The Savoy Ballroom

The Savoy Ballroom was owned by the Dance Band leader "Tommy Smith".

It was a popular venue in the 50s for ballroom dancing, but when "Rock & roll" took off, he had to make changes. So on 2 nights per week Mon & Thurs he tried a group along with his own Orchestra. This proved more successful.

The group he had regular at the time was the "Cruisers", who because of their popularity, were only able to do the Mon evening.

We played there for approx 2 yrs as resident, with other bands doing various nights.

As the Cruisers already had a big following, from being regular in the "Oldham Hotel", most of their fans followed on the Monday evening.

But because the "Cruisers were already *doubling up on a Sat evening at another ballroom "Hill Stores"
they lost the Hill Stores gig (thats Showbiz).

Over the years, the Savoy became a cabaret club, known as "The Candlelite Club"'.

Steve Jones


The early years:

In the 1920's a band contest was held at a club on Robson Street Oldham. It was alleged that the adjudicator (who liked a tipple) instead of being behind the screen listening to the bands was propping up the bar in another part of the club. However, he voiced his opinion and named the winning band. Tommy Smith, who was not participating in the the contest, disagreed with the decision, bustled his way onto the stage and gave his opinion as to which was the best band. Tommy was heckled and derided by the contesting musicians...........What do you know about music etc........Tommy brought a budding musician (who happened to be in the audience) to his aid, this person (a pianist) was called Clifford Harrison....Discussions on harmony took place until the wee small hours.

The following day Tommy turned up at Cliff's home, Tommy hinted that with my push and your musical ability there is no reason why we should not be able to form band. Tommy's first successful band came into being. At the time a new fashion had come out called 'Oxford Bags', so they named this band 'The New Oxfords'. In the ensuing years they had much success, they stole a march on most of the other local bands who played from standard arrangements, whereas, the New Oxford's had their own arranger, their musical director Clifford Harrison. Their best achievement: 2nd in the 'Melody Makers' all England band contest. They later turned professional and joined the Mecca circuit, Mecca required a named band so Tommy Smith's Band was born. They played at the Ritz in Manchester, Trentham Gardens and prior to the war were the resident band at the opening of the Locarno Ballroom in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. Because of the war the band broke up, Tommy and cliff had a disagreement, Cliff never played with the band again though he did do the odd arrangement for Tommy when he became a broadcasting band.

When Tommy retired he bought a bungalow in Blackpool, on occasion would still visit Oldham , whenever he did he would let Cliff know and we would spend the night (they reminiscing - I was thirty years their junior) in the Sportsman's Arms on Broadway Chadderton.
I played piano at a pub called the Primrose View on Ashton Road Oldham, Cliff came most nights, the highlight of these being when he got on the piano and gave me an ½hr respite.........he was a delight to listen to.

On the odd Wednesday night Tommy would turn up, being the local celebrity that he was he would entertain the crowd with a couple of songs: Secret Love and For You (where he would make jokes and blow kisses to the ladies).

One Wednesday Tommy turned up all excited, he was clutching a book called' And the Bands played On' by Sid Colin. In this book is a photo of 'The New Oxfords' under the caption of one of Ray Noble's early bands. In actual fact, their arranger Clifford Harrison had won a 'Melody Maker' arranging prize, the prize being a session for the band with Ray Noble. For the record: Ray Noble is seated at the piano, the New Oxford band at that time was clockwise: Tommy Smith (double bass), Clifford Harrison (piano & arranger), Frank Gamble (trombone), Harold Sutcliffe (2nd alto), Bill Smith (drums), George Jackson (1st alto), Tommy Barnes (trumpet) and Bert Collins (tenor sax).     

David Renshaw

The venue was the home of the Tommy Smith Orchestra.  They made a few  broadcasts for Music while you work but I remember a broadcast on the then, I think, home service for a program entitled 'Meet The Band' which lasted for  six to eight broadcasts. This featured all the local semi pro bands such as  Phil Moss(Ritz), Ernie Mills (Rochdale Carlton)etc.

There was an article and photo of Tommy published in the Oldham Chronicle just after Tommy's 80th birthday report. . In that article there was mention of records produced for but  were metal and 16inches so were not playable on domestic equipment so were  kept in the garage and eventually destroyed. Now of course they could easily  be remastered.

There was some mention also of a part recording held by a collector which I  asked if it could copied in an article I wrote but I never heard any more of  it but if anyone knows of its existence I would be very interested in it.  I will watch this space for any news.

