King Mojo - 1966
The first day of 1966 sees a return of the Stormville Shakers to the King Mojo to start the New Year with a bang.
Once again in order to enhance the unique atmosphere of The King Mojo Club Peter has had the club decor changed with the addition of some large wall murals in a 1920s Chicago gangster style, again by Dave Senior.
1920's Gangster Shoot Out
1920's Duesenberg Car
A target with some guy getting shot under the title...'Al Capones Guns Don't Argue'
In 1966, having a great record collection was not that 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 and go to the best clubs. You also had to be good at the latest dances.
Peter, known affectionately in Sheffield as 'Stringy' or 'Stringers', was much more than a DJ who put records on a turntable. He was a showman who introduced the many big stars that appeared at the Mojo and he loved to dance on stage and hold out the mic to the crowd to sing the chorus of classic tracks.
At the Mojo, dances changed every seven or eight weeks. The best dancers performed on the main stage when the artists were not performing, or on the side stage when they were. If you were brave enough, you could dance on a barrel that was close to the stage.
Peter Stringfellow on Mojo stage
Peter, with Kath, Paul Norton and Jill Saxilby on Mojo stage
Peter dancing with Kath and Jill Saxilby
On January 23rd the Spencer Davis Group, with Stevie Winwood appeared at the club and during the evenings entertainment the "collapsing floor" incident occurs when Peter couldn’t understand why all the small people were stood in the middle of the club!
“There was no such thing as capacity in those days. We’d just cram them in. Never saw a policeman in the Mojo. We knew we were really full when the Spencer Davies Group played and the coffee bar floor collapsed.”
February 13th, The Small Faces first out-of-London gig was booked in Sheffield. The venue was a small Working Man's Club, possibly Pitsmoor WMC north-east of the city centre and only a short distance from The King Mojo Club.
The Small Faces were out of place, to say the least. Met by a band of young men, with slicked hair styles, sta-pressed trousers, three button blazers and button down checked shirts, the audience were not impressed. They managed to get Jimmy Reed's 'Baby What You Want Me Do' and got part way into James Brown's classic, 'Please, Please, Please' before they were dragged from the stage by the clubs management.
Paid off and kicked out, The Small Faces wandered only a few yards down onto Pitsmoor Road. Here they followed a group of likely looking young mods to what at first appeared to be a house. Instead, this was The King Mojo Club.
With nothing to lose, they walked in and offered to play for nothing. Stringfellow insisted he paid them.
The Small Faces finally took the stage and history was made.
The Mojo Dance floor showing the 'Duesenberg' on the back wall and the 'Gangster shootout' on the left side wall
Steve Marriott described the night...
"Our stuff wasn't right for them. We were paid off after three numbers. We walked through the street feeling utterly brought down. Then we came to the entrance of a club that looked bright and with it. We could see lots of young people going in. On the spur of the moment we went in and told the owners we would play for nothing. They agreed. We played for all we were worth, taking courage from the fact that the audience were mainly teenagers. All mods in fact. Well we went a bomb. The audience raved like mad and kept yelling for more.”
The Small Faces' lasting relationship with The King Mojo Club had begun, for who knows - without The Mojo there very well may not have been The Small Faces as we know them.
In the fast changing world of 1966 the Mojo management was always looking at ways to lead the scene whether it was with the interior decor, the music or the artists that played there. This was often matched by the ever changing styles of the Mojo mods who graced it's dance floor and regularly developed fashions all of their own.
Stylish Mojo Mods
"One of the fashions at the time was pin stripe suits, brown brogues and the need to carry a blue nylon mac - a derivative of the black pac-a-mac. This then seemed to develop into the gangster period which coincided with the American TV series The Untouchables; a story of the prohibition."
"Things just went wild at the Mojo with fashions changing every week. The length of vents in your suit would be changing daily. Many of the coats were doubled breasted and even the number of buttons became important with hand stitched lapels and button holes. The trousers bottom sizes ranged from normal to Oxford bag sizes going form 19 inches upwards.”
Peter decided to hold two 'Gangster' nights one in the February on Valentines night in reference to the 1920s 'St Valentines Day Massacre' Chicago shootout and one over the Christmas period. He asked members to come dressed for the occasion in 20s style and the Mojo crowd did him proud with many raiding their parent and grandparents wardrobes for anything remotely 20's style.
"By seven o’clock, we are on our way dressed like a couple of 1020s gangsters and as we stand waiting for the Sheffield bus we strut our stuff as the people passing by turn and stare. As the bus stops in Dronfield, the usual Mojo revellers board with two of the girls dressed 20s Charleston style and one of the lads, is immaculate in pin stripe double-breasted suit, with grey spats over black and white rogues,
a trilby hat, overcoat and he even has a silver-topped cane. On entering the Mojo, it is obvious that the night is going to be a great success, because, the majority of kids have made an effort to dress the part.”
