I worked in Papa's Club in Newton Street as a DJ in 1976. I was a regular customer at the cafe above this premises and fish and chip shop next door. The cafe and chip shop were inter-connecting and owned by the same Greek family Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Papathomas and their children. As I got to know Thomas Papathomas better, he told me all about his new refurbishment works on the night club downstairs, and one day invited me down to have a look. The club was surprising plush for what one would expect it to look like, going by the exterior and outside entrance. This basement club was divided basically into two main areas which was immediately below the cafe and chip shop and occupied the same area as the ground floor units. The two areas were divided by a long glass panelled divider with large openings at each end.
THE CLUB INTERIOR ================
The "under chip shop" side consisted of a very nice dance floor with newly upholstered, seated cosy alchoves on the far side facing into the dance floor. There was a raised and curtained stage area in the front (below chip shop street entrance), just about big enough for a small 4-piece band, but plenty big enough for disco equipment. To the rear of this area were some dining tables and door to a kitchen behind. The "under cafe" side was the bar area, again with cosy seating alchoves against the partition and the long bar was opposite, against the Back Piccadilly wall. There was some very nice design features like several multi-coloured sheets of perspex which formed a partition framework between the stairwell & cloakroom area and the dance floor. Looked fantastic in the dark and back-lit, all very ahead of its time for a 1970's decor. The lighting was subdued and multi-coloured in the dance floor and "cosy" areas, but slightly brighter along the bar. The whole atmosphere that this new refurbishment works had created was truly wonderful, and thats before I saw the club with an audience in it !
MY JOB AS DJ ===========
I eventually explained to Thomas that I was a DJ and he was very interested in this, as he had been recently let down by others. Some weeks after, he gave me the job several nights a week. The money was poor, but it supplemented the money I was making as a mobile jock, as I was doing many the Greater Manchester youth clubs, (The money wasnt much better). The music played at Papa's was in very much in contrast to the music I was playing at the early evening gigs. The youth clubs were mainly into a mixture of Northern Soul and USA Imported Disco Records, whereas Papa's was very "middle of the road" and of course, maintained a more mature audience. The audience in Papa's was extremely varied. There was an age limit of 21, but the club attraced people of all ages over, from all walks of life and from all over Greater Manchester. During the week, when it was a bit quieter, the Taxi Drivers and Bus Drivers (even in uniform) would pop in for a drink after a long late shift.
Papa's Club was open on all weekdays and weekends from 10:30 pm till 2:00 am. Closed on Sundays. Admission was cheap in comparison to the larger clubs at the time like Kloisters, Piccadilly Club, Genevieve's etc. When Papa's club was full on Friday and Saturday nights, the atmosphere was absolutely terrific. The audience would be there with the soul intent of enjoying themsleves. I would start the evening off with the general run of the mill chart sounds, but ones you could actually dance to, then bring in some of the oldies later on in the evening, and then I would start palying the best sing-a-longs I could find. Remembering of course that Karaoke was unheard of in those days, it was more common for a DJ to encourage a singalong to records, whilst kocking off the volume of the record during the singalong lines.. Examples of these records were My Boy Lollipop, Hi-Ho Silver Lining, Knock Three Times and You'll Never Walk Alone.
A typical evening in late 1976 would start off with the following.. Abba - Dancing Queen, Pussycat - Mississippi, Tina Charles - Dance Little Lady Dance, bringing in some of the better disco sounds as time goes on. Wild Cherry - Play That Funky Music, Tavares - Dont Take Away The Music, James Brown - Get Up Offa That Thing. Being a very mixed audience, I would have an oldies session which would include many of the collection of oldies I had (and still have somewhere). Typically, this would include Sam The Sham - Wooly Bully, Bill Haley - Rock Around The Clock and a few Phil Spector Sounds like Crystals and Ronettes. It wouldnt be unusual to include sounds by Glen Campbell, Dean Martin, Jim Reeves, if there was sufficient of that type of audience. Nice slow smoochy numbers were always cued up for the last ten to fifteen minutes. Amonst these at that time would be Manhattans - Hurt, Temptations - Just My Imagination, Birkin & Gainsbourg - Je'Taime, Brian Hyland - Sealed With a Kiss. If I could get through the night avoiding cheesy numbers like the Bay City Rollers and similar, it would be a bonus.
Working in Papa's night club certainly brings back great memories for me. The 1970's were great years for music and later saw great movies being made, which were based on disco music like Saturday Night Fever, Thank God Its Friday, The Stud, and Grease. I look forward to seeing any other write-ups from people working with music in this era. Does the mention of any of these chart hits jog any memories of the 1970's ? I would also love to see any photographs of what the interior of this club looks like now.
Submitted by Malcolm Saffin, 15.01.09. Formerly from Whalley Range, Manchester. Now living in West Wales.
Biography added : 15th January 2017
by Malcolm Saffin