Here is a very old review of Wigan Casino I did. We'd stopped going in 1978, and having heard one of Sam's spot's at Bedford, I decided to venture north once more recording the visit in Blackbeat. Usual health warning - please remember I was very young when I wrote this, but I wonder how many cover up's can be uncovered from this article.
From Blackbeat Issue 4
Wigan Casino May 1980 Review
My first visit to Wigan for over a year (it costs over 25 on the train for us). Firstly we sussed MP Cyril Smith on the train scoffing sandwiches (is this the Liberals solution to the problem of the EEC food mountains I ask?). By the time we reached Warrington I realized that things ain't what they used to be. In the old days we would have seen about 50 folk board the train complete with baggie trousers, bags covered in patches etc. Today however the soulies wear conventional clothes, just the same as you would see anywhere in the south. This was to be borne out by the fact that in the Casino itself there were only about three people in baggies. Most were wearing jeans, some straight, some zoots.
The next surprise was to be getting in. In the old days it was tightly packed pushing for about an hour and murder. The Casino still opens at 12.30, and there are still two doors open. However the attendance has dropped somewhat and that makes the getting in very easy it took me about five minutes.
They say things don't change and the Casino's atmosphere certainly doesn't. Of course Russ Winstanley was the first spinner. Russ seemed to be playing several pop cover versions of Motown numbers. Worse though was an instrumental of "Sweet talking guy". Unfortunately he played a couple of sounds that resembled Helen Shapiro. I thought we had got over all of that.
One of the most popular stompers for Russ was The Seeds "Pushing too hard" released in this country on Vocallion; it is a rock collectors classic and as such not fit for Wigan. With the upsurge in popularity for 70's dancers, Russ had to play some as well. Included in his spot were The O'Jays "I love music", Isaac Hayes "Disco Connection" and 21st Creation's "Tailgate" a sound I remember Colin Curtis playing back in 1977. "Disco Connection" is a monster at the Casino now. Also big for him were Barnaby Bye, and Johnny Williams "You're something kind of mellow", a Levine sound of a couple of years ago.
At 2.15 Richard Searling took over and the music changed to rare soul. Kick off sound was Frankie Karl and the Chevrons, a very popular record from the 60's, followed by the Delgado(?) cover up, and the now immortal Eddie Holman "Where I'm not wanted". We swung into the 80's with the very popular Skip Mahoney "Janice" and then back into the 70's with what surely is the best sound on the scene at the moment James Mack and The Chicago Gangsters "You're love pushed me over the top" cover up. That really packed the floor as did the Brainstormers c/u. After Al Johnson & The Hit Men's "Just ask me" came Oscar Perry and the very funky Lee More and the Resourceful Ones "You're love keeps me dancing. It was then back to the 60's for more covered sounds, (and non covered sounds) Frank Wilson, Bobby Kennedy, the Nomads incredible "Something's bad" and a great midtempo sound called "Dancing a hole in the world" by the suspect sounding Tony Hestor and the Detroit Delights Orchestra. The spot also included Vicky Baines "Country girl" which has been massive for two years now and the Joe Matthews c/u "I don't like to lose" rumoured to be the Orchid's on Kool Kat. Before retiring to the record bar I heard the other version of "Love slipped through my fingers" which gives Sam Williams a run for it's money. "He's so fine" the Judy Street cover up I didn't like.
Pat Brady was on next playing a mix of 60s and 70s sounds. Included in which were Eddie Jacobs Exchange "Can't seem to get you out of my mind" covered up as Ronnie McNeir, and the same as the 4 Tops, but judging by the ZTSC number it wasn't released until the 70s. The Frank Dell Band cover up, and the Volcanoes "Showstopper cover up; both went down well as did the slowest record of the night the Lou Brown c/u.
At about 4.45 Gary Rushbrooke took over playing The Sweet, which he insists on still calling "Chester Pipkin", Frankie Karl & The Chevrons again, The Salvadors pacey "Come on and love me" cover up and the very popular Velvet Hammer's "Happy" (not a cover up). From the 70's we had James Mack and the CG's again, and Wil Collins and Willpower from 1976 (again not a cover up).
I could not help noticing though how empty the place looked after about 4.00 with Mr M's open and the sleepers asleep parts of the hall were near on deserted with the dancefloor having fewer than 35 people on it at times a very saddening sight as one who can remember the Casino when it used to be packed. Anyway after a while Sam appears on the stage with his box (just about the only thing he has not got covered up), but then goes away again without having done a DJ spot.
Brian Rea then took over with some oldies. Popular were the real James (Jimmy) Mack and "My world is on fire" (which originally came out of a soul pack would you believe!), Billy Arnell, The Appollas "Mr Creator" and of course Billy Prophet. Old father Evison finished off "Burning spear" still proving popular along with the Fife Piper.
The Record bar, a shadow of it's former self, was quite bustling which surprised me. On sale were three E J Chandler's for a fiver each and three copies of Eddie Jacobs Exchange, as well as George Kirby for 5.
Having been round to a friend's that afternoon I heard how some guy had found a UK Hickory demo of "Queen of fools" at a record fair that morning. Well sure enough the same guy was at Wigan that night with the record on sale guess who he sold it too? Yes Keith Minshull for a tidy sum (for a sum reputed to be around 50).
All in all an enjoyable night to be had at the Casino still. The numbers are down on what they used to be, though one guy told me that they were up on what they had been (which makes we wonder the place must have been really empty).
There are spaces on the dancefloor where there never used to be and at times there are mighty big spaces too. With the exception of about five pop records from the oldies jocks and a few from Russ, I am glad to say that the musical content was 100% soul, being split about 65% from the 60s and 35% from the 70s / 80's. The most popular dancefloor packers seemed on the whole to be the newer sounds from the 70's.
The only thing that spoilt my enjoyment was the sadness reflected at how the place had lost so many regulars. Ironic really isn't it, the place is now more soulful than it's ever been, and the sounds played have never been better (nearly all soul), that the attendance is also at it's lowest ever.