Manchester Sports Guild (Manchester CBD)

For an excellent extensive hisory, visit Jack Swinnerton's history of the MSG

The Manchester Sports Guild has to have been one of the best venues in Manchester. From memory they played jazz in the basement, there was a bar on the ground floor and folk music was held upstairs. The clientele was completely classless with students mixing with working class people like myself. I once saw Dominic Behan [brother of Brendan] demolish 24 bottles of guinness during a gig in the folk club." Philip Morris

The MSG Jazz cellar was the place to be when any visiting American stars were on at The Free Trade Hall because after the show they invariably ended up at the MSG to jam with whoever was that night's featured act. I remember standing next to Teddy Wilson while we queued for a hot pot supper! Fame or what? Alex Welsh's band always went down a storm and often supported featured American stars. Top venue.

The folk club had Mississippi Fred McDowell one night and the wonderful Jesse Fuller. I first saw Carthy and Swarbrick there and that was when I realised that folk music wasn't all Arran pullies and roaring Irishmen. Nuff sed.

John Irving

I used to belong to the rock climbing group there back in the late sixties. Often went to the folk nights on the second floor. Once I saw Henry (Red) Allen in the jazz cellar. They were supposed to have been getting Louis Armstrong at that time but for some reason he cancelled at the last minute.Still it was a great night.

Ken Smithson

My group, the Big City Blues backed Jack Dupree there. I had gotten hold of an alto sax, in addition to my tenor and was trying to get to play both of them like Roland Kirk.  I really had not got it down too well. My brother was in the audience that night and I thought "sod it' I'm gonna try and do em' both on a tune. It worked! He was quite impressed as I recall.

Also the Edgar Broughton band (as yet not that well known) were in the club, and insisted on backing Jack on a set .. they were monstrously loud, way over the top. Poor Jack! Good article on Big City Blues band backing Champion Jack Dupree - click here

David Bowker

I remember the MSG with great affection. Me and my mates used to attend the folk nites mostly, it was there where we first saw Mike Harding, we all thought he was much funnier than any of the comedians of that period. He also sang some great folk tunes, *Jimmy Spoons* and *Lanchashire Lads* to name but a few.

The MSG run by a man who anwered to the name of Jenks, I never did know his proper name. He was responsible for just about everything. He made you a member, took money on the door, looked after the bars and he was the man you saw if you ever wanted to use the table tennis room for private games.

We all loved that place, how sad when it closed down.
Happy days.

Dave Milner. Denton

A great buzz at the MSG. As you made a way upstairs towards the folk you would catch a glimpse of jazzmen (and women maybe?) doing their hectic thing downstairs.

A dynamic friendly environment was my perception - this was my schoolboy/pre-student notion. Though into the blues I was a bit nervy of the Twisted Wheel unfortunately, as friends turned towards all-nighters and associated paraphernalia.

Hitched a ride from Liverpool, show off driver crashing onto the central reservation of the East Lancs part-way back but made it to see lovely Buffy St Marie, beautiful young thing in a little red dress.(or was that her LP cover?). There were Robin and Barry Dronsfield who would often host singers nights , other names escape me. 

It was a sad day when the MSG closed, a great loss in it's cross-cultural/musical way. The building stayed up for years afterwards, offering a glimmer of hope.

Nice company too.

Roger Baker - 10/1/09

I made my first appearance as a guest star at the jazz club that Bruce Mitchell ran in the basement of the MSG for a short time. This was also my last appearance as a guest star - anywhere. Bruce had put an ad in the Jazz Column of the Evening News that read 'The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Pete Crooks'. The only incredible thing was that I could play the melody line of about six tunes and that was it, my total repertoire. I was backed by a rhythm section of Frank Toms on piano, Mike Quellin on bass and Bruce himself on drums. I'd never met Frank or Mike before, let alone played with them and it wasn't love at first sight. 

I counted the first tune in and Frank brought it in at double tempo leaving me struggling to keep up. I don't remember much else about our playing but I think that it went downhill from there. I do remember that there was a bunch of blokes in the front row who must have been hard up because they were sharing one hand rolled cigarette between them.