Paul Norton dressed for one of the Mojo's Gangster Nights
Club member on one of the Gangster nights
Sunday March 6th saw Chris Farlowe & the Thunderbirds, with Albert Lee on lead guitar and Dave Greenslade on keyboards. Chris Farlowe was considered by many to be one of the best British exponents of Blue-Eyed Soul.
It was so hot in the club that night they sold choc ices! Heat and condensation plagued the Mojo as the popularity of the place exploded and Mods travelled from all over the North and Midlands to sample it's delights, especially the all-nighters.
The Burngreave Messenger - Leroy Walcott:
"Like us everyone came for the music and it was the start of our musical career too. We had just formed a band in ‘66 called The Pitiful Souls and asked Peter if we could practice at the Mojo. He agreed and one day, when we still only knew six songs, he heard us and said, ‘Right, you’re on for an all nighter!’.”
Keeping cool took many forms. In winter stepping out into the cold morning air after an all-nighter, hair and clothes wet with perspiration was not for the faint hearted. Travelling Mods would often arrive with airline flight bags over their shoulders containing a change of clothing to wear in the club. Many girls took to wearing night dresses in order to keep cool in the club.
The Saturday session on June 11th was headlined by Shotgun Express supported by The Stormsville Shakers and the all-nighter saw the appearance of Roy C.
“we saw a guy called Roy ‘C’ who sang a song called ‘Shotgun Wedding’. I think he was a one-hit wonder as he must have sung it several times that night.”
"I and a group of schoolfriends were Mojo regulars from early 1966 until the sad night when it all ended. Looking back from where I am now, that seems like a short space of time, but it seemed like forever and certainly was a huge part of our lives. I remember the first time I went in there & realising that there was this wonderful music, miles away from the chart stuff we'd heard before, and it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up (still does!)"
"For some reason, can't imagine why, three of us decided to dress alike & often wore the same outfits, in particular short Empire-line nighties (bought in Richards at the top of Chapel Walk and changed into in the Town Hall toilets, as we'd never have been let out in them if our parents had known!). We may have unwittingly contributed to the Club's demise as one of the complaints from the neighbours was about people in the street in 'underwear'"
I still look back on those great days with enormous affection & nostalgia. I can't get the music out of my system - and I'm still first on the floor!"
On August 21st just two weeks after The Small Faces had finally topped the charts with 'All Or Nothing', the band returned triumphantly to the Mojo. The band were now firmly at the forefront of Mod and indeed, mainstream Sixties music and were one of the hottest bands around.
The Mojo crowd considered them their band -- it was like they had discovered The Small Faces, so the crowd went crazy when they came back.
During the gig, The Small Faces paid homage to the club that brought them to the attention of the rest of the world, by wearing King Mojo Club T-shirts.
They played two sets that night and it was a special place for the band, because of the crowd.
The all-nighter following the Small Faces gig was again Gino Washington and the Ram Jam Band playing to a packed house. What a great August weekend that turned out to be.
On September 4th the Mojo hosted Shotgun Express with Rod Stewart, Beryl Marsden, Peter Green, Dave Ambrose and Mick Fleetwood. A short-lived band formed in 1966 from the remnants of Steampacket and The Peter B’s.
Poster by Colin Duffield
Advert for All-nighter
In September 1966, the Ike & Tina Turner Review landed at London Heathrow to tour as a support act to the Rolling Stones. The tour commenced on September 23rd and concluded on October 9th. Ike and Tina Turner were actually more popular in this country than their native USA and this may be why, in June of '66, they had a major hit in the UK with ‘River Deep, Mountain High’, reaching number 3 in our charts, whilst it failed to chart in America.
As the tour ended Peter Stringfellow booked the Ike & Tina Turner Review supported by Jimmy Rufas and Prince Albert billed as the Soul singing duo from Detroit City.
"The mention of Jimmy Rufas on the flyer this is actually a misprint - it was Jimmy Thomas who a few years later came back and remained in UK for many years as a backing singer for pop artists as well as cutting solo discs."
"I recall the night The Ike and Tina Turner Revue played The Mojo. Before the gig we went down to the Wicker to collect a take away from a restaurant and I sat upstairs in Peter and Coral`s flat with Tina . She was quite down and having problems with Ike and was missing her young children who were still back in the states. Later she put on a fantastic show with nearly 20 of them crammed on to the small stage."
With the Mojo stage being at the opposite end to the dressing rooms, when the club is crowded it is a problem for the artists to get to and from the stage. That helped in creating an atmosphere for every show. The night Ike & Tina Turner were at the Mojo, they had to push their way to the stage with the three Ikettes and the 9 piece band.
