UK Soul appreciation and Civil Rights in the USA in the 1960’s

Abraham Lincoln - freed the slaves

I was a Mod in late 63 so too were most of my pals: By 64’ ‘Mod’ was in full swing as a UK wide movement originating in London where The Who and other British groups were greatly influencing things. At the Clubs in Manchester and especially the Twisted Wheel there was a parallel interest in Blues R&B and at the ‘Wheel’ pop, Do Wop, R&B and early Soul music got played. This format was entirely due to Roger Eagle the Twisted Wheel DJ who researched and obtained Stateside records and knew what Blues & Soul artists to book from the USA; to become live acts appearing at the club. Roger also did a monthly fan Magazine – the R&B scene; telling us all about Black artists and their music. We bought it from him at the TWISTED WHEEL in Brazennose Street Manchester (The First Twisted Wheel – it moved in late 66 to a new location in Whitworth Street).

You can find out more about Roger @

On the site of the first Twisted Wheel where great black bluesmen were treated like kings – there stands a statue of Abraham Lincoln! – a coincidence

See link – Lincoln Square Manchester. A large statue of Abraham Lincoln stands almost exactly over the underground area where the stage was at the Twisted Wheel:,_Manchester

STAX was more closely linked to Civil Rights than Motown.

Soul connections with Manchester:

The Twisted Wheel was the place that I first heard ‘GREEN ONIONS’ (Booker T. & The MG’s & ‘LAST NIGHT’ (by the MAR-KEYS) both STAX artists.

Roger Eagle wrote to STAX and had thier records at the same time as their release in the USA. He played them at the Twisted Wheel (both locations) and then moved to the nearby BLUE NOTE club: where his entire STAX 45’s and LP collection from the Memphis record company set the music style for that club. (Late 66/67).

In the early sixties we were Mods and into black American music: Blues & Soul fans at the same time and this was I think a special situation in Manchester – as Twisted Wheel goers we got exposed to lots of Blues and the emerging genre of Soul. It was one of the first places outside Birmingham to appreciate The Spencer Davis Group – who did lots of Blues & R&B covers etc (of Leadbelly songs).

The Manchester Free Trade Hall had lots of Blues artists appearing and local TV (Granada) put them on the program’s they did. So you see in our city we were primed for SOUL music appreciation early in 63’.

The Mod scene was all about being ‘in with the in crowd’ – our anthem was Dobie Gray’s ‘The ‘IN’ Crowd’. Fashion was the thing, and often minute changes in style indicated your status: i.e. the way you buttoned up your jacket! Items were ‘in’ for one week and often ‘out’ the next!

Paisley patterned ties came and went, so too desert boots, then all of a sudden everyone was dressed in see through plastic mac rain gear! It was hard to keep up and ‘In’.

I remember my dad whistling after me as I went off up the street of our council estate wearing trousers with a huge silk red stripe down the sides and with an ice blue waiters style jacket – he shouted after me and called me a PUFF!

All things SOUL were our interest in those days and of course our political leanings were supportive of the Civil rights struggle in the USA. I England there was nothing much we could do to support Civil Rights stateside so we kept up our interest by reading reports in newspapers and on TV and Radio and we bought the records and went to live performances.Stax Soul Review 1967

We all went to the STAX VOLT show at the Palace theatre in Manchester in spring of 67. Almost everyone at BOTH shows were huge Soul fans and Mod influenced most in suits, smart gleaming mohair: some local Soul record shop proprietors were there. Most of the coloured folks attending were fans from Moss Side (Manchester’s Jamaican community area) second generation Jamaican Soul fans and yes in the Foyer was the smiling towering figure of our Soul hero: OTIS Redding.

How could anyone treat him as a second class citizen, to us he was a King!

When we could we supported the Civil Rights in the USA and South Africa –(we played Miriam Makeba Records (‘Click Song’ & ‘Pata Pata’).

I remember how I was startled by the fact that many of my workmates appeared to be racists. I had an LP record cover of Booker T. & The MG’s showing Booker T Jone’s face large on the cover. I put it as a poster on a place on my desk; soon my workmates were throwing metal nuts and bolts at it!

The stateside Civil rights movement did have an impact upon the Blues & Soul fans in the UK. We learned their plight at the same time as being introduced to their music.

Probably the first noticeable association was from Chris Barber the UK band leader who promoted Blues as a feature mentioning blues artists; then two of his band members formed their own group – Cyril Davis and Alexis Korner (+ several members of the soon to be Rolling Stones including Mick Jagger).

Alexis was very influential and probably started off the mini blues boom in the UK in 1963 and he had many black American blues stars staying at his house.

The stories about how these black artists felt appreciated in England have been documented by several books and a recent BBC 4 TV programme; for example the Rolling Stones made a beeline to Chess Records in Chicago on their first tour of the USA and made the TV network put Howlin’ Wolf on their Ed Sullivan show…. An unprecedented event at the time on White dominated TV.

These days many black artists say that the appreciation of their music got them noticed in the States and this also assisted the move away from mainstream America knowing nothing much of this heritage.

