Albert Bonici

Albert Bonici

Albert Anthony Bonici was born in Inverness and died in Elgin, Moray, Scotland [17 July 1920-8 July 1990]. “He [Albert Bonici] was very forward thinking in managing artists… He was hugely responsible for the Scottish music scene.” Graeme Nairn 2014

Mr. Bonici was “a courteous man with a sense of humour” for many that knew and worked with him. Satch McKenzie, a friend who often played chess with Albert [who could multi-task at the same time], described him as a clever and “far thinking person who was way ahead of his time”.  Whilst Albert could visualize and create successful businesses, he also survived bankruptcy after taking a gamble. Satch recalls how Albert Bonici spent all his money developing a perfume for an event that the Queen Mother was to attend. “The Queen Mother didn’t go and he [Albert] lost money gained from inheritance” (from his father’s estate). Of course, Mr. Bonici was successful in various ventures including his agreement to pay a large sum to the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, for return performances of the group as they were starting their career as recording artists.

“Albert Bonici was an intelligent child who inherited his father’s interest in languages. He was educated at St. Joseph’s College in Dumfries and the family would hokiday alternately in Scotland and Italy. As luck would have it, the outbreak of the Second World War found Albert and his mother in Scotland, while his father, younger brother, and sister were in Italy, and this precipitated a move to Elgin, where a cousin had a business – the Park Café. ‘I used to pay 2s 6d a week to a Murphy’s pools agent, who filled out the coupon. One week, I won a few hundred pounds which was quite a lot of money – and it made me feel uneasy. I decided to cancel the coupon and a young journalist named Henry Robertson https://jonman492000.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/harry-robinson/ who worked on the Elgin Courant got to hear of this. He was a good musician who had been to university but had develped TB and was writing newspaper articles while he recuperated in Elgin [after visiting a TB clinic in Port Soy]. We became good friends and to help him raise money to stage the music shows which he put on in local church halls, I organised a Valentine’s Day dance. It made a fair bit of money. My wife and I were keen dancers, but we had to travel to the Northern Meeting Rooms in Inverness to see the big bands, because they only did the major centres. The circuit was something like: Monday, Edinburgh Palais; Tuesday, Dundee Palais; Wednesday, Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen; Thursday, NMR Inverness; and Friday and Saterday, Green’s Playhouse in Glasgow. No one wanted to know about Elgin. My brother-in-law [Ugo Ruggeri] had a connection with Tito Burns*, the London agent who handled the Ray Ellington Quartet, and Burns said Ellington would come up if three venues could be found. There was still a great demand for dancing at this time so it was not a terrible great risk. The big bands toured once a month so I put the Ellington Quartet in between visits. They did the Beach Ballroom on a Wednesday, the Assembly Rooms Elgin on a Thursday, and Forres on a Friday. It was a big success…’ THE BEATLES Jan 1963 ‘I was a jazz man and didn’t really listen to the pop groups much. On the Monday, I travelled to Aberdeen Station and was picked up by my associate, Gordon Hardie. We went as usual to Chivas Restaurant in Union Street, only this time we were surrounded by waitresses clamouring, “Who are these Beatles?” The group had apparently visited the restaurant earlier in the day and made a great impression. I don’t know if it was their personalities or the smart blue suits and raincoats into which the name “Beatle” was sewn, but they had certainly impressed the girls, and that made an impression on me.’ [ quotes from Albert Bonici]

*Burns worked with jazz musicians at first, but in 1959 he became Cliff Richard’s manager, and later acquired the Springfields (who included Dusty Springfield), the Zombies and Cat Stevens. Burns also served as a booking agent for the Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison and the Moody Blues.

https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/aa-bonici-bio-notes-jim-wilkie/ https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/bonici-obituary-1990/ https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/aa-bonici-bio-notes-jim-wilkie/

