The Post Wigan Years By Karl ‘Chalky’ White
Much has been written about the Northern Soul scene up to the demise of The Wigan Casino, but very little has actually been written about what followed. For many, the scene died when Wigan Casino closed its doors for the final time. These same people would perversely discover that the scene was far from dead and that a hard-core crowd had continued to keep the flame burning and in the process, had taken the scene back underground with an aggressive upfront music policy.
There are of course many misconceptions about the scene post Wigan, both from those who had left the scene and from those who were never there in the first place. These misconceptions were particularly rife in the decades following the closure of the Casino. The most common were that these were the ‘lost years’ (only lost to those who weren’t there), lean times and dark days, both musically and venue wise, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s possibly true to say that for much of the 20 or 25 years following Wigan Casino, there were no mass-attended central all-nighters like for, instance, the Casino or, over on the East Coast, Cleethorpes, but the all-nighter scene during this period, nonetheless, had a plethora of venues championing the cause.
The demise of the Casino was a slow painful one for many - many were disillusioned with what was happening musically and with the low attendances towards the end. Richard Searling was the saving grace for many but in truth DJs such as Gary Rushbrooke were also offering a taste of things to come.
Flyer for the first Clifton Hall (1980) (Arthur Fenn & Derek Sheldon subsequently “replaced” after this night)
On the other side of the Pennines, in Rotherham of all places, a renaissance was beginning. Tired of what was happening at Wigan and with the opinion that it had run its course, Alan Senior, Steve Croft and Adrian Guite under the guise of Soul Time Promotions began hosting all-nighters at The Clifton Hall in October 1980. With the likes of Richard Searling and Gary Rushbrooke from Wigan, Arthur Fenn, Derek Sheldon (both leaving after the first one I believe) Chris Brady and Brian Rae bolstered by the likes of Cleethorpes’ Blair Hayden better known as “Poke”, Pat Brady, Steve Mannion and Sean Hampsey joining the ranks, the venue promoted an aggressive and upfront music policy which included many 70s recordings and new releases.
Clifton Hall, 1981. Black Echoes All-nighter.
Alongside Clifton Hall, Soul Time Promotions also held events at The Fusion in Chesterfield, The KGB, Sheffield Samantha’s, Lincoln Drill Hall, Bradford Queens Hall and Cleethorpes.
However things didn’t last between the promoters and a split was inevitable with eventually Alan Senior keeping Clifton Hall and Steve Croft and Adrian moving onto Cleethorpes Winter Gardens, Bradford for a short while and Loughborough.
However the music policy at Clifton Hall wasn’t for everyone - too many 70s releases and too much Jazz-Funk, the Preston Street Dancers (complete with boiler suits and whistles and not to be confused by the Preston Cybermen), whilst well received by some were an irritation to others, were just some of the complaints. Other venues were beginning to making a name for themselves and proving more popular with for the more traditional all-nighter goer.
One such venue was Nottingham Oddfellows, not in Nottingham oddly, but in Leicester. Under the Central England Soul Club banner and promoted by Tony “The Vicar” Clayton and Ally Mayer, the all-nighter began at this fantastic venue in 1982 and ended there with the 5th Anniversary in 1987, although the club continued at venues in Market Harborough and Loughborough Town Hall in the future. Again, an upfront and aggressive music policy was in order, with 60’s newies (a term that would become synonymous with the 80’s rare soul scene) from the likes of Gary Rushbrooke and Keb Darge, 70s and Modern Soul supplied by Adam Buchanan and Robin Salter, all alongside quality underplayed oldies and quality classics. The venue quickly made a name for itself seeing a full house eager to lap up what the DJs had to offer. The scene really was in a healthy state and much of the despair that came with the demise of Wigan Casino was now being replaced by a renewed optimism and enthusiasm.
Another all-nighter that was popular during the early to mid 80’s was Morecambe. Promoted under the Soul-Promotions banner by Shaun Gibbons, the club began life in April 1983 and was initially located at the Central Pier. The original line up of DJ’s was Richard Searling, Pat Brady, John Vincent, Russ Winstanley, Brian Rae & Keith Minshull. In The Starlight Room Steve Whittle, Marc Farley, Steve Brackenbridge, Derek Smith And Keith Brady. Sometime after the third anniversary the Pier was closed due to holes in the decking, allegedly caused by Scooterists jumping up and down whilst queuing to enter the Pier. Weeks later the Pier was to burn down. The club relocated initially to another council building called the Dome for a few all-nighters before settling down at the Carlton Club. The Carlton also had a second room known as The Garage, which was essentially the Modern Soul Room. Gary Taylor, Mark Warmsley and Jason Conroy were added to the line up of DJ’s At The Carlton Club. Live acts to appear included Prince Philip Mitchell, Chuck Jackson, Gene Chandler, The Flirtations, Frances Nero and Singing Sam Ward. The venue proved very popular with Modern Soul lovers but the 60’s were too oldies orientated for those eager to progress and seek out new discoveriews. Some 60’s “newies” were pushed though especially by John Vincent who had an exceptional set at the time with many exclusives that would find their way into the collections of future top Dj’s and also by Pat Brady.
