Next in the long line of yesteryears DJ's making a comeback on today’s
northern scene is John Vincent. Our man in Sheffield, Bill Brotherton
went along and had a chat with him.
AT FIFTEEN he visited the Twisted Wheel all-nighter on Brazennose
Street. At 16 he was jocking his first all-night at the Esquire club
in Sheffield and by 17 he was playing R&B and Blues in local
clubs. By 1970 the first Sunday night sessions at Samantha's, Sheffield
began, followed by his own monthly all-night at the same venue which
became a weekly event by 1974. Today the man who broke monster sounds
like Lou Pride “I’m com'un home in the morn'un”,
Willie Mitchell’s “The Champion” and the Pointer
him Back” to name just a few says he is poised to make a comeback.
Former Wigan Casino jock and Northern Soul heavyweight John Vincent
told Sheffield reporter Bill Brotherton “I will DJ Northern Soul
"Many times I woke up in my car on a Monday
morning and had to drive to find a signpost just to find out
where I was"
Ask most people what ever happened to John Vincent and you usually
get told ‘I don’t know mate perhaps he is fucking dead?’
Since 1984 and Vincent’s last excursion with northern soul at
Morecambe all nighters little has been heard and even less seen of
Totally drained by the non-stop life and his obsession with the music
he had come to the end of the road. “I couldn’t cope with
it anymore. I had loved it so much that I began to hate it, the whole
thing had become a nightmare.”
But two years later while working in the high speed world of sales
and marketing Vincent realised he still had a passion for it. He recalls: “I
was doing 1,000 miles a week and no way was I going to listen to Radio
One every day.
“Like so many others he went back to tapes of the music we alllove
so much - most recorded in running order just as he would have jocked
Since then hardly a day has passed by when Northern Soul has not figured
on him in some way. “I have been going to gigs every week for
the last 14 years only I have been the DJ, the public and everything
else and the venue has been my car,” laughed Vincent as he recalled
tapes used for his northern fix.
But now it is no longer enough. “I knew people were looking
for me and messages got to me but hardly anyone knew where I was,” said
John in full flight at the casino observed by Ian Levine – Circa 1975
Yet all the time he was living in Sheffield - a mere ten minutes from
the former Samanthas - an all-nighter venue he turned into a legend.
“I didn’t want to know. I didn’t really believe that people
could be so interested. But looking back I suppose I worked on the
scene when it was at its greatest. Every jock had a following and obviously
some of mine are still alive,” he joked.
Motivated by this interest and spurred on by seeing names he was once
synonymous with Searling, Soul Sam, Ginger and Roberts the temptation
has proved too much and Vincent is ready to spin again.
His weekends used to begin with the Northern Soul Roadshow on Friday
night taking him anywhere in Lincs, Lancs or Yorks followed by Samanthas
all-nighter at 12am.
Saturday was spent chasing more sounds followed by Saturday evening
back on the NS Road Show and then to Wigan Casino by 12am. Sunday
morning was a trip to friends, on to an All-dayer somewhere like Burnley,
or Nottingham and finishing up on Sunday night in Doncaster, Goole
or even Carlisle.
“I never went to bed from getting up on Thursday morning until
finally crashing out sometime Monday afternoon often spending a whole
24 hours in bed.
“Many times I woke up in my car on a Monday morning and had
to drive to find a signpost just to find out where I was,” recalled
Vincent who at that time did nothing other than DJ on the scene.
But it was at Wigan Casino that Vincent peaked turning a string of
records into northern legends most still cherished today.
He lays claim to making big hitters like Jeanette Harper, the Del
Larks, Laine Hill, the Yum Yums, Carole WaIler, Lorraine Silver amongst
others into the monsters which packed out floors throughout the mid
“I can recall on several occasions playing back to back, part
one and part two of the Del Larks. It was typical of the sort of think
I used to get up to in those days and I picked up both copies for £7
each,” said Vincent.
How did he break into the Casino? “I was just hanging around
one night when Russ asked if I wanted to do a spot. The first record
I ever played was Sons of Moses “Soul Symphony” immediately
breaking all the rules because it had recently been pressed.