"We managed to get a good spot in front of the side stage and as Stringfellow makes his introduction, we turn to try to get a sight of the band. Suddenly a buzz of excitement rises from the back of the room and I can just see the head of Ike Turner pushing his way through the crowd. It appears that we have a good spot and that they may walk right by us. After a few minutes, Ike appears out of the crowd followed closely by Tina and the three Ikettes, with the Kings of Rhythm’ bringing up the rear. Then as I predicted, Ike, Tina and the Ikettes walk between my mates and me. Wow man!’ I could have reached out and kissed her she was that close."
"I was at the front stage edge with Tina just to my left and the Ikettes just to my right. When they danced together they were right in front of me. At one point I was splashed by Tina’s sweat! Never seen such raw power, emotion and sexiness so close up before – or perhaps since!"
Then as Ike counts in the band and they start to play, Tina and the Ikettes treat the Mojo crowd to a medley of their early hits, ‘A Fool In Love’ and ‘It’s Gonna Work Out Fine’. The Turners then launch into their repertoire of songs treating the Mojo to some great R & B and Soul, and some amazing dancing.
After three quarters of an hour, Ike slows down the tempo as Tina sings their latest release, ‘A Love Like Yours’. At the end of the song, Tina rests her vocals whilst the Ikettes perform two of their own recordings, ‘Peaches and Cream’ and ‘I’m So Thankful’. In the final half of their set the crowd go crazy as Tina launches into one of their all-time favourites, ‘River Deep, Mountain High’.
Peter, as usual, wants as much as he can from every band he signs. Tonight, with Ike & Tina Turner, they have to sing three more songs, finishing with a medley of ‘Please, Please’ and ‘Goodbye, So Long’. Only then does he ask the crowd to let them go to the dressing room.
As the club had no air conditioning, sweat and condensation fell from the walls as they left the stage.
"I particularly remember Tina turner coming offstage at the end of the mojo gig and squeezing thru the crowd nudging me aside saying, ‘Man we ain’t coming here no more!’ The place was steaming."
"It was incredibly hot and at the end Dinky and I helped to carry 2 of the Ikette`s back to the dressing rooms. One was P.P.Arnold and the other Cindy Birdsong who became one of The Supremes."
"My friend Graham Hutchinson was so enthralled by P.P Arnold he stumbled and fell breaking his arm.Went to hospital after the show.All he talked about for weeks was PP."
A firm Mojo favourite and dance floor filler was Edwin Starr’s ‘Stop Her On Sight’. The popularity of this single with the Mod population of the UK led to a UK tour for Edwin Starr. Peter was on the ball, booking Edwin for his first UK gig on Sunday 23rd October.
The Mojo was packed in anticipation of the man. Unfortunately, he got to the club late and the backing group had already set up on stage, so Edwin had to perform on the dance floor. Edwin was an instant success and the crowd could not get enough of him. The show went on long after closing time.
“The gig was great, as everyone knew my records. They were so knowledgeable and receptive of the music. It was my first great gig over here and the club was filled to capacity”.
November 19th saw another big American Soul star on the small Mojo stage with the appearance of the legendary Ben E, King.
The Mojo crowd simply adore the man and what a night, as he gets on the Mojo stage and does all his greatest hits, plus quite a few of the Drifters; 'Cry No More’ – ‘Tears Tears Tears’ – ‘What Is Soul’ are massive, huge hits at the Mojo and he delivers them with polish and class.
It is a great night, a typical Mojo Soul night as the crowd dance the hours away.
Ben E. King in the King Mojo office
Sunday 27th November saw the return of Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band to the Mojo. Whether it was a Sunday spot or an all-nighter Geno could not put a foot wrong, the Mojo crowd loved him and the superb energy of his live shows. Once again it was "hand Clappin", "foot Stompin" and live.
It is a great night, a typical Mojo Soul night as the crowd dance the hours away.
Christmas at the Mojo in '66 is one of the best and kicks off with Amboy Dukes on the 24th who will be on until two in the morning, not good for some people to get home. Amboy Dukes Big Band is a local band from Nottingham who has been on the circuit of clubs, dance halls and theatres from the early 60s. They have released a good single this year called ‘Turn Back To Me’, but it failed to chart or get any major airplay on the main radio stations.
However, they are a good band for the Mojo playing the type of music the Mojo crowd like to dance to.
This is followed on Boxing Day with a band The Gods, Then on New Years Eve, the evening session sees Zoot Money's Big Roll Band on stage.
Zoot Money is one of the best Mod bands, admired, respected, and sought after, able to fill the Mojo every time they appear. Although the band has a reputation for producing excellent R&B, their crazy stage antics generate most of their popularity as live performers.
The New Year's Eve All-nighter is a great all-nighter with the Spellbinders from the USA, a New Jersey based Soul group and another appearance of Zoot Money's Big Roll Band.