April 1982 saw the birth of the one all-nighter above all others that epitomises the scene post Wigan. The Top Of The World club in Stafford would become the focal point for many and it would become the venue most talked about after Wigan Casino, The Twisted Wheel, Cleethorpes and the Torch. The venue had already held all-nighters under the promotion of Keith Minshull (and others) prior to April 1982, but when Dave Thorley teamed up with Keith and the Top Dog Soul Club was formed and a legendary venue was born. The promotion began with a team of DJs featuring the best of the Wigan Casino roster and, from over in the West Country, the Yate DJs. The line-up was Richard Searling, Gary Rushbrooke, Keith Minshull, Ian Clarke, Chris Plant, Ady Pountain, Dave Thorley and, especially with all the unissued Motown that came his way, probably the best 60s “newies” DJ of the early 1980s, Dave Withers. Once again the music was upfront and across the board with a fast turnover of fresh records all played within the main room - a far cry from today. As well as the main room a second room featured the likes of Pete Widdison, Nick Marshall, Esher, Dave Greet, Budgie, the late and much missed Dave Alcock, Mick Smith and Steve Smith. It was billed as the very best in oldies but in truth many future main room plays began life in there.
As mentioned above, Dave Withers, together with Rod Shard, obtained a couple of tapes via U.S. collector and expert Robb Klein who had been working on a ‘From The Vault’s’ series for Motown U.S. and thus had access to the Motown tape library. Robb ended up recording many previously unheard tracks, which eventually ended up in the hands of Rod Shard. Knowing the content was Northern Soul dynamite, Rod made some acetates and the tracks were then unleashed upon an unsuspecting crowd. Marvin Gaye ‘It’s Killing Me’, the Originals ‘Suspicion’, the Temptations ‘Forever In My Heart’, the Velvelettes with ‘Let Love Live’ and ‘Love Is Good’, Gladys Knight & The Pips ‘Never Too Late’ and the Marvelettes with ‘Boy From Crosstown’ to name just some of the gems unleashed on the dance floor. Alongside records such as Soul Brothers Inc ‘Pyramid’, Kell Osborne “Law Against A Heartbreaker”, Johnny Gilliam, Bobby Sheen, Gino Washington, Sam Dees and The Ringleaders acetates, the scene was in a very, very healthy state musically. Many of the tracks still played and highly sought after by todays DJ’s – a testament to the quality of the tunes in question.
(Stafford promoter with 6t’s Mafia Guy Hennigan, Keb Darge & Pat Brady)
However this is just part of the Stafford Story. Come the summer of 1983, there were signs of growing discontent amongst many who thought that the 60’s were being neglected. Dave Withers was disillusioned with his treatment by some promoters who failed to recognise that he was probably top of the tree. This culminated in him being given the graveyard shift - the last hour of a nighter, by one promoter so he decided to call it a day on the DJ’ing front. Likewise Gary Rushbrooke. All was not lost to the lovers of 60’s music, as two upstarts pestered Dave Thorley into giving them slots and as a result the 6t’s Mafia was born and Guy Hennigan and Keb Darge were unleashed onto the unsuspecting Stafford crowd. If the music policy was aggressive before, it was even more so now with a relentless search for new discoveries with the term ‘6t’s newies’ becoming commonplace. If a record didn’t work almost immediately it was dropped in favour of the next in line, similar to the ‘three spins a night’ Mecca plays from the decade before. The pace was relentless and missing a week or two meant sometimes missing something new. In fact, often-brilliant records slipped through because of the sheer pace of the turnaround of new plays, although most would eventually have their day. Robin Salter also came on board replacing Adam and Robin was to further push the boundaries of Modern Soul with some brilliant discoveries alongside some classics and rarities. Dave Thorley was championing music from across the decades, brilliant 60’s alongside new discoveries, whilst Pat Brady had some of the best 60’s discoveries of anyone. Bradford’s George Sharp and Mansfield’s Jimmy Wensiora, both with amazing collections also came on board. All these ingredients added up to make Stafford a legend of the scene, giving Northern Soul a multitude of records, still played today, still highly sought after and many still incredibly rare. The whole period was more about ‘a couldn’t care less attitude’ (to put it politely) and you either got it or you didn’t. Many of the usual characters frequented Stafford, Oddfellows and other venues throughout the 80’s, epitomizing the attitude of the day which was staunchly defiant and there seemed to be these characters one at every turn, often up to no good and more often than not living the life to the max.
