The Temple in Liverpool

Photograph by Joe Neary


How I remember The Temple
Laurie Taylor - BBC Radio Thinking Allowed, 24/2/2010

The timing was critical.  We knew that if we stayed drinking in The Olde Crack beyond half-past nine then our chances of getting into the basement bar of The Temple would be pretty rocky.  So, as soon as my mate Jim called ‘time’, we’d drain our last pints of draught Double Diamond, tip out into the smoky Liverpool air, lurch down Bold Street, and then cut through the back jiggers to reach Dale Street.

What pulled us towards Dale Street and The Temple was the prospect of hearing the Merseysippi Jazz Band.  None of us ever went early enough to get a seat.  It was somehow accepted that you only rolled up when you were just sober enough to pass the inspection by the stony-faced woman on the door, but still drunk enough to value the support provided by the packed standing crowd.

I must have been to hundreds of jazz clubs in my life but nothing has ever quite equalled the sheer excitement of The Temple.  The band played a big part in generating in that.  They were a fast noisy outfit extrovert with two trumpeters who, the aficionados knew, were based upon King Oliver and Louis Armstrong.  They also had a wonderfully forceful trombone player called Frank Parr who, at the time, was, I think, Lancashire’s reserve wicket keeper, and carried his instrument around in the long bag which also housed his pads and cricket bat.  (George Melly, who often sang with the Merseysippi, used to recall Frank’s wonderfully aggressive attitude towards food.  At breakfast time he’d hold his knife and fork slightly aloft, then look belligerently down at the eggs and bacon before him and announce ‘I’m going to bloody murder this lot.’)

But the excitement of the occasion was also raised by the setting.  During the day The Temple was one of the semi-classical legal buildings which lined that part of Dale Street, so that the night time transformation of its cellar seemed splendidly irreverent.  And that irreverence was compounded by the announcements between the jazz numbers.  I can’t now remember who made them – I probably couldn’t even see him through the massed crowd of swaying semi-drunks – but they often had an anarchic edge which was so refreshing in those buttoned up days of the 1950’s.

I still recall, for example, being near enough to the bandstand one night to hear and see George Melly’s pastiche of Mighty Like a Rose.  He minced up the microphone, made some reference to a member of the band (don’t ask) and then sang the alternative words:

Funny Little Fellow
Wear his sisters clothes
Don’t know what to call him
But we think he’s one of those.

It’s a million miles away from today’s political correctness but at the time a very unusual public reference to a phenomenon which was normally only spoken about then in whispers or in loud calculated insults.

We were, of course, primarily there to hear the jazz, to listen to yet another all-out version of Muskrat Ramble or Sweet Georgia Brown or Ory’s Creole Trombone (Frank Parr’s speciality).   But The Temple also suggested that there were other more eccentric, more bohemian, more adventurous, ways of living and talking than those which most of us in the dull 1950s encountered at school and work.  It was an education, not merely an entertainment.

Of course, nowadays, the particular attractions of The Temple are never celebrated in histories of the Liverpool music scene.  The only venue which now features is The Cavern.  The Story of the Beatles dominates all other Liverpool music stories.

Sent by Sid Bailey

15/03/2010 -

I’ve been resident for many years in St. Asaph, North Wales, but brought up in Liverpool where I was hatched in 1926, and I used to frequent such places as The Temple, Picton Hall and numerous dance halls. Never touched alcohol in those days, mainly because at the age of 18  I was introduced to BENTS beer which tasted like Mersey water and put me off the stuff for years. Of course I’m now making up for it.

Denys Owen


Denys Owens mentions the Temple in Dale Street. If he is referring to the years around 1955-1956 it was the time I came to Liverpool University but could not get into the University band as Hughie Potter had the gig. I therefore had to find work in town and played at the Temple as one of my first gigs. Like Denys I cannot recall the name of the band but it was fronted by Clinton Ford and I think it might have been Beryl Bryden as singist. Any advance on this information would be welcome

Malcolm Turnbull


Mal Turnbull has jogged my memory. Yes I'm sure Beryl Bryden was singing at The Temple.  I also heard her performing in a large old house in Croxteth Road' subsequently demolished and now a block of flats.  The one thing I remember about the trumpeter is that he had an unusual style in that the instrument "wagged" up and down as he played! Good trumpeter though.

Denys Owen


I remember playing at the Temple in the Druids Jazz Band in 1957 when the line up was Tony Pringle leader (cornet) Brian Williams (clarinet) Roy Penny (trombone) Vic Sanderson (banjo) Rusty Hartshorn (drums) and yours truly on bass. Later on we played at the Cavern for a short residency playing on Wednesdays with the Ron. McKay skiffle group, Swinging Bluejeans plus other supporting groups. On Saturdays we were the supporting group to visiting London bands, Acker Bilk, Cy Laurie, Dick Charlesworth, Sandy Brown etc. It wasn't long before we got our marching orders as Allen Syntner changed over completely to Mersey beat groups. We were also on the supporting bill at the New Brighton Tower when the Druids and the Beetles backed up a London Trad Jazz band. If we only had a copy of the programme.

John Dunlop


My father bought me a Grundig reel-to-reel for my 21st birthday. It weighed 3.5 stone and I used to lug it from Crosby to the Picton Hall concerts. One night in 1955 or 6 Big Bill Broonzy was on at the Temple with the Merseysippi. I took the Grundig and asked Bill if I could record him. He wasn't keen: 'I like to got robbed several times with people doing that and then bringing it out on a record', he said. The Merseysippi had bought Bill a bottle of Scotch to drink during the evening. He managed to get the label off, and I wrote on the back a promise that I wouldn't issue my tape on a record. I gave it to him, but at the end of the evening I found the label trampled into the floor.  I had a beautiful recording but, foolishly, because tapes were so expensive, I tried to copy it at half speed and re-used the original. I still have the copy, it the quality is now lousy (I copied it again to CD).

Steve Voce


The Temple Bar and Restaurant & Banqueting Rooms situated in Temple Court and Dale Street Liverpool 2 was owned by two astute Jewish business men called Harry Waterman and Harry Issacson (Ike) they had a portfolio of clubs bars and pubs dotted around Liverpool they even owned a beer bottling plant. The Temple was the head office. Harry ‘Ike’ appeared to be responsible for the band bookings, ranging from Country & Western, Folk to Trad Jazz. The Merseysippi jazz band had a multitude of followers mainly students they called their club ‘West Coast Jazz Club’ and operated on a Sunday night they also invited guests, a practice the band still indulge, at their now residency the Liverpool Cricket Club on a Monday evening. Arguably the most famous of their guest’s was in 1955 making his second visit to Liverpool (his first 1952) the great ‘Big Bill Broonzy’ . The Muskrat Jazzmen operated on a Friday evening, both bands attracted a huge student following.

Prior to opening The Iron Door Jazz Club (just around the corner in Temple Street) in early 1960 Harry Ormesher and I promoted at the Temple in 1958, we were on friendly terms with the two owners who allowed us discreet access to organise events in the very large banqueting rooms above the Temple, we were given the option of promoting downstairs in the Temple Sunday evenings now vacant because of the departure to the newly opened Cavern, the Merseysippi Jazz band who were unhappy at the prospect of Harry Ike’s decision to increase the Sunday night’s booking fee. The banqueting rooms were ideal because we were not thinking of promoting jazz but the new sound wafting into Liverpool from America ‘Rock and Roll’ ‘Beat’ music we were both hooked on this exciting new concept in music to reach these shores. At the same time we were both life time followers of jazz and remain so.

Geoff (Irondoor) Hogarth.

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