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Tributes to The Talk's John Fisher who has died aged 76

PUBLISHED: 05:30 14 January 2019 | UPDATED: 17:45 14 January 2019

John Fisher was best known for his time running The Talk on Oak Street, which he took on from his late father Geoff Fisher in the 1970s. Photo: Adrian Judd

John Fisher was best known for his time running The Talk on Oak Street, which he took on from his late father Geoff Fisher in the 1970s. Photo: Adrian Judd

A charismatic club owner who brought some of the biggest stars to Norwich has died aged 76.

John Fisher was best known for his time running The Talk on Oak Street, which he took on from his late father Geoff Fisher in the 1970s.

During that time the club – then known as The Talk of East Anglia – was one of the most popular venues in the city and attracted some of biggest names of the era.

Under John’s management, stars such as Bob Monkhouse, Leslie Crowther, Mike and Bernie Winters, Arthur Askey and Dickie Henderson were no strangers to its stage.

Much of the region’s talent from the 60s, 70, and 80s will have performed at the venue at some point in time.

Norwich Talk of East Anglia night club *** Local Caption *** From libraryNorwich Talk of East Anglia night club *** Local Caption *** From library

Those who knew John describe him as one of the “great Norwich characters” and the man who brought the stars to the city.

His family fondly remember him as the hard-working club owner who could make friends with anyone within 30 seconds.

John left school aged 16 to join the Royal Navy, primarily so he could run in the gruelling field gun competitions – something he competed in three times.

It was while he was on leave in Norwich, still aged 16, that he met Ronnie, his wife-to-be, who is now aged 75.

Carl and John Fisher in 2004. 
Photo: James BassCarl and John Fisher in 2004. Photo: James Bass

Ronnie said: “It was at Norman’s School of Dancing [that we met]. He was home on leave and I was out with my cousin.

“He was really good looking, and she bet me 10 shillings I dare not ask him to dance. So I did, and that was 60 years ago.”

The couple married years later at Thorpe St Andrew Parish Church on Yarmouth Road.

John stayed in the Navy for several years before leaving to work at his father’s club in the late 1960s, while also co-running the talent agency Norwich Artistes.

John Fisher with his daughter Kym Blake at The Talk in 2000. Photo: Nolan LincolnJohn Fisher with his daughter Kym Blake at The Talk in 2000. Photo: Nolan Lincoln

At that point in time The Talk was known as the Melody Rooms and featured some of the biggest up-and-coming live bands.

The impressive array of acts included The Who, Cream, Status Quo, Rod Stewart, Slade, Freddie and the Dreamers, Roy Orbison, Gene Pitney and Eric Clapton.

Under John’s management the venue was renamed The Talk of East Anglia in 1974 and became more of a cabaret club.

Ronnie said: “It was so successful because we were there all the time. John was the first one there in the morning and the last one out at night. The one thing he said he was proud of was that he used to employ lots of teenage kids, mostly children of customers.

John Fisher outside The Talk. Photo: Steve AdamsJohn Fisher outside The Talk. Photo: Steve Adams

“He would make sure every one of them got home, as we would either take them or they would be in a taxi. And he was proud because they all grew up to be fabulous decent people. They were his family.”

John’s son, Carl, 55, said: “You didn’t come to work for The Talk, you came to work with the family.”

He said his father never wanted to be a celebrity on stage. Instead, he would always be standing at the end of the bar and would talk to anyone:”He could make friends in 30 seconds,” Carl added. “It didn’t matter who you were, he would speak your language.

“And he had a story for everything.”

Gene Pitney at Talk of the East, Norwich on 12 November 1974. Photo: Archant LibraryGene Pitney at Talk of the East, Norwich on 12 November 1974. Photo: Archant Library

John eventually retired from running the club in 2001, and passed it over to his three children – Carl, Kym Blake and Mark Fisher.

Ronnie said she and John “had a ball” in retirement, spending three months of the year in Tenerife, and eventually moving to Drayton.

He died on November 29 from cancer.The family held a private funeral at St Faith’s Crematorium in Norwich, attended by his close family, including his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Paying tribute, journalist and friend Derek James said: “He is one of the great Norwich characters and a showman. He was the man who brought the stars to the city.

John Fisher's late father, Geoffrey Fisher, who founded the club. Photo: ArchantJohn Fisher's late father, Geoffrey Fisher, who founded the club. Photo: Archant

“There was always so much going on at The Talk, but John always knew what was happening.

“He was a shrewd businessman and a man of the people.”

The club’s DJ in the 70s and 80s David Clayton said: “He was wonderful to work for and when you walked into The Talk, you knew he was the boss. He had very high standards, but we all stepped up to what he wanted us to do.”

Former employee Paul Dennington said: “[John was] a true gentleman who will be sadly missed. He had time to talk to you and was an absolute Norwich legend.

The Talk -  Oak Street, Norwich. 

Danny La Rue and Arthur Askey at the venue in 1976
. Photo: James BassThe Talk - Oak Street, Norwich. Danny La Rue and Arthur Askey at the venue in 1976 . Photo: James Bass

“It will be a long time until someone can fill his shoes.”

The club’s ex-doorman, Adi Harper, said: “I had many happy years working for The Talk family. Carl was my boss, but John was always the governor. Great man with a great family.”

Email luke.powell@archant.co.uk to pay tribute.

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