(Popcorn Wylie at Stafford courtesy of Neil Salter)
Stafford also featured many live acts. Eddie Parker and Lorraine Chandler ranks as one of the best all-nighters ever for those who were lucky enough to attend. Other acts included Harold Melvin and The Bluenotes, Popcorn Wylie, Eddie Holman, Gene Chandler, Major Lance and Dobie Gray.
(Eddie Holman at Stafford courtesy of Neil Salter)
Alongside Stafford, Chris King was running successful all-nighters under the Weekend Soul Club banner at places such as Hinckley. One such night featured the legendary Ric Tic Revue with artists from Detroit including Edwin Starr, Al Kent, J.J. Barnes, Laura Lee, Pat Lewis and Lou Ragland. Steve Croft with his After Dark Soul Club was having also having success at Warrington’s Parr Hall and Sean Gibbons doing likewise on the North West coast at Morecambe.
Nottingham saw Dave Raistrick’s promotions at The Rock City with some of the midlands finest amongst the DJ line up including Jimmy Wensiora, Gary Rushbrooke, Dave himself, Steve Phillis, Jonathon Woodliffe, Rob Smith and all the great and good of the time appearing as guests.
Mid to late 1985 saw three promoters have a sit down and come together for the good of the scene and agree to work together and not to clash with their respective promotions. The three being Dave Thorley, Chris King and Steve Croft giving rise to the Three Voices Soul Club. It would be nice to see some of that logic applied to todays over crowded calendar on the Northern/Rare Soul scene.
Around 1979 Randy Cozens and Ady Croasdell formed the 6T’s Rhythm & Soul Society. A DJ line up consisting of Randy, Mick Smith, Tony Rounce, Tony Ellis, Terry Davis, Ian Clark and Pete Widdison – Ady maintains that he couldn’t be arsed at the time but nevertheless he was to go on to become a legend of the Northern/Rare Soul scene. After causing havoc (in the nicest possible way of course) at various pubs around London they finally settled at the 100 Club and all-nighters were soon to begin in 1981. The all-nighters continue to this day and, as of 2014, have now reached the milestone of their 35th anniversary and the longest running soul venue in the world - some achievement in the fickle world of Northern Soul. Like other clubs of the 80‘s and to this day, the club was and still is at the cutting edge of rare soul featuring the best of Northern Rarities, unknowns and recent discoveries, R&B and a smattering of quality oldies.
Another important part of the mid 80’s was not a venue but a UK record label and, once again, Ady Croasdell was the driving force (initially under his alias of Harboro Horace) with his work with Ace/Kent. The early Kent LPs beginning with ‘For Dancers Only’ were an important way into the scene for many. With access to the vaults of many US labels, many unissued gems were introduced to the scene by the likes of Keb Darge and Ady Croasdell - Melba Moore with ‘The Magic Touch’, Maxine Brown with ‘Torture’, Peggy Woods ‘Love Is Gonna Get You’, Chuck Jackson ‘What’s With This Loneliness’, Carla Thomas with ‘I’ll Never Stop Loving You’, Tommy Hunt ‘The Pretty Part Of You’ and countless other unissued gems from the vaults of RCA, Dave Hamilton, the Pied Piper production team and many other long-forgotten labels. It has been an incredible source of new material for DJs and dancers that continues to this day and long may it continue to do so.
Come 1986 the scene was to experience some changes. Stafford, Parr Hall, Hinckley, Oddfellows and other venues of the early 80s were to close, but the scene rose to the challenge with a multitude of venues ready to step in and fill the gaps. Gone were the few major venues that had provided focal points for the scene and gone were the central meeting places like The Torch, Wigan & Stafford - something the scene would never experience again. Now it was the turn of monthly all-nighters at various venues up and down the country.
