“If nothing else in life, at least I have the ability to recognise an opportunity. It were around 1943 – 44, I were about 18 years old. People didn’t think you could dance to records back then, you danced to bands. You didn’t dance at home, you’d get a bollocking for damaging the carpet.
I wrote out the tickets, “Grand record dance, one shilling”. It were in the upstairs room of the Bellevue branch of the Loyal Order of Shepherds. Up here in Leeds. Twelve people came, six couples, all me mates. There was this amazing effect: what I was doing was causing 12 people to do something. And I thought, I can make them dance quick. Or slow. Or stop. Or start. It was very heady stuff.
That was the worlds first disco, here in Leeds. It happened in Leeds and newspapers, television, they’ve never got round to actually saying well where was it?
I was about 20 when the assistant manager left the local Mecca dance hall. So I marched down to the manager and said ‘I’m your new assistant.’
The correct title was Mecca Locarno, it were in the middle of the County Arcade. And I was only an assistant for about seven months, because the governors thought, this guy’s got something. Then, I became the boss and once again, the record thing raised its head.
There was a company, Westrex, and they looked after the micrphones, so I said to them have you got any record players, and they said yeah, we put them in cinemas. So I said Oh, I want one here, so they said OK.
So I came in the afternoon they were fitting it up, and they were actually up in the light box. Fitting it in the light box. I went what’s that then? Well this is where we… No, no, no, no, no it goes on the stage. On the stage? Yes. And, wait a minute, have you got two? And they said yeah, why? I said I want them next to each other. They said you don’t need two Jim cos these are foolproof, they don’t break down. No, no, I says. When this record’s playing I want to get this one ready to play. Bloody hell, he says, are they in that much of a hurry? I said, yes my people are.
Nobody ever dreamed of putting two turntables. So I got two turntables together like that. Yet again. Grand record dance. One shilling. Bring your own records. Cos I didn’t have any records you see. Now the week before we’d had 24 people in. But 1300 people turned up. It was like locusts. It was like you couldn’t have even dreamed that it could happen. The bloody place was heaving. I was ankle deep in records, on the stage. Of all the bands. Didn’t know what the bloody hell they were. If anything worked I played it three times, that’s for sure. It was the most awesome baptism ever.”
Based on an interview given Jimmy Savile to DJHistory.com
Do you remember the Mecca Locarno?
What bands did you see play there?
What do you see now, as you look at where the Locarno used to be?