Two Red Shoes Ballroom

Popular jazz vocalist Jeanie Lambe was the original female vocalist with Alex. Sutherland sextet at Elgin’s Two Red Shoes run by AA Bonici. On her last visit to Elgin, she was on a 1990 UK tour and planned to see an old friend Albert Bonici. Unfortunately, the great promoter had recently passed on. Albert loved jazz and had a lot of respect for Jeanie

Albert Bonici opened the Two Red Shoes opened on July 28th 1960. The venue featured jazz and pop bands with dancing. Alex. Sutherland Sextet [original house band] with vocalist Jean Lambe proved popular with those who attended.

Before promoter Bonici opened the Two Red Shoes Ballroom [July 1960], she had performed around the area as part of the Clyde Valley Stompers. She was the first of several female vocalist to perform with the TRS house band.

disco liteimg303Two Red Shoes

Sabres [aka Eddie Lepard and the Leopards] on Two Red Shoes stage 9 Dec 1961 – Saturday afternoon “Teen Dancing” with music by the rocking beat of The Sabres Photo: likely taken at the rehearsal

 Though the original plans were drawn up and submitted for building permission by the Bonici family to extend the Park Cafe with the hall [facing North College, Elgin, Two Red Shoes was completed and opened in July, 1960 and had a 17 year run. The hall closed in January 1977 and was revamped to make way for the Flamingo Club which opened 9 July 1977 [night club with a jazz band and guest dancers]. Short lived due to overhead issues with dancers besides not being able to secure liquor licence, the hall was used as a squash court [similar to racket ball], and a cold storage unit before the family sold the building. Later it served as a theater production company before becoming a martial arts facility.

The title “Two Red Shoes Ballroom was inspired by a British production The Red Shoes [1948] according to Albert Bonici’s younger sister. Albert was an avid fan of dance and music and it was a British classic film featuring an impresario and a dance company performing The Red Shoes… It is a beautiful adaption of a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale of the same name. However, promoter Albert Bonici may have also considered the the Ballerina Ballroom in Nairn when coming up with the name in the mid ’50s.

Below: The Sabres before becoming Eddie Lepard and The Leopards followed by Two Red Shoes Christmas adverts [1960-67]. The house-band line-up changed over the years but continued to offer great entertainment from popular Scottish jazz musicians.le3

trs dec 60trs dec 61-63trs dec 64-66trs dec 67

Two Red Shoes stage – with chairs to the right of the stage door . The band brought out instruments on stage through landing at LCB Agency  [next to Park Cafe on North College Street] Hear Alex.Sutherland’s TRS house-band at:

Jeannie Lambe

Jeannie Lambe under contract with Albert Bonici was the first vocalist for the original Two Red Shoes houseband with Alex. Sutherland when the dance hall opened in 1960. Albert sister described her as bubbly onstage and whilst serious about her work as a jazz singer “she was a small girl with a large voice”.  Photos at jeannie-lambe

Photo of the original Two Red Shoes built onto the Park Cafe and owned and operated by the Albert Bonici and LCB Agency. I am told that 500 plus people could crowd into the hall though a safety violation by today’s standards. Albert Bonici may have styled the stage area reminiscent of an old style jazz dance-hall with enough room for a house-band or ensemble on the small stage perched off to one side. Though some beat musicians found the layout lacking for shape and not having a center stage, the TRS stage and dance floor filled the bill for music hungry kids who  spent time at the record shops booths seeking new pop “beat” tracks besides R&B, folk, skiffle, swing, and jazz tunes. One can imagine the early days of the ballroom with the Alex. Sutherland sextet backing vocalists like Jeanie Lambe, Anita Harris, and Alyson Armstrong whilst attendees danced under the swirling coloured lights.

