La Strada: I’d have played there for free

The Crusaders
The Crusaders

The atmosphere at South Shields’ very first nightclub, La Strada, was unrivalled, according to brothers Rob and Tom Quinn, who were lead singer and drummer with The Crusaders, who played regularly at the legendary nightclub.

“They had all the big artists there at the time,” recalls Tom.

He says when Lonnie Donnegan played La Strada, there were about 500 people there.

Tom said the staff placed paper towels on the floor so people could sit down to watch the show.

“The atmosphere was second to none. I would have played there for nothing,” adds Tom, whose fellow band members, along with Rob, were bass player Dominic James, guitarist Ed Haws and keyboard player Len Singleton

All, bar Dominic, were born and bred in Jarrow.

Together with band manager David Golden, who played tambourine, (and whose wonderful photos, along with those of Tommy Flynn, who was the nightclub’s official photographer, have graced Time Of Our Lives this week), The Crusaders played all the hits that people wanted to hear in the swinging sixties.

“We mixed modern tunes with popular dance music,” explains Tom.

“We played everything from Gerry and the Pacemakers, to the Beatles, to The Searchers and all that.

“I remember when the band first played It’s All Over Now by the Rolling Stones. The party atmosphere was so great, that we played it three times in a row.”

Rob also remembers playing the big hits of the day.

“We did all the songs, from The Beatles to The Stones, right up to 1969.”

And he too was quick to sing the praise of La Strada’s “unmatched” atmosphere.

“I read that some one said the Latino was for the young and La Strada was for the old. I would disagree.

“Many people were only in their 20s, and yes some were older, but I visited Latino, which was much bigger, and the La Strada atmosphere was unmatched.

“There was no Frank Sinatra from us, it was all live top hits, some 250-plus during our residency.

“Even people pictured in the club’s casino, many of them were in their twenties, they just looked older then.”

And despite the passing years, the lads are still rocking ’n rolling.

“I have a touring band now,” reveals Rob.

“We’ve toured the UK, featuring a tribute to the Hollies, and now we’re in our sixth year.

“Last time we played at The Customs House, many people brought photos from those La Strada days, and said it would be great to hear us play many of the songs we sang at La Strada, and bring back memories from the six-year period we played there.

“So we’re bringing a new Juke Box Sixties two-hour show, dedicated to the songs I sang at La Strada, all those years ago.”

There will be two shows, to be staged at The Customs House, on Saturday, May 21.

Keep reading the Gazette for more details.