The stars shine in Shields

Bob Monkhouse and Frank Carson.
Bob Monkhouse and Frank Carson.

The name La Strada (which means The Road) was dreamed-up by Sandford Goudie’s Italian-speaking wife, Jean.

And as the successful businessman proudly explains, many of the best-known stars of the 1960s would travel a road from London to the North East to appear at South Shields’ very first nightclub, and not long afterwards to its sister club, in Sunderland.

With the two clubs being less than 10 miles apart, it meant that artists could do an early evening performance at one venue, before travelling up or down the road to the other club, to do a second act later on.

As Sandford explains, one act would go on stage at about 7pm or 8pm, then do the same show at the other club between 9pm and 10pm.

Then it was a case of vice versa as the other act travelled in the opposite direction.

It was a routine that worked really well until, according to Sandford, Irish comedian Frank Carson, who was booked to perform at both clubs, decided to do a little “moonlighting”.

“On this particular night Frank was booked to do the early slot at South Shields and the late spot at Sunderland,” recalls Sandford.

“When he turned up for the late show, he was an hour late. He told me he had got lost, but I later found out that he had stopped off en-route to do a gig at a workingmen’s club.

“I said to him ‘you’re sacked’, but I didn’t.”

Frank Carson, whose catchphrase was “it’s the way I tell’ em”, was just one of many popular comedians and singers who Sandford remembers with affection.

“I got very close to Ronnie Hilton,” says Sandford.

“I remember Dave Allen and Vince Hill, he was a nice guy. I loved Los Zeveros, they sang in Spanish.”

“I gave Roger Whittaker his first booking after he left college. I am godfather to his eldest daughter, and we are still friends today.”

Sandford also had a hand in helping the career of a certain Jimmy Tarbuck to take off.

For as Tarby told Piers Morgan recently, he was booked to perform at La Strada, in South Shields for a week, when he was asked, at very short notice, if he could compere the incredibly popular Sunday Night At The London Palladium show.

Generously, Sandford allowed him time off to travel to London to rehearse and perform – and Jimmy Tarbuck never looked back.

As a thank you gesture, Tarby treated Sandford and Jean to a night out.

The couple also spent time with Bob Monkhouse, who brought a cine-film projector to their house and showed films on the wall.

Sandford and Jean were also able to offer comfort to Val Doonican when tragedy struck.

“He had just lost his young baby, and the first gig he did after that was at the club.

“He brought his wife with him, and they thanked us for making them feel so welcome.”

The letter from Edmund Hockridge printed at the top of the page (“he was a superb baritone who could sing modern songs with an operatic voice,” says Sandford) shows the affection with which the club was held by so many of the people who performed at La Strada.

l Next time: More images and memories from La Strada.

l Please get in touch with your stories from those days. I’d love to hear about your times at La Strada and the other nightspots in Shields.