This page will eventually contain all I find out about the Cookie Look phenomenon and Rock 'n Roll in Durban. There are already a number of references to it on the site and you can find them with the new improved Search feature. I made a start collecting some of the material together for an article in Kwana newspaper. In it, I wrote:
My informant Gerald Buttigieg has contributed a wealth of information on Durban in the 1950w and 1960s including the birth of Rock and Roll music in the city.
I have put all the information up on my website at www.fad.co.za but, very briefly, Gerald explains how Rock and Roll first made its appearance on the radio, some movies, and in sessions held here and there around the city.
The next development was the opening of venues at a number of hotels which became generally known as Cookie Looks, named after the first one which opened at Claridges. He wrote:
“Cookie Look, if I remember, was started at the Claridges Hotel on the Beachfront. What the Hotel had done was set aside an area on the ground floor near the foyer which became the Cookie Look venue. A local rock band was hired to play for the period 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on a Friday and Saturday night. Being licensed premises, you were supposed to be over 18 to gain entry. The band played all the current popular rock tunes and a dance area was provided. As drinks were served, the hotel was set to make a profit.
“Possibly the four most popular "Cookie Look" venues in Durban were at Claridges, the Londsdale Hotel's Bull Ring, the Al Fresco (Esplanade Hotel on the Victoria Embankment) and the Macabre at the Butterworth Hotel (Soldiers Way). The Al Fresco was very popular on a Friday night, being central in town and as an after work venue, also operating 5 to 7pm, after which it converted to a restaurant. The bands I remember playing there were Dickie Loader and the Blue Jeans, Dunny and the Showmen and The Diamonds.”
I was looking on the Internet for more information when I came across the SA Rock Encyclopaedia (rock.co.za) which has a picture of the record Cookie Look Time at Claridges, by Harold Roy and his Rascals, which featured June Dyer. Another singer to have appeared at the venue was Mercia Love.
Picture courtesy Brian Currin and rock.co.za.
On a related subject, my informant Rose Enstrom remembers when Elvis Presley mania hit town:
“The most momentous occasion was the night that the Elvis Presley movie "Jailhouse Rock" was premiered at midnight. The queues were miles long and, in fact, we probably would have had no chance of getting in if Aubrey had not pushed and shoved along with all the others to secure tickets. When he eventually emerged from the crowd, his shirt had been torn and his tie was almost strangling him. Of course the effort was well worth it as we had a super time. Toilet rolls were thrown from the balcony as streamers; patrons went crazy. "
I would really appreciate hearing from anyone who could provide more information on the Rock and Roll music scene in Durban in those days. Memories and pictures would be great and it would be a bonus if I could get to hear the music as well.
It wasn't long before I had a response to the article from my informant Gwen Morris. She too, experienced the occasion of the arrival of the movie, Jailhouse Rock, and she has an an explanation of how Cookie Look got its name. She wrote:
I have just read your article in "Kwana" about Durban's "Cookie Look". This is the story I heard about how the name came to be.
It was the beginning of the space age and the USA had launched a satellite or two. As they did not have all the fancy technology that they have at present to track all the stuff they sent into space, they had to send airplanes around the world to do the tracking. And so it came to pass that an American aircraft carrier arrived in Durban with satellite tracking teams aboard. Some of the members of those teams were booked into the Claridges Hotel. There was, as you mentioned, a sort of cocktail session, with bands playing, between 5-7pm. Anyway, the American guys were looking for some entertainment so they decided to "go look for the cookies" at the Claridges Hotel cocktail session and from then on it became known as the "Cookie Look" How do I know this? Because I happened to be dating one of the satellite tracking team members at the time.
Another thing I think you should know is that while June Dyer was singing at the Claridges Hotel, there was another singer, at the Killarney Hotel in Brickhill Road, who was taking the town by storm. I don't know what happened to June but I do know what happened to the other singer. Her group became known as "Four Jacks and a Jill".
