day it opened on October 5, 1960.

But it was with the introduction of a pop night when things started to get serious.

Club 60 regulars

Terry soon realised the future lay in beat music, rather than his preferred trad and modern jazz.

He said: “We started by putting on modern jazz and for the first six months we had a very thin time. But when Saturday night became pop night the people started coming and the club started to make money.”

Club 60 quickly became a northern stronghold for happening music and began nurturing the talents of four names that would become legendary in the annals of Sheffield music history: Joe Cocker, Dave Berry, Jimmy Crawford and Frank.

Club 60 had no alcohol licence and there was only coffee and soft drinks on offer. Ventilation was nil, the heating systems consisted of three paraffin stoves and the over-riding aroma was cigarette smoke.

Dave Berry performs at Club 60

Most of the lighting was provided by candles, the place was that damp it used to wreck the house piano and staff diligently wiped the green mould off the furniture before each weekend’s proceedings.

Terry realised others were beginning to jump on the bandwagon and decided he needed to up his game if he was going to stay one step ahead. He moved from Club 60 which could hold no more than 250 people to a venue with a membership of a staggering 27,000 at its height.

The Esquire stood in the upper floors of the former flour mill that now houses The Leadmill nightclub on Leadmill Road.

It was pure luxury at the side of the underground Shalesmoor operation.

Frank White with his twin-neck guitar at Club 60

The Johnny Dankworth Quintet opened the Esquire on Sunday, October 7, 1962. It hit the ground running from day one.

Taken from the Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to 1960s Sheffield – available from www.dirtystopouts.com for £13.95.

Regulars at the Club 60