Interview With U.K. Birmingham Legendary Deejay Frenchie

today5th October 2020 9

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DJ Paris Walker – In this Explosive Sessions Interview Series,

Explores the Legendary Deejays of Birmingham, UK, who contributed to building the urban music scene that we enjoy today.

Frenchie , was one of the foundation Urban Music Pioneers who dedicated a tremendous amount of time and effort organizing some memorable events in the city of Birmingham.

 

Frenchie came from a British Afro Caribbean background. Musically influenced with Soul Soca Calypso and reggae. Frenchie had a small reggae sound system with his brothers he also

frequented regular sound system gigs and discos like any young kid on that scene with mates in the mid to late1970’s. 

Musically disco soul & funk was really starting to take over the reggae even though he listened to Mafia, Jah Shaka and Fatman sound systems.

Noticing his musical influences were starting to become more soulful. Frenchie was now listening to radio disco shows on Radio Luxembourg and local radio stations playing soul. disco jazz and funk music.

A mate of Frenchie who was featured in a band invited him to an event he was promoting this was to become a pivotal moment in his musical life

Local DJ Graham Warr, who was a prominent figure in the jazz funk scene in Birmingham at the time was the Dj on the night he totally mesmerised Frenchie with the music he was playing plus watching the amazing dancers and styles of dress that people were wearing.

Graham had a record shop in the Oasis market working in Lewis’s Store across the road from Graham’s record shop. Frenchie on occasions during his lunch break he would go and buy records from his store.

Frenchie wanted to experience more soul gigs plus now he discovered the jazz funk all dayers at the Birmingham Locarno.

Frenchie felt more at home with the jazz funk music scene and found true love with soul music.

Always a keen record buyer, from the 1970s he started purchasing funk and soul records than reggae now. With Discos, Dancing and image, it was also more of a multicultural scene. There was also a certain arrogance about the scene that he admired, and he wanted to fit in to that scene. It was all about looking good dancing good and appreciating the music that was played.

Frenchie admitted that he was just average on the dance floor but he used to admire the dancers and DJ’s working behind the decks because he was a music lover.

Records that influenced Frenchie were Eddie Kendricks Melba Moore Mantus Kleer, Crown Heights Affair, Rodney Franklin, Lonnie Liston Smith Earth Wind Fire plus all good disco and funk

Frenchie started to become a record collector met up with another record collector called Paul ‘Mix Wizard Dixon who later became a Muslim (Shakil).

They put together a DJ team called The Atlantic Connection playing at various parties and promoted their first gig which pulled in 15 people. Playing tracks like ‘Warriors’ by Hiroshima Rodney Franklin wanting to become jazz funk DJ’s.

Graham Warr Colin Curtis Dave Till and Shaun Williams who both played at The Rum Runner. Colin Curtis always seemed to play something that was special.

1st time Arthur Adams ‘You Got the Floor, Rockie Robbins Time to Think’ and Donald Byrd ‘Love Has Come Around were played they were special moments’. Colin had a style that made him special Frenchie and Shakil played at various house parties. 

Fate would play a hand for Frenchie like a scene out of a movie he was made redundant and was looking for a job.

With his young family he walked past temple street in the city centre of Birmingham and heard music, coming from a record shop that had been open two weeks. It was Summit Records.

The proprietor Winston Gordon allowed him to buy music his partner at the time suggested he asked for a job in the shop and being honest he didn’t think he had a chance.

Returning to the shop he asked for a job the full-time post was already filled however he offered me a part time job. That was around October 1980 and that started my association with Summit Records.

As a young man who was quite naïve his association with Summit Records was to last for 13 years and his passion for music was to span a number of decades.

The Birmingham jazz funk all day events at the Locarno had stopped. Leaving the Monday nights at The Rum Runner being the only venue to fill a void for soul music with no all dayers in Birmingham. 

People were travelling to Nottingham Stoke Manchester London to listen to good music. 

Working at Summit a promoter from Preston Kenny Khan stated he was looking for a club to start the Birmingham jazz funk all day events again.

At the time Frenchie T was his DJ name while later on in his DJ life he dropped the T to be called Frenchie.

Kenny Khan said to me if I helped him to find a club he would look after me, we started the first all day events around 1982 at Maximillian’s Five ways in Birmingham. It really started to grow with local and national DJs.

The new all-day event started to further develop in Birmingham, and after Maximillian’s it went to Snobs which had two rooms. 

DJs featured Colin Curtis Trevor M Jonathan Mix Wizard Chris Reid Paul Murphy, Baz For Jazz and Chris Rhythm Doctor to name just a few. Moving forward we manage to tie down the old Romeo & Juliet’s which then went on to become Steptoe’s we held a series of all dayers there. 

The scene in Birmingham was growing with people coming from all over the country to attend. 

Being a bit of a rebel Frenchie questioned why nobody ever spoke about the Birmingham scene.  u Frenchie sent regular journals to Blues & Soul in trying to get the Birmingham scene more noticed. During this time The Locarno was refurbished and was now one of the top super clubs in the country the club was now called The Power House.

Summit Records became a ticket outlet for the event plus also for other events around the country like Rock City.

The shop became a bit of an information spot and a vibe for the DJs and customers to congregate It was great at the time Frenchie was not too bothered about DJing he just wanted to be everybody’s friend.

Frenchie was also very grateful to be a part of a growing music scene in Birmingham 

Frenchie reputation started to gain recognition as a DJ at the Birmingham Powerhouse allday with another club The Rock City Nottingham.

Malu Halusa was the contributor for the north and the midlands section in Blues & Soul magazine at the time and she interviewed Frenchie.

One day out of the blue Frenchie received a letter from editor Bob Killbourne from Blues & Soul asking me to contribute to the Blues & Soul magazine representing The Midlands area.