John Turner

I have a couple of records made by Tommy Smith's New Oxford Band at:
National Recording Studios
14 St. Peter's Square Manchester

Electric Recording of
"Wa - DE - Da- De" & "My Sweetie and Me"

I also have a Dixon - Roadhouse High Fidelity Recording..............
Play this master disc with trailer or fibre needles  Moss Side 1944

  "Love in Bloom" and "Honky Tonk"

David Renshaw

I was a Savoy regular in the late 40s, and early 50s, wonderful memories of a great dance hall, as they were then known! Tommy Smith certainly gave us good music, both with accurate arrangements of well known swing bands, Miller, Billy May, Earl Bostic and some not so well known.

He also had visiting bands almost every month. Johnny Dankworth 7, with a young vocalist called Cleo Laine, Ray Ellington,with Marion Ryan, and a great dutch band - Hazy Osterwald.

Then there was Freddie Randall's jazz outfit, with Kathy Stobart  and others, all returning many times.

His own vocalists in those faraway nights were Gerry Brereton, Alan Reynolds, and Molly Pritchard, making sure that Savoy visits were a must for our gang. Imagine my surprise when I searched "spotify" for any "Gerry Brereton" and heard his songs played after 60 or so years.

Happy days !!

Roy Stott

Thankyou David Renshaw for your comments about the New Oxfords and mentioning a book entitled 'and the bands played on'.  From this and our nephews diligence in managing to purchase a copy of the book we now have an early photograph of my father Frank Gamble (trombone).  As you say the caption reads an early Ray Noble band I know my father was never in the Ray Noble band and the occasion related to me by my father is exactly as you state. I estimated the photograph was approximately 1930 and as the book states Ray Noble was with HMV from 1924-34 this would appear correct, soon after this photo my father went to London playing with Teddy Joyce and The Tommy Finnegan bands,  Funny enough those two bands do not appear to be mentioned in the book.  After the war my father played also played with Lou Prager, Teddy Foster and broadcast with the BBC N.V.O. I remember my father telling of sessions with american jazz musicians who visited Oldham round about 1930.  I seem to vaguely remember him saying they were held in a church or school hall but I wonder now whether they were actually at the Savoy.

Thanks to you the family are thrilled as they now have an early photo of my father.

Margaret Johnson

I was present when a recording was made, I think to be submitted to the BBC when Tommy was trying to appear on Music while you work?  This was made on a wire recorder which preceded tape recorders. Happy days !

James Duxbury

Tommy Smith was my great grandad!! I have been looking so long to find articles and evidence about him. I had heard stories about him from my mum and other members of the family and was never 100% sure I was on the right track. This is an amazing article for me to read and any more information that you could share and pass on would be massively appreciated.

Thankyou so much, kindest regards

Zoe Galloway 

Hi please help.

I have been trying to find Tony Smith, Tommy's son for over 20 years or his daughters.  His wife was Linda, Tony is my step brother, Ivy was my mum.

B. Brown nee Tupman

Sorry cant help about Tommy Smith but my dad talked about a Tommy Cheetham who had one leg (keys). Did summer seasons in Jersey CI. Also last Christmas was in panto and Cannon and Ball and myself remembered Gilbert Lorain (drag act) Bunny Lewis and Royton Band Club. Brilliant days if we made a tenner it was all worth it! What happened to those great days of Oldham club scene?

Steve Barclay

Tommy Smith Band at Savoy in Oldham, few of his band moved to Blackpool. Tenor player Albie Hilton has moved further now to Moreira nr Benidorm. he still comes over to Blackpool in summer, hope thats useful.

John Pixie Roylance

This message is primarily intended for David Renshaw's attention. I have enjoyed reading your article Re Tommy Smith's New Oxford Band 10/6/12 and wondered if you had considered putting these couple of records on to YOUTUBE I am sure quite a number of people, albeit a relatively small number, of Oldhamers' would be most grateful to you to hear this early Tommy Smith Orchestra or indeed any other person who may have examples of Tommy's music.

 Perhaps if you wish to reply you can do it through this site as I have had a number of bogus Emails sent to me in the past so use it only sparingly.

 In 1962 I purchased quite a good tape recorder and toyed with the idea of recording the band but I had only just got married and went to the Savoy basically to sort out the possibility but unfortunately a fight broke out, not something that ocurred too often there, but we left and never returned. Something I have regretted not doing ever since.

