Manchester - Roger Eagle 1985 Interview for "The Cat" magazine.
How did you come to be DJ-ing at the Twisted Wheel ?
I walked in there one afternoon when it was the “Left Wing Coffee Bar” with a pile of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley imports on Chess and Checker and this guy asked me if I knew anything about Rhythm and Blues. Naturally I said yes, so he asked me if I wanted to dj. I’d never DJ-ed before but I thought I’d take a shot at it and that’s how it started.
How did you cope DJ-ing for the first time ?
I didn’t really know what to do, I just put records on and I never used to say much. But the people who used to come down were really fanatical about sounds so if it was a good record they would know what it was within seconds, it was that kind of crowd.
Were you involved with the mod scene at that time ?
I suppose I was the dj the mod's would listen to if they were going to clubs because the Wheel was the allnighter scene in Manchester. I wasn’t a mod myself but I thought it was fascinating that English kids were getting into American black music.
We started bringing the artists over and it was amazing to see people such as Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Muddy Waters etc… getting the same sort of reception that normally only big pop stars got.
The only thing I don’t like about the mod scene is that some people are very narrow in their tastes, we were very broadly based when we started at the Wheel. It gradually narrowed down to Northern Soul which I think was a mistake.
Did you have live bands at the Wheel ?
Yeah, we used to get American artists over to play, people such as Chuck Berry, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker.Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf didn’t play but they did some live stuff for the local TV station. We had loads of them down there all the time, Jimmy Reed used to sell out the place.
When Sonny Boy Williamson came over he freaked over English girls wearing mini skirts. He was wandering around looking at all the girls saying ‘Heaven Hath Come Down’. He was probably the greatest harmonica player of them all, maybe even better than Little Walter, which is saying a lot.
How did you know Guy Stevens ?
We knew each other, we knew what we were doing, he used to send up records. He came up once with Inez and Charlie Foxx. He gave me a Don & Dewey single ‘Stretchin’ Out’ and he mailed me an album by Frank Frost & the Nighthawks which was out on Sam Phillips ‘Phillips International”. I used to go to the Scene club in Ham Yard before it was the Scene but I moved up to Manchester when the R&B thing started.
Where did you get your records at the time ?
Mostly I used to get them from American record companies or from a specialist import shop. I used to get records sent from the Stax label, Stan Axton the owner used to send me records. I used to get records sent from Tamla Motown, Atlantic, Dual, Duke, Sunset, Songbird, Backbeat and all those kind of labels.
Roughly, what would be the Twisted Wheel top ten in 1964 ?
The favourite record of all time at the Wheel was ‘It Keeps Raining’ – Fats Domino. That was probably the most played record, then you would go to something like ‘Walking The Dog’ – Rufus Thomas. Then you could go to any one of a dozen Muddy Waters records, probably something fairly obvious such as ‘Tiger In Your Tank’. The next on the list would be ‘That’s What I Want To Know’ – James Carr, then one of Bobby Blue Bland’s ‘Turn On Your Lovelight’. Then would come ‘Amen’ by the Reverend Robinson and ‘Long Distance’ by Garnell Cooper and the Kinfolks which was one of the rare unknown ones that we played a lot. You could pick on any one of a dozen records by Booker T & The MG’s, probably one of the more up-tempo ones such as ‘Can’t Be Still’ or something like that. There was always plenty of records from the Stax label in the top ten and also there was quite a lot of Tamla Motown floating around in there as well. But there was not quite so much Tamla Motown as people like to think. I didn’t play that much Motown or Spector stuff just because it was so widely available. I was playing gospel stuff, but after 4 years at the Wheel it was down to that one fast Northern Soul dance beat which became very boring and that’s why I left in mid ’67.
‘The Eagle Has Landed’