Amazingly nobody booed or heckled; perhaps the audience thought that it was very avant garde or perhaps it was due to those hand rolled cigarettes. Bruce, ever the gentleman, paid me at the end of the evening and that night I rode home in a taxi.

At this point I'm supposed to say 'those were the days' but that's one gig that I'd prefer not to do again. On the other hand, I've seen some great people and some great bands at the MSG and those really were the days.   I later played with with Mike Quellin in a band called 'The Denis Range Seven' which had some great arrangements. Mike distinguished himself by putting the bass parts for those great arrangements on the roof of the drummer's van whilst he loaded his bass. Yes, you've guessed it. He forgot all about the bass parts and left a trail of music from Whaley Bridge all the way to Stockport. We should have made him go and pick it all up.

Pete Crooks - 5/9/09

I remember going to "The Pendulum " at MSG which was a Northern Soul night on a Friday. the Dj was Dave White and the night had re-located from a pub on Hardman Street.

Les Whyatt - 16/1/10

I have very happy memories of the MSG. My father introduced the club to me as he was a sales rep for a brewery and knew "Jenks" very well.

My happiest memory was when I was taken there for my 21st in April 1965 to see Earl Hines perform. It was truly magical. Both my mother and father were there and some friends and it really made my birthday special, although it was not on the actual day.

I spent many happy hours in that wonderful smoky atmosphere doing the specially "stomp" dance to trad jazz. Oh happy days.

Laraine Fryers - 9/3/10

Jenks was a father figure to all budding jazzmen. He wrote a great article in Jazz Journal in the early sixties after he moved to Cheltenham.

I remember he and John Orr as being helpful particularily at The Sportsman on Market Street.

Malc Roylance - 27/8/10

The MSG was the most fabulous club going in the 1960's there were 11 of us girls who were all friends, we all met through friends of friends at the MSG. I can even remember, if you were unlucky enough to buy the first round of drinks - 10 halves of bitter and half a mild, then we would all split up and be bought drinks. We used to go almost every night, there was the folk upstairs, the jazz downstairs and the middle room was what I called the glorified youth club with people from all walks of life,everybody was so friendly. Every weekend we either went to all night parties or up to the lakes or wales with the climbers after the guild on a Friday night. Before we met the 'lads'us girls used to hitch hike up the lakes on the Friday but we always made sure we made it back to the guild on the Sunday evening for a couple of pints.

If we didn't go for a couple of nights we always thought we were missing something.

I met so many wonderful people there and it was the best time of my life. It was a very sad day when it was closed down and I am sure it could have gone on for many years after as the building was still there for a good few years after the closure.

I would love it if a reunion concert was arranged - what a reunion that would be - hope you manage to do one especially in the centre of Manchester, where all my friends I am still in touch with from the guild would be able to come. Every time we get together and we get talking about the MSG I always say I am going to organise a reunion and the answer I get back is that I will have to be quick before everybody has gone - please arrange this before it is too late. It would be lovely to see 'old' friends again.

Barbara Jones - 7/9/10

I used to go to Folk nights upstairs at the Guild. I went after work on Monday evenings to singers night, where many of the now "rich and famous" would sing for a free pint.

I sold raffle tickets on Saturday nights and sometimes helped behind the bar. There was a group of around 12 of us who went regularly.

Sometimes we'd go walking in the Peak District on Sundays and end the day at the Guild with a drink and some good music. Does anyone remember the Chinese waiter who never got an order wrong, Ronnie who joined our walking group, Bryn Pugh, John McAtee who played incredible jazz piano in the upstairs room and Noel, the former body-builder and bouncer who looked as though no-one would dare to cross him but was the nicest man. 

I first went with my older brother and his girlfriend and was hooked, even though I didn't know any of the songs. It didn't take long and I made many friends there, saw many great singers and probably didn't realise at the time what a unique place it was. I later went with my younger brother and Bob, the doorman, was a little confused as I sometimes met a boyfriend and sometimes went with my brother. Finally the penny dropped and he realised that the tall young man he saw me with most often was my brother. I have lost contact with the people who I met regularly there and would love to hear from them.

I moved to London in '71 and continued to go to the Guild at every opportunity, when I was visiting family until the place finally closed.

