the day the star club opened

My Star Club Zoo! Part 3

My whole life revolved around the Star Club morning noon and animals! And I don't mean those R&R guys that I adored so much. Those strange English boys or should I say the ones that came from Liverpool just loved animals. I would take all the boys from the Star Club from groups like the Undertakers, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes, Ricky Gleason and the Top Spots and Tom Dick and Harry to the Famous Sunday Fish Market in Hamburg and they absolutely loved it! What a strange thing for young rockers but yes they really loved going there and most of all they loved buying animals the only problem was when it was time for them to go back home to England they didn't know what to do with them and left them with me to look after until they returned. It was a good job my parents were so understanding, as we lived in a small flat on the 3rd floor with just enough room for us never mind the animals and as some of the lads never returned I ended up keeping them. Good job my mum and dad love these animals because there was no place but the top of my mums kitchen cupboard and "Pissy the mouse" (Bobby Thompson landed me with that one) must have loved it best after being kept in the boys flat on top of a radiator across the road from the beershop, the poor thing was hanging by its little feet from the roof of its cage, it would have done a top dance on the hot floor of its cage.

When Ray Charles came to the Star Club, the stage was not big enough to hold him and his band ray charlesplus his backing singers so they had to build an extension to the stage along the side wall which meant the boy's could not rehearse while the building work was going on. So off they went to the Fish Market and returned with a Guinea pig, just one of many little creatures I cared for, I can't even remember who came back with this one, and you can guess what happened...two weeks later it was sitting on the couch next to my mother helping her with her knitting! I will explain, my mother was always knitting or doing some sort of needlework and the Guinea pig would sneak up and start eating the wool but it would not chew it. A big ball of wool would form in its mouth and my mother would have to pull it out and dry the wool before she could use it again! That was one clever little sweetie, its name is unprintable.

One animal that I was very lucky not to have back at our flat was a pig, yes a PIG, those crazy Liverpool lads came back one morning from the market with a baby pig on a lead. Can you imagine what it was like inside their flat? I felt very sorry for there cleaning lady. They all loved that pig and would take it for walks just like you would a dog. I was told but it may or may not be true, you know the lads used to pull my leg somehow ruthless that one night Brian Saxophone Jones fromBrian Jones The Undertakers the Undertakers took it for a walk whilst playing his Sax into a block of flats on the Reeperbahn and boy did he get into trouble. I don't know what happened to that pig and it appears no one else does even when I talk to the lads today none of them can remember were it went (could it be on the grounds that the boys were all ever so slightly intoxicated every night... must be the water in Hamburg), I think it ran away to get as far as possible from the crazy, but loveable Liverpool lads.

PS ...over the years so many people laid claim to the incident with the pig, and the years changed along the way, but one thing is can't be changed and that is the year of 1962.


PSS... As I left for Liverpool myself, my poor mum & dad were left looking after the animals as I told them the boys might be back for them, my dad eventually gave the Guinea pig to a farmer who kept it with his rabbits and the mouse went to the local pet shop.


'I got paid in ------- Records!!!


The Star Club - Part 2

The best thing about the Star Club was you came into contact with the Stars of the day. Artists that you had heard on the radio or on record were there before your eyes and some of them would even take time to talk to you but the very best of all were the Liverpool groups. All the boys from theses groups were so friendly and full of fun and the friends I made over 50 years ago are still friends today.

My friend Bärbel and I took pleasure in showing the boys round my home town of Hamburg showing them places of interest but they liked the fish market the best - strange people the English!

A lot of the time most of the boys had spent there money on Beer and had none left for food so one Sunday in July 1962 I persuaded my mum to have the Searchers round for dinner yes the whole band! Chris Curtis, John McNally, Mike Pendergast (as he was known then), Tony Jackson, my mum agreed searchersand my dad must have bought the whole range of booze you could think of. As they all arrived at our flat my mum was so proud to serve the boys with a nice chicken meal - chicken in white sauce and asparagus - which was our favoured meal, the boys picked at it and decided they didn’t like it at, but were very polite about it, saying they just had a big breakfast. My dad busied himself serving everyone with drinks of their choice, but I forgot to tell him Chris was only drinking ‘Coke’, with that Bärbel and had to rush across the road to buy a crate of ‘Coke’, true to form he drank the whole crate. The day went very well otherwise - I think? Years later when I went with my friend to see the Searchers at the Wooky Hollow, John saw me in the audience and ask me and my friend back stage for a chat, we talk about that Sunday back in my parents flat and that dreaded meal, John actually admitted they all hated that meal because of the asparagus - we all had a big laugh about it.

