It was springtime in South Shields, and Sandford Goudie was all set to bring a taste of the Swinging Sixties to his home-town – courtesy of the town’s very first nightclub.
Thanks to the generosity of his dad, the enterprising young businessman had converted the old Smith’s furnishers’ upholstery premises, in Commercial Road.
And so, in April, 1962, La Strada opened its doors for the very first time. It proved to be an instant hit.
To tie-in with the club’s previously-mentioned holiday theme, members were given cards with photos on them – similar to little passports.
Membership cost three pounds and five shillings.
“I had a good membership, and it got bigger and bigger,” explained Sandford.
“As a result, I was able to draw big names to the north of England.”
Those “big names” included some of the best-loved performers of the day, many of whom were familiar faces on TV and, as a result, household names. So it was that La Strada was able to play host to the likes of Bob Monkhouse, Englebert Humperdinck, The Searchers, Mike Yarwood and Adam Faith (plus so many more).
They performed to an audience of 200 people, who were seated at tables.
Although the club was doing well, Sandford held on to his newsagent business for six months before selling it –“just in case it didn’t work”.
Yet he needn’t have worried, for such was the success of the Shields venture that after two years, Sandford opened a second nightclub, also called La Strada, in Fawcett Street, Sunderland.
That had double the capacity of its South Tyneside sibling, and a restaurant to boot (there was no room at Shields for such a facility).
The fact that Sandford now had two nightclubs gave him greater pulling power, so that he was able to attract even bigger artists to the North-East. And the people of South Shields, Sunderland and beyond, lapped it up.
“It was magic in those days,” smiles Sandford.
“It was very friendly.”
In Shields, La Strada was open seven nights a week.
“When I first opened, the club was open from 7pm to 11pm. Later on, we opened from 7pm to midnight, and on Sunday lunchtimes.
And Sandford was there every night.
“I met a lot of people, making friends with so many of them. People would come to celebrate birthdays, engagements, weddings and anniversaries. In the wake of that, we put a lot of people in a good frame of mind.”
In the light of La Strada’s success, other nightclubs opened, and eventually there were seven other such venues in Shields.
“There were too many nightclubs,” continues Sandford. “I could see the writing on the wall, so in 1967 I sold La Strada in South Shields.”
The Sunderland club went two years later.
But to this day, he treasures the memories of those clubs and the people they attracted – both artists and audiences alike.
• Next time: Sandford remembers the stars who brought their own brand of song and laughter to Shields.