Kath Mayall - 8/9/10

We used to got to the Parakeet Coffee Bar and spend all night with one cup (6d)of coffee, and later frequented the Left Wing Coffeee Bar.

When I was about 16 (1961) played (banjo) at the Black Lion Hotel, Blackfiars St. upstairs with the Ian Rose Jazz Band (Thursdays) and The New Iberia Jazz Band (Sundays). 

Later (1963) joined The Savannah Jazz band who were resident at the Manchester Sports Guild for some time (Fridays I think). The guys in the middle bar often had weekend parties so we were usually invited "bring your banjo" of course and we would rush to Picadilly Station to catch the last train to Hayfield where the guys had a cottage in the hills. We would play till the early hours often stood on the wall playing to the sheep and neighbouring farmers.

Being a musician I didn't have to pay to get in so would spend a lot of time at the MSG. I also used to go upstairs on a Monday where Frank Duffy ran the folk singers club and play some banjo solos.

After a short spell in London returned to join Shep's Banjo Boys and played at the Golden Garter for 3 years.

My first job (1961) was at the CPA on Oxford Street so lunchtimes were spent in and around the music shops- Barrats, Renos, Mameloks,Stock & Chapmans, Johnny Roadhouse.

I was brought up in Longsight and Mike Maxfield (Dakotas) lived opposite in the corner shop for a while but he was into pop music whilst I was into skiffle and jazz. We have met up many times since then.

I got my first guitar when I was about 9/10 having heard Rock Island Line by Lonnie Donegan and often wonder if my dad hadn't bought me a banjo for my 11/12th birthday I would have stayed with the guitar and probably played with one of the Manchester groups! 

Charlie Bentley - 15/9/10 

Visited the MSG for years, both as visitor and player. Saw so many people there, Pete Seager, Peggy Seager, Tony and Arthur, Mike Harding, Judy Collins, ELO, and... on Monday evening, singers night, Jenks kept order.

I played five string banjo with The Manchester Ramblers, Bill Ogden, Ged Leonard, and meself.

Dave McKeown - 21/10/10

It was the first folk club I went to and I remember being astonished by the diveraity and talent od som of the performers. I saw Martin Carthy, Richard Thompson, Mike Harding, Bernard Wrigley and the late Harry Boardman, who subsequently became a close personal friend.I think it closed about 1973 for "imminent demolition" but wasn't demolished for a number of years. Tragic.

Chris Cole - 11/2/11

The advertisement in the Manchester Evening News said 'Come and Sing Along With Drony. These words held a fascination for me until one Monday evening I ventured forth to do just that. There was Drony compering the Singers Club.

To cut a long story short, we have now been married nearly 40 years.

Does anyone else remember Drony and his humerous songs...The Gremlin Crew and Greenfleas, Fat Nelly the Cook and the like??
Those were happy days in the late 60s and early 70s.

Carole Dronsfield - 14/5/11

Frank Duffy used to tell a great story of the time when he ran the folk singers club. Paul Simon was on in Birmingham and Frank managed to book him into the MSG on expenses only!

After his first set, Paul comes up to Frank and says 'Is it OK if my buddy joins me in the second half?'
Frank: 'Sure. What's his name? I'll give him the build-up'
Paul: 'Art Garfunkel'
Frank: 'Stop f***ing me around Paul. WHAT'S HIS NAME?'

Brian McClintock - 7/7/12

Just enjoying reading the "posts" about folk/jazz nights at M.S.G. I would love to know where the friends I knew so well in the late 60s early 70s are these days. Standing room only for Alex Campbell. Noel Murphy-priceless. Carthy and Swarbrick, Ian Campbell to name but a few.

Kath Mayall - 19/7/12

Went to the Guild between 1966 and its closure. The Jazz downstairs Folk upstairs. Saw The great Jesse Fuller backed by Sheila Collier and the Smoky City Six, also Joan Ann Kelly, Henry Red Allan, Martin Carthy, Dominic Behan, Champion Jack Dupree, (who gave me and my mate a lift home to Failsworth on his way home to Bradford) the list goes on.