Jamaican music was also popular at the time (SKA/Blue Beat) and Mods in London on scooters escorted Prince Busters tour bus to protect it from racism!

We, in Manchester knew about many pioneers against racism – Marcus Garvey (Jamaica) through our Jamaican Pals at the Blue Note club.

We knew that Booker T. Jones the Hammond organist on Green Onions was named after the early Civil Rights leader Booker T. Washington.

We followed Martin Luther King’s news and were very upset when he was assassinated made worse as the location was in the Hotel were lots of STAX artists went to write songs!

There was a lot of anger in UK in the 60’s against the USA for the war in Asia and regarding the Apartheid in the USA (At least our prime minister – Harold Wilson – kept us out of the Vietnam war even when USA persuaded Australia to join in).

Colored only waiting room sign

I had a workmate who went to the USA on holiday in 1964 and told us about segregated buses – Black at the back: he got up and gave his seat to a pregnant black lady but she was too terrified to accept and stood up for quite a while until some of the passengers at the back got off.

In 1964 I and my generation pals were against all the things we heard from the USA on the BBC news about the treatment of the ‘Negro’s who were held in high regard by us. They were a suffering segment of the population and obviously our admiration for them in their struggle and their musical heritage and our interest in it made us very aware. In 1964 we were tuned in to Malcolm x  and Dr Martin Luther King etc.

But its interesting to note that much of any music commenting on race was based on Folk music artists rather than Black Soul or Blues artists who rarely sang race associated songs – they’d probably would have been lynched.

James Brown only got going with songs like ‘I’m Black An I’m Proud’ in the late sixties (late sixty eight), although a huge figure against racism his music in the sixties was not really overtly commenting upon the ‘problems’; no artist was!

Curtis Mayfield was an exception (of the Impressions) he did more with songs like ‘This Is My Country’ and ‘A CHOICE OF COLORS’ he did get these songs out in the late sixties; and both were very popular at Manchester’s Blue Note Club.

A Stax record by William Bell; ‘Marching Off To War’ was a big local hit at Manchester’s Soul clubs in 67’ it was vaguely against the Vietnam war not a race issue. There were some race songs (we know of today) but these hardly made it to our attention in the UK in the sixties…being only local city black radio station plays in the USA.

Another Stax song that has a curious history “What A Man” it was to become quit a famous popsong in recent years, but not by the original artists (such is the case with lots of Soul recordings). Linda Lyndell a WHITE Soul singer on the Volt subsidiary of the STAX record label made one all time classic Soul hit (certainly in Manchester!). This was “What A Man” recently a hit for Salt N Pepa and also En Vogue

Volt Records - Linda Lyndell

Here original version still remains the best! But she gave up a recording career after death threats from the Atlanta headquarters of the Klu Klux Klan. Presumably for being associated with black music!

Linda sang “What A Man” at the opening of the STAX Museum in Memphis.

Linda Lyndell

Linda Lyndell

Linda Lyndell @ You Tube

“Right On Be Free” from the Edwin Hawkins singers – a Civil Rights Anthem became popular at Manchester’s Blue Note club and later a small UK chart hit!

The Staples singers did bring out race related songs on their first STAX LP and of course their 70’s issues covered the subject – ‘RESPECT YOURSELF’.

Another Artist who was involved in civil rights was Jerry Butler – best known with the Northern Soul folks for his record ‘Right Track’ Jerry was a school friend and big Pal of Curtis Mayfield, who did some (civil Rights) songs. He sang lead on the Impressions first hit “Your Precious Love”.

The record that was played in Manchester in the sixties was “ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE” I felt it was about civil right. Jerry eventually left the music business to become a politician in Chicago:

So its interesting to note how very few race related songs came out during the ‘Civil Rights’ period…a subject in its own right!

I Recently got back from Atlanta USA.  I went to the city hall just off Martin Luther King Junior Blvd; where they had the song lyrics to ‘Georgia On My Mind’ by Ray Charles (written by Hoagy Carmichael) in a glass display case. I also went to the Civil War museum where they do a very good job on covering it, and also have many displays about the Klu Klux Klan which had its headquarters in Atlanta.

It was here that I bumped into a black guy who noticed I was a tourist… interestingly he told me it was not really a Race War to free the Negro slaves (his race) but a white mans war. He also said that President Obama was a black man but not a Nigger he said he was a Nigger – a poor guy… whilst Obama was just a rich white guy with a suntan!

So divisions still run deep even if on the surface things have changed!

Interesting links on You Tube:

About Lincoln & Lincoln Square off Brasennose St; Manchester:

More About Lincoln & Lincoln Square off Brasennose St; Manchester:

USA Civil Rights Museum – The Lorraine Motel the place of the Assassination of Dr Martin Luther King Junior and the location were many Soul artists stayed and many wrote their songs there.

Civil Rights Museum


For more on this subject see:



About manchesterwheelers

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One Response to UK Soul appreciation and Civil Rights in the USA in the 1960’s

  1. Stereojet says:

    Lovely stuff, Dave. Really enjoyed it. Thanks for posting.

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