Illustrious history of the The Old Granary
THE JAZZ YEARS
JAZZMAN Acker Bilkd The Old Granary nightclub in a disused warehouse on Bristol city dockside. It was a superb building, a fantastic example of high Victorian local architecture, but in the late 1960s, nobody quite knew what to do with large edifices like this one, so turning it into a jazz club was a revolutionary idea.
The club was successful and hosted some of the greatest stars of the time. Chicago blues man Muddy Waters player there and the Avon Cities Jazz Band was resident.
The first floor held the stage and a dance floor as well as a great long bar across the entire back wall.
Upstairs was a balcony floor with a second bar. You could stand up there and watch what was going on below.
For a long time Al Read was the resident DJ, and he described the Old Granary as "the most successful music club in the West Country".
However, ten years later, largely thanks to competition from the Old Duke pub nearby, jazz had given way to rock music.
THE ROCK YEARS
Acker had already pulled out, and the club, despite its low ceilings and small stage, had won an international reputation as one of the key test beds of the rock industry.
Fledgling stars like Elkie Brooks, Yes, Curved Air, Status Quo, and Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant and Thin Lizzy all played at the Old Granary in the early days.
Anyone who was in their prime in the late seventies/early eighties will remember rocking down at the Granary.
It was always dark in there, the floor was sticky with spilled cider and black - or the more potent cider and Cherry B which was the 'in' drink for girls at the time, and on concert nights the atmosphere would be full of flying hair as boys pogo-d and head banged and air-guitared their way through the set along with the band.
Now, of course, the music is gone. The Granary is a place where people go to eat mussels and chips and drink Belgian beer, but the atmosphere of the old place lives on.
The building - ten storeys of medieval Venetian-inspired ornate coloured brickwork, was built in 1871.
It was commissioned by Messrs Wait and James, and designed as a place to store grain.While it was being built, one of the workmen is said to have argued with a colleague over a woman they both loved, the argument developed into a fight, and in the struggle, the poor man fell down a lift shaft to his death.
He is said to have haunted the granary ever since. I can't say I ever saw him, but I did work as a barman at the club in the early eighties, and there's definitely something there that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you're on your own, after dark . . .