Two Red Shoes Christmas party 1963

Two Red Shoes Christmas party 1963

trs xmas party

lcb boots

1960 photo of a celebration at the Two Red Shoes Ballroom, Elgin, Scotland

1960 photo of a celebration at the Two Red Shoes Ballroom, Elgin, Scotland

The hall accommodated all ages with discos, guest bands [age 16 and over], over 25’s dances, and so forth. The ballroom wasn’t L shaped as Ringo Starr remembered, though the positioning of the stage blocked some dancers from seeing the band as the dance floor was “dog-shaped” [see end of post].

Besides a few chairs between the stage and band entrance door, people who weren’t dancing could lean over the banisters in the café area above to watch the musicians. Besides the 1960 ballroom addition, the structures that make up the Little Cross Buildings included the Park Café facing the Cooper Park with Albert and Betty’s apartment above. On google street map [linked below], you can turn the screen left to see Elgin’s “Lantern of the North” cathedral or turn right and go around the corner of the Little Cross Buildings to view Two Red Shoes. Above the former Two Red Shoes [currently Chinese Thai restaurant] was Albert and Betty’s apartment. The yellow door of the next property [far right] , was the musicians entrance to the stage door for the TRS Ballroom.  Up a few stairs is a landing with the door leading into the stage where Dusty Springfield, The Beatles, The Who, The Animals, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, and countless others performed. Alex. Sutherland and the musicians who played 5 days a week at the ballroom were impressed with various groups and solo acts that came through the Two Red Shoes stage door.  Stan Williams who has written several articles on the Beatles for British Beatles Fan Club, spoke of Alex Sutherland’s impressions of The Beatles when they visited TRS 3 January ’63 when dedicating a plaque to the Beatles at TRS Ballroom: “Alex remembered Paul McCartney playing so well and singing ‘Till There Was You’.”

Here is a street map from North College. Follow it around the corner to see The Two Red Shoes…,+Elgin,+Moray+IV30+1EL/@57.649187,-3.309361,3a,52.5y,148h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s2aTduwfad9Pk2Ekb3E9jRg!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x48850bb257692ea9:0x84618317c98a909e!6m1!1e1

"clossie" on the High Street, Elgin

“clossie” on the High Street, Elgin

Many popular British bands performed at the Two Red Shoes Ballroom during the 1960’s though a few found the hall to small for their liking… Ringo Starr who began his tour with The Beatles at the Two Red Shoes, complained about the ballroom’s stage being off to the side as did Rog Waters… “Then off to a gig at the Two Red Shoes Ballroom, where locals mixed uneasily with squaddies from the nearby RAF base. The band were billed on posters for the gig as ‘the group that brings its own lighting to set the scene oscillating and vibrating with way out sets!’ They played ‘See Emily Play’ under duress on the smallest stage they had yet played on. Roger Waters groused, ‘Terrible stage. We’re going to give up ballroom gigs. Conditions are so bad. We’d like to set up in a big tent, circus style, and take our show around the country.’‘Syd Barrett: Lost in the Woods’ by Julian Palacios (Plexus, 2009) The The Two Red Shoes Ballroom opened in August 1960 and closed in 1975. It has been used since as various business on Elgin’s High Street. In 2008, the dance hall area was renovated and no longer includes the stage area where house band and various acts performed through the 1960s – ’70s.  Two Red Shoes house band:

Graeme Nairn: “It was de ja vu when I returned to the Two Red Shoes” [this time as guitarist for Alex Sutherland Sextet]. Graeme loved his new position playing with a band highly respected in the jazz world, especially as he was able to live outside a bustling metropolitan area and have steady work playing music. Besides a relationship with Mr. Bonici who encourage Graeme creatively and otherwise, he was “in awe of Alex. Sutherland” who could play any instrument well, besides a talented arranger.

