The Online Mod/ern/ist Archive

archive of original modernist recollections and information .
we are glad to hear from anyone with memories of the time, but we do not rewrite history .

21 Dec 2007

Blues In England - Part One

John Lee Hooker 1964
Contrasting reviews

John J. Broven

The incredulous, it seemed, had happened when it was announced that John Lee Hooker was to tour England this June. Armed with unbounded enthusiasm, (wot John, no rotten eggs!) we were apparently going to be treated to “the show of a lifetime”.

It was not to be.

Hooker started his tour on Monday, June 4th at the Flamingo Club, after a perfunctory appearance at the Rediffusion Studios on “Ready Steady Go!”.

In the broiling atmosphere of this one-time modern jazz centre, we had a full two hours of synthetic rubbish from the Cheynes and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.
It was then learnt that Mayall would back Hooker, and despite protests to John Lee before the show, it was to be. Hooker appeared, and with Mayall’s organ and harmonica (yes! – he plays both at once!) striving for the limelight, he was content to strum his way through meaningless things like “Dimples”, “Boom Boom”, “Hi Heel Sneakers” and others.

In his whole act he only did two slow blues and of these, only “I’m In The Mood” came off to any degree. But most disappointing was that his guitar work was kept to a minimum.

Undaunted, I saw Hooker twice later in the tour at Guildford and again at the Flamingo, hoping for some improvement.
Apart from a magnificent “Late Hours At Midnight” at Guildford (in complete darkness and with Mayall on piano), his original act hadn’t been transformed to any substantial degree.
What went wrong?

Why was one of the greatest living bluesmen transformed into an unexceptional R&B artist?

Obviously a lot of blame must go to whoever teamed Hooker with Mayall.

If he must have a group, OK, but not an organ! Also John appeared to be under the misconception that he was playing to a “pop” audience, judging by the stream of medium-tempo songs – which soon began to pall, being so alike.

Blues enthusiasts were definitely to the fore at the Flamingo, and if this wasn’t so elsewhere, wasn’t this the perfect opportunity to educate the uninitiated?

My opinion of Hooker has not fallen on account of this tour.

He has shown, in odd flashes, what a great bluesman he is. It’s just that this tour, for a blues lover, has been so badly presented, if financially a great success.


Simon A. Napier

First a few words on JJB’s feature above. I expect many will disagree with John’s point of view; obviously there is justification in what he says, on the other hand arguments can be put against this viewpoint.

If you happen to feel like writing, by all means do.

It may be worth mentioning that John, Mike Leadbitter, Graham Ackers and yours truly took JLH along on June 2nd to “Beat City” to see Chuck Berry, this of course two days before John’s tour opened.

Whatever, this could have had some effect on his act, seeing the audience reaction to Chuck.

Hooker is a fine man, but he is very aware of any commercial angles and willing to put them to good use if it turns out to his benefit

From Blues Unlimited – August 1964 issue


… and another view from Graham Ackers from the September issue …

Cleveleys, Nr. Blackpool 8/7/64

Wednesday, July 8th. John Lee Hooker played a most unlikely sounding venue at the Savoy Ballroom, Cleveleys. About 8.30 Dave Ward and I emerged from the bar and heard the last few numbers of the Groundhogs set. This group, previously unknown to us, was quite a surprise. They weren’t bad at all and instrumentally very like the originals.

Later they accompanied Hooker.

Then followed some noisy group of ruffians, who, after two verses of “What’d I Say” drove us barwise again!

We re-emerged slightly more amicable in frame of mind, soon dispelled by Georgie Fame and his mob. Admittedly they are technically quite adept, but what a bore the whole thing is!

We even had a Negro bashing some tom-toms, contributing less than nothing (!) – meant to add authenticity I suppose.

After this aural torture, Hooker came on to a very enthusiastic reception.

The message seems to have permeated to the far, windy shores after all.
He rolled straight into “Shake It Baby” with great power – perhaps a little too much – as a string broke after two verses!

Anyway, true to the maxim of all good showmen, he finished the number to great applause.

The next number he played with a Groundhog Fender – a somewhat unusual sight.

