Stax-Volt and Billy Walker’s Upper Cut Club!

The recent and brilliant BBC 4 documentary on Otis Redding brought it all back. Yes, I bought The Beatles but loved The Rolling Stones, yes I bought Tamla Motown but love Stax/Atlantic.

In 1967 I was in the final (not that I knew it then) months as a cub reporter at the Gravesend office of the Kent Messenger, doing a bit of everything which included persuading the editor to let me have a weekly music column. I don’t think anyone read it – rather like these blogs really – but the cuttings carefully clipped from the paper each week were to whatever extent instrumental in my joining Disc and Music Echo in July of that year….and 46 years later….

Saturday March 18, 1967 was for me a rather special day as my column the following week might confirm!

“March 18 was superlative Saturday – a day to bring out all the misused phrases – a day of fantastic, incredible, unbelievable, knockout, wow, pow and kersplam!

Last first, and in the evening at the Royal Festival Hall it was the second personal triumph of Britain’s greatest contribution to the world’s music, Georgie Fame, with the greatest collection of British jazzmen ever assembled on one stage…(a bit OTT there and I’ll skip the rest of that eulogy, though the line-up was amazing)

But earlier in the day, possibly capping even this great victory, with the sun still shining on London’s East End, the sounds of success seeped out of a dark converted skating rink in Forest Gate’s shopping centre. The place – Billy Walker’s Upper Cut Club; the success – the greatest soul package to emerge from the United States, ‘Hit the Road Stax’ (poster below reproduced courtesy my old mate Paul Fenn who was there too, though some 15 years before I knew him!) Booker T. & the MG’s opened, gently grooving under the expert guidance of my own choice as the world’s number one guitarist, Steve Cropper. On came The Mar-Keys, two saxes and trumpet, and with ‘Philly Dog’ and ‘Last Night’, the storm as already brewing. It burst with Arthur Conley, newest addition  to the Stax/Atlantic stable. Arthur made up for the absence of Wilson Pickett by including ‘6345789’ and ‘In the Midnight Hour’ before tearing into his own ‘Sweet Soul Music’. Surprise extra, Carla Thomas, both looked and sounded gorgeous and added new dimensions to Paul McCartney’s ‘Yesterday’. Reluctantly we submitted to submitted to an intermission before new rave Eddie Floyd had us back round the stage with ‘Knock on Wood’ and ‘Raise your Hand’. Then – the show stoppers. You can forget Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, possibly even The Four Tops, for the sensation of the year is ‘Double Dynamite’. Bright orange suits, flicking fingers, dancing feet, happy smiles, tremendous voices, ‘Hold on I’m Comin’; yes – Sam & Dave! “Follow that” we dared them. And they did with the main man of soul Otis Redding. ‘Respect’, ‘Satisfaction’, ‘Shake’ and the beautiful ‘Try a Little Tenderness” all came from the big brother, his voice sounding as full of cough syrup as ever.

Footnote: ‘Hit the Road Stax’ arrives at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls on Easter Monday – and don’t you dare miss it. If you don’t, you no longer deserve the title of soul brother.”

Now perhaps you’ll understand why the documentary brought it all back!

P.S. I’m sure Percy Sledge was on the bill too – maybe he got sub-edited out! Don’t recall the compere being Al Bell, who was terrific in the documentary, but rather Emperor Rosko,



Note the 3.00pm matinee performance!

Note the 3.00pm matinee performance!

About dhvinyl

Lifelong obsession with music, 33 years in the music business, 40 years immersed in selling old records, 18 years retired!
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