Northern Soul legend Tommy Hunt reflects on his Wigan Casino memories

Northern Soul legend Tommy Hunt says one of the highlights of his career was spending time at Wigan Casino.
Tommy Hunt is still performingTommy Hunt is still performing
Tommy Hunt is still performing

The American singer and Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame member regularly performed at the famous venue.

Hunt, 88, has enjoyed an excellent long-lasting career, which started with his time with The Flamingos, but picks his time in the North West of England as one of his standout periods.

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He said: “My favourite time was when I first went to Wigan. I didn’t know anything about it until I went there and realised it was the same music I had grown up with in the States. It was a wonderful feeling.

Tommy Hunt was a regular at Wigan CasinoTommy Hunt was a regular at Wigan Casino
Tommy Hunt was a regular at Wigan Casino

“I didn’t know it was over here, I hadn’t heard of Northern Soul. I was a little bit shocked that there was so much of it. I thought it really complimented the black music of America, which is just fantastic.

“It became a special place for me, it had all the character and nostalgia from the days of when I worked in New York at the Apollo Theatre.

“It had the same kind of feel, which is what I liked. I thought it was fantastic to know my music was still going strong.”

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Tommy says going to the Casino for the first time made him feel like he was at home, and loved the concept of an all nighter.

“The place has really helped me a lot. I love Wigan, I love the people, and I love the music, so I was happy. The all nighters were fantastic, I had never seen anything like that in my life. It was something new and something really nice, it was great.

“It was like the second coming, when I came over here I didn’t think I would hear much of my music, so when someone told me about Northern Soul I was curious because I had never heard what it was like. It was only when I listened to it I realised it was the same as the stuff I had grown up with in the United States. I was really knocked out by it.”

In 1975, Hunt recorded a live album from Wigan Casino, and although he is proud of it, he feels he could’ve performed even better.

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“The manager and Russ Winstanley approached me about it, and I said I wouldn’t mind trying, but I didn’t know anything about the LP until it was done, they just told me after that they had been recording during one of my shows.

“If I had known then I would’ve put more into it. There’s parts I like and parts I don’t like because I could’ve done it better, but it didn’t turn out bad. It was fantastic because it was an experience for me.

“I was in Wigan at the Charles Dickens last month, and whenever things come up I will go back and do shows there because that’s the place that discovered me.”

Even as he approaches his 10th decade, Hunt still has his passion for performing and loves going on stage in front of a crowd.

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“I’m still going strong. As long as people want me and as long as I can go on the stage, I will be there to do it.

“I still love it the same as I did when I started singing as a young man.

“I still feel the excitement and feel the goose pimples when I go out on stage.

“It is the same feeling as I felt all these years. I’m 88 and I’m still singing like I was then, I haven’t changed at all.

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“My music is still going because I think I grew up in a time when it was really strong and important. I knew it would never die because it made sense to the public. It was a good time for me back in the 60s but it’s still a great time now.”

One of the things Hunt is proudest of from his career is being inducted alongside royalty of music.

“It is a very, very special thing to me, because I never in my life thought I would be in something so big as the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. I did that with the Flamingos, which was a thrill.

“I’ve tried to always stay calm, treat myself with respect, not try to hurt anyone else and love my fans, just taking care of them.

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“A lot of people say: ‘When are you going to get old Tommy,’ but I don’t know and I don’t care as long as I’ve got my music.

“It is my music that has kept me going and I hope it keeps me going another 20 or 30 years. I love people being happy and when I see that it is a dream come true for me.

“I’ve got things coming up, but it’s not the big ones that I like yet. I have a few things in Italy and Switzerland, and there will be a few more things coming in, I never have a doubt about that.

“I try to treat people fair and square and do whatever I’m supposed to do on stage. I keep myself to myself, keeping working and keeping healthy.”

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