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Leeds Central 1975


Leeds Central 1975 magazine cover

Leeds Central Soul Club Remembered


The Coronavirus lockdown has given me much time to reminisce and I have decided to put into words a bit about my early days as a 'soulie' in Leeds. 

I first went to The Central in 1975 I think, when I was 19 years old - I was certainly a member by then, as I still have my membership card which was valid until 31-Aug-1976.  I lived in Leeds at that time as it was where I grew up - although, I haven't lived there since 1982.  

I remember in the early to mid-seventies buying reggae records at Jumbo Records in the County Arcade upstairs - tunes such as 'Skank in Bed' by Scotty and Lorna Bennett, 'Duppy Gunman' by Ernie Smith, and 'Dat' by Pluto Shervington.  They used to have adverts in the shop for the International Soul Club and I particularly remember an advert for an All-Nighter at Queens Hall featuring (amongst others) Major Lance and JJ Barnes. Unfortunately, at that time those names didn't mean anything to me and I knew little about 'the Northern scene' and so wasn't tempted to go.  I also remember they had a flier for a soul club event in a frame hanging on the wall - with hindsight, I'm guessing that it was probably an advert for a big night at The Torch, Stoke-on-Trent - possibly the last all-nighter held there?  As well as buying records there, I also bought 'Blues & Soul' magazine - and that sparked an interest in Northern Soul for me.

I remember going to a pub in Leeds city centre called The Precinct which had a DJ who played pop soul records and they had a dancefloor which looked like a boxing ring.  I think that was the first time I saw lads dancing on their own.  Pop soul was very popular in the charts and on the radio - with artistes such as The Three Degrees, The Detroit Emeralds, George McCrae, The Hues Corporation, MFSB....as well as all the Tamla Motown classics. 

If I went to a 'do' around this time, the favourite records would be songs such as 'Sweet Soul Music' by Arthur Conley, 'Land of a Thousand Dances' by Wilson Pickett, and "Ghost in my House' by R Dean Taylor.  It was clear then that soul tunes with a dance beat were popular - and I wanted to discover more.

Wigan Casino All-Nighter had opened in September 1973 and I knew about it and I wanted to go to the first anniversary in September 1974 but couldn't get tickets - and so ended up going there for the first time around October or November 1974.  I went with my mates Al and Ackers on the train from Leeds City station to Manchester, and then on to Wigan.  
I first went to The Central around the same time - either just before I went to Wigan, or just after. For the next two or three years, I became a regular visitor to The Central - as well as making infrequent trips to other soul venues in the region.  I remember (for example) going to The Cat's Whiskers at Meanwood in Leeds, to Raquel's in Wakefield city centre, to Samantha's in Sheffield city centre, to The Cow & Calf Hotel at Ilkley, to Yeadon Town Hall, and to the 'Buffs' Club at Keighley. 

I remember The Central as a Friday night out 'in town' and it being a really popular place, open from (I think) 8pm to midnight or 1.00am.  You have to remember that at that time the pubs closed at 10.30pm, and going to a 'night club' until 2.00am such as 'The Mecca' (real name Locarno Ballroom in the Merrion Centre) meant you had to dress up to get in, and could only listen to pop soul (and chart pop records) whilst the young women danced around their handbags and the young men stood around the edge of the dancefloor watching.  Also, I think you were supposed to be at least 21 years old.

The Central played proper Soul and proper Northern Soul - and the blokes danced on their own, and there were as many men dancers as there were women. The DJ I remember most was Paul Rowan, who played stuff like 'Ever Again' by Bernie Williams, 'What Kind of Lady' by Dee Dee Sharp, and the instrumental 'Thumb A Ride' by the Earl Wright Orchestra.  The DJ most people will know is Steve Luigi - because he's a legend, but I'm sure there were others whose names I can't remember.  I know that Frank (real name Ian Dewhirst) DJed there sometimes - and I remember him playing more modern tracks (which were popular at Cleethorpes Pier All-Nighter also) such as 'Ton of Dynamite' by Frankie 'Love Man' Crocker, and (I think) 'Summer in the Parks' by The East Coast Connection.

I remember walking down the steps into The Central, and getting a buzz from the atmosphere almost immediately.  The club is oblong-shaped, and on descending the stairs you are entering at one corner - and so can see across the whole of the club. There would be lots of people you knew, and we all had our own type of greeting - I don't know if it has a name, but it's where you hold your hand out, palm-up - and the other person slaps down onto it, and then turns his hand palm-up - and you slap his hand.

