Just in its second year, the Keystone State Northern Soul Weekender has become America’s premier annual soul music event east of the Mississippi. This year it took place on November 3, 4 and 5 at the Elks Lodge Hall in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, hosted by Dave Raistrick and Julio Fernandez–just like last year.
Mr. Raistrick is a British cat who is from Skegness, a beach town about a hundred and thirty miles north of London. It is there he lives much of the time, and runs the Tamla Coffee Bar and Record Shop. For some reason, he also spends nearly half the year in Lancaster. Julio Fernandez is a Spaniard, who also somehow ended up in Lancaster. He founded the Red Rose Soul Club (a red rose is the official symbol of Lancaster) a few years ago and it has been doing bang-up business since. He is also the drummer for a hip rocksteady band called The West Kensingtons, based in Philadelphia.
For the second year in a row, these two gentlemen were able to round up some of the finest soul music DJs in the world to spin records at the Keystone State Northern Soul Weekender. They also asked Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus to play a few platters. Records were sold and traded in the bar and the great soul singer Eddie Holman dropped by on Saturday afternoon to sign autographs.
Among the DJs chosen to spin this year were: Andrew Turner (Reading, PA), Bruno Jerez (France), Connie T Empress (Empire State Soul Club), Kevin & Denise Draper (Huntingdon, UK), Jason & Stacey Thornton (Massachusetts), Eric Svirida (Long Island), Tom Dechistofaro (Cleveland), Ian Friend (Pittsburg), Andy Powell (Loughborough, UK), Dave Moore (Hitsville International Soul Club), Micheal Robinson (Dig Deeper), George Rodriguez (Minnesota), Gene Merideth (Allentown) and the amazing Thing With Two Heads (Dallastown, PA).
Bruno Jerez, Andy Powell and Kevin Draper were here last year, so it was exciting to hear them again. These guys are long-time staples of the Northern Soul scene in Europe and it was thrilling to have them spin records in this country. It’s amazing how folks from way on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean can latch on to something so American like soul music and be so adept at playing records that are so fabulously unheard of in this country; records that sound so fabulously good. Our fez is off to them!
The Boogaloo Bag writers were happy to see some DJs that didn’t appear last year: Andrew Turner, Michael Robinson and Eric Svrida. Although he doesn’t claim to be a DJ, Mr. Turner played some great records and the Boogaloo Bag writers were on the floor dancing whenever he appeared, playing favorites as well as obscuros. Mr. Robinson is a man who shouldn’t need an introduction in the Boogaloo Bag. He has spun records many times at the Subway Soul Club. The Dig Deeper series of soul music extravaganzas that he and his partner DJ Honky used to present in Brooklyn a few years ago will never be forgotten. Mr. Robinson is the proud owner of some of the rarest soul records of all time, so when he selects the sounds, you want to be around! Over the last couple of years, Mr. Svirida has been hosting soul nights in Long Island and recently has started to break into the scene in New York City. He is a pure Northern Soul DJ, and he kept the faithful satisfied on the dance floor. His action was hip, so dig him if he comes to your town.
Gene Merideth is another fine DJ that we are very familiar with. He has also been a guest many times at Subway Soul Club–and a very popular and respected one, too. Since moving to the Allentown area, he has begun soul nights there that are sure to be special. Mr. Merideth can recognize a swingin’ sound, that’s for sure and when he spins a record, it stays spun! Also, if you are the proud owner of a Vespa or Lambretta scooter in need of repairs, Mr. Meredith can fix that. His Scooters Originali is known internationally as the place to have your scooter refurbished. Some of his work is even displayed in the Museum of Modern Art.
One guy we were very impressed with was George Rodriguez. He co-hosts a heavy funk and rare soul night in Minneapolis called Hipshaker that has been in operation for fifteen years. He has also been a guest DJ at various all-nighters and weekenders around the world, including Dig Deeper in Brooklyn. The records he played can only be described one way: Boss!
Speaking of “boss,” last year the Boogaloo Bag writers arrived on the scene too late on Friday night to dig the sets put down by Tom Dechristofaro and Ian Friend. This was a shame because they are our kind of DJs: cats who don’t mind mixing an R&B or Latin soul number into their sets. With about twenty DJs to fill about thirty 40-minute slots, the hosts had to work a bit of math. Several DJs ended up being paired together and such was the case with these two. And it worked.
