By Rick Burin
A HARROGATE guitarist who played on the same Royal Hall bill as The Beatles in 1963 returned to the venue this week to provide the music for the building’s official re-opening.
Bob Mason, who was a member of Ricky Fenton and the Apaches in the early ‘60s, now plays with the Swing Time Jazz trio.
Another member of the group, Gerry Green, also has longstanding links with the Royal Hall, having played six New Year’s Eve shows there with Bob as part of the Jimmy ‘O’ Show.
Bob said: “The Royal Hall is really close to our hearts.”
Swing Time Jazz, comprising bass player Bob, saxophonist Gerry and guitarist Mike Barnham, have played free of charge at all the Starlit Balls, as well fashion shows and garden parties, to raise money for the Royal Hall’s renovation.
“We did it for nothing because we love the place,” said Bob, of Grasmere Crescent.
“I used to go there as a kid. My folks would take me to see variety shows and pantomimes.”
Gerry, who lives at Harlow Hill, first went to the Royal Hall in 1949. It was there that he learned to dance.
“It holds a lot of memories for me and Gerry,” said Bob.
“We were in teenage rock bands and dance bands, and obviously the pinnacle for me was the Beatles show.
“We were also involved throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, doing New Year’s Eve dances with the Jimmy ‘O’ Show.”
Bob was just 18 when the Beatles came to the venue.
“It changed our lives completely,” he said.
“Their sound was fantastic: unlike anything we had ever heard before.”
Having seen the Beatles’ set, the Apaches soon ditched their old image.
“We were on the Shadows kick, with stratocasters and these stupid blue suits that look ridiculous now,” said Bob.
“After the Beatles came, it was all rhythm and blues, leather and corduroy.
“We were influenced by them, as everybody was.”
He said the Beatles’ appearance was as revolutionary as their sound.
“They looked so different and played different.
“We were setting up our instruments as they came in. Most of them were carrying their own equipment.
“They just looked like art students.
“They looked French.”
The Beatles were handsomely rewarded for shaking up the town’s music scene.
“They were paid 75, which was fair money in those days,” said Bob.
“Twenty-five pounds went to Brian Epstein and the rest to the band.
“It was ten and six to get in.
“It was a dance, it wasn’t a show, but everyone stayed at the front of the stage when the Beatles came on. There was a big crowd.”
Bob was sure to get his programme signed by the group, who had recently topped the charts for the first time with Please, Please Me, but sold his mementos of the evening shortly after marrying.
His father’s keepsakes from the evening - two broken drumsticks belonging to Ringo Starr - went the same way.
Now a new chapter in the Royal Hall’s history has opened and Bob said he was delighted with the results.
“We have always been interested in the Royal Hall, so we’re really pleased they’ve done something with it,” said Bob.
“When it fell into a state of disrepair, it looked sad. It was looking very weary, tired and dull.
“It’s a lovely old theatre and it’s a really nice job.
“Now everything’s so bright and shiny, it’s fantastic.”