King Mojo - The Beginning
Peter & Geoff Stringfellow
It is over 50 years since the King Mojo closed it's doors for the last time, but in that time it has become a legend of the 60s. Peter Stringfellow and his younger brother Geoff were flamboyant, confident and born and bred in the working class Sheffield heartland of Pitsmoor, but their ventures shaped the nightlife in the city like nothing else.
Peter and Geof sadly passed away in 2018, but doubt not, the venue they created in 1964 has a legacy that still resonates today. Being part of the original Mojo crowd is a badge of honour worn by hundreds of people from Sheffield and beyond.
In the early 60s Peter looked at what was on offer for young people in Sheffield and was not impressed.
Peter Stringfellow told Top Stars Special in the early 1960s:
“There is not enough room in some pubs for a really swinging session, and a lot of young people do not like going into pubs anyway. And if we make any money my idea is to get a hall of our own which we can decorate as we like and have rock and twist sessions every day of the week.”
However, Peter wanted to do things differently to other promoters.
Peter Stringfellow on Sheffield's Club 60:
“I was impressed but not impressed. I was like a townie kid in those days. It was the definitive club in a basement which is what I thought clubs were. At least it stood up to that. The only thing was that there was no excitement to it. It was very jazzy. It was Terry Thornton’s and he was a jazz man.”
The two brothers were soon out scouring the city for a suitable venue to match their ideas of what a club should be.
Sited on the border of two of Sheffield’s biggest council housing estates - Manor and Arbourthorne – they opened their Black Cat Club in St Aidan’s Church Hall, on Friday, August 17, 1962. They paid two pounds and ten shillings a week to hire it. Rotherham outfit Stewart Raven and the Pursuers played the first night, with Peter Stringfellow on DJ duties. Despite a queue outside, the inaugural night lost £25 and the figures didn’t improve much in the second week.
“Against all the odds and with everybody screaming at me I persevered for one more week. I had Dave Berry next and I knew he was bound to pull a large crowd. I was convinced it would work, but just to be sure I took out a big £6 advert in the Sheffield Star.”
The Berry-effect and advertising worked – the brothers cleared £65. Similar happened the following week thanks to an appearance by Johnny Tempest and the Cadillacs.
"There was a band I thought was great, and still do, called Johnny Tempest and the Cadillacs and I booked them at The Black Cat Club. I earned £85 the night they played, which was a massive amount of money as I was previously making £20 for a whole week’s work as a delivery driver for a bakery. Later, I was the manager for Johnny and the Cadillacs.
A host of up and coming acts and hit parade artists from across the country followed in their wake including The Searchers, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, The Hollies, Freddie and the Dreamers and scores more.
On Tuesday 2nd April Peter Stringfellow and his brother Geoff booked the Beatles shortly before their single, ‘Please Please Me’, hit the charts.
The Beatles are originally booked to play at his Black Cat club for £65, but as his ticket sales reach the 1,500 mark, they realise that the club is too small for a crowd that size. They have to find another venue and the Azena Ballroom at Gleadless in Sheffield is booked for £29. At the same time the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, upped the price.
'Out of the blue I booked a group called The Beatles. I played their record 'Love Me Do' and booked them for £85 which was £35 more than I'd paid anybody else. The most I'd paid before that was £50 for a London band called Screaming Lord Sutch and The Savages.'
Next, in May 1963 was their Blue Moon Club regular Sunday night sessions which took place in an old church school turned warehouse on Johnson Street.
Peter Stingfellow on stage
The brothers were developing a reputation for booking bands just as they hit the big time, with none better than The Kinks who performed at the Blue Moon Club on September 20, 1964, just as they were riding high in the charts with ‘You Really Got Me’.
Of the two brothers, Peter was always the showman and he also liked to DJ. In 1963, ITV had started "Ready, Steady Go". Peter 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, plus he also controlled the young mods dancing on the studio floor. He worked on “Ready, Steady, Go” for a year.
During that time, every Thursday he travelled to London to the filming. Whilst in London he would obtain all the new 45's (UK & US) plus make new contacts re: booking live acts. If you wanted to go down and be on RSG, then you only had to ask him & tickets for the show would be produced.
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.