Originally in Charles Street (where the BBC is now) the shop moved to Oxford Street, near the Wimpey and under the railway bridge. Graham fixed the Dansette's in the back room.
Sadly, we have heard Graham has now passed away.
The A1 extension has been taken over by the Academy of Sound
(photo: S Bunyan)
A1 now carries ads not amps
"My brother and I ran a mobile disco in South Manchester and reguarly played The Bulls Head in Mottram Cheshire. It was the haunt of people like Penn the road manager of the Purple Gang who gave us a copy of Granny takes a Trip which I still have! Many years later I came back to Macclesfield to launch a local radio station and discovered that the Purple Gang were still known in the area by many, along with the Macc boys (new on the block). Used to buy all our kit from A1 - a real aladdins cave of great stuff. We bought the Triumph amp and yes it sounded horrible and was unstable on long bits of cable (bell wire) also its lamps flickered when a bass note went thru it and the mono stereo switch had to be flicked reguarly to get the audio on.
It was our first real amp so took pride of place and eventually got teamed up with a WEM 100 from AI and some fantastic speakers by TVM of Manchester. We also got some Sound City 4 x 12 columns for a second disco. What happended to TVM ? Any photos? Still remember the smell of A1 a mixture of beer/cigarettes and Rexin cloth!"
I know that your page is mostly dedicated to the '60s but this place is so important to the Manc music scene that with all due respect, I feel that it is due a slightly deeper investigation...
During the time I was there (early nineties to 2002) A1 was THE place to buy your gear from - a "proper" music shop staffed by musos (albeit with various stages of hangover), rather than today's obsession with "identikit" slat-walled musical chain-stores that look more like Dixons.
I used to spend my weekends as a kid just gazing at the rows of guitars and nipping off into those little side-rooms to play with the keyboards and toys that you could never afford! Fast forward 10 years,and I'm working there.
If you wandered round A1 during the week you were as likely to bump into the likes of Johnny Marr, Noel Gallagher, Barney Sumner, im Booth, Reni or even Gary Barlow as you were the next up-and-coming local wannabee. The place was buzzing and I'll never forget my first Saturday afternoon working behind the counter-the place was utterly crazy,with competing guitarists trotting out the opening bars of Nirvana's "smells like teen spirit" at ridiculous volume levels...until Ann "pulled the plug" on them from the mains switch under the counter.
I had some great experiences at A1,and through working there I got to meet people,go to gigs,and see such crazy things that if you bring them up in conversation today people think you're either mad or telling fibs!
Alas-all good things must come to an end and as competition from the likes of the big chains increased, Ann and Graham found it increasingly difficult to compete and they eventually decided to retire and sold out to AOS, as in the picture shown.
That's when the "Mancunian soul" of the place died for me,and it was never the same afterwards.
AOS eventually sold out to Sound Control,who have since folded. I just pray that that famous old piece of Mancunian music history is recognized as such and doesn't just turn into yet another faceless nightclub or restaurant.
ex A1 Hi-Tech guy
I worked at A1 from 1969-1972.
Graham and Ann employed me from school - I was 16 and music mad and it was the job from heaven!
Bought my first Strat from them (money was deducted from my weekly wage!)
Got into some great gigs as a result of guitar/ amp repairs - Deep Purple, Climax Chicago Blues Band and more besides.
Made some great friends - Derek Whyment (Hollies roadie - sadly now gone), Les Poole, great session guitarist/electrician - both worked there, in the workshop.
Current contributors to the site, John Blight, and Bob Elliott, are my closest friends from Chorlton, where we all lived at that time. We are digitally recording together, and still rocking!
Sad to hear about Graham going but we had some great times at the shop, and it's a period of my life I will never forget.
Garry "Gazzer" Lomax
I went into Spectrum Music in Whitefield on Saturday to buy some strings and met Les Poole, who I hadn't seen for 39 years!
His nephew Stephen owns the store and Les helps out 1 or 2 days a week.
We spent 2 hours catching up, and will now be keeping in touch more often. I didn't realise but he played in the trio at the Golden Garter in the 70's.
He had gone onto the Beat website only 2 days earlier.
