|Hi Frank thanks for agreeing to tell us about how the Glasgow Apollo came about. |
|Hi Scott nice to talk to you at last.|
I'm just driving along just now with Mr Jet Mayfair who is another old friend of the Apollo.
Congratulations on what you have done it is really amazing that you have had all this interest and all these write ups. It's something really worthwhile which means a lot to many people.
|Can you tell us how you got involved in the Glasgow Apollo? |
We got into this stuff via a club in Glasgow called the "Electric Garden" which is now called "The Garage". Prior to being a music venue the place was a casino called "The Establishment" and whilst it is difficult to conceptualise that a casino can go bust, in about 1972 it did just that.
At the time the place was owned by a man called Ross Bowie whose son is the DJ George Bowie. Mr Bowie senior, who has sadly passed away, called me up and asked if I'd be interested. I was and shortly after I opened the "Electric Garden". A lot of bands went on from there to play at the Apollo.
The bands at the time cost about £100 pounds a night to book and included names such as Status Quo, YES and Tyrannosaurus Rex. I even remember David Bowie sitting on my office floor with his afghan coat. When these performers got bigger I was to become reacquainted with many of them at the Apollo.
|I can't imagine seeing an act as famous for its huge stage theatrics as YES are at "The Garage" |
Yeah it was some place. Funnily enough and I know it has nothing in particular to do with the Apollo but my father used to talk about the place when it was called the Astoria Ballroom back in the 1960s.
They used to take all the knock backs from what was the Locarno at the time (that in turn went on to be called Tiffanies). So this legless lot would walk to the Astoria on a Sunday night looking for a drink and a fight.
I remember there being a little balcony and one night going there with my father. He's looking down on what was probably about 25 stairs and he pointed down to the carpet and said to me, "that's where I met your mother". I thought that that was a funny way to tell you, you know.
|So what about the Apollo Frank? |
|I have all sort of anecdotes for you. Whilst there are some great books about other people's involvement in the Glasgow music scene such as the recent one about Billy Connolly, who I used to manage, I will give you all the embryonic build up to why and how the Apollo came about.|
I have been in the States now for about 23 years and apart from a brief return to Scotland about 12 years ago I've never really been back. In all that time I haven't had the opportunity to talk to anyone about the Apollo.
I had the Apollo up until it was shut down the first time, do you know the reason why that happened?
|There are all sorts of stories and rumours surrounding that time. |
Well I will tell you why it was then. In 1978 the Glasgow City Council came to me and said that the snack bar and the toilets, which were up the stairs on a sort of mezzanine, didn't meet the code. I got an estimate to get done what they needed and it was about £35K and I simply did not have the money.
At the time I didn't cause a big stink, which with hindsight perhaps I should have. You know what these public officials are like but that was the reason why the place was closed down.
So the last act the first time round was Christian another one of the acts that I managed at the time. My idea was to put him on as the last show and give him the publicity, which would help his career.
|So how did you come up with the name "Apollo" |
|I took the name when I took the Green's Playhouse sign down. At the time I always had too little money. I remember that the sign company wanted £250 per letter and to be honest I just didn't have the money.|
I liked the name "Apollo" because in the early 1970's the Americans were on the moon and I just thought the name was kind of cool unlike other venue names such as the Kings, Pavilion etc it was kind of a today name. The other thing was that it was a short name which given the cost of the signage made sense to me at the time.
I've been asked many times if I named the venue after the Apollo in Harlem. Whilst I was aware of the Harlem Apollo I didn't do the connect and I was just looking for a name I liked and which was today.
|What was your first experience of the venue? |
|Interesting question but not quite for the reasons that you might think. I was in the merchant navy when I had my first experience of the "Apollo". |
I was 18 and had met a cousin of mine in a pub called "Wypers" just off Renfield Street, I don't know if it is still there, but I do recall that there was a downstairs bar. Now this cousin of mine was a chef on the Queen Elizabeth. As you know, all merchant seamen think that they can drink and the next thing is I'm getting into a drinking competition with him. There I was 11 stone and this guy was about 20 stone and a Chef!
I was a bit young and daft and basically thought I was King Kong, no one would beat me at drinking, even a 20 stone chef!
Anyway before long I was spiralling out of the door looking for the blue bus to get me back to Bearsden where my mum an dad lived. The bus stop happened to be up on Renfrew Street which you will know was down one side of the Apollo, or rather the Green's Playhouse as it was known at the time.
Anyway there is no bus and I'm waiting and waiting and waiting and I decide that I needed a pee.
So I look for somewhere to go and found that there were no public toilets so I go round the back of the building to Renfrew Lane. The next thing I feel is an arm round my neck, I'm being mugged! The guy pushes me into this fire exit.
This guy has his arm round me in a lock and there is another guy in front of me and he's trying to get through my pockets. So I said to the guy, as drunk as I was, "Here take my watch" as I was thinking these guys could stab me as you know about the Glasgow gangs in those days.
They took the gold watch that had been given to me by my father years before. Anyway, I spent 5 years in the merchant navy in every sleazy and dirty place that you could imagine in the world and in docks all over Europe, South America, the Far East everywhere and I was never mugged once. So the only place that I have ever been assaulted or mugged was in a fire escape at the Green's Playhouse.
I remember after having been mugged and having lost my watch and all my money walking back round to the bus stop. A bus came along and I got on. I told the bus driver about what had happened and despite the fact that I'm sure he had heard the same story a million times he said, "It's all right son go and sit doon".
|Why do you think Apollomemories have been so successful? |
The Website means a lot to me personally as I am proud of what we did back then. As for the Apollo itself well, it was magic, okay it was smelly and a bit rough and ready but that was part of the magic.
You got to the antiseptic shows these days where the act is great but you just don't get the sheer animal passion that's used to go on in that building.
You could almost liken it to a Celtic or Rangers game where the crowd just goes daft. That is something pretty unique to Glasgow. Putting all these emotions together with a great building which is big but not too big you just get magic. Just look at all the live albums recorded there.
|So Frank, take us full circle, and remind us how you came to own the lease on the Apollo? |
I used to have the club above the Apollo which was called Clouds. It was a very good venuture for me as not only did we do good business there but I lucky enough to meet my wife Linda there.
The man who ran the business at the time was young George Green. He was the classic public school boy whilst I was a working class lad from Glasgow. George was quite aloof but very nice.
I could see the cinema going down and down and despite hosting the odd concert the place was basically deteriorating.
At the time I had a year to year lease on Clouds with a 3 month notice clause before I was back on the street. Now Clouds was making a fortune.
I was paying something like £200 per week rent which I would make in a week from just looking after ladies handbags in the cloak room!
I could see this cinema deteriorating and deteriorating and I knew that there wasn't really a good rock venue in Glasgow at the time and that the middle of the road acts like Dianna Ross and Johnny Cash would not visit Glasgow.
The other venues in Glasgow at the time were concentrating on other things such as plays and pantomime and weren't really very interested in rock and pop music. It was also the case at the time that no one was promoting the Green's at the time and it basically attracted bands by word of mouth.
Even where there was some promotion it tended to be towards the hard core rock bands. So I thought to myself there is a real need in Glasgow for a real Rock and middle of the road venue.
I went to Mr Green and said that I could see that things weren't going too well and asked him if I could rent it from him whilst providing him with a guaranteed income. What I was able to offer them was more than they had been making and luckily for me they agreed to give me control of the venue.
That is how the Apollo came about. I always felt that the building was special.
I then started to promote the place as the Apollo. We did keep showing films for a wee while but that was really a bit of a joke as you would go in there and there would be 17 people watching a movie, music was clearly the future of the Apollo.