We all used to occupy the same bit of the club each week - me and my mates used to be at the right hand side, in the middle. We were all from North Leeds - suburbs such as West Park, Horsforth, Cookridge, and Tinshill.  Next to us, in the back right hand corner was usually Steve from (I think) Moortown area who rode a Vespa scooter. The group in the middle of the club were from (I think) East Leeds and were thought of (by me, at least) as the top soulies there.  There was a guy called Gary who had long hair (when we had all had ours cut short) who wore a brown leather bomber jacket and he was the best dancer there, and a guy called Steve who wore an authentic American bowling shirt with an embroidered picture on the back.   I remember going to the first Cleethorpes Pier All-Nighter with those guys - that would have been February 1976, I think - we all went on a minibus from Leeds city centre, and collected some others at the Manifesto Soul Club at Knottingley on the way.  I remember standing on the pier in the cold, wet, dark night waiting for the Nighter to start.  It was worth it , though - I remember it was one of the best nights I had.  The big tunes there were 'So Is The Sun' by The World Column, 'Cut Your Motor Off' by Black Nasty, and 'Lend a Hand' by Bobby Hutton.

My mate Ian was probably the second best dancer there (or at least I think so).  He was slim, and had black curly hair and wore glasses, and always wore a mod suit - made by a tailors called Trews on The Headrow in Leeds.  A lot of us at The Central had our trousers made at Trews, and I had two suits made there.  I can't ever recall going to Wigan with Ian, but I remember going with him to Blackpool Mecca and to Cleethorpes Winter Gardens - both times getting a lift from other people.

The group in the front right-hand corner were not known to me, but I remember them coming from nearby towns to the South-West of Leeds - such as Birstall, Cleckheaton, and Mirfield.

At the left-hand side (far end) of the club was the seating area and the bar - where the older soulies were.  They were like the 'Elder Statesmen' of the soul scene, and they knew all the records being played, but they didn't normally get up and dance.  There's pictures of them in The Gallery here on Soul Source and I can remember them from the pictures - but I never really spoke to them, or knew them.  The main thing I remember about them is that they all seemed to have a beard!

There were loads of others whom I can't remember - but, if pressed, I bet I could bring some of them to mind.  I've got a really good memory (for an old bloke) and could go into much more detail about names and places - but I'm not sure whether it is appropriate to do so on a public forum.  I'm not used to this 'posting' lark!
 

Jeff 2020
 

Added by site Albums posted by @Petedillon

 

 

 






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Great account.

We used to get a bus from Conisbrough Mexborough Wath almost every week for years around 77.

Call off at Wakefield first (Mitre) then the 'bank' in Leeds then down to the central.

Bub(RIP) was there also.

Great times.

Only been back once, to see Terry Callier (RIP). It was full of Stoòodunts...

Best wishes to those that run it now.

Ed

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Thanks for the share bud im from Leeds lived on Burley Road for many years    the recollections of the Central were great , im 58 so missed the emerging years 74-77  and the Cats Whiskers in Meanwood      Central was called Scrumpys i seem to remember late 70,s    it also featured as a Jazz Funk Club/Night     with a lot of people getting in to that scene from Northern       kin ell thats over 40 years !!!!   

Martin L 

 

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Good article i went to the Central the same era and lived in the the Precinct every night great people from that time Charlie Fineberg Terry Dean Dave Maltas Pete Dillon Cockney Steve and many more who are still alive and god rest the dear departed great dj's from that time including good friends Swish and The Mighty Bub plus an upcoming Pat Brady,trips to Wigan and then to Cleethorpes on the Magic Yellow bus from the Precinct will never die from my memory  

KTF and the great memories, we will be back dancing together soon 

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BRILLIANT WRITE UP
The Central is still known as 'Home' to many of the soulies that used to go in the 70s and indeed now to the 10 years and counting bi-monthly reunions, still held in the same venue now called 'HiFi', nothing has changed there apart from the layout, but the atmosphere is still to die for.
I started going there in I think about 1970, I had just got into Northern by that time after spending many days and night as the 'Old Mecca' (Spinning Disc), where i got my first taste of Tamla Motown and fell in love instantly. The Central was exactly as described in the original post, a rectangle shape, 90% dance floor, with a bar in one corner and the DJ stand in the other, where DJs Tony Banks (RIP), Swish, Twink etc. would reside, playing the new tracks that they had found, or had been given to them to play. I was a dancer in the early days and did pretty well coming 2nd at the Casino competition out of about 100 entries, and after 2nd again at Cleethorpes Pier, being presented with a cup (which I still have) and £25 as my prize, by the Trammps , who were appearing there on the night.
I became Resident DJ at the Central at a later date after asking the owner 'Len Cave' if I could do a spot, I did the week after and must have done OK as he asked me to be resident straight after my set.
The Leeds Central was and is a massive part of my life, I met lifelong friends there of who mostly are still around and still frequent the alldayers.
The guy with the long hair and the brown leather bomber jacket named in the original post is called 'Gary Field', he's not on the scene anymore, but I still speak to him regularly.
Thanks for the write up Soul Surveyor, you did a great job
STEVE LUIGI (Northern Soul UK)

