THE CHRIS HILL STORY
Chris Hill started DJ-ing in the late Sixties having been around the Soho R&B scene, with his heroes Georgie Fame, Geno Washington and Chris Farlowe for a number of years. It was in Essex however where Chris established himself as the supremo Soul Jock. Firstly in a small club in Orsett and then the legendary Goldmine at Canvey Island. Throughout the Seventies the club was a catalyst for the growing underground soul scene with music fans from all over the country flocking to the legendary Saturday nights. Many of those Goldminers went on to became stars in their own right. Sade, Spandau Ballet, rubbed shoulders with Light of the World, The Clash, Depeche Mode and many more, whilst every 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 had also by then hit the British top ten charts himself with two comedy records of his own, decided to move closer to London and started his now legendary residency at Ilford's ‘Lacy Lady'. It was at the Lacy Lady that fashion, style, and music clashed in a spectacular shock wave that filled the tabloids and fashion magazines and had echoes in the later punk and new-romantic scene, as well as laying the foundations for today's current dance scene. It seemed that everybody that went the Lacy Lady in 1977 went on to form bands, make records, produce films, or make a name for themselves in the world of television 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 also that the jazz scene was formed with the dance floor packed for the most uncompromising bebop as well as the latest soul and disco from New York and Philadelphia.
It was during this period along with DJs Chris Brown and Tom Holland, and later with Robbie Vincent, Froggy, Greg Edwards and Sean French, that Hilly kicked off the first soul all-dayers at the Reading Top Rank Suite, 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 was actually at Caister (giving the event it's name) a few miles from Yarmouth on the Norfolk coast. It 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 been 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 and 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, the all-dayers and the new Caister Weekender.
In 1980 Chris moved back for his second stint at the Goldmine. Also during this period the Caister Soul Weekenders 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 DJs who moved away from the soul roots that had been its origin.
Chris decided to quit the club scene in 1985 and concentrate on his Ensign duties with a young Irish singer called Sinead O`Connor who he had recently discovered. In 1987 he was offered a weekend job in Hamburg on Radio 107 and created the hugely successful SoulBeat which made him a huge celebrity in Germany. When Sinead's world-wide hit (Nothing Compares to U) happened in 1989 Chris looked set for a quiet retirement, until Gary Dennis suggested he return to his old Essex roots. Reopening 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 handedly the greatness that had been. Then after a trial revival weekender at Camber Sands and a chance meeting with someone in a hot tub in Thailand, the return of the Caister Soul Weekender seemed the next logical step. The family was back! With most of the original team reformed along with those younger DJs that had kept the faith, the newly refurbished Vauxhall Park Holiday Centre at Yarmouth came on board. While a few miles from the original site the magical name Caister remained.
Meanwhile in February 1995 the Kings closed its doors for good and the Lacy Lady moved to the Island Ilford for 2 record breaking years, where a monthly gig regularly pulled in over 1500 happy funkateers.
In 1998 with another team at the helm, the Caister Soul Weekender extended to 4 days and staged a live concert with D`Influence. Back on track musically the best of Soul R&B Jazz and Funk, both old and new, now forms the basis for the greatest and longest running event of its type in the world, and Hilly is still there (just!) playing the best and climaxing the whole event at finale, just as he did at the first one back in the days!