At the grand old age of 18, having been a DJ since the age of 15, I'd got it into my head that firstly I was getting old, secondly I've got all these years of experience & thirdly I was supprised that nobody had spotted this great talent of mine. Bit of a dreamer really , but one thing was true, I'd got a lot of DJ experience for a young bloke, I'd done the youth clubs, the private mobile gigs & I'd done quite a few one offs in nightclubs, all down to getting out there & show casing myself. By now it didn't phase me to stand up in front 500 punters & talk into a microphone...you could never say I lacked confidence.
Anyway by this time in my life I was training to be a plumber....I needed a solid trade to fall back on after I'd hit the big time & come back down again. I sort of had it in my head that when I achieved fame it would only last so many years. The dizzy heights that I aspired too lay just around the corner.
Sitting at home one evening, after work, I was reading the Birmingham Evening Mail. That particular evening I had no gig on & had planned to meet up with the lads down at the local pub. Running through the job section I came across 'DJ required 3 nights a week, apply Rebeccas'. My dream job, my moment of fame is standing out there before me. Straight on the phone, to Rebeccas, 'can you come down tonight for an audition' 'no problem what time' 'any time after 9.30'. Bathed, stage clothes on, audition box of records & for the first time for years the nerves hit home. All I could think about on the bus going into town was 50 other hopefulls lining up crapping it. Then it kicked in....your the master of 15 minutes....it's either yes or no. If it's the later give the gaffer your card & tell him your available should he need you. The other part of me said 'this is your job, your destiny'. Now the only thing I hated about this game was doing auditions . I'd actually done loads of them but generally the club gaffer would give you 16 minutes .....if you was lucky . Plus there was always 40 to 50 hopefulls waiting for their chance . I've even done some auditions , where there's been 50 people hoping for the job , & the gaffer's listened to 12 prospects , stopped everything & said "number 12 you've got the job ". To get a DJ job back in the 70s you had to be good on the microphone . No mixing music back then.......you had to go with the flow of whatever music was popular & be able to present it in a professional manner . Infact on two occasions I've turned up to do an audition & the've had just one turntable & a microphone ......I could handle that ..( fucking hard work tho' ).
When I got to the club I was physically shaking & at the same time shocked.....I was the only DJ being auditioned that night, the other guy they wanted to see had failed to turn up. Now Wednesday Night at any club is pretty crap, 10 o clock, 50 punters in a place that holds 500, the gaffer John Fewtrell & Carlos Santana my judge & jury. Carlos Santana [Pat Martin as it turned out to be] quickly ran through the controls with me, wished me luck & away I went. I kept nervously looking over to the bar area to see if I was having any impact with John & Pat, John was tapping his fingers on the bar & Pat seemed to look relieved that he wasn't up here. 45 of the 50 punters were under my spell, yes i'd done it, 'king of 15 minutes' had got the dancefloor. Pat came up to me & said 'any chance you can carry on for another hour' 'no problem mate'./.....trouble was I was running out of records, so it was down to playing a few old classics twice.'Breaking Down The Walls Of Heartache'..Twice 'Third Finger Left Hand'...Twice 'You Been Cheating' Twice.....I don't honestly think anyone noticed. One & a half hours after climbing onto the stage was over, I walked over to John Fewtrell 'the job's yours son but you don't look old enough to frequent this place, can't you grow a beard or something'...I can't grow a beard now at 60 so back then no chance.
So that's it I've cracked it, my destiny has been fulfilled, i've landed my dream job......but there's positives & negatives to this dream job.
Let's deal with the positives first....you can visit any Fewtrell Club for free, take a friend as well.....soft drinks are free....you get to see & work with some of the top bands in the world......all this is pretty impressive for attracting young ladies....as a DJ it's the most impressive club to work at in Birmingham.
The negatives or should I say negative.....the money.....it was crap....it was exploitation....they knew Rebeccas was the place for any DJ to work & played on it ....I bet two or three punters paid my wages back then. So given the dilemma should I take this job, my head was spinning....apprentice plumber...crap money.....wannaby top club DJ ...crap money. Two lots of crap = a pile of s##t. As a DJ job it was, to me, prestige so I accepted.
