OUR recent delve into the memory of Brian Nicholls, who saw The Beatles play at Ma Regan's Handsworth Plaza in 1963, just as they were lifting off into the stratosphere, prompted reader Melvyn Willetts to drop by and tell us his recollections of seeing them just up the road from Bugle House – at Ma Regan's other venue in Old Hill.
Melvyn told us:
Reading Brian Nicholls' article reminded me of when I saw the Beatles at Old Hill Plaza – twice. Like the Handsworth Plaza, it was owned by Ma Regan, who had booked the band for both venues, and my experience was very much as described by Brian.
"I remember Ma Regan stood on the corner of the stage with her arms folded – nobody passed her. Mr Regan, her husband, was only a little short guy in a bow tie, but his wife was a big lady, and she stood there right through the show.
"I paid on the door to get in, both times. There were a lot of people queuing, but if you got there early enough you got in all right. By the time I saw them the second time, in July 1963, they'd had two or three big hit singles, and the band suddenly were huge.
"Everyone talks about the crowds of hysterical girls, but it was a mixed crowd, there were plenty of lads there as well, we were as keen to see them as the girls were. They were a new thing, but they were somehow different from all the other groups. They were so unique, they had a sound of their own, they stood out from the others.
"As regards how they managed to escape from the venue unnoticed, my brother's wife's parents kept The George next to the Plaza, and I heard that the Beatles climbed over the wall into the pub and got out the back of there.
"Usually, Ma Regan would let three or four people go backstage to meet the performers after a show, but not that night. I did get to meet Bert Weedon backstage not long after the Beatles though! He had a lovely big Guild guitar – only two had been made, one for him and one for Duane Eddy – and he gave it to me to hold while he got changed and chatted.
"We had some fantastic nights at the Plaza. Among those I saw there were Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Bee Bumble and the Stingers, Dave Lacey and the Corvettes (he's still going); Billy Davies, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, Johnny and the Hurricanes, Rolf Harris, and the instrumental band Sounds Incorporated."
We're always looking to hear your stories of seeing bands, whether legendary or not so well-known, in the fifties, sixties and seventies. Write in, give us a call, or email gjones@black countrybugle.co.uk.