A tribute to Glasgow’s departed ‘king of clubs’ Eddie Tobin

a smiling man wearing a suit in a restaurant
Eddie Tobin

Long-time friend Paul Waterson shares his recollections …

‘Legend’ is a word that’s used about a lot of people, but within our trade, Eddie Tobin genuinely deserved that accolade.

I first met Eddie in the late 1960s when I was working, lifting glasses, in our family’s pub, the Burns Howff. We had a lot of live music in the Howff and Eddie worked for one of the music agencies we would use to book bands. He would come in the Howff a lot and always took the time to talk to me about the bands and he always made me feel as if he listened and took on board what I was saying. Not many people would listen to this young boy in a pub at that time. Little did I know that our paths would cross all the time as the years went by.

Later he would manage many acts, including the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Billy Connolly, before moving into the trade himself.

He worked for legendary Glasgow pub and club owner Frank Lynch, opening famous pubs like the Muscular Arms, before working for Scottish Brewers, Carnegie Leisure and others.

Eddie was nicknamed the ‘king of clubs’ although he came from a time of dance halls, when pubs were shutting at half nine or ten o’clock. Later he was a major influence in the revolution of the way alcohol was sold and the way entertainment developed more generally through the 1970’s and 80’s. He was really at the vanguard of that. All the nightclubs now are offshoots of what he did in those days.

When Eddie was running the Nightclub Owners’ Association and I was involved in the SLTA our paths crossed all the time, at Scottish Government meetings, trade meetings and numerous other events. This was especially true at the time when the 2005 Licensing Act was being put together, advising on nightclub rules and regulations and trading hours, among other things. Eddie was so influential he was invited onto the SLTA executive committee.

He was a great asset to the trade during the formation of the act and a trusted, loyal friend to me.

Eddie was always easy to get on with, humorous and pragmatic and he always got his points across in a relaxed yet forceful way. His influence certainly changed the trade for the better.

What I’ll always remember about Eddie were the stories. I thought I had some good stories, but Eddie’s stories were renowned!

I once told him I’d gone to London to see a particular band. He said “Paul, you know, I used to manage the drummer in the band,” who was very famous, a household name and a real character.

He told me this particular drummer was setting up his own band. They were booked to play Glasgow and the tickets weren’t selling so Eddie booked him onto radio to do an interview.

Now, this guy was alright when he was sat in front of a set of drums, but the rest of the time let us just say he was a bit non communicative!

So they get to the radio studio and the drummer just slumps over in his chair. They couldn’t wake him. The DJ is about to cancel the interview but Eddie had tickets to sell.

He says: “Tell you what, just interview me. I’ll put on a Cockney accent and everyone will think it’s him.” And he did!

There were so many great stories. Some of them unprintable!

Eddie left an indelible mark on all that knew him in the licensed trade and beyond. I will miss him greatly.