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Ritz Ballroom - York Road

Before a fire destroyed the building on 27 March 2013, the first Birmingham Civic Society Musical Heritage Plate celebrated the fact that the building next door to the Hare & Hounds at 2 York Road had previously been the Ritz Ballroom.

Known officially as the Ritz Dance and Social Club, it was one of four dance halls run in Birmingham and the Black Country by the Irish husband and wife team of Joe (Pa) and Mary (Ma) Regan.

ABOVE: The only photo we've been able to find of the old Ritz Dance and Social Club

Beginning in 1947 with the Gary Owen in Small Heath later to be re-named the Kavern, the Regans then opened The Ritz in Kings Heath in the 1950’s followed by The Plaza in Handsworth and finally The Plaza in Old Hill.

The building that was converted into The Ritz had up until 1932 been the Ideal Cinema with an entrance from the High Street before becoming a Billiards Hall. Joe Regan said that he created the dance floor at The Ritz using wood from a previous Royal Yacht Britannia with the police having to close the High Street when it was delivered.

Originally the Regans put on strict tempo ballroom music at The Ritz played by the resident band of Charlie Simpson and his Orchestra.

But the music scene was undergoing a revolution and the Regans’ customers demanded a more modern sound. Joe hired a local group – The Modernaires – to be the resident band and they went on to become the first British act to record for the American RCA label whose most famous artist was Elvis Presley!

ABOVE: The Modernaires who were the resident group at the Ritz!

At the same time Ma Regan began to hire a whole series of artists and groups at the start of their careers who were to go on to become internationally famous. They usually had to play separate sets at two or three of the different Regan venues in the same evening often for as little as £20! But the Regan circuit quickly became a route to the top for many artists.

Later the Regans converted the Ritz into a Bingo Hall.

Joe Regan died in December 2004 and Mary Regan in March 2008.

ABOVE: A rare surviving leaflet advertising groups performing at The Ritz


BELOW: February 1962 issue of "Plaza News" - the newspaper of The Plaza and Ritz Ballrooms

List Of Known Performances at The Ritz!

11 May 1962 and 29 May 1963

Jerry Lee Lewis

In 1957 Jerry Lee Lewis had his first big hit with "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" which he followed  with "Great Balls Of Fire" and "High Street Confidential". But after he married his 13 year old cousin he went from £10,000 concerts to night spots in beer joints and small clubs.

On 11 May 1962 he played at both the Ritz Ballroom and the Plaza with his backing group The Echoes.

On 29 May 1963 he returned to perform at the Ritz and the Plaza with a dfferent backing group The Outlaws that included  Ritchie Blackmore later of Deep Purple and Rainbow fame.

Source: www.americanrocknrolluktours.co.uk

18 January 1963

Johnny and The Hurricanes



15 February 1963

5 July 1963

The Beatles


Above: The Beatles photographed outside one of the Regan venues in 1963.

The Beatles are now known to have performed at the Ritz Ballroom on 3 occasions. The best recorded of these was on 15 February 1963 shortly after releasing their second single “Please Please Me”. This was a re-arranged gig. Originally scheduled to appear on 11 January, they were prevented by blizzard like conditions from making the 11 mile journey to King's Heath from one of the Regan’s other venues – the Plaza in Old Hill.

When they did make it on 15 February, Beatlemania had really started to take off and the Beatles were only able to enter the Ritz by climbing up a ladder from Milford Place.

In fact, the Fab Four almost had to appear as the Fab Three after George Harrison who arrived late by taxi was surrounded by screaming fans.

“Tell them to turn that racket down” is what Joe Regan is rumoured to have shouted while they were practising! But he was a happy man really.

Brian Epstein had agreed to The Beatles performing for their previously agreed fee even though they were now No.1 in the charts!

Autographs of the four Beatles signed at the Ritz Ballroom were later sold at Christies auction house on 24 June 2010. According to the vendor she was picking up her coat from the coat room after the concert when she met Paul McCartney coming out of the toilets. After giving her his autograph she followed him into the bar where he called her over to meet the rest of the band who gave her their autographs too. She then took up Paul's kind offer of a lift back into town in their van where she sat on his lip and shared a kiss!!!