John Turner

In reply to John Turner's request: The old wind-up or electric turntable  gramophone that used loud, medium or soft old type needles will produce sound from one of the records, the fibre needle record, though in my possession I have never heard. No present day record player will produce sounds from these two records. However, if you have the means or wherewithal of getting these Tommy Smith recordings on to 'youtube' I will gladly loan them to you.

P.S. Somewhere amongst my stockpile of sheet music, I have got the actual arrangement by Clifford Harrison of one of the numbers on the record.  

David Renshaw

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Comments (16)

Topic: Savoy Ballroom, Oldham
David Summerscales says...
Does anyone remember the Savoy Junior Dance Band?

In the late 50s early 60s some friends and I used to run dances at the Jerusalem church hall in Failsworth. Tommy's son was a bass player and ran the band.
27th April 2014 10:27am
Maurice Taylor says...
Hi David
I remember the Savoy Junior Dance Band I was in and played the double bass. Tony was the band leader and played the saxophone. Anyone still looking at this site contact me if you like
2nd February 2017 3:05am
Tony Smith says...
My name is Tony Smith and Id like to comment on this subject about Tommy Smith.He was my 2nd father. It wud be marvellous to be able to contact the lady, Brown nee Tupman? Please supply her e.mail address if poss.? Please ask her to contact me on my ... Read More
10th January 2015 4:31am
Zoe Galloway says...
Hi Tony, I read that you are Tommys step son. I am Tommys great granddaughter and I would love for you to get in touch. I never knew him, only heard a few stories from my mum please get in touch. It would be great to hear from you!
Kindest regards Zoe
23rd August 2015 11:30pm
Cathy Mason says...
Hi Zoe,
Tommy Smith was my grandads brother! I only met him a few times when I was little but my mum knew him well... I will see if she has any pics or other stuff?
26th April 2017 7:48am
Beryl Dobbs Taylor says...
Hi Cathy.
I knew all Tommy's family, including Bill Norman and May.Harold i only met occasionally when he came in the Savoy.May I met when she came into my shop in Blackpool,many years later.
Which of the brothers was your grandfather?
26th April 2017 6:10pm
Cathy says...
My grandad was Harold! id love to hear anything about him?! Or indeed tommy!
11th May 2017 1:50am
Zoe says...
I would love to hear more stories about my great grandad. I was very young when he passed but have always been curious and wanted to know more about him as a person
3rd February 2018 10:53am
Zoe says...
Wow this is fantastic, my grandma was Alice (his 1st wife) my nan was Stella, Tommy Smiths daughter. I don't know much as most of the family have passed. I do know May was his 2nd wife! And I've heard about Harold. I would love to chat with ... Read More
3rd February 2018 10:48am
Gill darroch says...
Molly Pritchard was my birth mother. She sang with the Tommy Smith band. I was born 28/10/59. Does anybody know who my father was? Sadly Molly died almost 10 years ago but I was lucky enough to get to know this lovely lady who gave me the gift of ... Read More
12th August 2015 4:39pm
Gill Darroch says...
I am still trying to find anybody who remembers Molly Pritchard who sang with the band. She was my mother.
18th May 2017 6:03pm
Rita Barnes says...
Fabulous dancing with Tommy Smith's band at Oldham's Savoy. Had some beautiful evenings with Tommy Smith. He always sang "WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM" at the end of each evening's dancing. Great crowd and great times. Grin
17th August 2015 5:33pm
fred dellar says...
Can any one help? Trying to identify a band in the Oldham area in the 20`s, 2 concertinas (played by the whitworth brothers) plus double bass and piano.
2nd November 2015 1:53am
Beryl Taylor Dobbs says...
I was a regular at the Savoy from 1950 to 1957.I worked in the ladies cloakroom on alternate nights with Margaret and Fred was on gents cloakroom. I spent the other nights up on the dance floor I danced regularly with Norman Smith and Nicky.I was a ... Read More
29th November 2015 2:35am
David Renshaw says...
For the attention of Margaret Johnson. I may have unearthed another photo of the New Oxford's, I can't be certain but I think there is a picture of your dear papa. Please reply to my email address; and I will image it to ... Read More
24th April 2017 6:59pm
Eddie Dodd (Chadderton) says...
Looking for information on a dance and called the "Riveara Dance Band". They where active around the Oldaham area in the 1930's.
16th August 2017 7:23am

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