Around this time also saw the emergence of arguably one of the best DJ’s the scene has ever witnessed, or should that be heard? Mark “Butch’ Dobson. He alongside his good friend Tim Ashibende had supplied many DJs throughout the 80’s with top quality records but Mark had his own personal armoury, namely an incredible collection of impossibly rare records. His sets from those days in my opinion have never been bettered. The Mello Souls “We Can Make It’ then known as the Del-Larks, ‘Just You And I’, Diane Lewis ‘You Ain’t Got A Chance’, G. Davis & R. Tyler cover up which turned out to be Walter & The Admirations ‘Man Oh Man’, Jesse James ‘Are You Gonna Leave Me’, Tommy Ridgeley ‘My Love Gets Stronger’, the Just Brothers ‘Go On And Laugh’, the Devotions ‘Do Do De Dap‘ (I actually prefer the cover up name ‘The Magic Tones - A Lovers Plea”), Mac Staten & the Nomads ‘There She Goes’, Mr Lucky ‘I Was Born To Love You’, The Volcano’s ‘Love Is Alright’ which turned out to be a Jesse James Virtue acetate, The Sherry’s ‘World Of Happiness’, again a Virtue acetate and which eventually was discovered to be Shirley Turner. Alongside these, there is a multitude of other tracks like Martha Jean Love, Jean Carter “I Wanna Know’, Tommy & The Derbys ‘Don’t Play The Role’, Johnny Praye ‘Can’t Get Too Much Love’ and a plethora of other discoveries from the 60’s & 70’s throughout the years right up to today. To do this for so long, when pickings were not as plentiful as back in the 70s, is, for me, the one reason why I say he is arguably the scenes greatest DJ!
Rob Marriott and with the Soul Power Promotions at The Swan Hotel in Mansfield featuring Rob himself who was one of the leading DJ’s of the late 80’s to the early 90’s with some incredible 45’s, initially from the collection of Jimmy Wensiora but soon to get together many of his own discoveries and biggies. Alongside Rob would be Butch, Jimmy, Andy Whitmore, Rich Broughton, Keb, Guy & Pete Shirley and again the very best guests. Rob also had a successful soul night in Mansfield at Trotters, popular with people prepared to travel from all over.
Guy Hennigan would have two successful all-nighters at Tony’s Empress Ballroom in both Blackburn and Mexborough. Again featuring the very best cutting edge Rare Soul and Northern Soul DJs, Guy, Keb, Butch, Ion Tsakalis, Pat Brady & Dave Evison with quality oldies alongside the best guests from all over the UK - Kitch, Dean Anderson and Colin Law to name but a few.
1987 saw Bradford Queens Hall would be revived under the Hole In The Wall Soul Club run by Phil Dick with After Dark’s Steve Croft getting on board not too long after. The venue was I believe owned by the Student union and featured a fabulous sprung dance floor. Here saw the likes of Gary Spencer and Carl Fortnum pushing the boundaries with 60’s newies alongside Pat Brady, Steve and Phil, Darren Harden, Roger Banks and Nigel Parker. The club proved very popular and would run into the early 90’s continuing in 1991 under the After Dark banner until its eventual demise around late 1992/early 1993.
1987 also saw the rise of arguably the best and most talked about Soul Club in Scotland, The Ruff Cutt Crew and the Shotts all-nighters at the Allanton Miners Welfare Club. Scotland had given the scene its fair share of great all-nighters, namely Clouds, The Claremont and Glenrothes for example but the Shotts all-nighters seemed to capture the very essence of what the 80s Rare Soul Scene was all about. It had attitude by the bucket loads, open mindedness and enthusiasm. It was originally formed by Jim O’Hara, Barney (Brian Welsh R.I.P) and John Neilson with John leaving after a couple of months and Barney just a few months later, to leave it in the capable hands of Jim. Jim was one of a rare breed, a promoter who just promoted and didn’t DJ himself!
Jim got together the very best Scottish lads to play the records throughout lifespan, Colin Law, Mark Linton, Acky Buchan, Jim Tennant, Alan & Steve Walls, Andy Dennison, Jock O’Connor, Keith Whitson with the Modern Soul supplied by Tom Jackson and Bob Jeffries. Alongside these it featured the best DJ’ from south of the border and Scotland, namely Guy, Keb, Andy Whitmore, Kitch, Dean Anderson, Graeme Ellis, Gilly, Ady Harley, Andy Whitmore, Gaz Kellet, Dave Molloy, Rob Wigley, Rob Marriot and more to feed the ever enthusiastic crowd of some top quality rare soul. Not all the records were exclusive to Allanton, many had been featured at venues from earlier years but with these mixed with the knowledge and taste of the collectors and with the discoveries of the time it had all the right ingredients to make it one special venue. It was a weekend away travelling, often on Guy’s coaches with various stops along the way, or on one of Dean Anderson’s mini buses, but it was all worth it. The atmosphere was like nowhere else really. The club ran successfully for 4 or 5 years before the end in around 1991/2.