Gordon Hardie, who was promoting music in the 1950′s and booking groups at the Beach Ballroom [Aberdeen] said, “I thought that I was the jazz person of north-east Scotland until I met Albert Bonici… his tactics were excellent.”  He worked for Albert on many occasions thereafter. “It was a gentleman by the name of Albert Bonici that brought the new wave music scene to the North of Scotland… https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/bonici-business-sense/ http://www.spanglefish.com/ballerinaballroom/index.asp?pageid=86637   https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/bonici-business-sense/ Colleague, Gordon Hardie,  https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2015/05/12/eulogy-for-gordon-hardie/ was also was involved with Bonici’s Norco Records https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/norco-records/  which produced several Scottish acts, including Two Red Shoes’ own house-band https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/two-red-shoes-album-2/

Mr Bonici,  as he was address by the young folk that benefited from his music promotion business, was well respected in his community though rival music promoters may have questioned his success. He was a highly motivated man who worked with many dedicated people and could be seen working into the night in one of his colourful sweaters. He and business partner and brother-in-law, Ugo Ruggeri, would meet each afternoon for coffee in the family owned Park Café to discuss business. Between 1960-’75, Albert spearheaded several businesses and purchased properties though best known for bring the Beatles to Scotland besides building Elgin’s Two Red Shoes and the Eight Acres Hotel… Albert Bonici brought dance music to NE Scotland through the 1950′s and ’60s introducing many groups who went on to be well loved musicians. He was best known for securing exclusive rights to Beatles performances in Scotland after hosting their first tour as The Beatles, in January of 1963. Albert Bonici [1920-90] was born in Inverness, Scotland to Giuseppi and Angelina Bonici. His sibling were Rossana, Giulia, and Aldolpho. His parents returned to Italy in 1923 and resettled in Elgin, Scotland in 1938 when the war broke out. Aldolpho was killed at 16 during the resistance and the rest of the family established themselves in NE Scotland working in business ventures. Albert’s cousin opened the Park Cafe and Bonici family including Giulia’s husband, Ugo Ruggeri, worked together to grow the restaurant business which included making their own ice cream. Albert, who was an intelligent child who inherited his father’s interest in languages, went off to St. Joseph’s College in Dumfries and got a degree in Engineering. Though initially employed as an electrical engineer for some time, Albert returned to Elgin and helped with the family business which expanded into various avenues. In the early 50′s, Albert enjoyed playing a variety of sports and was a member of the Cricket Club when he booked his first band as a fundraiser for the club and worked with friend, Harry Robertson. He and his wife Betty also enjoyed dancing to the big bands and eventually organized gigs around NE Scotland. He had a connection with agent Tito Burns of London and brought the Ray Ellington Quartet to NE Scotland in 1952. They played in Aberdeen, Elgin, and Forres which was a hugh success. This helped to establish himself as a promoter, bringing British and American artists to the small towns across NE Scotland and the Highlands though early on he made an agreement with Bapper Hendry to not encroach on each other’s territory as music promoters. Albert became friends with Robertson when he was a young journalist in Elgin who “helped him to raise money for to stage music shows which he put on in local church halls…” Bonici quote from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjtaR1dC818. Harry later served as composer and conductor for Oh Boy! [1958-9], besides composing and conducting music for other television and film projects]. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Robertson_(musician) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oggZHxLvEDY Albert and Harry reconnected during the period when Robertson [originally from Elgin, Moray] was recovering from TB at a sanatorium [now Elgin Golf Course].” Harry who was married to Lady Ziki Arbuthnot were also friends with Albert’s sister Julie and brother-n-law Ugo Ruggeri when the couple were in London. [Lord Rockingham’s Eleven who hit with Hoots Mon!] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsOqQsUo1pU. Besides his early friendship with Hendry “Harry” Robertson, Albert made an important business alliance with Jack Fallon of Cana Variety Agency in London who he worked with in promoting bands perhaps as early as 1952 when both were starting out in booking and promoting bands. In summer of 1960, Albert opened his dance hall which was connected to the Park Cafe, named The Two Red Shoes, after the British film http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Red_Shoes_(1948_film). To work with the structures already in place, the stage area had a distinctive shape, which years later, Ringo Starr complained of, as the bands were not centered stage, though the dancers had no problem seeing. It was not L shaped as has been said. John Ruggeri, who worked with Albert in 1970. wrote in response to Starr’s comment, “The hall was not L shaped but had a slightly longer wall on one side, you could see the stage in all areas although you may not have been able to see the whole stage if you were standing in the far left hand corner when facing the stage, the “bar” which we called the buffet was upstairs, I think Ringo’s memory is somewhat blurred or mixing the shoes up with another venue they played, as I don’t think anyone was wearing wellies.” Note: It may have been that some came with wellies as there was snow on the ground, but there was a dress code and they were “clean-cut” young people wanting to meet up and dance… Bonici, having already established connections in London and throughout Scotland, had regular bookings each and every week until the Two Red Shoes [dance hall] closed in the early ’70s. He purchased the Ballerina Ballroom, Nairn, Scotland, in 1970 and many great musicians continued to entertain the local youth. Albert Bonici invited guest bands into his office to speak about the virtues of drug-free living. Considering that both Syd Barrett [Pink Floyd], and Brian Ebstein [Beatles manager] of whom he had many dealing, it makes sense that Bonici was concerned to the youth of the nation. When Brian passed away from an overdose, he was quoted, “Brian was a charming man. His death came as quite a shock”. Though The Pink Floyd played a memorable concert at the Two Red Shoes, 1967 was a challenging time for Albert Bonici. He was seasoned enough not to let business problems hold him back or the death of a friend. July 1967: Eric Clapton, said that Elgin was the “last time I played with the Yardbirds and it was rough. They just came to fight… not to watch us and they’d boo you off stage. It upsets me very much when you get that kind of audience.” August 1967: The Small Faces didn’t play the Ballerina Ballroom [Naine, Scotland] because of “poor security” but would return on Tuesday. Bonici said that “security would have been adequate” though offered return visits when their was an issue over a performance, cancelations, etc. Ricky Gardiner, of Beggar’s Opera, who remembered an early tour up north, spoke of Albert Bonici as the “treasure of the North”. Beggars Opera’s first tour of the North of Scotland [summer ’70] “was marked by a request, prior to commencement of the tour, to attend the office of Mr Albert Bonici. We dutifully appeared and to my astonishment he rather forcefully entered upon a speech in which he berated the use of drugs. He informed us that whilst they may provide initial inspiration, their long term use would lead to breakdown, and a shattering of that which we sought. My surprise was all the more sharpened because Beggars Opera shunned the use of drugs in any case. I acknowledge that this was unusual at the time and spent many a time in dressing rooms observing talented people reduced to a state of uselessness through the use of drugs. I will be forever grateful to Albert Bonici for the courage and determination he showed to us and every other touring band, by his forthright denunciation of the use of drugs.” Ricky Gardiner [2014] Note: The group formed in Glasgow in 1969 and released “Act One” in late 1970. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN3WoKoMgbs In addition to arranging accommodations for entertainers, Bonici offered guest bands food and coffee after gigs in Elgin which was an alternative to going out for drinks. . Week after week, he provided live music for the young people around the north-east Scotland besides an “over 25′s” come dancing night in mid week at the Two Red Shoes. He looked after the acts and those he served on a regular basis and is remembered fondly by many. What Albert Bonici is most noted for was hosting the Beatles on their first tour of Scotland with Ringo Starr 3Jan63. A week after their 5 day tour of the north-east, Albert and collague/promoter, Andi Lothian flew to Liverpool to rebook The Beatles. Two Red Shoes, house band leader, Alex. Sutherland, Andi, and others were impressed with the young group enough to encourage Bonici to visit Brian Epstein’s office at NEMS in Liverpool. He left the office, having gained exclusive rights for subsequent tours of Scotland later in the month. The contract [see Beatles Contract] was unprecedented as no band was making £500 per show at the time which Albert agreed to. “In fact, this tour was to put the north-east on the map as far as popular music was concerned and for the next 20 years or so, many of the small towns in Moray, Nairn, Banff, and Buchan were to enjoy a feast of British and American music.” from “Blue Suede Brogans” [2]. Albert Bonici’s accomplishments and notoriety had more to do with diligence and work than luck that was suggested by one rival promoter. He was family oriented and stopped for a coffee in the Park Café with his brother-n-law Ugo “John” Ruggeri though kept very busy between the Park Café,Two Red Shoes, Norco Records, and various ventures that he took part in. Ugo, who passed away, in ’91 [a year after Albert’s death], had a close relationship both as business partners and good friends. I asked John Ruggeri [Ugo’s son] what prompted Albert to give up on music promotions in 1975 after 25 years of work and he replied:

“It must have been around that time [1975], the reason being that a lot of big names had started booking their own venues realising that there was more money to be made coupled with the fact that if you wanted to book them they were asking crazy money and the venues up here didn’t hold enough people to make it profitable. Also we were in the throws of building the Eight Acres Hotel which took up a lot of his time.”

Kate Reid; The Bonici family “had an ice cream shop and the old man [Giuseppi] had three wheeler ice cream bike. The shop was opposite county buildings. Albert was a very private person. His sisters were happy to work quietly in the background. He was a man of great wisdom and was devoted to Betty. [Albert] was the brains behind many a business. From accounting, freezer shop, modern dancing enterprises, garage, pc holdings, photo copy service, entertainment agency, park cafe also offering outside catering, and Eight Acres Hotel.” Kathleen Duncan; “Albert was a gentle soul with a kind word for everyone… As far as I know Albert owned a perfume factory in Elgin in the premises of Thompsons cod liver oil. This was in the 1940-50′s era and I think he went bankrupt. Undaunted, he opened the park cafe with his sisters husband Ugo Ruggeri and it became PC Holdings. His wife ran the cafe and he started Modern Dancing Enterprises which was entertainment for the adjoining red shoes ballroom. Every night at tea time after a hard days work Albert could be seen sitting in the front of the Park Cafe. They lived in the flat over the Café and were real night birds with the ballroom and all that. And I’ve just remembered Albert always wore a cardigan. Most nights he would have a steak followed by a knickerbocker [knickerbocker glory was an Italian ice cream in tall glass with fruit popular in the ’60s].” Gillian Ogg: “They always employed family [in Park Café and Two Red Shoes]. My mother-in-law Charlotte worked in Park café and upstairs with Betty. My husband worked at the dances when he was a teenager and I worked at eight acres for years. Most of the family worked there at some time or other. I used to spend a lot of time there when I was little, auntie Rosanna made the best chicken curry ever. Albert was a really funny man I always had fun we him. I remember [Albert] hiding his Mr whippy [ice cream drink] under his carry so auntie Betty didn’t see him, he wasn’t supposed to have any with the diabetes. They used to waitress at dinner dance’s and functions. I just used to get fed… typical Italians feed you. I used to sit on the back stairs that went from the café to the two red shoes and watch everything going on and watched the food coming out the kitchen. Rosanna was always there cooking, and Betty Allan. I liked running round the dance floor before opening time when we got the place to ourselves.” In 1970, Albert brought his nephew, John [Ugo’s son] into the entertainment business when he purchased the Ballerina Ballroom in Nairn, Scotland. As was the practice with earlier venues, he offered bus service to the larger hall and brought in several popular acts through the 1970s. Bonici was driven as he was intelligent and thoughtful. His nephew, John Ruggeri, in response to another promoter’s comment, wrote; “I don’t think he was lucky, I think he saw an opportunity and had the guts to take it.” In my interview with Graeme Nairn, it was said how Albert Bonici was able to “think outside the box” in business dealings. To illustrate how Albert Bonici operated, Grame Nairn mentioned that Albert hired top designers to brand a perfume line developed in Elgin. He gave the same consideration for promoting bands. Besides the respect he was given from business associate, he was appreciated by those who benefited from his enterprises and consideration. Though he wasn’t musically inclined, Mr. Bonici tried his hand at various projects including writing lyrics. In his personal affects, it was learned that he was writing an espionage novel before is death in 1990. “It was a cold war thriller in the John le Carre vein set in the 1960s but was never finished”. A family member who read it said that it was well written though unfinished. Former colleague, Marina McLennan; “I worked for Albert for a number of years under the business name of P.C. Holdings. He and Betty were a lovely couple. Albert funded a number of local businesses to start up many of which are very successful and continue to this day. Mind you Albert was no fool.” Nephew, John Ruggeri; “I never actually took over from Albert as a promoter but always worked with him in the ‘LCB Agency’ as it was called, LCB stood for Little Cross Buildings. My parents involvement in the Cafe apart from my Mother’s early days was much later when we moved from London to Elgin in 1960. My Mother lived in Elgin until she got married and then moved to London as my Father had retail business interests there. They spent a lot of holidays in Elgin and decided that the quality of life was far better up here, sold up and moved.” As a promoter, Albert did more than book halls and bands and place ads in the newspapers. He started Norco, the first independent record company and recorded his house bands besides talented local musicians such as Johnny and The Copycats and Windy Miller. He also provided transportation to the music events around NE Scotland. The bands and and the music goers were looked after and the cost of a night of entertainment was kept within one’s budget. “Buses were free Fisherman’s hall Buckie on a Monday, two red shoes on a Thursday to see some top artists, Keith on a Friday, and Huntly on a Saterday night. great nights, great memories”. Besides buses into Elgin and some of the small villages surrounding, Bonici offered transportation from Elgin to Nairn after purchasing the Ballarina Ballroom some 20 plus miles away. In business, he was level headed and got the job done. J Ruggeri wrote, “Albert’s temperament was pretty even, he didn’t lose his temper very often as he always said ‘once you lose your temper, you’ve lost the argument.’” Though rival promoters may have been bothered that he maintained exclusive rights on several musicians touring in Scotland, Albert Bonici was thought of as a kind and charitable man who made a great contribution to his community. https://bonici.wordpress.com/ About the early stages of my beat music research in the north of Scotland: http://www.northern-scot.co.uk/Entertainment/Beatles-fan-to-profile-Moray-impresario-4249.htm To explore the 1960s beat movement in NE Scotland [contracts, videos, and photos] visit https://scotbeat.wordpress.com