On 17 January 2016 the Sunday Mercury revealed that The Beatles had played at The Ritz earlier in February 1962 and also returned to play again on 5 July 1963.


18 April 1962 backed by Sounds Incorporated

4 July 1962 backed by Sounds Incorporated

21 June 1963 backed by The Outlaws featuring Ritchie Blackmore

Gene Vincent

Above: Gene Vincent in 1963

Rolling Stone magazine described Gene Vincent and his Bluecaps as “the first rock ‘n’ roll band in the world”. After releasing the hit single “Be Bop A Lula” in 1956, he went on to tour extensively throughout the world.

He is known to have played at The Ritz Ballroom on 3 occasions.

On 18 April and 4 July 1962 he was backed by Sounds Incorporated.

On 21 June 1963 he was backed by The Outlaws featuring Ritchie Blackmore later of Deep Purple and Rainbow fame.

Source: www.americanrocknrolluktours.co.uk

ABOVE: The Outlaws in 1963

22 June 1963

Modernaires/Starliners


 23 June 1963

Brian Poole and The Tremeloes/

Modernaires/Blue Stars

5 July 1963

The Beatles

14 September 1963

The Rolling Stones

In 1963 for the first time ever the Rolling Stones moved out of London to play gigs creating bedlam wherever they played. Between then and 1966 – for three years – they played virtually every night, or every day, sometimes two times a day.

On 14 September 1963 the Stones first played at the Plaza in Old Hill before arriving for their gig at the Ritz.

They then had to journey back to London to perform the following day at the “Great Pop Prom” at the Royal Albert Hall!

11 January 1964

The Ronettes

Source: Sunday Mercury April 23 2017

18 April 1964

The Vendors/The Blue Stars

Source: www.sladeinengland.co.uk

9 October 1964

Johnny King and The Aces

The Senators/ The Jaymen

10 October 1964

Dave And The Emeralds

The Dicemen/The Mods


11 October 1964

Bill Haley and The Comets

Source: Flyer and

www.americanrocknrolluktours.co.uk

16 October 1964

King Bees/Sounds of Blue/Telstars

The King Bees included Carl Palmer later of Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Sounds Of Blue included Stan Webb and Christine Perfect later of Chicken Shack.

Christine Perfect then joined Fleetwood Mac.

Source www.peterice.com

17 October 1964

Frankenstein and The Monsters

18 October 1964

Fairies/Jaymen/Mods/Blue Stars

(Source: www.peterice.com)

19 October 1964

Destinies/DJ Tony

(Source: www.peterice.com)

21 October 1964

Rhythm & Blues Night to Senators/Charlettes

The Senators included John Bonham later of Led Zeppelin.

(Source: www.peterice.com

6 December 1964

Jerry Lee Lewis/The Plebs

7 February 1965

The T Bones

13 February 1965

The Banshees

14 February 1965

The John Barry Seven

15 February 1965

The King Bees

26 February 1965

The Moody Blues

27 February 1965

The Gamblers

The Gamblers were advertised as Billy Fury's group.


28 February 1965

Them with Van Morrison


Them with Van Morrison performed at the Ritz Ballroom on 28 February 1965.

Formed in Belfast in 1964, their performance came in between releasing their first single the double A side "Baby Please Don't Go"/"Gloria" that reached No. 10 in the UK singles charts and their second single "Here Comes The Night" that reached No. 2 in the UK single charts.

They also performed at the Plaza in Handsworth on the same night.

Them had a short lived existence with Van Morrison quitting in 1966 but they had a considerable influence on other bands including The Doors.

Below: Midland Beat advert for Regan Dances listing upcoming shows including Them appearing at the Ritz Ballroom and the Plaza in Handsworth on 28 February 1965


5 March 1965

The Merseybeats

Starting off by regularly appearing alongside The Beatles and Gerry and The Pacemakers at The Cavern Club in Liverpool, The Merseybeats signed a recording contract with Fontana and had thir first hit single in 1963 with "It's Love That Really Counts"..

