Monday, January 16, 2006

CLUBOBIT: Alan Sytner

The death has been announced of Alan Synter, the man who founded one of the most famous clubs in pop history.

Having been inspired by jazz venues on a trip to Paris, Synter returned to his native Liverpool in 1957 where he expanded his empire of two jazz clubs to include one in a Parisian, low-cost format. Because of its position below street level, he chose to call it The Cavern. At the time, Mathew Street was a mixture of warehouses; he was able to secure the venue by using the proceeds of a £400 insurance policy. With a decor painted by local jazz enthusiasts and a smell described by Gerry Marsden as "disinfectant and stale onions", the first gig showcased the Merseysippi Jazz Band, the Wall City Jazzmen, Ralph Watmough's band (who played jazz) and the Coney Island Skiffle group. So, not all jazz, then.

Although he attracted a range of top jazz names - including Louis Armstrong - like most successful Scousers he moved to London, making it tricking for him to carry on day-to-day management. With the club starting to fail, he sold it on to an accountant - Ray McFall - for £2,750 in 1959. That's the sort of return that Sarah Beeny would approve of.

Synter moved into the luxury car business, making a fortune for himself that would eventually allow him to retire to Cannes.