Chris Hill started DJ-ing in the late 60 s, having been around the Soho R&B scene with his heroes Georgie Fame, Geno Washington and Chris Farlowe. It was in Essex however that Chris established himself as the supremo Soul Jock. Firstly in a small club in Orsett and then at the Goldmine, Canvey Island.
Throughout the 70's the club as a catalyst for the growing underground soul scene, and music fans from all over the country flocked to the legendary Saturday nights, dancing to the latest American imports. Many of those Goldminers went on to become stars in their own right: Sadé, Spandau Ballet rubbing shoulders with Light of the World. The Clash, Depéche Mode, Culture Club and Soul II Soul, whilst many visiting American soul and jazz artist would make a point of checking out the hottest soul spot in Europe.
At the height of its fame, Chris, who also by then had hit the British Top Ten Charts himself with two comedy records of his own, decided to move closer to London and began his now legendary residency at Ilford s Lacy Lady. On its original site in Seven Kings, fashion, style and music clashed in a spectacular shock wave that filled the tabloids and fashion magazines, and later had echoes in the punk and new romantic scenes, as well as laying the foundation for today s current dance scene.
It seems everybody that went to The Lacy Lady in 1977 went on to make records, form bands, produce films or make a name for themselves in the world of TV, media or fashion. At The Lacy they were fed a diet of the best music black America had to offer; hard driving jazz funk, fusion and the hottest soul. It was here too, the jazz scene was formed, with dance floors packed for the most uncompromising bebop as well as the latest soul and disco from New York and Philadelphia.
It was during this period that along with DJ s Chris Brown, Tom Holland and later with Robbie Vincent, Greg Edwards and Sean French that Hilly kicked off the first soul Alldayers at the Reading Top Rank Suite, and then later the massive Purley and Alexandra Palace affairs. The FUNK MAFIA had been born, and in March 1979, it launched its most ambitious project, the Caister Soul Weekender!
The original site at Caister, a few miles from Yarmouth on the Norfolk coast, played host to the largest gathering of soul and jazz fans there had ever been, for a whole weekend of music, mayhem and madness. The British Soul Scene would never be the same again!
In 1977 Chris helped form Ensign Records, whose first signing, The Boomtown Rats, introduced the young Sir Bob Geldof to the world. However, the growing UK soul scene also enabled Chris to sign a new generation of home grown R&B talent. Light of the World, Eddy Grant, Incognito, Beggar & Co, David Bendeth, Phil Fearon and Black Slate, all spearheaded the new Britfunk movement whose music exploded through the growing soul family that had grown up around the clubs, all-dayers, and now Weekenders. In 1980 Chris moved back for his second stint at the Goldmine.
The Caister Soul Weekender outgrew their original location and moved from Yarmouth to Bognor, to Barry Island and finally, Prestatyn in North Wales, but they also outgrew their original dream with a new generation of DJ s who moved away from the soul roots that had been its origin.
Having completed a second stint back on Canvey's Goldmine in the early 80's, Chris decided to quit the club scene in 1985 and concentrate on his Ensign duties with a young Irish singer called Sinead O Connor whom he had recently discovered. In 1987 he as offered a weekend job in Hamburg on Radio 107 and created the enormously successful SoulBeat, which made him a huge celebrity in Germany. When Sineads worldwide hit "Nothing Compares to U" happened in 1989, Chris looked set for a quiet retirement from club life, until fellow DJ Gary Dennis suggested he return to his old Essex roots. Re-opening The Lacy Lady at The Kings, Ilford, they set about rebuilding a scene that had all but collapsed under the attack of rave, house and every other dance craze.
The new Lacy Lady revived, almost single headedly, the greatness that had once been, and after a sensational revival weekender at Camber Sands, the original Caister Soul Weekender seemed the next logical step. So, in 1994 the family was back! With most of the original team reformed, along with those younger DJ s that had kept the faith, at the newly refurbished Vauxhall Holiday Centre, Yarmouth, though a couple of miles from the original site, the magical name Caister remained.
Meanwhile, back in the heartland of the Essex soul scene& after five glorious years back at The Kings, the venue finally closed its doors for good in February 1995 to make way for a fast-food restaurant, and The Lacy Lady moved to The Island, Ilford for two more record breaking years, where a monthly gig regularly pulled over 1500 soul fans from around the country. After spending two years looking for a new location the Lacy Lady has finally relocated to the Epping Forest Country Club in the newly constructed Casino Club. The initial response to this move has been extremely well received from old and new punters alike.
The Caister Weekender remains Chris Hills first love. Now the New Millennium has arrived the Caister Weekender, which is the world's longest running soul event, has been firmly established in its rightful place as the premier soul and jazz/funk music event of all time!
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