When lifelong Northern Soul DJ/collectors PAUL KIDD and BRIAN WALKER first decided to collaborate on their ambitious bid to assemble a live act that was capable of doing justice to the underground scene's all-but forgotten 7" vinyl rarities, they could hardly have expected the response to be so emphatic.
Two years on, THE CASINO ALLSTARS are fast becoming established as a must-see live act both on the soul scene and beyond. Having gained recognition on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to their connections on the Northern underground, the All-stars' reputation is built strictly on their pulsating, authentic and near-unique stage show and an unerring capacity to inject raw emotional power into their beloved pre-Motown favourites.
The decision to gamble on a staging a 3am showcase during an all-nighter at Manchester's much-revered Twisted Wheel club proved to be the masterstroke that earned them the instant respect of their notoriously hard-to-please peers on the soul scene.
And with none other than Blues maestro BEN E. KING amongst the list of high-profile names to have given the seven-strong band the seal of approval (cult hero CHUCK JACKSON is another), the "AllStars" tag could just as easily be used to describe the fledgling band's rapidly growing fan-base.
W&H pinned the veteran duo down in an attempt to chart the remarkable switch from vinyl-spinners to soul musicians that has seen THE CASINO ALLSTARS making waves with their bid take Northern Soul's Renaissance years by storm.
Q: Did you assemble the band out of sheer, unswerving passion for the music, or had you identified a demand for live Northern Soul?
Rookie lead vocalist Paul Kidd's response is immediate:
"The demand's never really been there because the vast majority of the people who are into Northern Soul have never heard a Northern Soul band. If we had competition, then there'd be more demand.
"Obviously we've got thousands of records, me and Brian and we've always said "Wouldn't this be good, to sing this, or if someone covered this..." - records originally made by unknown artists - incredible songs that have never been done again, which is a real shame".
"But you can try to recreate it, and put it to more people's ears".
So the All-Stars are partly about bringing Northern Soul to a wider audience?
"Exactly!" Kidd states: "It's enlightening people as to what Northern Soul really/actually is".
True, perhaps, but doesn't "Keeping the Faith" take priority over spreading the soul gospel?
(The Twisted Wheel gig actually served as a triumphant homecoming for Walker, who made his name as a DJ there before touring the UK as the bass guitarist in "Soulfinger" in the 1980s. Not that he's ever been away...)
Kidd's version is rather more emphatic: "We went down absolutely fantastic in front of what is possibly the hardest crowd we'll ever have to please...hardened soul fans at a packed all-nighter"
Walker agrees, albeit with a slight shudder at the memory of the gamble: "Soul fans are hard to please - in fact Soul fans are against you before you've even started!"'
The one-time Absolute Beginner explains further: "I've been guilty of that in the past myself - turning my back or feigning disinterest - even when bands like Cream took to the stage!": he shamefully admits. Kind of "Eughhh! - I'm not interested in that!".
Kidd agrees: "Even artists such as The Marvellettes, when appearing at all-nighters, have been adjudged to have ruined the night" (the Northern Soul scene of course, thrives exclusively on hard-to-find 7" vinyl)
"This made me apprehensive about appearing at the Wheel" admits Walker: "Though on the other hand, because of the stuff we've been playing it, maybe I wasn't".
Kidd is quick to agree, despite his otherwise infectious enthusiasm for the project: "It wasn't pressure as such for the rest of the group as much as maybe it was for me and Brian" he readily admits.
And there's now a CD doing the rounds?
Kidd:"The CD came about as a result of needing to have some kind of recording where we could say: "This is us"
"A friend of mine introduced me to the producer Bob McClure, who is a big friend of Chuck Jackson. Bob arranged for me to go round and speak to Chuck and I asked him was it alright to sing one of his numbers".
"He said..."Yeah...It's an honour maan"(laughs).
"He wanted to know a bit more about us, and since then he's kept in touch with us. Bob remastered the original demo we made at Shed studios in Stockport and this led to him producing our full-length CD "Do It To Soul"
"Ben E. King loves it!" he declares with a laugh as Walker offers further explanation:
"With Bob being quite in with a lot of the Motown artists and everything else in America, they've got the CD over there...It's been sent over and played in Ashford and Simpson's club in New York, and on various US radio stations.
"It's a live sound" Kidd and Walker point out in tandem
"With just vocal overdubs..like they used to record back in the day" adds Walker, keen to emphasise the authenticity:
"It's an honour for us to think that legends like Chuck Jackson, Ben E. King are listening to our music"Â: Kidd proudly declares:
"Chuck Jackson, he does a bit of training, and has actually jogged around Central Park, with his earphones on, listening to The Casino All-Stars...it's just amazing"
The Allstars' are heading the bill in their native Stockport on the 19th March at the prestigious Moor Suite, The night is in aid of St. Francis House, a charity supported by Manchester City midfielder Stephen Ireland, who will be in attendance alongside ex-Stone Roses drummer Mani:
"I wasn't aware that Stephen Ireland was a soul fan, but apparently he likes all types of music" laughs Kidd:
"I think the time will come when people at the gigs will be shouting for requests" is Kidd's final prediction:
"The feedback from DJ's and soul fans alike has been excellent We've been on Russ Winstanley's radio show, and everywhere the response has been overwhelming.
"Everything we've heard has told us that we've got to hang on to what we've got"
For setlist details and further information, as well as forthcoming dates, visit the band's website www.casinoallstars.co.uk