I also happened to be at the bone-crunching midnight premier of "Jailhouse Rock". It was a blast. Thanks for bringing back the memories.
I hope this will be of interest to you.
From a doddering old 71-year old. (Surely not doddering? Allan.)
From Gerald Buttigieg - April 2009.
Picture courtesy Gerald Buttigieg.
"I dug this out of my papers file. It is the only picture of Dunny and The Showmen I have. In those days I was not into lugging a 35 mm camera around so there were plenty of missed opportunities for taking photos. This is the interior of a fold-over request card sponsored by the cool drink maker Sparletta. These cards were placed on tables and one could request numbers to be played, the waiters bringing them up to the band. Looks like this one was written with eye liner!
"The band members shown which must be about 1963/64 were as follows:
At the back a very young Spider Murch, the bass guitar player, next to him Dunny Browne leader of the group and vocalist. In front Bennie Browne , played rhythm guitar, who I think was still at school then, next to him Graham Buckle who played drums, and Tim Browne who played lead guitar.
"I was at school with the three Browne brothers, who were the sons of Senator E.R. Browne of a very well known law firm still operating in Durban. Dunny now lives in Vancouver Canada, Tim and Bennie I understand live in Australia. Spider in the 70s / 80s still did gigs and teamed up with Gary Bryden (?) doing comedy routines. Graham Buckle, do not know what happened to him.
"You can see the dress was quite of the times, with Beatle type Time to Shine suits and Tim sporting a George Harrison fringe. The band were resident at the Milner Gardens Hotel, now an old age home I hear, for about 2 or so years. They played Saturday nights from about 8 to midnight, which really wasn't a Cookie Look scene, strictly speaking, but the music played certainly was.
"This was not the original Dunny and the Showmen group. The first group was made up of Dunny Browne, Peter Murch (Spider's elder brother), Peter (?) Duffield son of Ernie Duffield the race horse commentator if I remember and one more, I forget whom, who played the drums. They played at a venue called the Upstairs at the Downstairs in Morrison Street which today, I think is or was a Boxing Gym, off Brickhill Road. It got its name because you went upstairs via the fire escape stairs and then down some stairs to get into the actual venue. This was about 1960/61."
From John Taylor - July 2009
I was intrigued to read Gerald Buttigieg’s article about the band Dunny and the Showmen [see article immediately above]. As someone who was invited to many school dances in the mid 1960’s, I remember them well.
Those were the pre-disco days when music for school dances and local “sessions” was provided by live bands, and Dunny and the Showmen were extremely popular and in demand.
Gerald mentions Spider Murch – I went with a group of friends to Cottonfields in Umhlanga on a Thursday night some months ago, and lo and behold, who was the karaoke compere, but none other than Spider. He looks a lot different today to the young guy depicted in Gerald’s photo, much like a venerable grandfather, but he’s still going strong after all these years.
Talking about “sessions” in the sixties (a euphemism for a dance held in a hall with music provided by a live band), I doubt that any Durbanite who was in his late teens to early twenties at that time, didn’t at least once go to Journey’s End in Durban North, Sherwood Hall, Norwegian Hall in Musgrave, or St. Cyprians in Umbilo. There were apparently some venues in the Bluff as well, but we never ventured that far.
The main objective was to either ogle or attempt to pick up the numerous young ladies present, and I guess to dance as well.
The organisers of these events did their level best to prevent alcohol from being smuggled in (Cane Spirit was in fashion), or to evict those people who were obviously inebriated, often without a great deal of success.
A feature of sessions was the inevitable brawl that broke out at some stage during the evening. Very often these were more of the nature of a scuffle and many wild punches that missed their target, with chairs and people being knocked over, but it was common belief that no successful session could take place without such an occurrence.
I guess it was the fights that eventually shut down the sessions for good, but they were great fun while they lasted.
John Taylor - August 2009
Good Day Allan,
It’s marvellous to read articles such as that written by Brian Milner-Smyth about Durban’s rock ‘n roll scene.
Brian’s reminiscences caused me such nostalgia, and brought forth many memories, and in these are some connected tales.
