The “Cona Coffee Bar” was in Tib Lane which ran parallel to Albert Square , off Cross Street.
It was a small coffee house with a couple of rooms. It was always hard to get a seat in there as it was so popular particularly in the early/mid 60s, open all day till late at night
A couple of doors down was the entrance to the upstairs offices of CND (campaign for nuclear disarmament) where for a small fee you could join and get their badge which is now the most popular peace sign on the planet. A combination of the times and location made the “Cona” a very popular meeting place.
Never saw a band in there, where you would put them god knows. The occasional folk/protest singer of the time playing acoustic guitar maybe.
People sometimes mistake of thinking the coffee house on the corner of ‘ Albert Square ' and ‘ Cross Street ' as “the Cona” but it wasn't.
A couple of very green schoolboys would venture into the Cona (1963 I think). It had a strong reputation and we didn't really know why, just thought it might be a good place to meet girls.
A twin 'Cona' percolator was a prominent feature. We'd try to make a coffee last but I'm still not good at this. Didn't meet girls or anyone else as far as I recall, but still I'm chuffed to lay claim to being a patron of the Cona!
If I'm not mistaken, the Cona was in Tib Lane off Cross Street (not to be confused with Tib Street where the animals used to hang out) and not far from the infamous Kennedy Street.
I remember going there one Saturday afternoon with my mate Ray Cummings who played guitar with John Mayall's Powerhouse Four and with the Blues Syndicate. We took our guitars and played a few blues, managing to generate a great deal of disinterest amongst the clientele.
After a while this kid came in who seemed to know Ray and announced that he'd just spent the last four hours playing blues on a Steinway grand piano. The implication seemed to be that he was emotionally drained and that a Steinway grand was the only instrument for the serious bluesman (I understand that when he heard this, Mr. Steinway himself came round and rubbed his name off the piano).
The kid's name was Victor - Victor Brox and all credit to him, he's still at it.
The only other thing I remember about the place is that the Cona wasn't an espresso coffee bar, it sold American style coffee made in those goldfish bowl type coffee jugs.
The Cona was the epicentre of the mod scene, anyone who wanted to check out the latest fashions stood outside(there was more going on outside than inside) you then moved over to the next coffee bar situated in Albert Square, this was called the Favourite. We used to sit in there with a coffee and people watch. We got chatting one night to two folksingers (not our bag) but they were really nice guys, I never forgot their names Martin Carthy and Ewan McColl. Happy days whe Manchester was FAB.
My memories of the Cona? Wow! I first tumbled down those steps on Saturday, June 9th, 1962, and last emerged into the sunlight about eight years later.
I used to go there on most nights and remember that coffees cost one shilling while hamburgers were 1s 3d.
The Cona was owned by Gus Fox but the manager was a super-cool, tall, bearded dude called Martin Foley.
Does anyone remember Les Edwards, Kay Rimmer, Cathy Gatley, Ann Jones, Jill Whitaker, Sheelagh Moore, Jeff North and my bestest friend Jack Armstrong?
And can anyone recall the Stockley sisters - Barbara and Marian - and the rest of the Walkden mob, including Janet Cook and Elaine Potter-Smith.
Marian Stockley went on to become the singer Friday Brown whose name is not unfamiliar to manchesterbeat patrons. She had a great voice.
I wonder if anyone remembers me. I was the little bloke - unprepossessing yet curiously attractive - who was usually to be seen draped around the jukebox, feverishly feeding the machine with coins to hear either 'My Kind of Town' by Sinatra or 'The Bottle Dance' from Fiddler on the Roof.
I also have fond 60s memories and remembered the name Martin Foley but only when triggered.
Found this site by remembering Gus Fox.
I was part of the Trad Jazz scene, resenting the encroachment of the Rockers. We played in the Cona, both as impromptu, small gatherings of musos or a 6 piece Trad. band, booked for a gig in the cellar.
It was in the Cona that I befriended a young Asian Drama Student by the name of Krishna Banji unaware that I knew his father, a doctor in Swinton. Neither of us was aware that he (Krish) was to become Ben Kingsley..(KB became BK!!)
Other, not-yet notables associated there, as well as the likes of me, never-to-be notables.
I remember time spent in the Cona with Ossie Clark & Mo McDermott before they went to London and Ossie made a name for himself as a great designer. He lived near Warrington & as I lived in Irlam we used to travel home on the train together. When velcro first appeared Ossie used it in his trousers instead of a zip! I got some brown Max Factor pancake makeup from a friend in the Black & White Minstrels so we could turn Ossie into a Nubian slave for an arts ball.
Ossie gave me a beautiful brown/black chiffon dress and later, when he bacame famous, I asked Mum where it was. She had given it to a child down the road to dress up in!!!!! Said my sister and I had left too much stuff behind when we moved out and she had no room for it all! The child's gain was the V & A's loss.
Jean King (nee Readman)
The Cona or tales of a misspent youth.
For a couple of years I almost lived in the Cona and remember many of the regulars. Martin I knew from school we were in the same class at Gregs. Liverpool Pete was another. The band St Louis Union were regulars and I think they played an early gig there when Gus opened the basement. Used to meet there Saturday afternoon before going to one of the clubs. Oasis, Twisted Wheel,Three coins or MSG.
The Cona C H was way before my time but I was researching Celia Birtwell, the fabric designer - it was here she met Ossie Clark apparently. They were both at Salford Technical College, different courses; before they shot off to London to rock the southerners!
A 'bring your own records' place, by all accounts. I wonder what those two brought.
Wow yes - the Cona Coffee Bar! Went in there '63, we were intriged by the hippie scene.