Vincent still prides himself on being able to play centrefield both
Casino and Mecca styles. He said: “I remember it being
us and them but I just didn’t see it that way at all , to me
it was just one hell of a big scene.
“I mixed everything together because it didn’t make any
difference to me. I suppose what helped me was that first and foremost
I was a professional DJ.
“I always went for atmosphere to try and create a great experience.
“By 1974 I was getting stuff of John Anderson at Soul Bowl.
I remember he had a few copies of Lou Pride but none of the jocks got
any - they went to minor DJs.
“Frank (Ian Dewhirst) and myself were doing a roadshow one night
just outside Mablethorpe and this guy turns up with a copy and sells
it to Frank, all the way home I badgered him to sell it to me and
Wigan early 1976
“I played it at Wigan and the first time it cleared the floor
but reached epic proportions within the next six months.”
Another big hitter Vincent recalls affectionately include the Troy
Keyes “If I Had My Way” - a sound rarely if ever heard
“I got a lot of satisfaction out of that one, a £2 record
that became a massive tune,” said Vincent who says while Levine
played some of the top sounds he discarded them too soon, so many
were picked up and made popular at the more powerful Casino.
“By 1975 Wigan was riding on the crest of a wave. Richard Searling
always jocked at 2am and I usually followed. There was always this
huge block of enormous sounds between 2am and 5am, the biggest sounds
in the country at the time. I think what made it so successful was
there was a sharp contrast between Richard’s playlist and mine.
“I used to listen to his spot with admiration and then did my
best to follow. I realised then it needed constant exposure to make
a record go big. The majority of soul fans would only hear sounds once
a week so a good monster lasted months. But it was a hard life - there
were lots of critics but I made some biggies.
“One Saturday night I managed to jock Cleethorpes Pier AND Wigan
Casino. I think that must be unique and a total one off and today I
am still proud of it.”
In 1976 Vincent made what he now perceives as his worst mistake. Wigan
hit a low that summer and he switched to play St Ives all-nighters.
Although St Ives was very popular he says it never quite tipped over
the brink like the Casino and in hindsight he regrets making the switch.
Vincent said: “St Ives got close to Wigan with Soul Sam, Ginger
and myself but never made the final jump. With hindsight I should have
done both sharing my time between them rather than leaving Wigan completely.”
When St Ives shut in 1977 Vincent did lots of venues throughout the
country but felt the scene was floundering a bit. Then in 1983 Morecambe
Pier opened. Although good Vincent says it was never the place to break
He said “I had a box of records I would have given my right
arm for in 1975 but they would not dance to them and in the end it
Then, one morning he left the all-nighter, put the box
of sounds in the boot and drove off and quit the scene he loved so
much for good. Or was it?
In recent years he has followed it with some interest although
he never figured anybody had missed him. ‘But people relate
records to times and places and in the end I suppose you are
remembered in some small way.”
Just how times change has been shown by Vincent’s excursion
on the Internet. “I was surfing the net one evening and put in
the words Northern Soul Music. I was amazed, I registered on a site
called “keeping The Faith” not expecting a lot I introduced
myself and then wham dozens of E-MaiIs and people said such complimentary
things I felt quite humbled by it all. After a couple of weeks I decided
whether once or 20 times I will DJ in 1999.
“As far as sounds are concerned I'll just carry on where I left
off with the classics, the forgotten sounds, the rarities, sixties
the same as it was before. It will be up front and in your face” said
OK the scene is so familiar but its been a long time, so does
he have any apprehensions.? “No,” says Vincent: “I
was very lucky with Northern Soul. I went in with the right attitude
always used to say to myself music first, punters second, me
last, keep your feet on the ground, an attitude that in the end must
have shone through. I don’t
think I will be surprised by what I find when I go back.
“As for the music there are so many obscurities which never
got what they deserved - many which would be new to many on the scene
today or not even remembered by those who were there at the time.
Anyone who thinks I no longer have any rare records better stand back
because it will be 100 per cent dance tempo pure Northern Soul Originals.
Vincent - a comeback - perhaps the first disc could aptly be Rubin’s “You’ve
been away a little too long” John.
So there you have it, look out for John at a venue near you