OldCiren - Cirencester, Gloucestershire, UK
What happened to pianos, the solo singer and the pub sing-song?
Before the “Wall of Sound” of amplified music and speakers on poles that threaten to bring down the ceilings of hostelries built even before there was electricity; most pubs just had a piano to supply music to its clientele. Pub entertainment was a piano, sometimes a solo singer, but always a general sing-song. Pubs without a piano were the exception and I can't think of a Ciren pub didn't have one. Piano players rarely sang, well not In Ciren they didn’t. My Father and I both played in the Ciren Pubs and while we both bashed out popular hits such as “Roll out the Barrel” and “Danny Boy:”, we left singing and playing at the same time to professionals such as Mrs Mills for example, who we listened to on the wireless playing tunes that mostly dated from the First and Second World War (with a bit of boogie-woogie).
It was a time when piano music was extremely popular and those that played well, were the celebrities of the day. We had Russ Conway from Bristol who appeared weekly on the Billy Cotton Band TV show and Joe “Mr Fingers” Henderson who also regularly on TV and the wireless too. It seems incredible in this age of electronically produced and amplified sound that Russ Conway had 20 piano instrumentals in the UK Singles Chart between 1957 and 1963, including two number one hits; his “ Roulette” even deposed Elvis Presley in the charts.
At one time in the 1960's the Crown also had a Banjo player. Every weekend the bar at the Crown would be full of people, singing their heads off to a version of Lancashire’s George Formby’s “When I’m Cleaning Windows”. A version because rather than with the usual Lancashire accent, the banjo player sang with a broad Gloucestershire accent and the song became “ When I be cleanin’ Winders”.