The Groundhog repaired his Gibson and finished the number with it.

Many followed including “Night Time Is The Right Time”, “Boom Boom”, “Hi Heel Sneakers”, “Dimples” (twice) and a blue version of “Tupelo”. This last was heavily requested and he was backed only with a bass guitar, which heightened the effect.

Every number was received with enthusiasm to such a degree that five encores were performed in all.

A special mention for the Groundhogs who throughout played admirably. All in direct contrast to the “let’s see who can play loudest” approach of John Mayall and crew.

In fact everything was just right – atmosphere, backing, amplification and temperature (compared to Tropical Flamingo conditions) and everybody, including Hooker and the Hogs, had quite a ball.


John Lee Hooker – returned later that year for another tour …

7 Dec 2007

Sheffield : King Mojo Club Memories

By John Smith (published in Soul Time fanzine)

Although it is not more than 30 years since the club closed down, the memories of the King Mojo Club in Sheffield are still fresh for the people who used to go there every week or every time that news about the Peter and Geoff Stringfellow brothers appear in the press.

The club was opened in 1964 by brothers Peter and Geoff. They were making a name for themselves thanks to the club and they were successful enough to attract the The Beatles for some shows. This success took them to sign similar bands and to promote gigs for the Rolling Stones and other British R &B bands.

The brothers were offered an old dancing hall, Day's Dance Hall, and they rented it for 30m pounds a week after refurnishing it. They choose the name Mojo after hearing the song "Got My Mojo Working" and the club soon attracted a new set of people who followed blues and soul music. It soon earned a great reputation because of the enthusiasm of the two brothers.

At the beginning, it only was open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but soon an allnighter was added on Saturdays, always with an American soul artist. On Sunday it was time for British R & B or soul bands, opening from 8pm until 11pm.

Sometimes, Pete and Geoff could not afford the money a great artist demanded, like Wilson Pickett, so they asked him to sing at 2am, after he had sung at a bigger club earlier the same evening. The artist always charged them less for doing so.

All-nighters began in 1965 with a one pound entrance fee and the sessions started at midnight. Soon, a regular crowd began to go, with people from Sheffield and nearby cities like York, Hull and Nottingham turning up. The meeting point was the Favorita Coffee Bar, in the centre of town. At 11pm everybody went to the Mojo and began to queue in order to ensure they were let in.

Of the two brothers, Peter was always the showman and he also liked to DJ. In 1963, ITV had started "Ready, Steady Go", where you could see lots of black artists like Major Lance, Otis Redding or Inez & Charlie Foxx. Peter Stringfellow enjoyed the programme so much that he went to the ITV offices to talk with one of the producers, Vicki Wickham. They gave Peter the task of entertaining the audience in the studio before filming began. He also controlled the dancers. He worked on “Ready, Steady, Go” for a year. During that time, every Thursday he travelled to London to the filming. Peter was supposed remain in the shadows, but he took every opportunity to be in front of the cameras while he was entertaining the crowd.

If you were a Mojo regular, Peter would give you tickets to the show, but I never took that offer because you had to spend a lot of time there on a Thursday and also to pay for the trip to London.

The Mojo soon changed its name to King Mojo. It was in Burngreave Road, with parking for cars and scooters. It was only one floor and it was quite small, with capacity only for 250 people, although it had a membership of 3,000. The record players were on the lefthand side of a stage that was only 25 feet long and 6 feet high. No alcohol was sold. The decor on the walls often changed too. At first, it was African warriors. Next, it changed to Pop-Art and then gangsters soon after and then, finally, it was flower power paintings.

The club’s policy was to play 95 per cent of soul music and some Blue Beat and ska. At the end, there was a record ("My girl, the month of May"- Dion) that was a well known flower power track. It was covered by The Alan Bown Set, one of the main English soul bands of the time, just because of the popularity that song had at the Mojo.

Some of the records that caused an impact at the all-nighters were things like "Love a go go" by Stevie Wonder, "You've been cheating" (Impressions), "Determination" by The Contours", "365 days" by Donald Height, "Oh baby you turn me on" by Willie Mitchell, plus the singles of the time from artists like Jackie Wilson, Homer Banks or Motown. The Artistics sounds “I’m gonna miss you” was the most important song: it meant the end of every all-nighter.