The Guild was a Manchester institution, completely classless everyone got on, It was sadly missed. 

Mike Newell - 22/10/12

I started going to the MSG in 1963 and went every week, sometimes 2 or 3 times a week for several years to 1971 both upstairs in the folk club and downstairs in the jazz club. Fantastic memories and some great music.

I was a Ken Colyer fanatic and never missed his visits.My girlfriend and I had to leave before 11 to catch the last bus home.Artists I remember include Mississippi Fred McDowell, Alex Campbell., Clive Palmer, Mike Chapman, Dave and Toni Arthur,Joanne Kelly and hundreds more.Also Ged Hone Ragtime Band every week in their residency. I remember Stan and Vi - keen jazz fans who were always there. Great times,great memories.

Allen Holmes - 17/11/12

Also thinking more about the MSG, I remember Jenks very well.I saw Buffy-Sainte Marie around 1963- 64. Also New Lost City Ramblers with Mike Seeger and Tom Paley in their early days. Also Clarence Ashley who was quite old then.

I also remember going to the Free Trade Hall a lot. Every year there was a Blues package. I saw Sleepy John Estes, Roosevelt Syke and lots of blues legends.

Going back to MSG I remember Stefan Grossman was on a lot, he was very young then. Also in the cellar, Kid Martyn Ragtime band, super music. I had some photos of the Jazz cellar but gave them to Ken Colyer Trust years ago. I remember Ken Colyer always drank Light n bitter I used to ask him to play requests quite a lot. One of my favourites was Daddys Little Girl.

Allen Holmes - 23/11/12

The Pendulum - Fantastic club downstairs at the MSG used to wait in line with country & western fans who were going up stairs. Great times and the musics still the best.

Bob Thompson - 25/11/12

Good to read in last nights MEN 14/12/12, Billy Connolly reminising about the times he played at the Guild. He remembered Jenks as a bad tempered guy, who was wonderful. Maybe someone should start a campaign for a statue of Jenks outside the Urbis building? 

Mike Newell - 14/12/12

My mate has just sent me "A Night at the MSG" which is a CD of a live concert to celebrate the folk music at the old MSG. It has brought back many happy memories of folk sessions in the 60's which i used to go to on a Friday I think. Great atmosphere and the craick was fierce.Remember Alex Campbell, Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger,The Blackpool Taverner's, The Beggarmen, Rosie Hardman and many more.

Shaun Hallworth - 1/1/13

Yes, it was a wonderful place, so vibrant, music everywhere. Fondly remember Maynard Ferguson playing there. Sadly, those days have gone, but the memories live on. 

Chris Dunnington - 17/3/13

Reading these entries has really brought back memories. I remember well both Jenks, and Frank Duffy. I can also endorse Franks story about Paul Simons and Art Garfunkel - I was there.

I remember a big sign near the entrance to the Folk " Hikers must remove their boots" Aimed at all of us hikers who went straight to MSG after getting off the Train from Edale.

Dave Price - 14/5/13

I considered the MSG to be home away from home for quite a long time. Used to go every Monday night when Drony was running things. Later played there a few times on a Saturday with my long lost acoustic trio "Triple Vintage". I remember so many great people. Rosie Hardman came round to a help us with our harmonies after she heard us one night. 

Always packed for Noel Murphy especially when joined by "Shaggis" or Davey Johnstone who has been Elton John's lead player and musical director for thirty years or more. I was also there for the Paul Simon performance and can confirm that Garfunkel did indeed join him for the second set. 

It was by far the friendliest place you could imagine. I never saw any trouble and all the performers were treated with the utmost respect.

Paul Bradshaw - 1/6/13

Went frequently to MSG Saw Jesse Fuller there & still have his autograph on the back of an entrance ticket. Also remember seeing Henry Red Allen playing with Humphrey Lyttelton - fantastic cutting contest!

Peter Fone - 5/8/13

I remember one night when the audience was as star studded as the main guests.