Bonici [obituary]: Peacefully at his home 1 North College Street, Elgin on Sunday 8th July 1990. Albert Anthony Bonici, dearly beloved husband of Elisabeth Clark [Bonici] proprietor of Park Café, Elgin and a much loved brother and uncle, interred in Elgin Cemetery.

Businessman who signed the Beatles:

THE “man who brought the Beatles to Elgin”, businessman and entrepreneur Mr Albert Bonici, died at his home on Sunday.  Born in Inverness of Italian parents, Mr Bonici lived most of his adult life in Elgin, but his interests in the entertainment business earned his a considerable reputation throughout the world of pop music in the Sixties.

He signed up many big name performers to tour Scotland, appearing not only in the big cities but a venues like Elgin, Nairn, Forres and Cullen – towns which would find it difficult to attract major stars today. He will always be remembered as the man who booked The Beatles to play in Elgin early in 1963, just before they hit the big time, and he kept a framed copy of their contract signed by Brian Epstein in which they agreed to perform for a fee of £42. Accommodation was found for them in a bed-and=breakfast establishment in Lossie Wynd. Eight months later Mr Bonici broutht them back to Scotland at the height of “Beatlemania”, to play at sell-out concerts in Edinburgh and Glasgow – staying this time in the best hotels and with a Rolls Royce for transport.

