Stan Evans looks back at Liverpool’s mod and soul clubs of the 60s. In particular, the Sink Club, now back at its original Liverpool home.
Lee Dorsey singing at an ice rink! Yes, it’s true and it’s all part of Liverpool’s soulful and bluesy history. But first I’d like to take you back, way back – 1961-62 to be exact.
The mod/R&B scene was underway in London, but it was also happening up north in Liverpool with plenty of early R&B and mod sounds, as the city hosted one of the first allnighters in the country as the Iron Door Club.
Here, local British black band The Chants (managed by Brian Epstein) sang ‘Come Go With Me’ and I Could Write A Book’ (recorded on Pye). Also, the great Derry Wilkie and the Pressmen (who backed Ray Charles throughout Europe) were another of Liverpool’s early exponents of R&B and soul.
The Locarno Ballroom also held all-night sessions as they were called back then, as did the world-famous Cavern Club, with performances from The Drifters, Ben E. King, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Tommy Tucker, Chris Farlowe, Stevie Wonder, and Solomon Burke to name just a few, all world-class artists (no taxi drivers here!) and I was privileged to see them all live.
We now enter ’63-’64, when I moved from Toxteth out to Huyton, on the boundary of Liverpool. I was now going to local clubs, such as the Prescot Cables Club on a Wednesday night which played R&B and early soul as did the Brooklands Club in Huyton (now a housing estate).
My mate’s brother Jo DJ’d there, playing Fats Domino and early Wilson Pickett records. Striped waiter’s jackets (from the surplus stores) white K.D.’s (trousers), French crew neck sweaters and red socks with desert boots were the Mod look of the day, topped off with back-combed hair (dunno where mine’s gone!)
Then in 1963, I discovered The Sink Club (now The Magnet). Here, the brilliant and unique Neil English (proprietor) nurtured a heady mix of soul, R&B, jazz and blues with a totally mixed crowd of races.
This, for me, was THE mod club, operating in the cellar of the Rumblin’ Tum Coffee Bar. It had the lot – style, great music and atmosphere by the cart-load. This is where I first heard ‘Fortune Teller’ by Benny Spellman, ‘Money’ by Barrett Strong, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers’ ‘Crawling Up A Hill’, Georgie Fame’s ‘Do The Dog’ and the fabulous (and slightly scary) Howlin’ Wolf.
So, it wasn’t all about Merseybeat (as a lot of people think), but to be fair, those local bands did get us mods searching for the original tunes.
Moving on now to ’66-’67, I remember going to The Peppermint Lounge, another R&B and soul club on London Road and the only allnighter they put on. My mate Frank Moran was the upstairs lounge DJ and I used to fill in for him (while he copped off with a girl). I remember playing ‘Liar Liar’ by the Castaways here to a ‘crowd’ of two people! This was because what my mate had not told me was that none other than Little Richard had just taken to the stage downstairs! This was my introduction to DJing and with only one deck to boot.
It was a good friend of mine, Dennis Haw, who reminded me a while back now: ‘Remember trying to stand on skates at Liverpool’s Kensington Ice Rink while watching Lee Dorsey sing ‘Ya-Ya’?’
Soul and rhythm and blues in Liverpool? You better believe it!
Note that the Sink Club still runs, with the latest details found at the Sink Club Facebook page.