Another influential club of the mid to late 80’s was the RSG, promoted by Jon Buck. It ran all-nighters at Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard (The Unicorn) as well as promotions at Peterborough at the Fleet with Danny Everard. RSG would feature again the very best cutting edge DJ’s with quality oldies and a dash of Modern Soul. The venues would prove very popular with live acts such as Popcorn Wylie who came over and did a show in Dunstable and one in Manchester at The Apollo.
Peterborough saw various clubs throughout the 80’s promote events at places like the Wirrina Stadium and The Fleet, Central England Soul Club being one in particular, D&S Promotions, East Anglian Soul Club and the RSG.
Danny Everard would also co-promote the popular but short-lived all-nighter in 1987 alongside Dave Thorley under the Top Dog and Kool Kat Soul Club at Chesterfield’s The Winding Wheel. A fantastic venue, which at the time could have been the central venue the scene needed after Stafford. But the event suffered from some heavy duty oppressive policing by the local drug squad, with coaches stopped en route, travelers stopped and searched in the town’s car park despite little if nothing ever being found. The drug squad would probably have had more success down at the local Adam and Eve night club! Yet when the police began blocking applications for license extensions from the local colliery brass bands, the management (who were all for the all-nighters to continue) had no choice but to put an end to them. Such a shame as it had all the right ingredients to make it a huge success and become the next central venue for the scene.
The Acts for the 1st Northern Soul & Motown Weekender at Yarmouth.
1989 saw the beginnings of the weekenders on the Rare/Northern Soul Scene. They began in Yarmouth at the Vauxhall Holiday Park under the promotion of TAC. It began life as ‘A Motown and Northern Soul Weekender’ with a strong emphasis on live acts and Motown rather than the DJs. Acts to appear at the first were George McCrae, Jimmy Ruffin, Lew Kirton, George Williams of the Tymes, Junior Walker, Clifford Jones, Rockie Robbins, Ray Lewis of the Drifters, Mary Wells, Martha Reeves and Edwin Starr.
However it proved so popular with those from ‘Northern Soul’ scene that by 1990/1991 they were holding two per year with the second being predominately a Northern Soul Weekender with more emphasis on the DJs but also with a stellar list of artists, not just one or two, but four or five artists at each weekender each putting in a full set - Gene Chandler, J.J. Barnes, Eddie Holman, Ray Pollard, Eddie Parker, Lorraine Chandler, Chuck Jackson, H.B. Barnum, Garland Green, Popcorn Wylie and Johnny Bristol to name just a few. However these weekenders despite their success were short lived and by 1993 that man Ady Croasdell was to fill the breach with a new weekender at The Beachcombers Holiday Park in Cleethorpes - a venue where they are still held to this day. An array of acts have graced the stage at Cleethorpes. The first were Mary Love & Tony Middleton and, since then, Doris Troy, Tommy Hunt, Maxine Brown, Al Wilson, Bobby Hutton, Little Ann, Hoagy Lands, Sidney Barnes, The Velvelettes, Dennis Coffey, Willie Tee, Dean Parrish, The Diplomats/Skull Snaps, the Mirwood Revue, Carl Carlton and Darrow Fletcher, Derek Martin & Bettye Swann to name a few. Yarmouth and Cleethorpes paved the way for other weekenders in the future like Prestatyn, Cala Gran, Fleetwood, Blackpool & Dave Raistrick’s Skegness weekenders.
On the more Modern and Soulful dance side of the scene you had Soul Essence in Yarmouth (still running to this day), Southport and Ralph Tee and Richard Searling’s Luxury Soul Weekenders in Blackpool.
One Soul night worthy of a mention in the 80’s early 90’s is The Detroit Academicals in Northampton and the surrounding area. Hosted by Cliff Steele with local talent Neil Smith, Trev and Tony Parker ably assisted by the finest DJ’s and collectors of the time, this was one soul night that was worth the effort of travelling.
Another soul night would be Gary Welsh’s Canal Tavern at Thorne. Whilst heavily featuring the Modern side of the scene, the venue played its fair share of Northern and also featured live acts not just at Thorne with Sam Dees but also in Hull at an all-dayer with Jesse James. Gary, Rod Dearlove and Tim Brown would take the reins and this saw the birth of the term “Crossover” which is having a big influence in today s scene (although, to be fair, “Crossover” had been played for years prior to the term becoming accepted).