I lived about 10 miles North of Manchester and transport home was always a problem. I used to get the last train on Mondays after Singers Night, which left at 10 p.m. from Victoria Station and went to my home town. Or occasionally I would get the later train which meant a four mile walk from the station to my home ! The Saturday night train was later but sometimes I would hitch home with my brother. Oh the luxury when I had a boyfriend with a car! I could stay until the end and not run down Long Millgate at the last minute to catch my train. A friend once had the option to leave with me and the boyfriend, she lived in Droylsden which was on the way home for me, or go to a party with a couple of well known singers who had been at the club that evening. I think she regretted her decision and somewhere there is a redheaded young man with Navvy Boots On!! Thank you to another well known Irish singer for taking care of her.! Just part of the 60s!

Cath Mayall - 2/9/13

MSG magical times... dim light... blue grey smoke.... amazing after room of varying folk and jazz genre. Memorable Martin Carthy especially. Just soaking it all in as a late-teenager you didn't need anything extra just the music. I can smell it and taste it now! 

Jenny Kinsey - 15/11/13

Wonderful memories of the folk club, knew Tony & Arthur well, such a tragedy when Tony was killed whilst climbing, loved, The Beggarmen, saw Mike Harding, loved him til this day, remember alsomany more, did The Taverners play there - cannot remember if I saw them at MSG or another place in Manchester. Once went into the Jazz room and saw Ken Colyer, but wasn't really my scene.

Jean Skitt ( nee Gay) - 21/11/13

MSG was right across the street from the now-illustrious-and-famous (sex-scandal-infamous) Chetham's School of Music. For horny 5th- and 6th-formers at Chets back in the early '60s, our top floor afforded a dazzling, multi-window view of young ladies undressing and changing for exercise/ballet/dance. The high-focus, brass telescope from geography class lent an added frisson. Impossible to tell how many young men's future fantasies and decadent lifestyles were fueled by these images. Personally? Just wanna say thank you, MSG. I blame it all on you ...

Jack Grimshaw - Dana Point, Southern California - 30/12/13

In the late 60's saw an eclectic mix Capt. John Handy, Teddy Wilson and some marvellous blues with Champion Jack Dupree backed by Savoy Brown who included Hughie Flint on drums. Had a pee and spoke with Hughie about their guitarist Kim Simmonds.

Also a terrific night with a very loud Black Cat Bones, allegedly Paul Kossof's first band.

Remember smoky nights and McEwans number 3, listening to music that has stayed with me ever since!

Mike Dartnell  - 3/2/14

Champion Jack Dupree was one of the great US post war piano blues artists. Born in New Orleans in 1909 (or 1908 or 1910) he was an orphan, and became a useful boxer (hence the moniker). Jack began recording in 1940 with ‘Junker Blues’ issued on Okeh Records. He recorded for a number of independent US R&B and blues labels in the 1940s and 1950s. He moved to Denmark around 1960 and he became a regular visitor to the UK touring with pick up bands and playing solo during the mid 1960s and during the British Blues Boom that lasted until the early 1970s. 

He was a wonderfully skilled pianist and a great storyteller, regaling audiences with jokes, tall tales and wordplay. He married Shirley Harrison whom he had met in London whilst on tour and lived for a number of years in Ovenden, Halifax. They divorced in 1976. He was the subject of a TV documentary. 

Stories about Jack’s life in the UK abound and include one blues fan who tells the story standing in a queue in a Fish & Chip shop one Friday afternoon behind Jack who was getting in the Chippy tea's for his family.

Always in demand he recorded a large number of albums in Europe - and as sometimes happened audience members ‘taped' his shows.

On May 28th 1966, he appeared at the MSG as a solo. The show (including his humorous asides and joking with audience members) was taped. The tape stayed unissued until thirty six years later in 2002 when ‘Jivin’ With Jack - Live In Manchester May 1966’ was released as a double CD by Jasmine Records.

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info courtesy Tony Burke

Known gigs

Saturday, August 17, 1967: The Saints
Sunday, June 15, 1969: Magna Carta
Saturday, September 13, 1969: Magna Carta
Sunday, November 23, 1969: Magna Carta 
Friday, January 10, 1970: Magna Carta 
Saturday, July 18, 1970: Magna Carta, The Woods
Saturday, September 5, 1970: Magna Carta, Bryan Pugh

Courtesy John Warburg
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