One of the bands doing the session (Journey’s End) and school dance scene during the era about which Brian speaks, was the Deans. This comprised a bunch of guys from Northlands High School (John Friedland, the Cline Brothers, Colin Horowitz, and Robbie Pavid) who played quite decent music, but were generally reduced in number as the evening progressed! John Friedland was fond of vigorously refreshing himself with numerous beverages during breaks in performance, which very often left him lying prone on the stage later in the evening.
John and I worked together in later years, and became good friends. His cousin was well known actress and comedienne Annabel Linder, for whom the lead guitar player of Dickie Loader and the Blue Jeans (Graham Beggs) had the serious hots. This character often arrived at the Linder house inebriated, and stood on the lawn trying to sing love songs to Annabel, while her mother shouted at him to go away or she would call the police.
Brian mentions jazz guitarist Ken Faulds. His daughter Cheryl and I were quite good friends, in fact I introduced her to her future husband. Ken and some of his buddies used to jam every Saturday morning in the lounge of his flat across the way from Botanic Gardens, and I was an intent fan despite my young age (jazz was viewed at that time as ballie’s music).
Howard Carpendale had been a couple of years ahead of me at school at both DPHS and DHS. He played with a band called the Strangers, the only member of which I can remember is Don Allaway, who eventually became an attorney. I recall that they released a record which I believe was entitled “Wondrous Place”. I remember Howard as being quite a large guy and a very good cricketer as a bowler, and, good luck to him, he went on to become a huge star in Germany.
The hotel described by Brian as close to the Al Fresco terrace was the Riviera, and I clearly recall the bass instrument that he mentions.
John Friedland - September 2009
Firstly, let me say that as a participant in the Durbs 60's music scene, these articles and the one in the Kwana have come to me as a real "blast from the past"!!!
I'm the guy that that was "fond of vigoursly refreshing himself....". (see mention in John Taylor's article above). My recollection is that this certainly did happen a few times but it was not the rule. 17 year olds in 1964 didn't exactly have very easy access to alcohol but, like true rockstars, when we did, we went a little too far.
The father of the guys I played with, David & Barry Cline (not "Kline"), Danny, owned the Alfresco Hotel so we spent many Saturdays at the Dickie Loader and, later, the Flames gigs. A little vigorous refreshing also took place there!
I also have fond memories of all of the venues mentioned in the various articles.
I now live in Sydney and have lost contact with all of the guys.
I was really amazed that, 45 years down the tunnel of time, that era is still regarded as newsworthy. I guess there must be quite a few nostalgic 60 to 70 year old's who enjoyed the stroll down memory lane as much as I did.
John Taylor - August 2009
The memory cobwebs have cleared a bit since my last message, above, and I now recall that the name of Dickie Loader and the Blue Jeans lead guitar player was Graham Beggs.
Another member of Howard Carpendale's band, the Strangers, was Rene Saunders. I remember that he became quite religious (obviously after the band split and Howard went to Germany), and I used to see him going from door to door in the Musgrave Road area trying to save souls.
Clearly us Durbanites don't know how popular Howard Carpendale is in Europe. I googled his name and an extraordinarily large number of websites came up, including some live performances on Youtube. It appears that at age 63, Howard is still going strong, which can't be said for the bulk of local musicians who were his peers in the 1960's.
John Friedland - October 2009
I remember Graham Beggs, he was very good. As John Taylor said and was having a "scene" with a cousin of mine - it must have been in the early 60's. I remember that somehow he used to climb up to her room at night and .....!
The other guys in the "Blue Jeans" were Don Christie (bass) - I believe that he was killed in a car accident (late 60's) and Ray Boonzaier (drums) - I later knew his brother, Selwyn, in a professional capacity and - Noel Glover (rhythm?)- I think he went on to be a TV comedian (Biltong & Potroast).
Pic courtesy John Friedland
Click to view enlargement.
