From a young pop star of the swinging 1960s to entertainment impressario on the east coast, Peter Jay talks about his fascinating life to David Clayton.
From ‘60s rocker to circus boss
You can trace a line from the spectacle of a Jaywalkers stage performance right through to the Hippodrome shows today
As a DJ back in the 1970s, if you wanted to capture that moment when a wedding party had consumed just enough alcohol to let its collective hair down, there was no better record than ‘Can-Can ‘62’ by Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers to fill the floor. The unmistakable and raucous tune by Offenbach had everyone attempting the high kicks of the original dance. Inevitably an elderly grannie ignored her lumbago, hoisted her skirt upwards and revealed comedy underwear to her startled family. Thank you, Peter, not to mention your splendid Jaywalkers. You’ve made a lot of people very happy – and ache!
Now he’s Great Yarmouth’s elder statesman of entertainment, Peter Jay’s showbusiness empire is a cinema complex, two theatres and importantly the legendary Hippodrome, Britain’s only surviving total circus building.
Once the eponymous drummer of a 1960s pop band, Peter’s only just stopped climbing aboard his drum kit and accompanying the odd circus act. These days he rather prefers the back office, while talented son Jack gets on with producing, compering and running the show.
It’s well known that Peter toured with The Beatles. The Jaywalkers were gigging around before the Fab Four emerged.
“We sat and played cards with them. They were nice ordinary people but vastly talented,” recalls Peter. “They’d stand in the wings and watch our final show-stopping number.”
Perhaps they were equally fascinated with the fact Peter used to wire up his cymbals to the mains via some carbon rods. As he bashed away, sparks would fly making their already lively set even more spectacular – and dangerous!
The Jaywalkers were part of that side-shoot of pop music where instrumentals were in vogue. They were an antidote to the twangy