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A Story of Ryde Pier

The appointment of Nick Olson as the ballroom's resident organist was something of a coup on my father's part. Electronic organists in these days were superstars of the music world, many having their own hugely popular peak-time radio shows. While not quite in the lofty firmament of Reginald (Blackpool Tower) Dixon or Sandy (Chapel in the Valley) McPherson, Mr Olson's was a name to conjure with; he had played in top London ballrooms like the Hammer-smith Palais and the Streatham Locarno, and broadcast on the Home Service (hence 'of BBC Fame'.) For many years, he had been principal organist on the Granada cinema circuit, performing in the intermissions that used to be necessary when cinema programmes comprised two full-length films.
As the house lights came on, Mr Olson would rise from the pit at the terraced keyboards of a Mighty Wurlitzer, playing tunes whose lyrics were simultaneously projected on to the screen, with a bouncing white dot to indicate tempo.
He was not the husky Swede his surname suggested, but a slight, balding man with gilt-rimmed glasses and a quiet Tyne-side accent. It took some years to dawn on me that 'Nick Olson' must have been a pseudonym, derived from Nicholson or perhaps Nicolson. Goodness knows what tempted him from his broadcasting and luxury cinemas to play at an untried dance hail on the end of Ryde Pier. But he came, bringing with him a Compton Melotone organ that was not only brand-new but also, fortuitously, salmon-pink and so perfectly in tune with the Pavilion's new decor. It was transported over to the Island by car-ferry and assembled on the stage in its two bulky components, the keyboard section and free-standing amplifier. Mr Olson then spent hours lovingly crawling around it with pots of touch-up paint.
Despite his pen-pusher's appearance, he could play up an absolute storm, peering through his gold glasses with what seemed only mild interest at the ever-changing sheet-music before him while his left leg schizophrenically jumped back and forth over the maplewood rhythm-bars. By pulling out a stop or flicking a switch in the green baize console above his double keyboard, he was able to mimic the sound of almost any instrument - trumpet, trombone, piccolo, tuba. When he played '12th Street Rag', one waited with delicious anticipation for the moment when he flicked two switches in unison and played a whole twelve bars of rousing, hilarious 'doo-wacka-doo-wacka-doo-wacka-doo'.


Extract:- Babycham Night: A Boyhood At The End Of The Pier