 

Edited by Northern Soul Uk
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In these times of lockdown it's really nice to hear stories taking us back to our youth. It's exactly what we need,great to read all the stories of the clubs and what we used to get up to ,the characters on the scene and times that touched us individually and that you will hear a soul sound somewhere that will trigger the old memory cells and in an instant you will be teleported back in time and on your way to a nighter,Maybe the Torch, Blackpool Mecca, The Pendulum in Manchester and of course many more .Those moments are priceless. God bless all those who are no longer with us and those that are. I am one of the lucky ones still here to tell the stories of the people the clubs the Dj's and still love to meet up in Whitelocks before the Leeds Central reunion Alldayers and the banter we all have. Still get excited  getting the sounds sorted and catching the train to Leeds. 

Regards Fred Ward.

 

 

Edited by Mr Fred
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I remember Leeds Central very well as it was one of the best clubs I went to in my very younger days. I went to Leeds in 1971 , supposedly to study at the Polytechnic. Student social life was based around pubs with the occasional long haired weirdo group live at the Student Union, not my scene so I had to try to find something better. 

The first thing I had to locate was a decent record shop which I found was Jumbo Records. Initially this was at the back of a TV shop in the Merrion Centre then moved to the first floor of one of the indoor arcades. Simon Soussan quite often was at Jumbo although I don't think he ever bought anything . After a few months I got to know some of the local lads who bought their records from Jumbo or just used it as a meeting place. I must have heard about The Central about this time and probably first went late 1971. I don't remember who the DJs were but I think at first the records played were mainly pressings and oldies. Some of the people who went would take rare records for the DJ to play. The clubs owners encouraged this as they saw that more people were attending , some from places like Selby , York and Barnsley. Tony Banks was the main DJ as he was a professional who had a large collection of UK releases however at this point I don't think he had the newer imports that were getting played. He went to the US in 72 or 73 and bought back some great stuff as well as "finding" 1000 copies of Jimmy Thomas- Beautiful Night on the TB label. I helped out on the DJing roster as I was getting some good records from Simon Soussan and Martin Koppel who had both left Leeds by then. Simon, before he started bootlegging, was finding loads of top records in good quantities. Martin, from his base in Toronto, made buying trips to the Detroit area where he found lots of Thelma, D Town, Revilot, Giant, Golden World etc . Martin was a year above me at Leeds Poly doing the same subject as I did but I never knew him then, that was a lost opportunity. Bostock's stall at Bradford market also had masses of great records so it was fairly easy to get a decent collection back then.

Jeff's (Soul Surveyor) description of the club is just as I remember it but one of it's best things was a very good dance floor. The club was really a dance school, the membership card states "This Club is promoted for the teaching and practice of all forms of Ballroom Dancing". I don't know when or if this still took place but dancing definitely was practiced. 

As the Friday sessions were very popular someone suggested trying a Saturday all nighter. This would have been around 72/ 73. These went very well even though The Torch nighters were running by then. I think there was probably three or four nighters when one night it was rudely interrupted by the West Yorkshire DS. This put an end to the all nighters and may have stopped the Friday night sessions for a while. I'd returned back over the Pennines late 73 so only went to the later sessions a couple of times in 74 -75. 

The Central may not have been in the top five clubs back then but I'd definitely rate it in the top ten. The records played were just as good as The Torch and the people very friendly. The photos that Pete Dillon put up remind me of some of the friends I made there including Chris Malows, Steve Luigi, Dave Maltas ,Kevin (?), Pete Dillon, Julian Bentley and  Alan Stevenson.

Rick

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By 1977 the club and playlist was a shadow of itself compared to what must have been the heady early days sorry but that was just my experience. By that point the club was playing almost exclusively oldies with the odd exception by Pat Brady who couldn't get away with anything too risky. The place had little or no atmosphere probably about 10-15 people on the dance floor thats it. It was a venue some would attend if they couldn't or weren't going to Wigan! huh some comparison it couldn't be more defined.
It must have been dramatically different in the early 70s to have been anything like what has been written

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