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1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, Air Guitar, Bailey Brothers, Def Leppard, George Webster, Ken Hall, Lez Wright, Olga Marshall, Wapentake -

Sheffield and the wider South Yorkshire region has always punched well above its weight in the rock department. It has produced multi-million selling bands like Def Leppard and Saxon – even Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson was schooled here. Sheffielder Pete Gill drummed for Saxon and ended up in Mötorhead. The Bailey Brothers – DJs that ended up fronting MTV’s first rock show – hail from Killamarsh. They might never have achieved the success they did had it not been for the camaraderie and support provided by the city’s venues and the sprawling communities attached to them . Few places produced...

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1970s, 1980s, 1990s, Bailey Brothers, George Webster, Olga Marshall, Paul Unwin, Rock, Steel City Rockers -

Olga Marshall at the Buccaneer Olga Marshall will forever be remembered as the face of Sheffield’s Wapentake Bar. She managed the rock venue from the early 1970s right up to late 1990s. But what are your memories of her and the venue she managed? We’re set to launch a Wapentake edition of our ‘Dirty Stop Out’s Guide’ and we need your help. We think long and hard about which venues should have a stand-alone book and it was the popularity of our Wapentake T-shirts – which we launched last year – that proved the venue’s legacy is as strong now...

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1970s, 1980s, 2 Tone, Bitter Suite, George Webster, Kevan Johnson, The Limit, The Push, West Street -

It was actually a late-comer in terms of the market it was set to originally serve - punk was already well into its second year by the time the Limit opened in 1978.

But no one else was plugging the gap and the city’s “waifs and strays” grabbed the West Street venue with both hands.

The city’s reaction to the punk movement that first hit Sheffield in 1976 had hardly been welcoming.

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1960s, 1970s, George Webster, Olga Marshall, Rock, Sheffield, Sheffield in the 1970s -

It was one of Sheffield’s most popular pubs and some have never got over the day it shut in 1973. In fact the owners were that worried about souvenir hunters they never formally announced its last day. The city’s Buccaneer was probably more a labyrinth than straightforward pub. It was actually a collection of dimly lit bars with a decidedly nautical theme.

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1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, Bernard Manning, Def Leppard, George Webster, Heavy Metal, Kevan Johnson, Newcastle Brown, Olga Marshall, Paul Unwin, Pete Way, Rebels, Rock, Steve Baxendale, The Buccaneer, The Casbah, The Hives, UFO, Wapentake -

Olga Marshall at the Buccaneer

Some said it was her finest hour – but many of us had already lost count of the amount of milestones she’d notched up in her years as matriarch of Sheffield’s rock scene.

Olga Marshall – who sadly passed away in 2019 - was an unlikely figurehead for the Newcastle Brown drinking, heavy metal listening bunch of motorbike riding aficionados that frequented the venue she’s arguably most famous for fronting, the city’s legendary Wapentake Bar.

But her reign spanned far more than the sprawling cellar pub that sat under the Grosvenor Hotel. She actually rose to prominence in the late 1960s in a publican-style career that stretched over 40 years.

Olga Marshall’s CV was hardly made for the upper echelons of the rock’n’roll scene. Always impeccably dressed without a hint of denim or leather - she was already a mother of four by 1972, she didn’t smoke and she rarely drank alcohol.

But that didn’t stop her being splashed across the pages of Kerrang! magazine in 1995 when Sheffield’s own Def Leppard came to perform for her.

Now the name of Olga Marshall is set to live on through a new range of merchandise that celebrates the venues she nurtured and the scene that might never have taken on the shape it did without her in the background.

Her after dark career actually started at the Buccaneer. Many called this place Sheffield’s first rock pub. It was certainly one of the largest and is still very much missed.

The Buccaneer stood on Leopold Street under the Grand Hotel. Olga Marshall started there way back in 1964 and ended up managing it. She enlisted the help of George Webster and Ian Roberts as DJs. The place was packed.

It shut in 1973 – the customers were heart-broken. Olga wasn’t out of the limelight for long though. She was given the job of managing the nearby Wapentake which, at that time, was more geared to providing lunches for shoppers.

Wapentake bar

It didn’t stay that way for long. George Webster was soon spinning the discs at the Wapentake with the likes of Paul Unwin (they eventually moved to the Limit which George opened with Kevan Johnson) and the rock crowd turned up in their droves.

Def Leppard played one of their very first outings at the venue. Tens of thousands of revelers made the pilgrimage from the Wapentake to Rebels rock club (opened by former Limit bouncer Steve Baxendale) which thrived in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The venue was housed in the former Penthouse club high above Castle Market.

Hundreds of stairs needed to be climbed to get there.

The popularity of rock soared in the mid-1980s and turned Def Leppard into global icons.

Even the sprawling Roxy nightclub got in on the act and launched a Monday night event.

Their rock night attracted hundreds every month from as far away as Hull, Leeds and London. The Wapentake was regularly the first port of call for the evening even then.

When rock music fell out of favour in the late 1990s it was the former Wapentake – now renamed the Casbah – that picked up the pieces.

The Casbah

They created a whole new scene and became one of the most popular nightclubs in the city for a number of years. Everyone from the Hives to Bernard Manning performed. The building’s rock heritage was always at the forefront. The building made the national headlines when a Japanese rock fan traveled thousands of miles just to visit it.

UFO bass player Pete Way did the official unveiling following the building’s re-opening.

The building was demolished to make way for the new retail quarter but you only have to look at message boards and Facebook groups to realise the interest that remains for the scene.

Rockers, punks, bikers, goths – everyone found a home at the Wapentake and then the Casbah.

Def Leppard perform at the Wapentake in 1995

Olga Marshall’s proudest achievement was probably a return visit by Def Leppard, who  performed for her one more time at Wapentake Bar on October 5, 1995, in front of most of the world’s music press.

It was a massive moment – even if the initial response from the Wapentake barmaid to the band’s offer of the gig was “sorry love, we don’t put live bands on anymore”. The problem was quickly rectified by Olga!

 

 

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