Mr Bonici’s parents had business interest in Inverness, then Elgin, and the family acquired what was to become the Park Café in 1944. A graduate in electrical engineering, Mr Bonici’s first forays into the entertainment business were the dances he organised in Elgin’s Drill Hall in the early Fifties, but in July 1960s he opened the Two Red Shoes Ballroom to the rear of the Park Café, and it became one of the North-easts most popular dance venues.

During the Sixties and early Seventies, when groups were prepared to boost their records and their careers with personal appearances, he continued to bring major performers to Scotland, and the North-east in particular, including Kenny Ball, The Who, Lulu and The Rolling stones. His family struck up an enduring friendship with singer Anita Harris, who performed at the Two Red Shoes during that time.

The ballroom closed in the mid-Seventies, and now [1990] houses a freezer centre which includes the family company’s own-brand ice cream and prepared meals in its range. Although in his 70th year, Mr Bonici continued to take an active role in business – he was managing director of Sheriffmill Hotels Ltd, which runs the Eight Acres Hotel, Elgin. In private life, he was  a source of encouragement and inspiration to many young people venturing into their own business or career, and could be relied on to provide sound advice, or a helping hand when needed. A courteous man with a sense of humour, and a gentleman in the true sense of the word, he won the affection of everyone who knew him. Mr Bonici is survived by his wife, Betty, and his sisters Guilia and Rosanna. [Betty died in 2007 and Guilia in 2015]. https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/bonici-obituary-1990/

 

 

Obituaries [Northern-Scot/July 1990]

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About

My research began in 2007 as a visitor to the north of Scotland. Growing up a few miles from San Francisco, I would frequent the active music scene on weekends besides being a fan of British BEAT music and never missing Shindig! on television. When first visiting the small community of Elgin in 2007, I was surprise to learn how the Beatles and many other vocalist and musicians came to perform during the early days of their careers. In the early 1950s, Albert Bonici began promoting dances though it had been an ambition since his teenage years. When he and Henry Robertson co-organized a string of jazz dances in the north Scotland, they could not have predicted the enormous success of the venture. Albert Bonici became one of the most respected promoters in the UK having arranged a high volumn of music venues throughout the north of Scotland which delighted music lovers during the height of the jazz and beat music era. Whilst known for booking the Beatles at the beginning of their 1963 tours, Albert Bonici brought most of the top British acts to north-east Scotland besides working with Scottish musicians to boost their careers. SCOTBEAT was created to share a bit of history about the BEAT years in Scotland and also a tribute to a man with a vision who, with the help of his family and staff, created a happening that is still fondly remembered by those who attended dances and concerts. Albert A Bonici hosted many up and coming bands who went on to gain international acclaim for their contributions. Besides other local resources and interviews, SCOTBEAT presents exclusive photos, adverts, and documents from the A Bonici Archives [circa 1960s]. Unless otherwise agreed, materials are not to be used for financial gain and ask that you respect the terms below. Materials presented are not to be used for financial gain without consent. © 2014-2019 SCOTBEAT.wordpress.com. All rights reserved. No part of this web site may be copied, redistributed, broadcast or published in any form without crediting this blog and/or copyright websites mentioned. All correspondence, flyers, programs, and photos from the Bonici Archives are not to appear in print other than through the propietor of SCOTBEAT. Use of the site signifies your agreement to all of these terms without condition. Please reference https://scotbeat.wordpress.com when sharing materials found here as the site is continuously updated to present the subject matter accurately and as a historical resource. Thank you.

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3 comments on “Albert Bonici
  1. scotbeat says:

    Albert Bonici brought dance music to NE Scotland through the 1950’s and ’60s introducing many groups who went on to be well loved musicians. He was best known for securing exclusive rights to Beatles performances in Scotland after hosting their first tour as The Beatles, in January of 1963.

  2. Nathan says:

    As a Beatles fan and resident of Elgin, I found this very interesting. I’m glad it’s out there on the interweb for anyone and everyone to read.

    • scotbeat says:

      Thanks Nathan, appreciate your comment and am glad to have the feedback.
      If you click “Follow”, you will see future edits and posts.

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