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 .

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

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