Jim Wray Lounge
Come Sit & Listen A While....
The ‘Soul Essence’ weekender announced its arrival on Friday 2nd April 1993, back then it was one room wonder but something happened on the Saturday night that for many is recognised as a true historical moment in the history of soul music here in the UK, and would eventually have an impact in Europe too.
The Friday night was a mesmerising score of wonderful music supplied by a fresh line up of jocks who just happened to be true collectors of the music.
On the Saturday afternoon at 3pm fifty like minded souls retired from the main shenanigans to a small intimate room complete with arm chairs and for the next two and half hours we listened to a true soul genius in Dave Godin who told us of his love of the theatre and of course soul music, with deep soul being the main catalyst for questions and answers, you could have heard a pin drop, from tales of his original shop to his first forays to Northern Soul venues, wonderful musings kept us all enthralled. During that session it was muted by several present that a separate room catering for Deep soul would be superb, but it was also generally agreed ‘It aint gonna happen’.
Now then, the Saturday night was buzzing from the off, in the early hours of Sunday morning 40 minutes into Rod Dearlove’s set in which he had the place jumping, he stopped everyone in their tracks and played three deep soul records, Betty Willis “Aint gonna do you no good”, Thomas Bailey “Wish I was back” and Jimmy Richards “I’m not responsible” the latter of which actually put a number of bodies on the floor. Now this could have gone several ways but as Jimmy Richards faded out thunderous applause could be heard and mass shouts of more could be heard. I was standing at the back and had a great view of what was happening, it was a truly awe inspiring few moments in which all around me people were listening intently, it’s unlikely something like this will ever happen again.
If truth be told Rod had already being doing this at his Canal Tavern Thorne doo’s I remember refusing to come off the dance floor when he play Jimmy Dotson “Heartbreak Avenue” in the middle of one of his spots, Soul Essence 1 provided him with a platform, a brief moment in time when it seemed like it was the right thing to do.
I have no doubt that in those nine minutes or so the ‘Deep Soul Lounge’ was born, the clamour for a room that catered for that music increased, we still had to wait awhile but eventually that back room plus the conservatory became that much vaunted room, in the early days we had the jibes from the dancing/prancing brigade about razor blades being passed around, soul folk would come to the lounge doors hear the deepest of black emotion pouring out of the speakers and back off being too intimidated to venture in, for the most part there were no seating available standing only, a theme that has continued to this day. Jocks from the main room would pass through the lounge on the way to their respective rooms, head down not wanting to catch anyone’s eye, they didn’t understand the music and still don’t today, you can’t dance to it you see!
The room has had a number of guardians, it passed to me from Colin Brown who decided to take soul music to Cyprus and from the moment I took over I have strived to open up the room to the casual listener as well as the connoisseur, so today you can hear deep, sweet, group harmony, ballads, the occasional 2 stepper and the odd mid-tempo tune too so long as the jock feels it fits with the rooms ethos. All era’s and styles, it don’t matter, it’s all about the music for us, and value is of no interest either, cheap alongside trophy pieces all sit comfortably side by side.
The purveyors of the music are for the most part not DJ’s in the true sense of the word, firstly they are collectors of what is without doubt the last bastion of our music, they come to Soul Essence clutching enough tunes for an hour and stand in front of a room full to the rafters of fellow collectors, and being within touching distance of your audience it is truly a nerve wracking experience, and just out of sight is the conservatory which is also rammed, the music is without doubt the finest of its kind, and this is repeated year after year. The roll call of those players is vast and I’m not going to try and list the names for fear of missing someone out, you know who you are people. I strive for a level of fairness without compromise and over the years hopefully everyone will have been given a chance, the jocks are chosen from those who frequent the ‘Lounge’ and have experienced the very unique atmosphere.
On the 6th April 20076 we lost the rooms greatest supporter, the grumpy moaning old fucker we came to love and respect Jim Wray and so the room was officially renamed as the ‘Jim Wray Lounge’. His sons came to the weekender and witnessed the room in which there father spoke about so much, deeply touching and another treasured moment in the history of this hallowed room.
I mentioned earlier about the historical significance of this room and its influence; in more recent times we have had the Cotton Club open its doors in Bilbao for four hours of this music and a myriad of rooms have come and gone playing down tempo music some have gone on to create there own piece of history, but I’m sure most of the promoters will acknowledge the debt they owe that small room at the back the Raynescourt Hotel in sunny Yarmouth.
Providing a list of tunes played would be impossible, neither could I supply a top ten as the quantity played is so vast but the ‘Lounge’ has had another huge success in the shape of the Cobra Heart Band “Thinking of you” (Cobra Heart 45)
The story began for me way back in the day, late 1990 early 1991ish I think when I had a list of soul 45’s arrive from one of my then regular suppliers, Ian Faulkner from Shropshire, and I see a tune I’d not heard of before, The Cobra Heart Band “Thinking of you” on Cobra Heart Records. Ian described it as a nice ballad, so I was in there. I still remember the day it arrived and its first play, such was its initial impact, about 9 months on I announced its arrival to the soul world by including it in a personal top ten and having it published in the ‘Voices From The Shadows’ magazine issue 19 which surfaced in the Autumn of 1991. Subsequent plays in the ‘Lounge’ created such a buzz, one collector told me he had a file on the record such was intent in finding a copy, because of the demand that had built over the years I found the owner of the label, the producer of the 45 and eventually it was officially reissued and the rest is history.
The word legendary is now nearly always used when the ‘Jim Wray Lounge’ is discussed and in 2014 I think that one word sums it all up nicely.
A selection of photographs from previous Jim Wray Lounge sessions in the Raynscourt Hotel
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