The best American artists played there: Ike & Tina Turner, Billy Stewart, Alvin Cash & the Crawlers, Ben E. King, The Spellbinders, Garnett Mimms and Stevie Wonder. The best English bands also were there: Geno Washington, Jimmy James & The Vagabonds, Chris Farlowe, Alan Bown Set, Georgie Fame, Zoot Money and Jimmy Cliff (who was then still in this soul phase). Even the Small Faces had one of their first gigs there.

The stage was opposite the dressing rooms, so when the club was crowded it was a problem for the artists to go up and down to the stage. The night Ike & Tina Turner were at the Mojo, they had to push their way to the stage with the three Ikettes and the 13 piece band. That helped creating an atmosphere for every show.

Peter was a real Yorkshireman. He wanted as much as he could from every band he signed. That’s why he sometimes encouraged the audience to block the way for the artists to the dressing room until they had performed a couple of more songs. That night with Ike & Tina Turner, they had to sing three more songs. Then, he asked the crowd to let them go to the dressing room. As the club had no air conditioning, sweat and condensation fell from the walls.

Around 1966 and 1967, having a great record collection was not important for your status. To be with the in crowd you had to wear the correct clothes: Mohair suits, Levi’s, brogues shoes, leather gloves… You also had to be good at the latest dances. Then, dances changed every seven or eight weeks. The best dancers performed on the stage. If you were brave enough, you could dance on a barrel that was close to the stage.

The only problem was that it was placed on the outskirts of the town and it was complicated to get there at night. Being out there also spelt the end for it. As it was surrounded by a residential zone, the neighbours complained. In a bid to stop the complaints, no more allnighters were organised. The last one was on April 15st in 1967 with Geno Washington.

Alldayers were held on Sundays, along with live shows and more young people could go to the club. When it was clear that the police would not support a new license for the club, a show with Jimmy Cliff & The Shakedown Sound was prepared on September the 30th in 1967. We had an incredible atmosphere. The next week it was time for the last show at the Mojo: an alldayer with Stevie Wonder. This time, lots of young people were able to go and that spoiled the atmosphere a bit.

Thanks to his status in the North and the Midlands, Peter Stringfellow was always required to spin in mod clubs. He used to DJ at the Dungeon in Nottingham. By doing that he could earn some money when the Mojo closed. Also, he ran new all-nighters for his loyal supporters at the Crystal Bowl Club. The Mojo crowd would go out to other clubs like the Nite Owl in Leicester, the Bin Lid in Dewsbury or the Twisted Wheel in Manchester.

The Stringfellow brothers did not leave the scene and opened new clubs. The old Mojo was turned into a Bingo hall and with the money from that deal, the brothers invested in a Sheffield basement. In another of their clubs, the Penthouse, they had problems with the license and they could not run all-nighters. Years later, in the 80’s, all-nighters could be held at the Penthouse. But by then, the Stringfellow brothers had nothing to do with that club.

Peter became a multimillionaire. In London he opened "Stringfellows", a place for the rich and famous. He also managed the great Hippodrome disco. From London, he went to the United States and the two brothers are still there in the club business. The old Mojo building was a Bingo hall until 1982, when it was demolished. Now, a modern apartment block of stands over what it was a legendary club.

The Mojo might be only a name from the past for the soul music fans of today, but I can say that the legend that was built around the Twisted Wheel in Manchester would have been smaller if it was not for the demise of the King of Clubs, the King Mojo of Sheffield.

The ads for the last all-nighter at the Mojo had nostalgic and funny lines:

And so it came to pass,

the great and famous

King Mojo All-Nighters

had to stop!

A wailing and crying as

never heard before over took

Britain's Mod Populous

And an the last one,

Saturday XV April MCMLXVII

multitudes of all needs gathed

(except the dreaded greasers)

and paid homage.

And from in their midst

came the great Prophet:

Geno Washington & His Ram Jam Followers

Special Thanks to Alex Maria Franquet