This month’s Vinyl Stories comes from the world of Northern Soul again, but this time from the West side of the country and Crewe. Keith Williams has been into the scene all his life and has been collecting records since 1968. He is the proud owner of mail order company SoulSearcher Records and has been buying and selling records through it since 1996. Keith has also DJ'd at all the major venues at one time or another, including Wigan and Stafford and Lea Mano. Keith has lived in and around Crewe all his life, and is a Crewe Alexandra supporter but we can’t hold that against him. It is my great pleasure to bring to you this month, Keith Williams...

“If I start at the beginning, I was open to any old stuff really, but around 1969 skinheads started appearing and Crewe basically became a skinhead sort of town. At that time in Crewe you were either a 'divvie' which was a bit of numpty back then, a skinhead or a biker. The skinhead movement started, and the lads I used to hang about with going to the match were all the same. There were approximately 700 or so skinheads in Crewe, and about 150 of them were in our sort of gang as it were.”

"I was about fourteen or fifteen then, and I used to go to the Twisted Wheel where they played all sorts of Motown and Stax stuff. But they didn’t just play that kind of music. They were also playing things like 'Young Gifted and Black' and 'The Liquidator’. I thought it was really good, and one day I said, "Is there anywhere else to go that plays this kind of music?" One of the lads said, “I go to a place called the Torch. It is pretty cool place to have a dance and to eye up the women like.” At that time it was my birthday. My sister wanted to by me something for it and she said, “How about I buy you tickets to the Four Tops?”, who were appearing in Hanley in Stoke at the Gaumont. So, she got the tickets and I went with one of my mates, but I had to make a deal with him which was that I would go with him to the Torch and he would go with me to watch the Tops, and of course both were just bloody amazing!"

"At this time there were a couple of records that I had that come to mind, and one was Joy Lovejoy’s ‘In Orbit’ and the other was ‘Friday Night’ by Johnny Taylor. The first record that I ever bought would have been Bob and Marcia’s ‘Young, Gifted and Black’.”

"Then the Torch shut down and Wigan Casino opened which was then my next port of call. I was working as a postman at the time, and I remember getting the one o' clock train to Wigan. I was buying my records from Bews in Burslem at that time. Keith Minshull used to work there. But at the Wigan Casino there was a record bar there at the back where I used to go from opening until about three in the morning digging out records. I didn't dance because you just might have missed something. I remember picking up ‘The End of Our Love’ by Nancy Wilson, which was just starting to be played, and as most people of that time know as fast as we were playing new tunes they were getting bootlegged. People were starting to not buy the originals, thinking, “I am not going to spend all that money just to have it booted”, so we started covering the labels up and dreaming up different names. We thought of loads back then like James Mack and the Chicago Gangsters!"

"Wigan went from the up-tempo stuff that it started out playing to some slower stuff, and some of the lads stopped going. We started to go further afield to Bolton and down to Nottingham at the Palais with its revolving dance floor and then that shut, so we started to go to Bretby and Hinckley where I was DJ’ing with Ian Levine and others."

"Big memories for me of that era were ‘I Can’t See You Again’ by the Twans and the Magnetics’ ‘Lady in Green’. I was offered them both for £100 each by Alan Rhodes back in 1979, but I was just buying my house at the time. Now you can pick up a copy of ‘Lady in Green’ for a grand and close to that for the Twans. That's when I started my own record business because I could only afford one, so I bought the Twans and I kept it for a while and sold it again because I needed money for the deposit. I had it in a box with some other stuff I was selling because I needed £100, so this other DJ picked a few out and said he'd give me £130 and because I needed the money I agreed. All the way home that night I kept thinking, “Christ, why have I sold them for that?” But then I thought that had to sell them on, and so I thought, “Why don't I do that?” So, I started a record list."

"It was about then that Stafford started, and I couldn't get my head round it all. The tempos were all different. There was this chunky R&B stuff and mid-tempo stuff with massive voices, and I just thought, “Is this Northern?” and people were saying, “This is Northern – it is just moving on!” I was just amazed, so I ended up going a few times to listen to DJs like Keb Darge. Stafford shut and I moved to Lea Manor."

"I did it about twice a year and then moved on to Middleton where I was buying stuff like Ray Agee’s ’I’m Losing Again’. One of the records that stuck in my memory from that time was ‘Teardrops’ by the Soul Brothers Inc., and that was a monumental record in many ways. I then started to go to Lifeline and got to listen to my favourite DJ of all time, Butch. I just loved everything he played. A couple of records he played and from that era will live with me forever – ‘Let’s Make the Most of Love’ by Esther Grant and ‘Your Love is Everything’ by Sandy Golden."

"I used to love playing at Lea Manor because you could play anything really. You could play an unknown modern thing, and they would just dance to it. It was great! I have DJ'd abroad too at Bologna and Aker for a German guy and in Italy, and that was great because they just dance from the first record to the last. They love it. When I DJ now I play half oldies and half modern, but I think you have to move along with the times."

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Commenting On: Keith Williams - Vinyl Stories

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22057 Posted By: Dave Goodwin (Nott'm)

Sorry Keith. Must have misheard you. It could have been the time delay form us to Crewe. I'll try to get it changed mate.
All the best,

22054 Posted By: keith williams (United Kingdom)

good article Dave - just a few things - never djed at wigan - djed with levine at whitchurch all dayers where i was resident - and never had ray agee - but one of my fav records

22053 Posted By: keith williams (United Kingdom)

i didnt dj @ Wigan :)

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