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Toffos with Carl Perkins and escaping The Who's van - those were the days!


Author and EWO theatre critic Ann Evans shares her memories of autograph hunting in Swinging Sixties Coventry.

As a 12-year-old back in the early 1960s, one of my favourite things to do on a weekend was to get the bus into town with my friend Joan Whittaker and hang around the Coventry Theatre - the old Hippodrome - collecting autographs.

In those days there were always pantomimes and concerts on, and a whole string of famous people would be appearing at the Hales Street venue. There were some real 60s music icons such as the Walker Brothers who seemed so tall and suntanned, the Springfields with the amazing Dusty Springfield complete with loads of black eyeshadow and mascara; Adam Faith who wasn’t much taller than me, the Hollies, Eden Kane and one of my favourites at the time, Mark Wynter. (Pictured below, extreme left, alongside Adam Faith and Marty Wilde).

We would get his autograph week after week, or so it seemed.

Doing some research I’m reminded that he played Robin Hood in the Coventry Theatre’s 27th annual pantomime in 1963, which also starred Mike and Bernie Winters and Arthur Askey.

We would get all three comedians' autographs too. It doesn’t really surprise me that I never got to actually see the pantomime, as money was tight in those days, but it was exciting enough to meet the stars. I remember the Kinks playing there. Again, I didn’t get to the concert, but if you went round to the other side of the theatre you could hear them play. We clapped after they sang one of their hits, and a drumstick was pushed under the door - a treasured possession for years to come. And then there was The Who (main picture) and a big crowd surging around their minibus/camper van with a sliding side door. Somehow or other, I got pushed inside, but I hurriedly got out again.

Years later, chatting to a friend who I didn’t know at the time, I discovered that she’d ended up in that minibus too. Keith Moon had kindly dropped her off at her bus stop! Rock & Roll!

One show my school pal Joan and I did get to see starred rock 'n' roller Carl Perkins . It was a big deal for my parents to let me out at night at that age, but the plan was for our mothers to meet us off the bus at a specific time. The thing was, we hung around the stage door to get autographs with a small group of fans and Carl Perkins - the man who wrote Blue Suede Shoes - came out to chat with us all. He’d heard of Lady Godiva so we took him to see the statue in Broadgate. I recall asking him questions about Elvis and sharing a packet of Toffos with him!

Needless to say, Joan and I missed the bus home. We caught the last bus, arriving home to find frantic parents out looking for us. We weren't allowed out at night for quite some time after that!

Winner!