This brings us into the 90’s, a time of change for many on the Rare/Northern Soul Scene. The Okeh Soul Club all-nighters at Keele University run by Neil Clowes would become extremely popular. However they were seen as the beginning of the end for the upfront scene as it was in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. The venue was huge and full but the music took a huge step backwards for people like myself with a reliance on oldies and classics from Wigan Casino, The Torch and other such venues. Many other venues would also go down this route. But it was still a good craic and had an excellent record bar, essential for collectors like myself, this would be where I would get my kicks and satisfy my need for something new as the DJ’s were not fulfilling my thirst.
Tony’s Empress Ballroom in Blackburn would also prove a very popular venue when revived by Mick Lyons in the early 90’s with the help of Little Scotty. A blend of DJs featuring the very best oldies with newer discoveries the venue ran throughout the 90s and into the 00s.
Johnny Beggs and Duncan Pollett would run the Northern Cowboy nights at The Bear in Congleton and other venues in the area, totally upfront with the very best cutting edge DJ’s and collectors and hugely popular.
Around the same time Pete Hollander, Mark Bicknell and Dennis Billingham would promote the Concord Suite in Droylsden, again very popular and also featuring live acts, like Barbara Acklin and Ruby Andrews in 1993. When Droylsden finished, Pete & Mark moved to Hyde Town Hall and The Bridgehall Hotel in Bury. About 1995 Pete teamed up with Barry Holland and this saw the birth of Winsford again with similar guests to Droylsden and Hyde, namely Butch Gary Spencer, Soul Sam, Bob Hinsley and Robbo. They also revived all-nighters at The Parr Hall and held others at Sandbach Town Hall.
From 1991 up until 1995 would see another soul night have an influence on the scene at Bretby Country Club. Run by Chris Anderton the venue was nicknamed the Son Of Stafford because of the attitude of the DJs who were the best from across the UK in terms of an upfront playlist and featuring of course many sounds made popular at places like Stafford. The venue would later see successful all-nighters hosted by Dave Thorley and Chris King. A two roomed affair with the best DJ’s from the Rare/Northern and Modern Soul scenes playing the very best music.
The Deepest South was very under represented at times post Wigan but Russ Vickers attempted to keep the torch burning with his Uptown Down South Promotions. Ably assisted by Keith and Maxine Woon they featured the very best in Rare Soul from the 60’s, current biggies of the time with a mix of quality oldies through to brand new releases.
Kicking off in Abshot, with promotions held at the Royal Sailors Home Club before moving to The Colony Club (UDS) in October (11th) of 1997. The last Colony Club taking place on 27th February 1999.
The Resident DJ's at both venues were Simon Preston who kicked off proceedings, Keith Woon, Maxine Woon, Ben Summers, Lloyd Attrill & Russ himself. The main influances at the time for Russ were the 100 Club & Soul Essence. The music policy was 6ts thru to new releases. Abshot was a Soul Night in Fareham, Hampshire, but much to his surprise, it took off & after a year we were struggling to get everyone in. A move to Newbury was made to accomadate the growing numbers and the Colony Club on what was RAF Greenham Common became the new home. Rob & Elaine Savage managed the club, the events were monthly, every second night at Newbury was an All Nighter.
Guest DJ's included Gavin Page, Dave Thorley, Soul Sam, Bob Hinsley, Ian Clark, Dave Greet, Steve Guarnori, Terry Davis (Norfolk Village), Cliff Steele, Eddie Hubbard, Ady Croasdell, Chris Anderton and more. Live PA's from Sam Dees & Jeff Perry were both unforgettable nights.
Maxine's UDS top 5: Melvin Moore - All of a sudden; Wizards of Ooze - Trippin'; Differences - Five Minutes; Promises - This love is real; Jeanie Tracy - Making new friends.
Keith top 5: Sean Oliver - You and Me; True Image - I'm not over you; Bobby Kline - Say something nice to me; Mary Wells - Love letters; Almeta Lattimore - These memories.
At the time Russ was playing Barbara Lynn - Moving on a Groove, which we made into massive record, Emmitt Long - Call Me, was only 3 known copies at the time, Bad Weather Inc, again 3 copies at the time which Dave Thorley bought back from NY, new release wise I was pushing Island Inspirational Allstars - Dont Give Up, amongst others....
Featured oldies included Martha Starr - Love is the Only Solution, Yvonne Carol - Oh Yea, Yea, Yea & Johnny Rogers, again amongst others.