Gary "Gazzer" Lomax
As a continuation of my memory regarding AI I had the pleasure of returning to Manchester to do a job at The Palace Hotel Feb 09. While trying to find the load in parking for the the truck it suddenly dawned on me where I was and sure enough there was the old AI building now in closed sound control livery (I'm sure it was orange originally?)
I found it gave me a warm glow as it was this very store that supplied kit to us that started my whole career off to this day! How many years on I hate to recall but here I was driving past this now shut den of technical heaven where we bought WEM Triumph TVM and Sound City gear now with a van loaded with digital desks and line array PA, it was a sweet moment and almost a tribute in many ways having heard of Graham's passing.
I did not know him personally but probably had him do us a great deal all those years back.
Above is a picture (c 1973) of the Sound city 4 x 12 columns we purchased from AI in the 70s. They were actually immaculate save for a small tear in one grill cloth and 'kin heavy with no wheels. They sounded quite harsh if I recall (no horns) so we built some twin hf boxes to go on top (they were orange rexin what a great idea!) which did the trick,I wonder if the SC are still doing service its great to see the brand name is back Doh! these would now be collectors items!
Thanks G RIP.
A1 Repairs, in Charles Street, was an electronics repair shop originally. The young chap who owned it modified a Leak pre-amp I bought off Jim Hollingworth for my new bass amp when Jim boughts his TVM top.
Graham Mellor acquired the premises in 1964ish and asked for a sign to be made "All Repairs Taken" but what came back was "A1 Repairs". I worked at the shop on Saturdays along with Martin Law who later emigrated to Canada. Ann Mellor came in at the of each day to attend to the buisiness side of things. The shop prided itself with the service that, if an amp came in in the morning, it was fixed by closing time. We took amps out of their cases and went through looking for dry-joints ready for Graham to complete the job and we used to repair Reslo mikes that needed new ribbons.
One day Martin was reassembling an AC30 and forgot what the red and blue wires were for and fitted a mains plug. Seconds later a pair of Celestion Blues went up in smoke with a big bang. Graham said that they probably needed replacing anyway and added the cost to the bill! At the end of each day Graham took all the coppers from the till and split the money between us then I was picked up by my group and off to a gig. I remember a dozen AC50 tops coming in for checking every time 'Sounds Incorporated' were in town. Many local musicians came into the shop. Lou Starr, 'Hairdresser to the Stars', was next door.
A few months ago I bumped into Tony Cooper, Ann's brother who worked at A1 in Wakefield Street, and he said that Ann still owns the later premises so A1 could re-open if the time was right.
As I recall Graham was originally one of the technical guys that worked for Barratts. I remember taking our Vox 30 amp head to him at the workshop on Charles Street for him to fit a treble booster. Probably this would be around late'63/early'64. I think he did the job as a foreigner. Great guy fondly remembered.
Bought my first Strat there in 1972. Used to go downstairs, plug in, and pick away. At the time, I was a real novice and must have sounded awful but nobody complained. Haven't been there in donkey's years but next time I visit Manchester, I might pop in.
I used to work there repairing equipment with a Polish guy called Bob and sometimes a chap called Len used to work there on a saturday. Sold my Fender Bass Precision there 1957 Oct 7 th (fool).
Joe De Biase
Good lord, Polish Bob the amp guy! There's a real blast from the past. And don't forget Ady the guitar repair guy (who also worked at Music Exchange down the road briefly).
My abiding memory of A1 is having to squeeze past the shop counter to get to the near-vertical wooden stairs down to the damp basement filled with racks of Gibsons and Fenders ... one particular Les Paul finished in revolting glass blue, I don't think they ever sold that one ... Ann's voice screeching over the telecom saying "ANYONE IN THE WORKSHOP?" every 10 minutes ... Waiting for some nugget to finish on the Marshall so you could plug in and play some riffs on a guitar you had no intention of buying ...
Thinking back, that basement was a real fire hazard, there's no way Health and Safety would let that place open now. Back then it was just the greatest place in Manchester, possibly the world.