This was then followed by their million selling recording of "I Think Of You" that gained them their first gold disc. Two further big hits followed in 1964 with "Don't Turn Around" and "Wishin' and Hopin'".

On Friday 5 March 1965 they appeared at the Ritz Ballroom.

Later on in 1965 they had two further hits with "I Love You, Yes I Do" and "I Stand Accused".

Below: A rare surviving flyer advertising the appearance of The Meseybeats at the Ritz which the group (Tony Crane, Billy Kinsley, John Banks and Aaron Williams) signed on the back.

6 March 1965

Downliner's Sect

7 March 1965

The Bow Street Runners/The Astecs

12 March 1965

The Ivy League/The King Bees

13 March 1965

Johnny King and The Aces/The Mods/The Olympics

14 March 1965

The Wackers

15 March 1965

The Tennessee Teens

The Tennessee Teens may have included Robert Plant. They later changed their name to Listen (see below)

17 March 1965

Special Birthday Dance & St Patricks Day Hooley

The Arran Girl Pipers/The Tennessee Teens/The Telstars

19 March 1965

The Originals/The Kingfishers

24 March 1965

The Tennessee Teens

26 March 1965

Goldie and The Gingerbreads

27 March 1965

Just Blues/The Cavelles/The Mods/The Blue Stars


28 March 1965

All Birmingham R & B Night with Hit Paraders

The Moody Blues and The Spencer Davis Group


“Go Now!” was the Moody Blues first ever No.1 single. 

Shortly after it’s release a front page article in Midland Beat announced that they would be playing the Ritz Ballroom on 28 March 1965.

The members of the Moody Blues were no strangers to all the Regan circuit clubs.

Lead singer Denny Laine regularly performed as part of Denny Laine and the Diplomats.

They opened for The Beatles one night at another of the Regan clubs.

Over ten years later Denny Laine would join Paul McCartney in his band, “Wings”.

An eye witness at their performance on 28 March 1965 recalls, “I was fortunate to have seen The Moodies at The Ritz when this song was No. 1 and the bands’ performance on home soil was electric with Denny spitting the words and Ray Thomas growling on the harmonica. The whole group functioned as one unit, urged on by an enthusiastic crowd, just sheer bliss. The finishing number was, of course, Go Now. It was a sublime night and I feel sorry for those who never saw them as an R&B group”.

Sharing the same bill were The Spencer Davis Group.

The Regans had originally booked The Who to appear at the Ritz Ballroom on this night. Instead they switched them to play The Brum Kavern in Small Heath.

(Source: Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere The Complete Chronicle Of The Who 1958-1978 by Andy Neill & Matt Kent Virgin Books P.476)

29 March 1965

Under Eighteen Night

The Tennessee Teens

30 June 1965

The Tennesssee Teens

2 July 1965

Leading Midlands Groups

3 July 1965

The Ivy League

Both born in Small Heath, Birmingham, John Carter and Ken Lewis (previous members of Carter-Lewis and the Southerners) formed The Ivy Leaue with Perry Ford.

All three members were session singers who possessed high-pitched singing voices. They were first heard doing background vocals for The Who on their hit single “I Can’t Explain” in November 1964.

Their debut single, “What More Do You Want” generated little interest, but the second release, “Funny How Love Can Be”, was a UK Top 10 hit. Further hits followed, including “That’s Why I’m Crying” and “Tossing and Turning”, which reached No. 3 in the UK chart.


4 July 1965

The Modernaires

14 July 1965

The Merseybeats

14 November 1965

Small Faces/Wilson Pickett

Iconic 1960's British group The Small Faces shared the bill with American soul singer Wilson Pickett as a "Double Star Attraction" at The Ritz.on Sunday 14 November 1965.

Fronted by lead singer Steve Marriott, the other members of The Small Faces who signed the flyer below were Plonk (Ronnie Lane), Mac (Ian McLagan) and Ken (Kenny Jones). Steve Marriott dedicated the group's set of autographs "To Jennifer".