Life and Soul Promotions would promote hugely successful events at Albrighton. The venue really did feature the very best Rare and Modern Soul DJ’s. Promoted by Lynn Taylor, Tait and Martin Bradley, they employed the likes of Butch, Ted Massey, Soul Sam, Gavin Page, Dave Thorley, Roger Williams, Mark Simpson, Paul Sutton, Guy Hennigan, Neil Felton, Ginger Taylor, Chic, Johnny Weston and many more up until the last all-nighter in 2001.
From its humble beginnings at the Carlton Working Men’s Club and The Civic Centre in Wakefield, Mouse, Chris Pelle and the likes of Stephen “Chuddy” Dudley ran very successful soul nights. So successful that in 1993 an all-nighter began at, what would become affectionately known as, The Wilton. Whilst it did feature top DJs, the emphasis was more on the collector and because of this the music was always fresh. Quality underplayed oldies would feature alongside new discoveries. Saus was one of the top DJs of the early 90’s with a varied mainly 60’s set of Northern and R&B, way ahead of his time with the R&B. Roger Banks, John Wilkinson, Bob Hinsley, Keith Money, Les Cockell, Guy Hennigan, John Kingan, George Hunt, Andy Dyson, John Britton, Arthur Fenn and many more would grace the decks over the next 20 years or so. Sadly the all-nighters ran into slow decline, mainly due to the fact it was on a Friday and 24/7 working weeks and family life meant many were unable to make it on a Friday. The Wilton still hosts a Soulful Session once a year with top quality live acts with Darrow Fletcher and Debbie Taylor having appeared recently.
Towards the end of the 90’s, (1997 if my memory serves me correctly), Kev Roberts and Richard Searling would begin hosting all-nighters at the Kings Hall in Stoke. These are still going strong today and are now in their 17th year. The venue features the best the scene has had to offer throughout its history. The event has its knockers and isn’t known for its cutting edge but it has helped many get back into the scene and is packed to the rafters with around 1500 in attendance at every event.
Come the 00s London was calling and making a noise on the scene. The 100 Club was still going strong with Alan “Shifty” Neale & Greg McIllinney, better known as Irish Greg making names for themselves and establishing themselves as residents. Irish Greg and Alan Handscombe would form the Capitol Soul Club in January 1999. This club began life at The Bar in Shoreditch but it was when they moved to the Dome in Tufnell Park that the club really came to the forefront of the London Soul Scene. Carl Fortnum joined the two co-founders along with David Flynn and Matt Jahans came on board as the promoter for the Club - another of the rare breed of promoters who didn’t DJ. The guests for the nights were the great and good of the time, far too many to list but just about every DJ who played something other than the same old same was brought in to guest. The music policy was cutting edge 60’s Rare, Northern and R&B and featured many tracks that were broken in the 80s at venues such as Stafford’s Top Of The World and The 100 Club, biggies of the day and many unissued rarities and acetates. The crowd travelled from all over the UK and the venue was packed, many youngsters were introduced to the music and they naturally lapped it up.
Capitol Soul wasn’t the only club. Nick & Dawn Brown were promoting their Scenesville nights at various venues across the City like The Camden Centre, The Phoenix & Notre Dame. Nick was joined by Chris Dale, Alan “Kitch” Kitchener and Andy Rix and the music was probably as upfront as anywhere at the time with the emphasis on the rare and unreleased. They really were great nights and the flyers became collectable in their own right.
Joe Wallace, Martin Thomson and Paul Peter Thomas were promoting Thursday night events in the cellar at the River Bar on Tower Bridge Road under the banner of “These Old Shoes” - another quality Soul night that set the weekend up perfectly if you could get along on a Thursday. Soul in the City began life in 2001 and co-promoted by Dave Greenhill, Paul McKay and Alistair McDonald. Martin Thomson was invited to join the trio after three nights. The nights, which ran until 2007, proved very popular and, like Capitol Soul and Scenesville, had some fantastic guests playing quality Rare Soul. November 2004 would see the Solid Hit Soul Club begin life as a club. Dave Greenhill, Martin Thomson, Stuart Tyler & Gene Robertson being the promoters. The Club is still going strong today but has since lost Martin and Gene but gained Des Parker and Shane Cox and still features quality Rare Soul from the residents and top guests alike.
By the mid 90’s The Rocket was also causing a stir. The venue hosted all-nighters under the Metropolitan Soul Club banner. Co-promoted by Paul Clarke and Kevin Johansen, Ian Levine was asked to be the main DJ and given the task of booking the other DJs. The nights, whilst initially successful with well over a thousand in attendance at the first couple, the promotion began to suffer for various reasons - frequency, arguments between rival clubs and, not least, the inevitable fickleness of the summer months (which have always traditionally been very slow scene wise). Despite all this London was an exciting place to be in the early to mid 2000s with the clubs involved all playing their part in a vibrant exciting time packed with quality soul music.