You will see from the autographs that they all had a good sense of humour, which I have since found out is a Liverpool trait! Unfortunately when I moved to Liverpool my parents cleared my room out and binned all my memories including signed pictures (some original ones of the Beatles with all 5 of them signing them), Mersey Beat papers (I had number 1) so all I’m left with is these few autographs!

One of the nicest American Rock n Roll stars I met was Gene Vincent he was such a lovely man and a gene vincentfantastic performer. He always had time to talk to everyone and was very polite all the men were 'sir' and the ladies 'mam' a real gentleman he is sorely missed but I treasure his memory and have the message he gave me with his autograph.

Late 1963 a group called Ricky Gleason and the Top Spots came to the Star Club. They were very nervous the first spot but soon became one of the favoured that year playing all the usual Rock ‘n’ Roll numbers, Ricky being the singer, we all thought he was a great singer; he had a habit of jumping about on the stage. All the boys were very polite and you could see that they were great friends. One night Keith the lead guitarist asked to take me home and that was that - head over heels! I asked my parents if I could bring him to lunch on the Sunday and my parents agreed and from that day my parents thought the world of Keith. 12 months later on the 2nd November 1964 Keith & I got married and that's nearly 45 years ago - Where does the time go?

Maja's Autograph Album

The Day the Star Club Opened by Maja

It all began at the end of 1959 with the opening of the Kaiserkeller, on the corner of the Grosse Freiheit / maja1962Schuckstrasse in St Pauli. 


This was the first Rock 'N' Roll club and all of a sudden amongst all the strip joints was this fantastic club with one group, 5 lads (The Beatles) in leather jackets playing songs like Lucille, Miss Molly etc, songs we only heard on the Radio Luxembourg (Editors Note: It's back on Air) before and the kids went wild, we couldn't get enough. I was still in school, getting dressed up to the nines to pass as old enough to get in to the club - the red light district was always a taboo, but with the club being at the end of the Grosse Freiheit, I didn't have to walk past all the strip joints. The queues were endless to get into to the club. John Lennon learnt a few words in German and his favoured one to address the audience was 'Kraut' , which of course didn't go down to well but he didn't seem to care about that at all and once the Beatles were playing little words like that didn't matter no more, only the music!

 grosse freitheit

Beside the Kaiserkeller there was also the Top Ten club on the Reeperbahn, St Pauli, but I didn't like it there to much it never had the same buzz as the Kaiserkeller, plus they were a lot stricter with checking our ID's.


Then, like over night all the record shops were selling records of Elvis, Bill Haley Cliff Richard and Chuck Berry etc like hot cakes and all the German music was being ignored by the German youth of Hamburg - put on back shelves!




Then one day there orange/red coloured posters appeared all over the place with the slogan "Die Not hatstar club opening night ein Ende! Die Zeit der Dorfmusik ist vorbei!" - "The need has an end! The time of the village music is finished!” it announced the opening of a new club "Star Club" just across the road at 39 Grosse Freiheit on Friday the 13th April 1962, and it promised big names - The Beatles, The Bachelors, The Tony Sheridan Quartet, Gerry & The Pacemakers and Roy Young.


I couldn't wait for it to open...


On the opening night at 6.00pm the queues were blocking the whole of the street and the police had to make way for people to pass, but when the doors finally opened - the sounds and the atmosphere was electric.  Most nights there were up to 8 groups playing in 1 hour rotations.  As soon as we got into the club the music started and we all got up to dance - Horst Fascher (Hoddel) gave at lot of us free membership with the understanding that we got up to dance to encourage others to do the same.


Everyone was dressed smartly - boys in suits & tie, girls in their fineries - fit for a night listening to music and of course dancing - Twist was the latest one!


star club hamburgOne problem was that you had to be 18 to stay in the club after 10.00pm, be course official you had to be 18 to even get in due it being classed as a night club, but must of us were so dressed with our beehives and lipstick that we looked much older than our age. But come 9.50pm just as the 'Top Group' would have finished their stint, the announcement would come over the loudspeaker - "Ladies & Gentlemen" in a few minutes it will be 10.00pm, anyone under the age of 18 or anyone who hasn't got proof of age must leave the club, the waiter will now carry out a ID check and we'll continue in 10 minutes with   Well it didn't  do our street cred any good at all.


