Plaque requested for the Ritz Ballroom

Ken Whittaker and Bob Prew outside the site of The Ritz Ballroom in Kings Heath

Ken Whittaker and Bob Prew outside the site of The Ritz Ballroom in Kings Heath

The legacy of a legendary Irish couple who played a pivotal roll in the rock ‘n roll history of Birmingham is still living on.

Joe and Mary Regan ran The Ritz Ballroom in Kings Heath in the heady days of rock ‘n roll and the swinging sixties.

It was one of four dance halls run by the couple, who were better known as Ma and Pa Regan, in Birmingham and the Black Country.

The Ritz in particular, located in York Road, was a mecca for touring bands in the fifties and sixties and saw performances from rock ‘n roll icons like Bill Haley, Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Later, in the sixties, it hosted performances from many big bands of the day, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and Pink Floyd. Birmingham popsters The Move were also regulars.

Although the venue later ended up shutting its doors – it closed in the early seventies and was converted into a bingo hall – the building itself remained until last year.

Mr Regan died in 2004 and his wife in 2008 and after that the building was vacant until it became a Cash Converters store. Sadly it was struck by fire a year ago and burnt to the ground.

A music concert was arranged in April to mark the first anniversary of the blaze by an intrepid duo dedicated to both keeping the musical history of the past alive and encouraging the grass roots music of the Midlands today.

Bob Prew, of Kings Heath Walk of Fame, who organised the concert with Ken Whittaker, said: “We are determined that the musical legacy of the ballroom lives on.”

The three-hour concert to mark the anniversary of the blaze took place on April 6 at Fletchers Bar. It saw award-winning act Out of The Shadows, from Stourbridge, perform pop songs from the late 1950s onwards. They were supported by singer/songwriter Harriet Harkcom.

Bob and Ken also want to make sure the history of the Ritz Ballroom site is recognised and want to see a blue plaque on the building that ultimately replaces it.

Bob said: “The burnt-out ruins of the ballroom are now a bit of an eyesore so we are keen to meet the owner of the site and council officers to ensure that the plans for the re-development of the site do incorporate the first ever Birmingham Civic Society Musical Heritage Plaque – commemorating the major role the Ritz Ballroom played in the city’s rock and pop history.”