A pic. of my band "The Deans" is attached. The gig was a charity concert at the Durban City Hall, 18 December 1964. L to r. me, David Cline, Peter Gilder, Barrie Cline.
I think One of the other band members of the Strangers was a Mike Permuie (spelling?) and Rene (not Reno) Saunders.
Glynnis - August 2010
Some of Glynnis' memories of the Cookie Look era In Durban are posted on her page here, including memories of venues and fashions. There are plenty of other beachfront and enetertainment memories as well.
Added 3 October, 2010. See a picture of the inside of Club Macabre just added to her page.
Ken Blackie - 3 October 2010
The following list of Durban venues and bands was received from my informant Ken Blackie. He write:
- Cookie Look – I remember one of the big groups there at one time were The Sounds of Brass with Denny Loren and Peter Hubner
- The Lonsdale – The Dominoes (hit song Tabitha Twitchit) played there often. Drummer was Gordon Tweedie.
- Riviera Hotel – Saturday lunchtime sessions were usually headlined by Eric Divaris
- Esplanade Hotel – home of The Flames.
- Ocean View Hotel – home of The Village Green – Glen Tyrel, Mike Slavin, Tim Hoare, Don Scott and A.N. Other (drummer).
- Astra Hotel – Gary Bryden & Spider Murch were at the Chatterbox but were preceded by David Marks.
- Tiles – this originally opened with The Ivy League from the UK (Tossing & Turning, Funny How Love Can Be). Am pretty sure Freedom’s Children (Julian Laxton) played there.
Max Stange - 23 January 2010
My informant Max Stange had the following to say about the Cookie Look venue which was started by his cousin, Solly Nankin:
Here are some thoughts about Cookie Look at the Claridge's Hotel, started by my cousin, Solly Nankin. I am not sure if it was already in existence when Solly bought Claridges, but I do not think so.
As far as I can recall, Solly actually started it, as the area was mainly busy in the cocktail hour, on Fridays and Saturdays. Within weeks, it was the most popular venue in Durban, every night of the week.!
The resident band was originally called Ricky Pelling's Band. Only later on was the name changed to " The four Jacks and a Jill ".Ricky Pelling was the band leader, and Hennie de Bergen was the drummer. June Dyer was the girl singer, at that time, when the band was called "Ricky Pelling and his band.
"The lead singer changed later, and they also changed the name to "4 Jacks and a Jill. Her name was Glynnis Lynn and she married one of the guys in the band, Clive Harding. The band itself went on to win great acclaim, and went overseas as a group, to USA, where they made several records.
Their big hit songs were "Timothy " and "Master Jack " which were both written in S.A. and first performed at Cookie Look ! Their records hit the top charts in USA and all over the world. I think their first album was also called Master Jack.
The arrangement was that Ladies came in to the Cookie Look Hour, which ran from about 5.30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and they came in for free . The men had to pay an entrance fee, but I can’t recall how much it was. The girls obviously attracted the men!!
Everyone had to leave at 7 p.m. as the night session was quite different, as they served food a la carte, and there was a dancefloor. The same band played, but different music. I dont think that they served food during the Cookie-Look Hour, as the bar was too busy, and the place was always jam-packed, leaving no room for waiters to get through, or food to be served.
In the Bar area, the waiters used to start dispensing drinks at about 4.30 p.m. and these were lined up on the counters,so that there was no time wasted in pouring them! Nuts and raisins were on the tables.
In 1965/1966 the Cookie Look hour was at its peak, but I'm afraid I cant remember much else.
I do recall that, after Cookie Look, we would adjourn to a small bar on the same floor where my friend, Bill "Ginger" Greeff, undisputed King of the West Street Willies, would consume a bottle of Smirnoff's Vodka and Coke and, from there we would usually drove (I drove as I hardly touched alcohol) to the Smuggler's Inn, where the fun really started.
Another event at Cookie Look was when during the July holidays, a buzz would go through the over-crowded place that "The Duke" had arrived! Yes, none other than George "The Duke" Ivanovic. The mere mention of his name still sends a shiver down my spine, as he was reputed to be a fantastic fighter who did not take prisoners!
