How South Shields dancer became the queen of clubs

The Latino nightclub.
The Latino nightclub.

On Monday we paid tribute to young airman Sgt Bert Llewellyn Henry, who died too young at the age of 19, serving in the RAF during the Second World War.

His story was told by local historian Dorothy Ramser, who made mention of his family, including his mother, dancer Gladys Winch Bailey.

The Bailey girls.

The Bailey girls.

Today Dorothy reveals how, after the war, Gladys, along with her other son Stan and his friend, went on to open nightspots throughout the North East, providing entertainment to thousands of club-goers.

Before that, writes Dorothy, Gladys had been the principal of a thriving dancing establishment which was known by the grand title of Madame Bailey’s Premier School of Dancing.

Following news of Bert’s death, she told how her son had taken part in some of the biggest bombing raids on Germany and Italy.

Dorothy goes on to explain that when tragedy struck Stan was just 11-years-old. He later became a draughtsman at Reyrolles in Hebburn.

“In 1956,” writes Dorothy, “Bert’s mother opened The Cellar Jazz Club, at 45 Beach Road in South Shields, in what had once been the premises of her dancing school.”

“It resembled a family home more than a club. A few years later, encouraged by the boom of 60s music scene, Gladys and Stan along with his friend John W Smith, who also worked at Reyrolles, decided to plunge into the nightclub business and set about looking for suitable premises in all the largest cities.

“Their first major success came when they moved right into the centre of Newcastle, with the take-over of the Cavendish Club.”

“Their second came with La Dolce Vita. They eventually built their own nightclubs designed to their own specifications.”

In time, the Bailey’s had nightspots throughout the North East and further afield, including the Latino, in South Shields; Tito’s, in Stockton-on-Tees; Wetherells, in Sunderland; the Cavendish, in Blackburn and the Cavendish, in Birmingham.

“In 1969, The Stage described Stan and John as running a tight ship, and that Bailey’s operated from its HQ in South Shields, the biggest chain of nightclubs in Europe.

“A decade before, the men were electrical engineers earning about £1,500 a year.

“The Financial Times published a half page article on the vital role that Stan and John played in increasing the importance of their native North East.

“On February 1, 1967, they had Jimi Hendrix performing at the New Cellar Club, in South Shields – a milestone in British pop history!

“Who knows what Stan’s brave brother Bert might have gone on to achieve had he survived the war.

“Britain lost its finest men defending this island.”

What memories do you have of the Bailey organisation’s nightclubs? Which artists did you see perform?