As one of my best friend Barbel knew the owner of a pub next door 'Gretel & Alfons'  we were able to hide in the back (kitchen) until the police had done their ID check and then we were quite safe provided we stayed in the pub, as you could only get back in to The Star Club after 10.00pm by showing your ID card and you had to be 18.


the beer shopAs the first groups came over (including the Beatles) they had very little money to spend, so Barbel and I took them to 'Gretel & Alfons' but the boys found it hard to pronounce the name and started to call it 'The Beershop'  which it is still called to this day by anyone who played there in the 60s. The Beershop was always handy for the boys, they could go in and just sit and talk and no pressure to buy a beer and when the boys were skinned they were able to get food (soup or sausage & bread) on tick until payday.


I had to tell my parents every night were I was going, which was a golden rule in our house - I did tell them, and they didn't mind as long as I was taking a taxi home which my dad gave me 5 Marks for, but you can guess what I did - Yes spend it in the Beershop and walked home. Most nights managed get someone to walk me home, mind I never told them how far I lived!!


The Beatles Live at the Star Club 1962 - A Taste of Honey


At the weekend I used to tell my parents that I stayed with my friend Barbel as she only lived at the end of the Reeperbahn, but of course we were all night in the Beershop our sanctuary from the police. Come Monday morning I had to be at work for 6.00am at the printers where I worked as an apprentice bookbinder and I was so knackered that I used my half hour lunch break to have a sleep.


I made lifelong friends with lot boys of the groups.1962 was one of the most fantastic years Kingsize star club memorialTaylor and the Dominoes, The Undertakers were among the finest groups that year and of course there were others such as Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, the Big Three, Freddie Starr & The Midnighters, Swinging Bluejeans, Steve Aldo, Gerry Marsden & The Pacemakers, The Searchers, Fats Domino, Everly Brothers, Walker Brothers, Bill Haley & The Comets, Tony Sheridan, Lee Curtis & The All Stars, The Byrds, Remo Four, they played exciting new music we could all dance to - twist was all the rage. We had quite a few twisting competitions which I entered with my German dance partner - we won the round in the Star Club and drove to Keil for the second round were we came runner-up! We thought we were the bees-knees me with my beehive and him in his winkle-picker shoes.


With the arrival of The Star Club a new era started, more groups came over and they all played for a minimum of four weeks, quite often we would welcome some very big stars mostly from the USA, such as Ray Charles, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, the list goes on. Hoddel even tried to get Elvis to come, but unfortunately he never managed it. It wasn't for the lack of trying, but because Elvis's manager (Colonel Parker) couldn't leave the States!


On the second visit of the Dominoes Bobby Thomson decided to buy a white mouse at the 'Fish market' which he kept in flat opposite the Star Club (which belonged to Gretel & Alfons Jankowiak, who also owned the Beershop), believe or not on top of an radiator and that poor mouse was hanging from the top of its case so not to burn its little feet. When the Dominoes were ready to return to Liverpool Bobby ask me to mind this mouse named 'Pissy' - so called for reasons that's what he was that morning - until he returned in a few weeks time - he returned but never took Pissy back. I must have been an soft touch my parents flat was like a zoo - the lads bought animals in their drunken stupor and then didn't know what to do with them when they returned to club


In February 1964 the Star Club organised a charter flight to Liverpool and about 45 of the Star Club regulars came over on a visit to see what the Cavern was like, since all the lads raved about it, but what we found was so unlike what we expected - it was in a cellar, damp and smelly, so most of us visited the Iron Door club instead.  At the time our visit was big news, Granada Television was waiting for our flight to land to interview us, and my friend and I were picked to go on Granada News.  We flew back to Hamburg after 3 days.  We all had a great time and were made welcome everywhere we went - the music was just great!


I've been back to Hamburg on many occasions (visiting my family) going down memory lane, but sadly the Star Club is no more, only the great memories live on of a time and music that changed the world.


What a great time the 60s were, I'm so lucky to have been part of it and after 45 years living and working in my adopted city 'Liverpool' I am still a 'Kraut' by nationality (I promised my parents not to change it) and the rest of my life and memories are mine and are not for sharing.

maja todaymajaDodd.... You should have been there...................


Editors Note: Maja's hubby is Keith Dodd who played at the Star Club with Ricky Gleason and the Topspots and later on with the Swingin' Blugenes.

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