The flyer which was also signed by Wilson Pickett was sold in an on-line auction on eBay on 26 June 2012.

The concert came just after the release of The Small Faces first hit single "Whatcha Gonna Do About it" and the release of Wilson Pickett's classic hit single "In The Midnight Hour" which he co-wrote.

15 December 1965

Jimmy Cliff


Jamaican singer Jimmy Cliff was one of the first artists to introduce reggae to a wider audience.

Spotted performing in his native country by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell he was brought by him to England in November 1964.

His first backing band, The New Generation, were a Birmingham group who included Dave Pegg later to become Fairport Convention’s bass player.

Jimmy Cliff and the New Generation’s first ever gig was at the Ritz Ballroom on 15 December 1965.

Later his songs were to be featured in the film The Harder They Come.

9 January 1966

Dusty Springfield


On 9 January 1966 Dusty Springfield appeared at the Ritz Ballroom and the Plaza Ballroom in Handsworth on the same night.      

She had released her first single "I Only Want To Be With You" in November 1963 that had reached No.4 in the UK Singles Chart

Her appearance at the Ritz Ballroom fell between the release of her single "Some Of Your Lovin'" which reached No.8 and her single "Little By Little" which reached No. 17 in in the UK Singles Chart.

At the end of January 1966 she took part in the Italian Song Festival in San Remo where she heard the original version of "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" that went on to become her only song to reach No.1  in the UK Singles Chart.


4 March, 30 March, 24 April, 28 May and 20 July 1966 

Listen (including Robert Plant)

ABOVE: Listen with Robert Plant holding guitar.

Fledgling singer Robert Plant was a regular at the Regan Circuit dance halls from the age of 16 onwards. Contemporaries remember that every time he went to a gig, even as a member of the audience, he would get up and sing.

After a performance at The Plaza in 1964 he is said to have been accosted by the late John Bonham, then a young drummer from Redditch, who told him he was a good singer but his band needed a better drummer – him.

Later they would go on to achieve fame and fortune together as members of Led Zeppelin.

Before then in 1966, Robert Plant joined the Tamla Motown influenced group The Tennessee Teens.

Shortly afterwards the group changed their name to Listen. Listen regularly performed at all the Regan owned venues including the Ritz Ballroom on 4 March, 30 March, 24 April, 28 May and 20 July 1966.

The other members of Listen were guitarists John Crutchley and Roger Beamer and drummer Geoff Thompson. John Crutchley recalls "Ma Regan looked after the Handsworth Plaza, the Old Hill Plaza, the Ritz at King's Heath and later the Brum Cavern, which was the last one. If you passed the audition, you could turn professional, because you were playing 4 to 5 nights a week at 3 different venues. You'd start off at say the Handsworth Plaza, then go to the Ritz at King's Heath and finally nip over to Old Hill after that".

Just before they broke up, Listen recorded a three track demo tape for CBS. After releasing a couple of solo singles, Robert Plant started a new group called Robert Plant and the Band of Joy before forming Robert Plant and Obs Tweedle. Jimmy Page from The Yardbirds, John Bonham, and Robert Plant then went onto form The New Yardbirds before changing their name to Led Zeppelin

Over thirty years later Robert Plant would return to King’s Heath on 13 November 1999 to appear at a “secret” gig at the Red Lion Folk Club as a member of a group called Priory of Brion.

Their set included covers of songs by Love, Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin, Elvis Presley and Van Morrison as well as Led Zeppelin.

Below: Robert Plant with Priory of Brion

23 April 1966

The Move/The Steam Packet Show

Source: www.birminghammusicarchive.com/the-move/

The Move were the first Birmingham supergroup

The Steampacket Show featured Long John Baldry and Brian Auger Trinity with Julie Driscoll

1 May 1966

The Move/The Craig

Source: www.birminghammusicarchive.com/the-move/

11 June 1966

The Kinks

“Sunny Afternoon” had just been released as a single when The Kinks performed at The Ritz on 11 June 1966.