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Back in the day I traded my Burns trisonic in for an old Gibson arch top and a Hofner Beatles bass - later went back and bought a Carlsbro bass stack. Funny how guitar players can remember their equipment 50 yrs later! A1 was the place to go and it was worth the trip from Liverpool.
It is with great sadness I have to inform you that Ann Mellor died last September at her villa home in Spain. My wife Angela and I were on holiday in November near Malaga and we tried e-mailing Ann but got no reply. We telephoned her at her villa and left a message on her answering machine. When we arrived back in the UK Anns' sister contacted us to say she had died on the 17th of September. End of an era
Sadly I have to report the death of Ann Mellor who together with her late husband Graham owned and ran A1 Music on Oxford Road. Ann was always game for a laugh and a dynamic person all round. Starting from humble beginnings as "All Repairs", legend has it that they became A1 when one of the "L's" fell of the sign, soon after they moved across the road to larger premises and grew from there expanding into the cellar and upstairs. Over time they became the number one destination for the musicians on Manchester and farther afield, stocking all the major musical instrument lines. Ann passed away from a heart attack at her home in Spain after a night out with friends. It would be impossible to write the story of Manchester Beat or Madchester from the 1960's to the 2000's without including Ann and Graham Mellor there won't be many musicians on Manchester Beat who didn’t but something from them.
1974-76. Travelled by train from Buxton just to look, smell and if I was very very brave take down a guitar and play it. Saved my money from my paper round, started a mini business selling kindling and did a bit of dodgy swapping a selling of other gear to make my dream purchase. Took all my money from my building society account and made the (long) journey to Manchester Piccadilly down Whitworth St turning left into Oxford Rd to A1 Music. And now nearly 40 years later my Gibson ES335 TD is sat in the corner having taken me on cruise ships, clubs, numerous bands and repaid the £ 315 I paid many many times over. Opening the original case still takes me back to those lethal wooden stairs and the "no stairway to heaven" sign.
I was working the like of The Georgiian, Northern, Blighty's and many other clubs when I first discovered A1 Music. i was playing a Burns Six bass at the time and couldn't believe my luck when I walked in and found two Fender V1 Bass guitars for sale. Still playing the 1961 original I bought, still with it's A1 sticker, (£175 Should have bought both??) Aladdins cave it most certainly was.
I grew up in Manchester and used to wag school in the early 80's when A1 Music Centre was without a doubt the best music shop in the whole of England. Years later I ended up working there for a number of years before leaving for a life on the road as a guitar tech. As well as having the most down to earth staff and great stock, new used and vintage, the place really was a hang out and a hub for all the local and surrounding musicians, famous and not so famous. Sadly there's nothing like it in all of England anymore. I have great memories of that place and learned and experienced so much while I was there. I handled my first 1959 sunburst Les Paul there and I still see some of the staff and regulars who were the life of the place who am privileged to have got to know.
Hi.Richard. I remember Graham and Ann well. They had a white poodle!. Also Ady. Just seen an excellent article about you in The Vintage Guitar Bible 2015..bought a Schecter super rock pickup for my 1963 Gibson SG from A1.Ted Lee used to do repairs for Barratts. ..and met him on a few occasions. Also knew Sam Li in Soho who was a brilliant guitar repairer.Sorry just reminiscing!!!.Brilliant days.regardsMalcolm
Hi Malcolm, so lovely to hear you all reminiscing. Sam Li was my step-father and I'm currently writing his biography. I'd love to hear what you remember of him. There was a lovely tribute to him in the December 2014 issue of Guitar and Bass. Many thanks.
Hi.Fiona. Sorry..just seen your reply. Hope that you will see this message. I remember your step father well. He refretted my Rickenbacker guitar and did an excellent job. He used to smoke Kensitas cigarettes. I think Peter Greens Les Paul was there at the time. I made several visits to him after that. A real craftsman.Have you written his biography?. RegardsMalcolm
Message: A 1 was the first music shop i ever visited , it was then on Charles St, i remember this small shop window, yes Graham was the sales Guy and owner almost a one man business. with his wife Ann in support. It was either A1 or Mamelocks (pardon the spelling) or Johnnie Roadhouse.Sorry to hear about Graham, how is Ann?