Swarb then and now: amazing pictures
Fairport: so British, so conventional (2)

Del Shannon, Bobby Vee and me

What on earth has this got to do with folk music?Bobbyanddel

Absolutely nothing is the only honest response but on a day heavy with Fairport, I have decided to stray a little off-piste before concluding the Simon Nicol interview, which will take the form of a second instalment.

The high points of the careers of Bobby Vee and Del Shannon, pictured together above with due thanks to Bobby's web site, were not their separate appearances, years after the hits dried up, at the New Shildon Workingmen's Club in County Durham.

But I bet they both took away particular memories of their evenings there.
Del Shannon's encounter with the admirable but sometimes unbending nature of the workingmen's club movement - I speak with affection since my late father was a long-serving club secretary, also in Shildon - actually made the national press.

The Daily Mirror, possibly only in its northern editions, ran the story of the great man's arrival at the front door as that night's star turn.

"Where are your club cards?" growled the steward on duty at the entrance.

"But I'm the artist who's appearing here tonight," Del protested, perhaps struggling to suppress that famous falsetto.

The steward was not impressed. "Aye," he said, "they all say that. As far as I am concerned, if you're not a member or an affiliate, you're not getting in unless someones signs you in."

Now I know that Del, no longer with us of course, could not have produced club cards. I also know that he went on to perform that night, so either the man on the door was overruled in the nick of time, or he was finally persuaded that Del's accent was not that of a Durham railwayman trying to sound American.

My recollection has always been that Bobby Vee was booked for the launch night of the same club's brand new extension a little while later.

The place was packed and all was going well with the evening until a dispute broke out at the tables nearest to the stage.

Within seconds, there was pandemonium. Bobby certainly sang at the club, but I now believe I have mistakenly confused his appearance with a separate evening there.

He went away with something to remember all the same. Although due to go on to a second gig in a neighbouring town, the audience simply wouldn't let him off stage. He sang his heart out for the lads and lasses of Shildon for three hours or more. I tell the story with updated information at another site, Salut! North.

As for the fracas at the extension opening concert - whoever was on the bill - I do clearly remember making my way home with my dad, who had been a guest of the all-powerful Club Committee, and being unable to give him the answer he wanted when he said: "You won't be writing about this, will you?"

I suppose I thought it would make a modest inside page story for my paper, the Evening Despatch. If I had said nothing, and my bosses had found out, I would have been in deep trouble.

However, the New Shildon club secretary's bold assertion next morning that the culprits would be rooted out and "had up on charges" - it wasn't exactly sharia law, but the clubs had strict notions of discipline - was enough to guarantee a front page banner headline on a quiet news day.

And I don't suppose my dad ever quite forgave me.


Bill Taylor

Did Bobby Vee play New Shildon Club more than once? I remember seeing him there in either 1981 or '82. I don't remember an altercation, though.It was a Sunday night. He sounded pretty much the same as ever but had a beard, which didn't really fit with his image.
When I was in California a few weeks ago, my friend out there and I happened to drive past Del Shannon's house in Santa Clarita where he shot himself. I've always regretted not seeing him when he came to Shildon. I'd happily have signed him in.

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