The DJ Dave Phillips was the most long serving and enthusiastic of the Blue Note DJs. He is still going and appeared recently (2014) on Absolute Radio Soul where he was interviewed at length about the Blue Note (and not the Blue Nile as incorrectly stated by the presenter, an entirely different club, situated in Moss Side at the time) as well as the Twisted Wheel and his novel about those times, The Manchester Wheelers. At one time, Dave even started his own company for selling and buying rare soul and R n B music but this proved to be short lived – he probably found it difficult to let go of any rare tracks he managed to get hold of.
As far as Dave was concerned, soul was defined not by the label or the artist but in the words of the song What is Soul – ‘A feeling from deep inside’. In this he emulated to some extent Roger Eagle but with his own particular stamp. This is why tracks such as ‘Grazing in the Grass‘ by Hugh Masekela were played along side a diet of Stax and Chess. Booker T and the MGs was a particular favourite and Dave was lucky enough to meet his all time hero Steve Cropper at a concert in the UK a few years ago.
I first knew Dave Lomas as a regular at the Twisted Wheel. Today he would probably be known as a nerd with his short hair and tortoise framed glasses. But like all the best fantasies, Dave Lomas had a fabulous talent that could really impress the girls – he was a stunning dancer. His style was unique and gave him the nickname of ‘rubberlegs’ – once seen, never forgotten. Often his dancing partners were the prettiest girls in the club but only if they could dance. His passion was for the more obscure soul tracks that could occasionally be discovered only after a vast amount of combing through racks of singles in record stores in Manchester such as Ralph’s Records, Robinsons and Rare Records. For some reason, among the many copies of 45s by Petula Clark, Ron Goodwin and his Orchestra and other favourites of the day, something unknown might appear. This had to be listened to in the shop and if it fitted into Dave’s criteria for a soul record, it would be bought and played in the Blue Note. The reaction demonstrated would decide whether this was a slow-burner or an immediate hit.Dave Lomas appeared as the solo DJ and sometimes together with the other Dave (Phillips) who were good friends having met at work in an aircraft factory and realising they had a shared passion for soul and dancing. Their musical tastes more or less coincided and they respected each other’s judgement implicitly.
Later in life Dave Lomas lost the glasses, grew a moustache and looked at that point like most guys in the seventies. However, unlike most guys, Dave had a complete change of lifestyle, joined the Merchant Navy, married a Japanese girl and had a son. After a few years they split up, Dave met someone new and moved to Hawaii. Unfortunately, he contracted cancer and died a few years ago. He will never be forgotten by those who knew him.
Some time ago, I was having an evening takeaway with a few friends. I happened to mention the fact that I had just heard that an old friend had passed away and that he had been a terrific dancer. Just then, on Heart Radio that was playing in the background, on cue came Boogaloo Party by The Flamingoes – one of Dave’s all time favourites and one he would always get up and dance to when it was played. I hadn’t heard the track for years.
Les Lee was the second DJ I remember at the Blue Note. I had seen him before, mainly at the Twisted Wheel where he was a familiar figure on a Friday and occasionally at the Saturday all-nighters. He was mainly known for accompanying Bob who was a builder (honestly), widely recognised by any of the girls that I knew at the time to be the most good looking guy in the place, if not Manchester. I couldn’t see it myself but there we are. Bob disappeared after a couple of years and apparently joined the army. Like all Greek gods that come to earth, there had to be a flaw – Bob was a bit short on brain power, his conversation not the most captivating. That didn’t seem to bother the girls, however.
Back to Les. He was probably ok but to us he was always known as a bit of a smart-arse. May be it was because he drove a GT Viva or may be his girl friend (Elaine?) was a bit annoying but mainly it was the way he spoke and more to the point, danced. His party piece was to dance with his girlfriend to ‘Billy’s Bag’ by Billy Preston, very much in the style of James Brown’s ice-skating moves, later copied and perfected by none other than Michael Jackson. It became the Moonwalk. Of course, at the time we are talking about, no one had actually landed on the moon – hence ice-skating.
I have two memories about Les. The first one is going outside the club with another friend Lawrence and seeing that the window of his shiny GT Viva had been smashed. For some reason, it gave us both immense pleasure to go back in and tell him. Childish in retrospect but good at the time. Many years later I found out who had committed the act of vandalism but I am sworn to secrecy.
The second memory was when it transpired that Les’s girlfriend was pregnant. That was quite a bit deal in the mid sixties. When it became common knowledge, every time she entered the club for the next few weeks, the new DJ (Les had disappeared) tended to play ‘Baby’ by Carla Thomas…
The first DJ at the Blue Note was Roger Eagle way back in 1966. I first came across him at the Twisted Wheel where he edited a magazine, R&B Scene, as well as lining up the tracks. In all the time I heard him, I can’t remember a thing he said on the mike. He wasn’t a personality who imposed his inanities upon a captive audience, he just played the most authentic music it was possible to get hold of. When I first went to the Wheel, R&B and blues was the staple diet with the odd curve ball thrown just to see what would happen. The first track I remember as I went down the stairs for the first time was ‘Life is just a slow train, crawling up a hill’ which I thought may be was Little Stevie Wonder but turned out to be John Mayall in falsetto. I still have the record somewhere that he sold to me for 2/6 – “I Put A Spell On You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins when he was getting rid of some old stock.
I honestly can’t say much about what Roger played at the Blue Note, to be frank I don’t think he was there for that long. Basically, if you remember what Roger played in his last days at the Wheel, his time at the Blue Note was mainly a continuation. He quickly moved on to his own short lived club on Fountain Street, Manchester – Staxx which used to cater for the Wheel crowd by opening on Sunday morning. I went a couple of times and remember the track “What Becomes of The Broken Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin being played as well as “Working in a Coal Mine” by Lee Dorsey. He had set the standard at the Blue Note and other DJs went on to play a mixture of authentic soul music with R&B and blues thrown in for good measure. You wouldn’t be surprised to hear Jimmy Smith thrown into the mix.