Chortonville” Concert, Chorlton-Cum-Hardy, Manchester

 

I was watching The One Show and when a ten-minute section featured an odd concert performed at Wilbraham Railway Station in Manchester in the 1960's. I quickly pressed “Record” on the remote control as I knew I’d want to learn more.

 

I learnt more: Granada Television transformed the disused rail buildings into “Chorltonville”, a southern U.S.-style station setting for a programme entitled “Blues and Gospel Train”. It was for a small one-off concert broadcast on Thursday 7th May 1964. Performers were Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry, and others. The best by far was Sister Rosetta Tharpe a black chick who can twang that electric guitar.

 

One Saturday afternoon I went to see if I could find the location. I parked up near a Morrison's supermarket on Wilbraham Road but couldn’t see anyway railway station. Rail tracks have a sneaky way of snaking through places without you knowing they’re there. I saw the road rose to cross a bridge and once on that bridge I could look down onto the railway tracks sneaking up the back of Morrisons. This was it. I suppose all modern buildings have to fit themselves around train lines that claimed the terrain many years ago and refuse to budge. The original train line is still there (though updated) and I wondered how many of the people waiting on the platform knew of the wee pocket of history made there.

 

Just a few hundred people turned up to watch the historic performance despite Granada Television using 70 of their stage and maintenance staff to build the Southern-style set. Ticket-holders were brought in on a train and some local people arrived on foot in the hope of seeing something for free.

 

Sister Rosetta Tharpe entered the platform on a horse and cart despite being used to limousines. Despite the Southern-like setting there was no chance of a dustbowl: the heavens opened over Manchester (what’s new?) as the show got underway. At the last moment Rosetta switched songs and sang Didn't It Rain? She’s brill on that guitar and at belting out gospel type songs (without even looking at her fingers.) I’ve now downloaded everything she’s released. I’d heard her name but not the twangs from that guitar. I’m surprised she isn’t more well-known.

 

There were about seven performers in total. Some people who attended said it was as important as the Sex Pistol’s 1976 show at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall (which spawned Morrissey, Joy Division and The Buzzcocks.) About ten million people saw the concert on television and it fired up a wave of blues acts.

 

Here’re a few links…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SR2gR6SZC2M

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeDF1g2cGDI&list=RDjeDF1g2cGDI#t=22

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ow5UGTe3QgQ

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9JeI3SWH7k

 

 

 

The concert happened down here many years before the rail track was re-developed…

 

 

Does that man sat on the bench know a legendary concert happened here?

 

 

Rosetta was used to limousine, not horses and buggies…

 

Go to it Muddy…

 

Was this the exact spot, not sure