Regular bass guitarist Pete Quaife had broken his leg in a car accident just before the gig so John Dalton was hurriedly recruited as a temporary replacement.

He made his debut with The Kinks at The Ritz only two days after being recruited and had little time to practise.

Three years later he would re-join as a permanent member of The Kinks.

Below: The Kinks photographed in 1963.

From left to right: Mick Avory, Ray Davies, Dave Davies and John Dalton.

25 June 1966

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich


Five friends from Wiltshire took their nicknames of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beeky, Mick & Tich as the name of the pop group they formed in the early 1960's.

They scored their first Top Ten hit with "Hold Tight" in February 1966 that reached No. 4 in the the UK sinles chart. 

Just after releasing their second Top Ten single "Hideaway" they appeared at the Ritz Ballroom on 25 June 1966. On the same night they also appeared at one of the Plazas on the Regan circuit.

They later went on to score a further six Top Ten singles including the No.1 hit "The Road to Xanadu".

16 July 1966

The Blues Hounds


17 July 1966

Rufus Thomas

Best known for his 1963 Top Ten hit single "Walking The Dog" one of the first releases on the Stax label, American rhythm 'n' blues and soul singer Rufus Thomas appeared at the Ritz Ballroom on 17 July 1966.

He went on to have three further hit singles in the early 1970's: "Do The) Push and Pull", "Do The Funky Chicken" and "The Breakdown".

He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001 and died in 2001 at the age of 84.

15 April 1967

Family

Fronted by Roger Chapman, Family brought their mixture of progressive rock and psychedelia to the Ritz Ballroom on 15 April 1967.

The following year they released their first critically accaimed LP "Music In A Doll's House" which was championed by John Peel and reached No 35 in the UK Album Charts.
Their follow up album "Family Entertainment " released in 1969 reached No. 6 in the UK Album Charts and included the single "The Weaver's Answer".

16 December 1967

Pink Floyd/The Rare Breed/Gospel Garden


Still fronted at that time by the charismatic but increasingly erratic Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd performed at The Ritz Ballroom on 16 December 1967.

Their appearance came after the release of their second single, “See Emily Play”, and the release of their first album, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”.

At their early evening show they were supported by Gospel Garden, DJ Dave Terry and The Rare Breed featuring Geezer Butler and Ozzy Osbourne later to find fame and fortune as members of Black Sabbath.

Later that evening they all went on to perform at a Saturday Spectaculer show at The Penthouse on Constitution Hill.


0ther Performances

The list of other artists who are said to have performed at the Ritz Ballroom reads like a Who's Who list of 1960's top pop acts and includes:-

The Animals

John Barry Seven

Cilla Black

Brian Auger Trinity with Julie Driscoll

Joe Brown and the Bruvvers

Chicken Shack with Christine Perfect

Spencer Davis Group featuring Stevie Winwood

Gerry Dorsey (later to be known as Engelbert Humperdinck)

The Drifters

Marianne Faithful

Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders

The Fortunes

The 4 Seasons

Freddie and the Dreamers

Rolf Harris

Vince Hill

Johnny Kidd and the Pirates

Kathy Kirby

The Move

Peter and Gordon

Brian Poole and the Tremeloes

P.J. Proby

Cliff Richard

The Righteous Brothers

The Rockin' Berries

The Searchers

Del Shannon

Helen Shapiro

Sandie Shaw

The Swinging Blue Jeans

The Walker Brothers

The Yardbirds featuring Eric Clapton

Bert Weedon

Memories of The Ritz!

