The Orford Cellar: Where Norwich rocked in the swinging 60s
PUBLISHED: 18:00 23 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:36 23 June 2020
East Anglian Music Archive
Squeeze pass the man on the door, it could have been Levi so you had to behave, careful down the steep little steps and into another world…one where the air was thick with smoke, smelt of beer and as for the music…
Health and Safety would never allow it today. Around 300 people packed like sardines in front of a little stage underneath Norwich.
The only place with space to raise a glass was at the bar where it was so hot the labels came off the bottles.
This was the Orford Cellar on Red Lion Street in the middle of the city. It may have closed more than 45 years ago but the memories and the music are timeless.
Yes, some of the biggest names in pop headed our way, Jim Hendrix, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Elton John and more but I would like to pay tribute to our local bands and singers. They were the bread and butter of the Orford and rarely got the credit they deserved.
Among them were Milton & The Continentals and Lucas & The Emperors but there was one group which played the Orford no less than 77 times and they were…Garry Freeman & The Contours.
The late Bram Lowe, who died the other week, ran the place in the swinging 60s with Howard Platt and told Garry it should have been named “The Contours Club.”
“We loved the place. What an atmosphere. There was nowhere else like,” said Garry, a local legend, who is now 83-years-young.
He and his fellow musicians can look back on a fabulous life in the crazy world of entertainment but, like so many singers and bands, they never got the smash hit record they needed to break into the big time.
And there came a time in their life when they needed a nine-to-five job to pay the mortgage and raise a family.
Most had “retired” from the music scene many years ago and then returned for the Evening News Golden Years charity gigs in the 1990s which reunited so many of the Norfolk and Suffolk groups and entertainers at the sell-out shows which raised more than £120,000 for charities and good causes.
Organised by the late great Terry Wickham they proved to the “youngsters” that the grandfathers of rock could still raise the roof.
Garry Freeman was back….
“There was a lovely atmosphere at the shows and I especially liked the ones at Cromer Pier where you could get up close to the audience,” he said.
Garry grew up in the Wellington public house on Muspole Street in Norwich which was run by his mum and dad and started singing in the pub when knee high to a grasshopper.
He sang with a concert party – remember them? – and then appeared with the Bob Barber band at the dear old Gala at the top of St Stephen’s.
Those were the days of National Service and Garry went to serve with the RAF.
On his return he met up with a pair of young rockers called Roy Bell and Ali Thorn – remember them?
Put the two of them with singer Garry and Tony Russell. Call them The Contours….and it’s music time.
They were regulars at the Samson in Norwich and then one night while playing on the coast at Wells a man asked them if they fancied being on the television.
“We played on an Anglia TV show called the Rehearsal Room and things then took off,” recalled Garry.
In the early days the Contours were made up of Roy and Ali, Hilson Hatley, Clive Frindle (Clare). Many others joined over the years.
They signed a recording contract with CBS and were told to change their name because of the American Contours…and The Anglians arrived.
“We hated that name. It was such a lousy name,” said Garry.
They headed off to London where they played at many of the big clubs and venues. “We lived in Brixton and certainly had a good time,” he said.
They made records, toured Europe, did summer seasons on the coast but that number one smash hit record never came.
They signed another record deal, became Moving Finger and the music played on.
“We joined up with Eric Delaney & and his band. He was going abroad on tour and I couldn’t go with him as my wife was expecting a baby and I needed to be at home,” said Garry.
He returned to Norwich, sang at local venues including the old Royal Hotel, and then retired from the music scene setting up his sign-writing business.
Then, in 1996, the Golden Years came along and Harry’s mate the late Graham Fulcher, a keyboard wizard, asked if it was up for it….he was
Let’s give the local bands a round of applause.
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