Selling records being a DJ and contributing for a magazine promoting the Birmingham & midland scene.

With Paul Mix Wizard Dixon, we were coach organisers for some of the all-day events.

Being in the perfect place at Summit Records Frenchie was in a good position for information, records for for soul, jazz and electro.at the time.

Frenchie was approached by Lloyd Blake from the Hummingbird nightclub to co-ordinate jazz funk all dayers at the Hummingbird nightclub with friends.

We promoted Kenny G, Paz, Morrissey Mullen Onward International at the all-day event.

4 all day events were promoted there with DJ, s like Gordon Mac Mastermind and break dance crews

Frenchie briefly managed the group Projection and also managed a break dance crew by getting the best dancers in Birmingham together to form a special local crew.

In 1985 Frenchie was asked by Cecil Morris Music Master to present a radio show on a new radio station called PCRL Radio he became one of the 6 original presenters on the station.

Frenchie was the third presenter on the new radio station It was launched on his birthday Thursday 23rd May 1985 and Andy Sokja from Atmosphere and Elite Records gave him a special record to debut on his radio show Sahara Love So Fine.

Being frustrated with the imbalance of reggae and soul on the station Frenchie set up a pirate station with a collective of 5 other people in the community. 

The station was called Second City Radio it went through difficult periods and did not last long.

The music face was also changing with Dance and house music.

Frenchie was persuaded by a friend to set up Birmingham 1st Black Soul and Dance weekend radio station called Fresh FM running in Birmingham from 1988 until 1991.

Frenchie also worked for a period of time in 1993 doing sales with Buzz FM with Freaky D however they lost their broadcasting license to the new radio station Choice FM around 1994.

Frenchie returned to Summit Records and by now the house and dance scene was massive.

Frenchie had lost interest in music as a DJ he eventually started a record shop with support from Malcolm Bell it was based within another record shop Pure Records

The shop was called Frenchie’s Music Shack this ran for about 4 years at times there were great periods but the internet and financial restraints killed off the shop.

Frenchie took a break from the music industry as it had become very toxic for him. 

In 2011 he received a phone call from Dave VJ who was writing a book called Masters of The Airwaves’ with Lindsay Wesker who invited me to contribute in the book.

Dave VJ from Mastermind and Hard Rock Soul Movement used to work at Lightning Records as a sales rep unknown to the both of them, they used to speak to each other regularly without realising who they both were when ordering the records for Summit Records

Frenchie was amazed on how things had progressed with the music scene; Frenchie was now reconnecting with people from his past like Gordon Mac who had really done well with his various radio projects.

Lindsay and Dave were asked if they were ever going to promote their book around the country Frenchie wanted to promote the book in Birmingham.

They were good at keeping their word and the book was promoted in Birmingham in 2013 with a variety of promotions around the country promoting the book at various events.

Reconnecting with his past, touching base with old contacts Frenchie started to fall in love with music again 

Frenchie was just a punter going to clubs and weekenders and having a laugh with my friends socially. 

The Book launch was a massive trigger plus going to Southport 49 in Minehead was to prove a massive inspiration musically for Frenchie.

Frenchie was inspired to start a radio station again after connecting with a few friends to see if they were interested in supporting Frenchie with the new radio station.

Frenchie went to Radio Sandwell with the purpose of putting an advert on the station to promote the book launch in Birmingham.

However something changed his mind when the station manager opened the door to welcome him into the studio.

A reflection of himself nearly 30 years prior with all the stress headaches and a reminder about the headache of running a radio station came back to him.

Frenchie decided to leave the idea alone and asked station manager Dennis Edwards at Radio Sandwell if he can be a radio presenter on the station.

Moving forward to 2014 The radio show was launched called The VIP Lounge at the Kitten Club on 27 April 2014.

Frenchie was buzzing because he was playing music he loved and he always loved house music but never got the chance to play it back in the days as a DJ.

Certain people like Andy Ward and Deli G were playing the music he wanted to hear and he got the bug for playing music again on radio.

The radio experience inspired him to play music and as an extra feature he started doing interviews which amazed and thrilled him.

Listening to artists, DJs and music people sharing their life experiences and musical history this was a fantastic journey for Frenchie.

On reflection Frenchie feels blessed to have spoken with so many featured guest artists like Shirley Jones, Kathy Sledge and Will Downing Najee Phil Perry Tom Browne Stephanie Cooke Barbara Tucker Dawn Tallman Randy Muller Leroy Burgess Ray Caviano Davide Romani from Change Patrick Adams Carl Macintosh plus DJs writers and producers it has been a great experience for Frenchie.

The radio show is now called The Soulful Eclectic VIP Lounge with Frenchie with many features and guest artists and DJs it has grown from strength to strength at present on Sonic Stream Radio an online Radio Station.

In recent times Frenchie has been a part of The Vocal Booth Weekenders in Spain which has really inspired him.

In recent times Frenchie has done a variety of promotions working with a variety of artists like e.g Carl Macintosh of Loose Ends Lifford Chidi Natasha Watts Rose Windross Shaila Prospere Colonel Red Alvin Davis Pete Simpson and Lukas Setto.

The launch of The Tribute to the Birmingham alldayers with The Birmingham Powerhouse Reunion Parties The 1st party on the 14.12.19 was an outstanding success hosting a number of people from all over the country and surprise guests with Carl from Loose Ends Lester from Atmosphere and Doreen from Projection saying hello to party dancers.

The 2nd Party will be held on the 12 April 2020 with US Soul Singer Fonda Rae & DJs 

The event has been greeted very warmly Frenchie musical journey still continues with the music he loves hopefully his musical journey will be appreciated over the course of time …

Sharing The Love Sharing The Music Sharing The Memories…..

 

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