The Stafford Story

The Top Dog Soul Club - On Top Of The World

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The Stafford all-nighters held at The Top Of The World club in Newport Road and ran under the Top Dog Soul Club banner and it’s promoters were Dave Thorley and Keith Minshull. It opened its doors in May 1982 and closed its doors on the 22nd/23rd February 1986.

To begin with it can be best described as a coming together of two legendary venues, the recently closed Wigan Casino and The Yate All-Nighters with a line consisting of and including the best DJ’s from both venues, Richard Searling, Dave Thorley, Ian Clark, Gary Rushbrooke, Ady Pountain and Dave Withers. Upstairs in the Bali Hi (or occasionally downstairs in Cinderella Rockerfellas) the featured Djs were usually Mick Smith, Nick Marshall, Pete Widdison, Budgie and Dave Alcock, guest Djs often supplemented the regular line up.

The venue was a “normal” night club before. Prior to the main room opening at 2am for the nighter crowd the downstairs (at street level) was used initially for our crowd and later the upstairs room which featured oldies but many a main room play started life in that room. The street level room was called Cinderella Rockerfella’s. Every other time it opened it was an up market Club or VIP Room adjacent to the TOTW with very strict entry rules.

Over the time the all-nighter ran Dj’s came and went, Adam Buchanan, Robin Salter, Soul Sam, Chris Plant, Pat Brady and of course the 60’s Mafia Keb Darge and Guy Hennigan. Many others also featured over the years in both rooms. Many many new records were introduced to the scene and the crowd were eager to lap them up and new records were continually sought by all the Dj’s and many have since gone on to be classics still played up and down the country, many records from the era are still unknown to many who missed out when they left the scene after Wigan closed, later returning in the mid 90’s.

The venue was also truly across the board featuring 60’s right up to new releases, probably the last venue where this was done on a regular basis in the same room. Now I nor anyone else lays claim that the records featured are all "Stafford" discoveries. Many found favour initially at earlier venues or were featured at other venues around the country at the time. One thing that is undoubtedly true, all featured at Stafford and many were made popular at Stafford.

Now rather than ramble on I thought I would let the music tell the story so I decided to do a series of podcasts, each about an hour long but each one will be music from one of the DJ’s, collectors and movers and shakers of the time, those who found some of the music from the time. My aim is to do at least one podcast of all the DJ’s and I am pleased to say the first three will be of the music played by Top Dog himself Dave Thorley.

I did wonder if Dave would agree as he is one that doesn’t dwell on the past, always moving forward but he was more than happy to help, providing a list of records and sound files for some I couldn’t locate so I am grateful to Dave for this, and also to the others who have already helped me with lists of what they played back then, they probably think I’ve been a pain pestering them.

The music of the era is what I love the most it is what has shaped by beliefs, ideals and attitude to the scene as a collector and later as a DJ myself.

Now all that is left to do is to listen and enjoy the music.