Now back then 1971, I was 18, this was my dream, Eddie Fewtrell was way out in front of his competitors as far as club formats go. Three floors of clubland each doing something different, headline acts live every weekend, reasonably cheap to get in his clubs & the drinks were a lot cheaper than most of his competitors. Sounds like a good script for sucesss. Saturday nights at Rebeccas were amazing . In the main room at around 11 o'clock the main attraction for the weekend would be on stage......not just any old acts tho' Chairman of the Board , Junior Walkers Allstars , Edwin Starr & the Emperor Rosko Show to name just a few .
The Sin Bin, my new domain, only open on the three busy nights Thursday, Friday & Saturday. It was down stairs below street level, it always smelt damp & when it got packed out moisture used to run down the walls & make the dance floor a bit messy. Of course in them days they didn't bother with dehumidifiers & air conditioning, I suppose, in a way, that added to the place...the most basic room in the house. I put my stamp on it from day one, my music, not upstairs music...mine.The first night I played I spun stuff like 'That Driving Beat' by Willie Mitchell ...'Shake & Fingerpop' by Junior Walker...the new funky stuff coming onto the scene like the JBs, Billy Preston, Curtis Mayfield....all the early Trojan Explosion stuff. I tried to keep it apart from the rest of the club, a club within a club. I know after I left the club Sam T kept to a similar format to me.
Saturday nights, in the Sin Bin, could be fun. It would fill up quite rapidly & about 11 o clock a DJ named Tubby Stanley would appear & do an hours guest spot. I'd known Stanley from the Rainbow Suite where he used to do a reggae night each week. Because he'd been around town so long he thought he was a bit above the rest of us DJs but he was a great bloke to be around & he knew his music. I'd come back on at 12 o clock but the Sin Bin would be empty by then, because the headline act would be due on in the Blue Soul.
The legacy of doing all them 15 minute auditions around town meant that I was always in demand to fill in somewhere. I knew Pete King & Pat Martin sometimes done a Saturday night at the Locarno, I done the odd Saturday night at the Revolution in Newhall Street [later to be renamed Pollyannas] but I never uttered a word about it because John Fewtrells brother ran it. I also occasionally done the odd gig for Fewtrells mate Tully, I think he was an agent or something & when he found out that I'd got mobile gear I became a usefull piece of kit in his armoury.
Eventually John gave me the sack, I was close to packing up anyway. The bullit from Rebeccas was of my own doing . I was getting offered work all over the place on a Saturday night , for good money so I kept having Saturdays off . I spent too many nights walking from Rebeccas to Small Heath with a box of records under each arm because I couldn't afford a taxi. Luckilly in those days people would stop & give me a lift home. Couldn't see that happening today. Rebeccas was a good club, my fellow DJs Pete King, Pat Martin & Barry John remain some of the best professionals i've worked with & even today I have fond memories of the time I spent there but money was starting to come into the equation. At least they paid for my taxi home at the Revolution.
So my few years as a top club DJ on crap money was over. Town had played it's 'last waltz' for me, it was back to playing the Hokey Cokey on a Saturday night from here on in & going to the Gary Owen when my gig was over. I did miss Pat Martins after show'putting the world to right sessions' at the shag bag when he was around tho'.
About 18 months ago, after getting back in touch with Barry John, I found out that in the early 90s the old school of DJs from my days at Rebeccas had a reunion at the Red Lion in Shirley. Being way out of the loop at that time they had no way of contacting me to join them on this evening. Now back in the early 90s I would normally have walked around the corner, from where I lived, & gone into the local pub for a few pints.....but that particular Saturday I must have had something on. What a shame my local pub just happened to be the Red Lion (in Shirley )......very often I'd go in there and have a chat with John Fewtrell , who was the licensee at the time. I'm still waiting for Barry to organise another reunion.