Blues and Gospel Train 1964 - "Chorltonville Station"

Filmed on May 7th 1964 and broadcast by Granada TV on 19th August 1964 at the height of the first British Blues boom‘Blues and Gospel Train’ was directed by Johnnie Hamp, it featured performances by Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Cousin Joe Pleasant, who were touring Europe with the 1964 American Folk Blues and Gospel Caravan. Also on the bill but not appearing in the TV special was gospel singer Rev. Gary Davis. Promoted by Harold Davison the original tour poster advertised Mississippi John Hurt but he didn’t make it.

Muddy’s band featured Otis Spann on piano, Ransom Knowling on bass and Willie Smith on drums. Inspired by the first ever American Folk Blues Festival tour of Europe in 1962 which had just one UK concert - at the Free Trade Hall which attracted blues and R&B fans from across the UK including future rock stars, (from the Thames Delta) Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Paul Jones and Jimmy Page.

Granada TV transformed the disused Wilbraham Road station in Chorlton to “Chorltonville”, turning it into southern US-style train station with bales of cotton, sacks, crates, farm equipment, washtubs, wanted posters, chickens and a couple of goats.

The platform on one side of the tracks was converted into the stage, while the platform on the other side seated the audience of 200 blues fans.

Blues fans who were lucky enough to get tickets were instructed to gather at Manchester’s Central Station at 7.30pm (prompt) that evening (not knowing where they were going) for a short train ride to the disused Wilbraham Road station. The train (an Ivatt Class 2MT 2-6-0 for rail enthusiasts) was fitted with a cowcatcher and a lamp on top of the smokebox to resemble an American steam loco.

When the train pulled in to the station the passengers poured out of the train, passing Muddy Waters, who on the platform singing ’Blow Wind Blow’, then finding seating on the platform with audience members already seated.

The programme was shown many times on the TV and gained iconic status notably for Muddy Waters slide guitar playing and the performance of Sister Rosetta Tharpe the US fiery gospel singer who appeared immaculately dressed playing an electric guitar - who when the heavens opened across Manchester burst into a rousing ‘Didn’t It Rain’.

The show featured the following performances: 

  • Muddy Waters: “Blow Wind Blow” 
  • Cousin Joe: “Chicken a la Blues” 
  • Cousin Joe: “Railroad Porter Blues” 
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe: “Didn’t It Rain” 
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe: “Trouble in Mind” 
  • Muddy Waters: “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had” 
  • Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee: “Talking Harmonica Blues” 
  • Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee: “Rambler’s Blues” Medley 
  • Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee: “Walk On” 
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe and ensemble “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” 

Thanks to Brian Smith (who was there!)
Photo from the platform and the original tour poster is by Brian.
The signed ticket for the show is from Peter Goldsmith.
Thanks also to Tony Burke for his ongoing support.

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