I really don't know why I should have been concerned as he did not know me from a bar of soap (for which I am eternally grateful), and, the only contact I had with him was at North Beach when he came over to me and looked at my brand new buzz-bike, which was one of the first to be designed just like a real motor bike. He growled "Chay", gimme a ride, and, no human has ever parted company with his beloved bike faster than I did that day. He took it for a spin and actually mumbled something that was close to ‘Thank You’.
Godfrey Mockè - 23 January 2010
Godfrey Mocke has contributed a page of Cookie Look memories. I have put them up on their own page.
David Vickery - 30 January 2010
David Vickery sent in some memories from Durban's Rock 'n' Roll days. He wrote:
A number of issues spring to mind in reading the various submissions about the the Cookie Look era in Durban. Cookie Look in 1963 was on the mezzanine floor [At the Claridges Hotel. Ed.] up a circular staircase. The reason I know this was because the hand rail was leather and a friend of mine decided that at 7pm end of the session with Ricky Pelling (can't remember the band name) he would slide down the banister. Not realising that leather does not lend itself to being highly polished and easy to slide on he tipped over and crashed into the fishpond at the foot of the stairs breaking his arm in the process and depositing a number of goldfish onto the ground floor carpet.
After Cookie Look closed at 7pm we used to go over to the Four Seasons hotel in Gillespie Street where a type of Middle Eastern bar with low round tables and very heavy high-back wrought iron chairs I cannot remember the name or the girl who used to sing there PLEASE HELP!!! I know she later moved on to sing at Umhlanga Rocks (was it Maxine??) [It was indeed. See below. Ed.]
She always made us very welcome and no matter what she was singing at the time would always break off and start singing "There's a Kind of Hush" when we trouped in. Made us feel good but not sure about the other patrons!
Back to the El Gaucho at the Edward Hotel. Tiger also had the ability to lift with one hand a wooden crate of 24 (I think empty) bottles of Castle and stack them up one crate on top of the other to about his head height! It was quite a sportsman's bar and was frequented by rugby players. They had their own team TEDS (The Edward) and from what I remember, it was run by one Dave Winterton a young Durban Lawyer at the time. I played the odd game and went on tour to JHB by train to play EDDS (Old Edwardians). I think a number of Teds players also played rugby for Berea Rovers who, at that time, had their club house in Poynton Chambers in Smith Street, up on the second floor. It was accessed by one of those old open cage lifts. How we survived not being dismembered between floors was a mystery.
When Poynton Chambers was demolished we moved over the road to the Air Force Club on about the 11th floor. Memory lets me down with the name of both the arcade and building,but we could watch the rebuilding of the old site.
Our offices were in Hooper lane and on the corner of Field and Pine street was the Globe hotel and also the Daily News.and it did not take us long to sus out the Silver Quill (journalists pub) up on the first floor (Ronnie I think was the name of the Indian barman.) and that became the Friday watering hole where most of the Daily news folk would bring in a variety of celebrities exciting times for us. However after a time they moved over to the Central hotel.in West Street but for some reason I never went there.
Hope these memories stir up the little grey cells to remember more of the good times.
Reply to David Vickery from Maxine Lemarr - May 2012:
For David Vickery….. I am living in the United States, just north of Miami. Arrived here in 1982 having been offered a job to perform in a very upscale restaurant in Miami…I stayed there as resident solo vocalist/guitarist for almost nine years.
I performed at the Persian Room at the Four Seasons Hotel from 1966 – 1967 then went to the Beverly Hills Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks, in the Kiki Bar, which later became The Cabin. Eight and a half years at the Bev Hills, and I went to the Carlton Hotel in Johannesburg.
How I remember all those great musicians in Durban – we were all friends together, and would hang out after our gigs. Later, we would go to the Crazy Horse at the Beach Hotel until early hours of the morning. We were like family.
Regards, Maxine Lemarr