Liverpool 8...seen from the air, taken in the 1930's. The red line outlines Selborne St, where I was born and grew up surrounded by all the exciting things that were happening from the late 50's to the mid 60's...

In the late 50's, growing up in Liverpool's Toxteth district was about as exciting an experience as any ten year old child could ever wish for. With its abundance of characters and racial mix of people, it made for an energetic mixture of lifestyles. The street I lived in, Selbome St, was the main thoroughfare between Princess Rd.. and the Granby St Lodge Lane areas, and at any time of the day, most of the traffic and people entering the district would pass along this street. This allowed me to have a good overview of what was taking place around the district.
Music was everywhere, both indigenous and imported, mainly black music, Calypso, Jazz, R&B and my favourite Accapella. Most people I knew could not afford expensive musical instruments, but that didn't mean they were not musical, they had the cheapest musical instrument of all, the voice. From the school playgrounds to the street comers, harmony was very much in evidence. And many black youths would spend literally hours learning to harmonise with each other, using the songs of mainly black American vocal groups as a basis for experimentation.

Junction of Upper Parliament St and Princess Rd

Greek Orthodox church on the corner of Parliament and Princess Rd, note the space where the NatWest bank now stands.

The south end of Liverpool in 1959 was not considered a safe place to be by the rest of the city, especially the Parliament Street area, from its junction with Lodge Lane extending down past the Anglican Cathedral to Park Lane and in particular the area around what was then the Rialto cinema, with its abundance of night clubs and daytime drinking fraternity, the area was certainly very lively, and, of course wherever there was drink there would be music. "Live music”, real musicians up there on stage creating the atmosphere that was needed for any successful club. And where there was drink and music, inevitably there would also be pockets of violence. This and the fact that Liverpool 8 was basically known as a ghetto populated by black immigrants from Jamaica and Africa, (similar to Harlem in New York), was the basis for its bad reputation.
Despite this disrepute the district was to become a "catalyst" for the beat explosion of the early sixties "Merseybeat" era, and would also produce "black musicians" who would set in motion" the biggest musical explosion that had happened since Motown". This explosion was to pave the way for other black/white musicians, not only from Liverpool but throughout the British Isles.

For me, the most important of these bands was the vocal harmony group known as the "Chants". The names of musicians were Nat Smeda, Eddy Amoo, Alan Harding, Joe Ankrah, Edmund Ankrah. (in 1963 the Chants were the only completely colored group in Britain) According to Mersey Beat of June 23rd 1963. They made their television debut on “Scene at 6 30” shown on Grenada Television in August 1963. Five local black guys who could sing like the Temptations or the Four Tops or even Anthony and the Imperials, the best that America could offer equalled by a quintet from provincial Liverpool.

Each red dot on the map indicates the approximate position of a club, wether licensed or unlicensed they continued to flourish and were packed with people every night. Nearly all featured live music. The following list may or may not be complete, but shows the number of clubs in the district:

A very cool video made by Yaw Owusu, detailng some of the clubs and vibe from Liverpool 8 back in the day...

L8: A TimePiece from Yaw Owusu on Vimeo.

 

The Palm Cove: opened in 1952 and owned by Roy Stevens.

Wilkies/Technics.

The Nigerian.

Pink Flamingo: Princess Rd.

The Beacon: Parliament St,Owned by boxer Joe Bygraves.

The Somali Club, Parliament St.

Racheals /The Gladray.

Semi Quaver/Tumtum.

Yoruba Social Club: Parliament St.

Ghana Club.

Silver Sands: Princess Rd.

West Indian: Parliament St, opened by Geoge Gardiner/Edgar Escofree.

Johnsons.

Dutch Eddies: Princess Rd.

101 Club: Princess Rd.

Federal Club: Princess Rd.

The Bedford: Bedford St.

Stanley House Social Club: Parliament St.

Polish Club: Catherine St.

Lyndas Club: Crown St.

68 Club: Princess Rd.

A&B Club: Devonshire Rd, opened by Pat Hamilton.

Pavillion Club: Lodge Lane.