First time we had all had coffee, sounds made now, enjoyed most early evenings in there before we went to the Wheel in Brazennose Street
We were in the cona the night John Kennedy was killed, all the people in there were really shocked. They brought out an extra Manchester Evening News paper. I think we all became grown that night. Happy days in a great place.
We were there in the heyday the 60's still in touch with Martin Foley the cool bearded dude, also Paul Wilson one of the guy's in the picture.
Spent all our lunchtimes in there and also at the Town Hall Tavern next door, does anyone remember Judy who also worked there with Martin (we had a tab behind the bar every week until Friday when we splashed out and instead of egg and chips had burger and chips).
Sue and Angie (anyone rember us)
You've already read my wife Sue's entry (Angie's friend) spent a lot of time at the Cona on our way to the Twisted Wheel which was then in Brazennose Street.
The guy's in the photo Ian, Paul Malcom (from B'ham) were always around. We still spend loads of time in Manchester, still meet up with some of the faces - Wilson, Shanks, Jim Griff, Gibbo & Barbara, Angie & Terrie (Dougherty), also a few of the L'pool guy's show up occasionally.
Dennis and Sue Heil
Certainly recall Sue and Angie. Very stylish girls, in blazers with trendy haircuts. It's all hairdressers round there now, isn't it? I well remember the St Louis Union. Keith Millar, guitarist, was in my class at Manchester Grammar. He was also a very good artist. Unfortunately, he died young, around 58 years old.
The first time I went down the steps it was the music that caught my attention. They had what you didn't hear on the radio - The Upsetters' version of Doh Wah Diddy (not Manfred Mann's), and you could hear the B sides you had to know about to be really in. I think it was 3d per side. That was the first place I heard "Woolly Bully".
Yes, it was like the waiting room for the Wheel.
My memories are as a teenager I was taken to the Cona by some friends who were much older than me. We sat and drank coffee and I remember going into the basement where jazz was often played. I went one day on my own and sat having a cup of coffee when my PE teacher walked in he was call Mr Rudd from Clough Top School he was amazed to see me sitting there.
He asked what I was doing in the bar as this was for over 18s I said that I was very interested in Jazz and Blues.
I now live in Dorset and went to Manchester July 2013 with my sister and we walked around to see the site of the Cona so many memories came flooding back
I wanna know David Silver's home address! Anyone giving me this info, I will recompense very handsomely. I will then happily fly several thousand miles to look him up, take him behind the building and thoroughly chastise him.
You owe me, Davidl! Big time! You and your disturbingly early taste for sophisticated music. Just found your post from August, '09. Truly strange aspect is, we probably recognized each other back in the day.
Early '60s, I considered the Cona coffee bar the height of cool. I was 17 or such and living in Whalley Range with my parents, so - yeah, okay - what the hell did I know. One thing I did know, however, there was this really annoying, totally uncool song continually blasting out of the friggin' Cona jukebox - some guy bleating on about his kind of town, Chicago is.
(Took me awhile, some years and some maturity to glom onto Sinatra and that glorious voice.)
Late '63, I'm finally getting somewhere with a so-far-unimpressed girl from Salford Tech. Dark hair, perky bosom, slim and Irish. American and Brit rock-n-roll's pounding on the Cona juke, caffeine is coursing through our adolescent, hormonal veins. Along with a hand squeeze and a shy smile, she tells me, out of the blue, that her parents out of town for the weekend.
Things are suddenly looking REALLY good. And then, enter stage left on the juke, Mr. Sinatra extolling Chicago.
"Oh, my dad really likes this song," says the lubricous, lusty lady of my wet dreams. Sixty seconds and she's gone. I never get another shot.
David - you owe me, bigtime!
Dana Point, Southern California
Add a Comment to this page
Please note: All comments are moderated and will not appear straight away. Please do not re-send.
Sorry ... but personal messages not related to the purpose of Manchesterbeat may not be added to the site.
Happy memories of The Cona on a Saturday night in the early 1960s.. It seemed so glamourous and exciting - the big city!! I was a hick from the country north of Bury. We had to run for the last train back to Bury and then for the last bus home.
I was a regular at the Cona from 1959 to 1961,when I worked there briefly (dishwasher/kitchen hand and evening fryer-up.) Gus and Rona made it the best Scene in town but the coffee was truly awful. I think I held the record for 16 cups in an evening. Didn't sleep for days. I'm sure Ossie and Mo were at the Didsbury Textile Design School in those days. I left at the end of 61; Ten-pound passage to Australia and never came back. Pity. Alan Bailey
I remember Angie she was great girl and always very kind to me and the rest of the guys, Cussy, (Alan Cussworth ) Jim Stewart, Barry Fell.Hope she is well and kicking ?I still return to Manchester on a regular basis and time allowing always have a wander around the old haunts. I can honestly say they where some of the best years of my life.
Wow, what memories these comments bring back! I attended Salford Tech Art Dept. Was a regular at the Cona and knew Martin and Judy, in fact shared living places with them! Gus was married to Rona and they were pretty strict about people sitting for hours with 1 coffee! Remember Liverpool Pete, Graham Laurier, manager of The Toggery in Stockport. There was Ann Worral, Edna, blond John who worked at the Cona but was arrested for a crime committed in another part of the country! My sister and I hitched to Sitges in Spain one year and had a bet with two guys, can't remember their names but one had a sports car, who could get there the quickest and we won!! Fabulous times in the Cona, Twisted Wheel, Oasis, in fact you could not be a part of the Manchester scene at that time and not have a great time. I think Ossie Clark went to the main Art College in Manchester, not Salford. Best place to be in the 60's.