On Sunday 15th January the Jimi Hendrix
Experience played their first gig in the North East of England at Kirklevington Country Club. Two weeks later they would play their second north
east gig at the New Cellar Club in South Shields. The "Kirk" had a capacity
of 350 but was not full. Their fee for the evening was £75 to be paid in
cash. The support band was a Middlesbrough rock group called Rivers
Chris Bailey ... "I remember Jimi and the doorstaff playing ‘roll the bottle’ across the dance-floor during a ‘lock in’ session after his gig. Jimi was teamed up with ‘Big Lenny’ (a butcher during the day). The idea was to roll a bottle with your nose, from the corner bar to the stage. Now as Lenny had quite a big head and Jimi a flat nose, it was Lenny who won, with a cry of “White man wins!”. Strange, how neither Jimi (who laughed loudly), or anyone else, took any offence at that ‘jokey’ comment in a happier and certainly more relaxed pre-’PC’ age"
|The Kirk photographed in the 1980s|
|The interior decor of the Kirk.|
Even after the Reays had left the club they still had connections. The family bought the Cross Keys pub in Yarm and ran that.
Tom Reay (junior) said "Rod Stewart was playing at the Kirk and came down to Yarm to get something to eat at one of the restaurants but they wouldn't let them in because they were wearing jeans. We had to do him a toastie and then put him in a taxi back to the Kirk."
Tom junior (who was born at the Kirk) grew up seeing some of the greats of the British music scene on his doorstep. He remembers .....
"People used to come from all over the country to go to the Kirk. They would start queuing on a Sunday afternoon to get in."
"At the time we lived in a little cottage at the back of the club. My bedroom was on the other side of the wall from the stage. I was just yards away. It was like thunder."
"I can remember the night Georgie Fame appeared and I played the mouth organ while he was playing the piano. At the time he was having an affair with Lady Londonderry and she turned up to the club but the place was full, she wasn't recognised and she was refused entry. She told the guy on the door who she was but people would say anything to get in and there was a huge queue. He told her he didn't care if she was the Queen of Sheba she still wasn't getting in!"
During the 1960s, before widespread car ownership The Kirklevington Country Club proved incredibly popular, even though its North Yorkshire location was quite remote from local towns. Weekend nights at the "Kirk" were extremely popular and many clubgoers would catch the early evening country-bus service there, and then be found hitch-hiking home along the roadsides in the early hours.
By the early 1970s John McCoy had given over part of the building to his brothers Peter, Tom & Eugene McCoy to open a restaurant. They then went onto establish McCoys at The Tontine, now a U.K. and internationally acclaimed gourmet dining venue, some 5-miles down the A19, near Osmotherley, North Yorkshire. (See also Baltic Arts Centre Restaurant, Newcastle upon Tyne).
In the late 1970s John McCoy became personal manager of Middlesbrough born singer/songwriter Chris Rea. By the early 1980s after extensive touring, he handed over management to Jim Beach (manager of Queen).
John McCoy sold the club in the mid 1990s. The new owners massively expanded the Club, which meant that it lost much of its previous 'intimate' attraction. The business eventually failed, and the building was sold then finally demolished in 2003. The area where the Kirk once stood is now occupied by a group of houses.
The Real McCoy were a local band who were signed to Fontana Records and released one single in 1967 entitled "Show Me How You Milk A Cow". The owner of the Kirk, John McCoy, was one of the band members.
Left to right ..... Tony Ayres, Ottie McLoughlin, John McCoy, Alan Fearnley, Ken Thwaites, Ray Dales and Terry Sidgwick.
For more information and photos of The Kirk click here