“A group of us went every Saturday from Northfield to the Ritz on the No. 27 bus having to get the last bus back at 11 p.m. Walking up York Road today, it is hard to believe that the first king of rock’n’ roll, Bill Haley, played there. I recall him appearing as a surprise act late one Saturday night. He brought the house down. I missed the No. 27 that night but got a lift back in the mobile fish and chip van that served near the terminus. My pride and joy was an all black velvet collared corduroy jacket which I wore with black and grey pin-stripe trousers. With the van swinging into Bristol Road at Northfield, I finished with a lap full of cooking oil. What an end to a fabulous night!” (John Gibbs)

“In the sixties, two mates and myself, had the pleasure of meeting the great Dusty Springfield at the Ritz Ballroom. We knew one of the doormen and he smuggled us into Dusty’s dressing room after the show. What a lady! We spoke to her and Madeleine Bell (later of Blue Mink fame) for about a hour, drank scotch with both really lovely ladies. They had no airs or graces, talked to us like they know us all their lives. So many memories”. (Robert Hughes)

“The main attraction in Kings Heath was The Ritz Ballroom in York Road where most of the popular groups of the 60’s performed. I remember seeing The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Spencer Davies and many others there. This was followed by a bag of chips on the way home. We knew how to live in those days!” (Mr Baker)

“My cousin and I who lived round the corner in Grange Road used the Ritz from around 1959. We must have seen around 4 bands a week on average depending on how much money we had in our pockets. We both were young apprentices at the time. We loved The Modernaires the resident band. It was unbelievable the amount of talented musicians that were on. Not forgetting the night that changed my music forever. The Beatles visit. We carried on going to The Ritz for years to come and I met my wife there and danced and sang along to all the best bands around until around 1966 when I married and settled down. We still went to the Ritz at least once a week until the children came along. The children grew up and we all still enjoy live music but alas not at the Ritz Kings Heath”. (Malcolm Hoare)

“I went dancing at Ritz Ballroom as often as I could. The main band there I remember was the Spencer Davis Group and Stevie Winwood is still performing to packed houses all over the world”. (June Cheetham)

“When Jerry Lee Lewis first came to Birmingham he would play at the Plaza Ballroom in Handsworth and the Ritz Ballroom in Kings Heath, sometimes on the same night. On one occasion, his chauffeur even followed us from the Plaza to Kings Heath with me sat on the back of my mate’s motorbike because he wasn’t sure of the way. I couldn’t believe that he was there, sat in the car behind us, whenever I turned around” (Graham Rollason)

"I used to love going to The Ritz in King's Heath. I remember when The Beatles were there and I was gutted because my brother got into see them but I couldn't get in because because I was too young. When I was old enough I remember seeing some great bands there and the fabulous Dusty Springfield. I always thought it was a shame when they turned it into a bingo hall". (Mary from Balsall Heath)

"My mate and I were regulars at the Ritz in the early sixties and remember the night The Ronettes played very well - it was the night after my 21st birthday and the girls were just great. The crowd was just normal for a Friday and Saturday night, but everybody was having a great time on the dance floor. We saw lots of local bands every weekend but one of our favourite groups was from Liverpool, they appeared there a number of times - and they were The Undertakers. They used to get everybody up dancing, especially when they did a song called "Mashed Potatoes". They had a very good sax player. Another singer we saw there was Ricky Valance - I am afraid he did not go down very well when he started singing his big hit "Tell Laura I Love Her" as some of the crowd started to boo. I felt sorry for the guy, bot that's showbiz I suppose". (Roy Hayes - Letter published in the Sunday Mercury 30 April 2017)

Send us your memories!

Send us your memories if you went to The Ritz.When did you go? Who did you see there?

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Civic Society Music Heritage Plate

Hundreds of Brumbeat group members and fans forced the police to close York Road on 27 June 2012 when the first Birmingham Civic Society Musical Heritage Plate was erected on the wall of the former Ritz Ballroom.

Below: Denis Brown who played with the Charlie Simpson Orchestra and Councillor John Lines, then Birmingham's Lord Mayor, at the unveiling ceremony.

The plate was removed for safekeeping following the fire that partially destroyed the building in March 2013.

Talks are being held with the owners to try and ensure it is incorporated into any re-development of the site.

ABOVE: The Modernaires at the unveiling ceremony.

From left to right Wilf Clare, Micky Bakewell, Tony Finister, Maurice Groves, Brian Sharpe and Terry Gray

 
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