Among those who were paired off were Jason Thornton and Dave Moore on both Friday and Saturday nights. These two also conspire to write and edit There’s That Beat, a rare soul fanzine issued quarterly. Recently, they fried bigger fish by writing and publishing The Philly Sound – Philadelphia Soul Music and its R&B Roots: From Gospel & Bandstand to TSOP. This is a giant, nearly 700 pages book devoted to the great soul music that was recorded in the City of Brotherly Love. It is an overload of facts and figures and photos and fun stuff that will prove to be the definitive book on the subject for many years to come. Congratulations, mates, on a work extremely well done! …and you know that they played a lot of Philly soul records during their sets.
One of the things that set this Keystone State Soul Weekender apart from last year was the inclusion of so many women DJs. Last year, the only one was X-tine 16, but as a part of the DJ duo The Thing With Two Heads (along with partner Bazooka Joe). This time the hosts invited several others: Denise Draper, Stacey Thornton and Connie T Empress. Although Ms. Draper and Ms. Thornton are wives of DJs, they each came with their own impressive records and their own respective styles. Ms. Draper played some of the toughest R&B records you’ll ever hear. Ms. Thornton sweetened things by playing mostly women singers. Clearly they belonged. That goes double for the Empress of Soul, Ms. Connie. During the Eighties and early Nineties she was deeply involved with the Empire State Soul Club, New York City’s original Sixties soul dance party. She recreated that magic with every record she played.
The Thing With Two Heads played a set on Friday night that was sublime. The Thing’s thing is not Northern Soul, but rather hard soul and R&B. This is something that the hosts wanted to throw into the mix on purpose in order to shake things up. This The Thing did, in a most magnificent way. (The Boogaloo Bag writers and the good people at Wang Dang Doodle Productions have been trying to lure The Thing to swing at a Wham-O Watusi. Hopefully that will happen in the near future.)
Another DJ who may not be considered a Northern Soul DJ is Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus. However, he is a dance DJ, and he has been playing Sixties soul records at parties and dances and concerts and assorted celebratory events since the early Seventies. He plays a “Northern” song from time to time as he digs the music, and plays quite a bit of them when spinning at the Subway Soul Club, at which he is the resident DJ; but he will always mix in something that throws a listener for a loop, yet keeps that listener on the dance floor. On Friday night, he was paired with The Empress of Soul. They executed their 40-minute set by splitting the first ten minutes, then playing every-other record for the final twenty. Working with Miss Connie is always a delight.
Here’s a list of all the records played by Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus at the 2nd Keystone State Northern Soul Weekender:
- Ronnie Kole Trio–Batman Theme (White Cliffs)
- Jay and the Techniques–Dancin’ Mood (Smash)
- The Charmaines–Eternally (Date)
- Lee Andrews & the Hearts–Never the Less (Crimson)
- Lee Andrews & the Hearts–Can’t Do Without You (Lost Nite)
- Nicoletta–Vis Ta Vie (Riviera; France)
- The Hesitations–Soul Superman (Kapp)
- The Sherwoods–Ice Cream (Kapp)
- Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames–Last Night (Imperial)
- The Jay Walkers featuring Mickey Holiday–Can’t Live Without You (Swan)
- The John Schroeder Orchestra–Agent OO-Soul (Cameo)
- Dave and Ansil Collins–Double Barrel (Techniques; UK)
- The Prophets–I Got the Fever (Smash)
- The Gladiators–Girl Don’t Make Me Wait (Direction; UK)
- Jessica James & the Outlaws–We’ll Be Makin’ Out (DynoVoice)
- Shirley J. Scott–Goose Pimples (Stephanye)
- Los Albas–Bugulu (Vergara; Spain)
- The Ambassadors–Too Much of a Good Thing (Pee Vee)
- Donnie Elbert–Along Came Pride (CBS; UK)
- Chubby Checker–Karate Monkey (Parkway)
- The Jammers–Where Can She Run To (Loma)
- Little Anthony and the Imperials–Gonna Fix You Good (Every Time You’re Bad) (Veep)
- Cliff Nobles & Co.–Is It the Way (J-V)
- Trade Martin–Moanin’ (RCA Victor)
- The Mohawks–Mony Mony (Pama; Netherlands)
None of these records are for sale. Click on the links in order to dig the tunes.
Here are more scenes from the 2nd Keystone State Soul Weekender: