Uncle Toms Cabin was the jewel in the crown of The Browns Organisation. It was already built and trading when I started working there. Tom Brown the owner who had previously run dancing schools had built it as a bit of an ego trip to be a sophisticated dining/cabaret club. It was a classic case of right idea wrong place to try to do it. I mean as much as I loved Little Hulton nobody in their right mind could call it sophisticated. He did the true cabaret club later at Uncle Toms Cabin in Darwin near Blackburn. This was reasonably successful although it suffered with its close proximity to The Cavendish at Blackburn.
So back to Uncle Toms Cabin at Little Hulton or as it was affectionately known “Toms”. Tom Brown quickly worked out that he had a “lemon” on his hands and he needed somebody who was in touch with the kids, so this was how I came to turn up. Previously I had been disc jockeying around town and was introduced to Tom Brown by Tony Fletcher of Kennedy St Artistes. I was given carte blanc to do pretty much what I wanted as long as it made money. Looking at it today God knows how we did make money but we did. It was the standard format of disco and groups, with probably more disco than groups. We put on all of the local groups such as Life N Soul, Rumble Fat Band etc and on occasions put on more national acts. We became the place to be to see all the Roy Tempest stable of phoney bands i.e. The Fabulous Drifters, The Tempting Temptations etc. but the kids lapped them up because they knew they weren’t the real thing but they were all fabulous shows. We did also put plenty of chart acts on but quite a lot of these died the proverbial. My finest moment still must be the booking of Jimmy Ruffin when he was red hot in the charts for £250 for a double with Browns at Stretford. At this point Tom Brown did get involved because he wanted to know had I gone out of my mind paying somebody that kind of money when we usually only paid in the region of £100. I quickly assured him that it would be no problem and we would definitely make money on it, you can imagine I had everything crossed. When the night finally arrived the first half of the double was at Browns in Stretford , so I picked Tom up from his house and drove down to Stretford at 6.30 in the evening. Before we even got into Moss Rd you could see the snake of kids all the way back up the main road. At that point Tom leant across the car and kissed me. So we ended up with a roaring success. If only all the nights had been as successful as that one. We also put on plenty of national DJ’s like Emperor Rosco, Noel Edmunds, DLT etc they weren’t as successful as I thought they would be.
The true success of Toms was the kids who made it what it was. They felt comfortable there where if they went into town often they wouldn’t feel as happy with the surroundings. The funny thing was as it became more successful people were coming out to Little Hulton from town. When I think of some of the things we did it makes me cringe, we were the kings of the party nights but the kids loved it, if they didn’t like it they would soon let us know- they weren’t shy in Little Hulton. We even did prize bingo that went down a storm it cost the kids nothing and they went home with teddy bears, table lamps and even buckets of beer. Another of the successes was the musical policy of the place, which can be summed up as Motown, Motown and more Motown. We had one or two DJ’s who had different ideas over the time but they didn’t last too long. We even had a football team , unfortunately they had far more aggression than skill, but it was a work of art going round on a Sunday morning and knocking them all up out of bed.
The final piece of the jigsaw was the staff who made up for what they lacked in experience by enthusiasm, considering the sort of money they were on it was a miracle. On the door we had Rafferty and Micky Williams if you wanted to pick a fight with them you must have been a mental deficient. The bar staff were many and various but all did their bit to make the job a success.
And finally we had James T Riddle aka Jimmy Barlow who did all jobs from cloakroom attendant to Manager and all jobs in between. He’s still prowling Little Hulton winking at middle aged ladies saying remember me.
I feel a reunion coming on let me know what you think.
Kevin Lane - DJ
You mention Rafferty - that must be Bernard - a gentle giant. Great man played rugby at Shell with him and frequented the cabin on many occasions.
Great times. I was one of the Salford gang - scooters of course, late 60s.
Remembered St Peters, Swinton. My best mate Alan Walker was Motown mad - God bless him.
Good days - they will never come back.