Retro: When classic rock bands played in 1960s Royal Hall in Harrogate

Anyone not from the district, tends to see Harrogate as a town of tearooms, flowers and grand Victorian buildings. Not so, not so.

Cliff Richard and the Shadows on stage at the Royal Hall. (Picture by Mike Wilson)
Cliff Richard and the Shadows on stage at the Royal Hall. (Picture by Mike Wilson)

But the Harrogate Advertiser's new nostalgia series, Retro, will prove otherwise in a series of articles.At least 20 of the most famous beat groups and rock bands played Harrogate's splendid Royal Hall in the 1960s.When the 900-seater venue Royal Hall first opened in Harrogate in 1903, it was an era of artistes and orchestras, music hall and elegance.

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Its early decades saw world famous actresses including Sarah Bernhardt and Lily Langtry appearing on its stage in front of adoring crowds.There were also concerts conducted by Henry Wood, who became renowned for for his lengthy association with London’s annual series of promenade concerts The Proms.Times change. By the 1950s the acts Royal Hall tended to alternate between the classical and big dance bands, from The D’Oyly Conte Opera Company to Victor Silvester and his ballroom orchestra.But the growing popularity of rock n roll as the decade progressed attracted new acts to appeal to a new audience - teenagers!The cracks started to show when legendary rock n roller Gene Vincent and his Sounds Incorporated Group appeared on May 5, 1957.The same year saw what was described as a Rock ‘n’ Roll Jamboree with Screamin’ Lord David Sutch and his famous Savages.By July 8, 1959 the Royal Hall was welcoming Cliff Richard and his backing band.In those days Sir Cliff was still known for being a bit of a rock n roll rebel with raunchy hits like Move It while his band were known as the Drifters.Both reputations were short-lived, Cliff turning into an ever-youthful Batchelor Boy, and his band renamed The Shadows. Despite the rock revolution, dances remained the dominant reason for booking beat groups throughout the Sixties - even in the case of The Beatles who famously played in 1963 - but more of that next week.This still applied even in 1966, a glorious year when classic British beat groups such as The Hollies (January 21), The Kinks (February 25), The Small Faces (May 13) and The Who (August 26) all played the Royal Hall.Later in the same decade, acts like Manfred Mann, The Spencer Davis Group, The Move, The Troggs, Amen Corner, The Tremeloes and Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mitch and Tich all graced the stage of this superb Edwardian auditorium.Later years saw Elvis Costello performing at the Royal Hall in 1984 while Joan Armatrading played there in 1992, among many others Despite these big names of pop and rock n roll, the Royal Hall has continued to be a place of broad, family appeal to this day.At one point gigs decreasing to a trickle and the venue’s entire future looked bleak .The Royal Hall was temporarily closed in the Noughties before its glorious restoration and magnificent reopening in 2008.The last few years have seen the team at the successful Harrogate Theatre book acts at the Royal Hall, bringing rock and pop back to the venue, including Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist Nils Lofgren who performed a solo show last year.