John Ruggeri with David Dills holding the Beatles contract that brought them to the Two Red Shoes

John Ruggeri with David Dills holding the Beatles contract that brought them to the Two Red Shoes: Northern Scot/2008: John Ruggeri and I when researching the Beatles first tour in 1963. Ken McNabb was completing his project “Beatles In Scotland” and contacted me. I donated a couple of images to the book besides correspondence. Also went to Fraserburgh to meet with Stan Williams who wrote about the Johnny Gentle/Silver Beetles tour for the British Beatles Fan Club.

Albert A Bonici [1920-90] obituary

Two Red Shoes Valentines Dance 1973 - Selecting a Queen Two Red Shoes Valentines Dance 1973 – Selecting a Queen My spouse Angela [left] was 19 when asked to by Albert Bonici that she join the competition to select a Valentine’s Queen at Elgin’s Two Red Shoes. The girls stood on the stage where the Beatles began touring 10 years earlier. This was during the Valentines Dance of 1973. Albert’s brother-in-law, Ugo Ruggeri, was with the Moray Camera Club and took several photos of Angela. The Valentine Queen was obligated to compete for Gala Queen [in the spring] besides various duties.  As Angela was leaving the area, she requested to not be selected for the title though agreed to be part of the competition. Like many who grew up in the area, attending the Two Red Shoes was something to look forward to and set the stage for many happy memories. Though not allowed to go to the dances with live bands until aged 16, Angela was able to see local bands rehearse, and met various up and coming musical groups growing up.  The Valentines program would be the last time she danced at the ballroom.

Albert Bonici tells Valentine contestant Angela a joke to get her to smile for a photo [14 Feb 73].

Albert Bonici tells Valentine contestant Angela a joke to get her to smile for a photo [14 Feb 73].

Kids enjoying themselves at a dance in the Two Red Shoes Ballroom [circa 1962]

Kids enjoying themselves at a dance in the Two Red Shoes Ballroom [circa 1962] The ballroom was built under Albert Bonici’s direction after demolishing old dwellings formerly used for those employed with the local college in Elgin. Owning half a block of attached properties, the Two Red Shoes which opened the summer of 1960, was “dog-legged” shaped as it had to fit between other structures [blueprint at bottom of page].

TRS advert The Two Red Shoes was a destination for young people around Morayshire and though it brought great fun, it was not without problems. There were fisticuffs in downtown Elgin between the Elgin, Buckie, and Lossiemouth teenagers though minor scuffs…

Eric Clapton: “last time I played with the Yardbirds [in Elgin] it was rough. They just came to fight, not to watch us and they booed you of stage.” In The Beatles in Scotland, Moira Loveland, who worked in the office of the dance venue, is quoted “The Two Red Shoes then [early 60s] was really all about jazz. It was so unusual to have a guitar line-up at the Two Red Shoes.” Besides the Beatles, several musicians that Bonici hosted in  NE Scotland were trailblazers for new styles of music though met with mixed reactions, depending on the crowd.

James Smith: “My parents met there on a February night in 1974! My dad fell down the stairs and fell at my mother’s feet and asked her if she liked ‘The Who’? My dad still is an avid Who fan. They married in 1976 and will celebrate their 40th anniversary in November next year. The two Red Shoes has a lit to answer for as I certainly would not be here today.”  Note: The Who was advertised on 29 May in Elgin and played at the Two Red Shoes evening of 6 May 1965. They first came to Scotland on 4 Sep 64 [Glasgow] and returned for a few shows in Scotland in ’65 and ’66. “My dad can recall many a fight between Lossie and Elgin loons.  A friend of his was refused entry for being too drunk so climbed the drainpipe at the rear and into the toilets, the dirty marks on his white stay press trousers gave the game away and he was swiftly removed from the premises…” [James’s dad was a plumber from Lossiemouth and his mother worked at William Low supermarket in Elgin].