Come the mid 2000’s though, the all-nighter scene was suffering. Too many oldies were the norm, mainly as a result of those who returned to the scene in the late 90’s early 2000’s for the first time since the days of the Casino. This was until Andy Dyson & Mick Heffernan (or simply Mick H) felt it was time to do something about it and The Lifeline Soul Club was born. All-nighters were put on at Sheridans in Dewsbury with myself (Karl “Chalky” White) helping with the promotional side of things. A team of residents were assembled who, in the opinion of Andy and Mick, had collections to get away from the same old same old that was the diet of many other promotions of the day. Alongside Andy and Mick was Butch, Soul Sam, Cliff Steele and Nick Stevenson, with myself coming on board after the second or third all-nighter after Nick called it a day. With an upfront cutting edge policy the venues at Sheridan’s was packed to the rafters and only guests who they felt would complement the residents were employed. Since Sheridans, Lifeline has promoted at The Fox at Colsterworth on the A1, The Ye Olde Bell in Barnby Moor near Retford (where it also held hugely successful weekenders), The Stables at Shareshill, Wolverhampton and is now at Bidds in Longton, Stoke on Trent, where it co-promotes a two-roomed affair with the Pow Wow Club. Bidds previously held popular all-nighters hosted by Mace with the help of Johnny Beggs featuring the very best Rare Soul, Latin and R&B. Mace is now co-promoting Pow Wow alongside Mik Parry, Gav Arno and Callum Simpson in the two-roomed event at the venue alongside Lifeline.
Sheridans in Dewsbury at the time in the mid 2000’s provided a central venue for the Scene with several clubs promoting a night there every week. Alongside Lifeline was Andy McCabe with Soultown and Joe Dutton with the Flip Side nights (R&B & Mod orientated nights). For a short time the scene had somewhere everyone could go every week for some special nights. Many didn’t want to leave and some stopped there for days following all-nighters!!
As mentioned earlier Soultown really helped the successful nights at Sheridans, employing the best Rare Soul and Northern Soul DJ’s playing cutting edge and the best Northern Soul around. It later moved to The Middleton Civic Hall where extra rooms were added - an R&B room run by the Backbeat team and a rare and underplayed room hosted by Maria And Carl Willingham. Again a very successful all-nighter whilst it ran.
The New Century Soul Club run by Chris Waterman and Marcelle began promoting in December 2003 at the CIS building in Manchester where it stayed for 2 years. Various other venues were utilized until landing at Radcliffe Civic Suite where it will celebrate its 11th Anniversary this year (2014). Alongside the main room it features a quality Modern Room and an alternative room featuring the best in underplayed Soul music.
Another long running venue is Rugby with initially Sian Rare Soul nights and then all-nighters promoted at The Benn Hall in the centre of Rugby. Again, alongside the main room, a freestyle room is proving hugely popular with spinners playing the best in underplayed Soul Music.
Burnley would see a very popular all-nighter at The Kestrel Suite, promoted initially by Philip Kowalczyk with Sean Haydon later taking over the reins. With an upfront and mainly up-tempo music policy the venue has a hardcore following and features the very best Rare Soul and Funk plus the harder-edged Soul music that seems very popular on today’s scene. Sean also co-promotes alongside Dave Abbott the very popular Soul-Funk-Tion all-nighters where the more hard-edged and funky soul is featured alongside the very best Rare Soul.
This isn’t meant to be a definitive history of the Northern and Rare Soul Scene post Wigan Casino, which would be near-on impossible. It’s simply a reflection that the scene is and always has been very much alive and kicking, despite the misconceptions voiced by some. There are literally hundreds of events and many promotions and promoters I haven’t mentioned but simply couldn’t mention them all given the time and space constraints I was under. My apologies go to all who I haven’t managed to mention in this brief write-up. All have played their part in keeping the Northern Soul scene alive and all have contradicted many of the misconceptions about the scene post Wigan Casino. The scene has always had spells where times were on the quiet side but the scene has also remained extremely popular with a hardcore following for the various all-nighter promotions over the years to the extent that the scene as of today would appear to be every bit as popular as it has ever been, with a healthy influx of the younger generation enjoying the greatest dance scene the world has ever seen.
And long may it continue!
Karl ‘Chalky’ White
November 2014. Amended August 2015.