All of the clubs were frequented not just by "Black immigrants" and visiting seamen but by white local and non local people, it was the largest "collection" of "night clubs" in the Liverpool area. Many American servicemen stationed at the base in Burtonwood would also spend time at these clubs, and would also bring with them many American R&B records which were not generally available in Liverpool at that time, which just added to the "cosmopolitan" atmosphere prevalent in the whole of the Liverpool 8 (Toxteth) area.

Stanley House, which sat at the junction of Park Way and Upper Parliament Street was more of a ‘Social Centre’ than a ‘Club’ club. Originally it opened in 1944 with the help of the Colonial Office. It consisted of a large (hall It was here that I saw the Chants first public appearance at a Christmas Party for children) that could be used to hold ‘dances’, along with a gymnasium in the basement (used by world champion boxers Hogan "Kid" Bassey and Dick Tiger), a library and many small meeting rooms and a Bar on the second floor. It also housed a nursery and Youth club (where I once performed gymnastics for MP Bessie Braddock).
“There was an interesting headline in the Evening Express on Jan 11th 1955 "Lord Derby visits the Jungle and feels proud"; the report went on to say "Lord Derby went into Liverpool’s "Jungle" last night to listen to Negro spirituals and Calypsos and to give his blessing to the work of Stanley House in Upper Parliament St".
“The West Indian Club was situated on the corner of Grove Street and Parliament Street, which was called Montpelier Terrace at that time, set back from the road in the basement of a large old Victorian house. It was run by Edgar Escofree and George Gardiner. It was mostly a drinking club with music supplied by a Juke box.
“The Palm Cove club opened in 1952 and was situated at No 237 Smithdown Lane (I think I may have that right). Roy and Babs Stevens ran the club (Babs and Roy lived in Eversley Street, L8); it had a dance floor and a jukebox which played Reggae/Calypso/Jazz records. There was a house band with the name The Caribbeans that also played there. The members consisted of: Roy Stevens: Trumpet, Bill Davis: Bongos/Vocal, Owen Stevens (Roy's brother): Tenor Sax, Leslie Stevens: Alto Sax, Wayne Armstrong: Double Bass, Sammy Loggins: Drums, Desmond Henry: Drums. It was one of the most popular (if not THE most popular) clubs amongst West Indians and was open every night, I am not sure if the band would play there every night.
“The Pink Flamingo was one of the original "licensed" clubs in Toxteth (not sure when it opened) and was situated over two floors at the junction of Upper Stanhope Street and Princes Road (next door to the chemists' shop with it's large display of coloured medicine bottles in its front window) . It had a very grand entrance, from the street there was a half dozen steps up to a portal with two large columns with a balcony on top.
“Dutch Eddie's was situated on the Boulevard in Princes Rd, at the right hand side of the road just where it turns into Princes Avenue. Dutch Eddie was from Dutch Guyana and an ex seaman, and also someone who was known for facilitating loans if you needed one. The club itself was a large affair over two floors with bars and dance floors on each floor. There was live music there featuring such musicians as Trinidadian Jazz trumpeter Wilfred "Pankey" Alleyne, who earlier played with the "Caribbean All Star Orchestra" founded by Trinidadian born bassist Al Jennings.
“Joe Bygraves, was a well known boxer and fought for the European heavyweight championship in 1957. He opened The Beacon Club, just a few doors away from Stanley House on Upper Parliament Street. The house itself was rather grand and featured an imposing central staircase to the first floor. 

“There were various voluntary associations based on national or ethnic groupings. Many of these were organized around social clubs. This was the case with the Nigerian National Union (Nigerian Social Club, Federal Social Club), the Tho Union (Tho Club), the Merseyside Somali Community Association (Somali Club, Silver Sands), the Ghanaian Union (Ghana Club, TumTum Star), Sierra Leone Union (Sierra Leone Club), the Yoruba Union (Yoruba Club), and the Cross Rivers Associations. These were also affiliated to the Merseyside African Council. But this does not mean that they were not frequented by people only from whatever country the club was named after, on the contrary, drinking sprees would quite often start at one club early in the day, and continue on throughout the rest of the day visiting one club after another.