Ann Ralph: “I went to the Two Red Shoes when I was 15 as my ex husband’s father, uncle and auntie worked there… After I had my two girls,  I worked in the Two Red Shoes in the ladies coats, the café, and then went on to the men’s coats and sometimes took the money at the door. The bouncers nearly died laughing when they said that they were wanting me to be a bouncer… I did but I didn’t like it. You have to see if they had drink them especially the women as they were worse than the men.  I saw all sorts getting thrown out of the Two Red Shoes for fighting and many a night I was in between it.  Oh me, I was some lady…  I worked there for a few years then went onto work in the Carousel Bar in the picture house. Those were the days…” 

Kate Reed: “While the Assembly Rooms were open us younger ones went there on a Saturday. But if there was a “Special Night” as Albert had at Valentine’s Day or a big band on we would go along. If you were lucky to get in unless you had advanced tickets. We New all the bouncers as they rotated around the dance venues. They were quiet articles on the dressed code there. Suit and tie job!!! Then the music began, no dancing in girlie groups in those days. Young stood there like a wall flower waiting to be asked to do a salary shuffling thing around and around. Then there was Iain Falconer up in his box with his search light. If you got caught sniffing on the dance floor you got search out with the beam. And died of embarrassment to boot. During the band break you popped upstairs for a coca cola. That was when if you were not careful in choosing your underwear before you came out the UV showed the whites up. Times that you got caught out we’re if you planned to go somewhere else. Then a quick look over the balcony to see who was in. Off to powder your nose. And back to the shuffling again. By they way no refusals you could be put out for that. Being drunk and fighting got you out on pavement too. Then when you heard Jimmy Martin Band playing Passing strangers that was the last dance. Wednesday night’s were the over 25’s night. Never ever went to that as my brothers went. Then Sunday afternoon disco’ s started, quiet several coming out at five o’clock tea time in daylight. Happy Times many memories of the Tacky Bits.” Note: Have been told that after the council failed to renew the ballroom’s liquor licence [late ’60s], there was more of a problem with people showing up drunk as they’d have a few drinks at a pub before going to the dance. Apparently, a council member who lived in the neighborhood was having confrontations with some of the youths hanging out around the area besides a council member and owner of Lido, another music venue who voted against Albert Bonici’s business dealings. A few years later when a neighbor near the Eight Acres Hotel complained about the disco music at the Straight Eight, they threatened to shut down the hotel so Albert decided to shut down the popular music venue. The TWO RED SHOES ALBUM: trs ballroom

To work with the structures already in place, the stage area had a distinctive shape, which years later, Ringo Starr complained of the “L – shaped” ballroom  “It was an L-shaped room and we were at the wrong end” besides an unruly audience in Elgin. In rebuttal, former member of  LCB Agency, [Little Cross Buildings], John Ruggeri, wrote:

“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 strict dress code and they were clean-cut kids wanting to meet up and dance… Beatles perform at Two Red Shoes

two red shoes ballroom plans - 1:2500 scale

two red shoes ballroom plans – 1:2500 scale  The ballroom area [with alleyway to left] was actually “dog-legged” rather than “L shaped” as cited by other authors. There was a concessions area [to the right] where audience could watch looking down on the band and dancers. The lower level was used by the Park Café which faced Cooper Park.

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Much of the information provided on SCOTBEAT are from the Bonici Archives [former Scottish promoter AA Bonici] My research began in 2007 as a visitor to the north of Scotland. With a fascination for the beat music era that took place throughout the UK, my research investigates the late '50s through early 1970s. Relying on interviews, the Albert Bonici archives, and other resources, I continue to gather materials to tell the story of a special time in music in the mid 20th century. Scottish promoter, Albert Bonici, brought many of the top beat music acts to Scotland which delighted music lovers during the early days of the beat music era. SCOTBEAT was created to share a bit of history about the BEAT years in Scotland and remembers the contributions of promoter, Albert Bonici, 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. Recently, I worked with a BBC crew on the first of the Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pp series and hope to help with another project. Here are a few local articles related to my recent research: 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. © 2019-2024 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 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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Posted in 1960's pop music

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