Remembering a great Morecambe musician and band leader of post-war era

When Morecambe musician and bandleader Alvin Atkins died in 2019, a link was lost to the post-war world of ballroom dancing and the big band sound.

By Peter Wade, historian
Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 3:45 pm

Alvin’s grandson Guy wrote an appreciation of his grandfather in The Guardian newspaper. In Morecambe, Alvin is particularly associated with the Central Pier, a place where he entertained up to 2,000 dancers, six nights a week from 1948 to 1965.

Alvin first visited Morecambe in 1936 when he was a student at the Royal Northern College of Music, training as an opera singer and learning to play the

violin. Later, as a touring saxophonist, he saw Richard Valery and his Band and resolved to do the same. When Alvin first saw the inside of the Marine Ballroom on the Central Pier he commented that it was like going on board an ocean liner. In practice, conditions on the pier could be grim.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Alvin Atkins.

In winter, the band members had sometimes to wear pyjamas under their evening suits to keep warm. As the big band sound gave way to the new beat of rock ‘n’ roll (literally in Alvin’s case as his last appearance on the pier was followed by the Small Faces), Alvin looked elsewhere.

He took up a residency at The Midland hotel, taught music and branched out into photography, becoming well-known for his aerial photography, several examples of which appeared in The Visitor recording a time of change in Morecambe around 1970.

In a long and varied career, Alvin Atkins had once shared digs with Max Bygraves and given a helping hand to a young Victoria Wood when she was trying to join the Musicians’ Union.

Areial pic showing Morecambe Cental Pier. Dated 12 Sept 1970. From LEP archives.