"One of the most iconic music programmes of historical proportions
recorded in South Manchester, a fact often overlooked which makes it
essential we do not forget! - PAUL WILDE 2014



One of Manchester great musical moments and a scoop in 1964 was a television special recorded on a disused railway station in South Manchester.

The Blues and Gospel Train was a documentary programme by Granada TV that captured some of the great American blues artist from the 1940’s and 50’s.

Iconic figures whose popularity and status was on the wane back in the U.S. when arriving in Chorlton one cold and rainy day back in '64.

Their home land charts had forsaken them for cleaner pop and the soul of Motown, new music that supplied the needs of the African American communities across the US.

In contract these Blues artists in Europe were legends and idolised due to a thriving r’n’b scene driven by the Beat generation, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Yardbirds to name but a few.

Muddy Waters and Johnnie Hamp show producer.

Bands that would ironically perform their hero’s music and sell it back to the US in the British Beat invasion of 1964/65.

But in the early 1960’s the U.K. offered a new home to these ageing Blues stars – one that supplied a new and appreciative audience which agents seized upon packaging them on tours.

With no racial segregation the British Isles offered sweet rewards and a freedom to express themselves like never before.

Granada TV was able to capture this as the Blues and Gospel Train rolled into Manchester on 7 May 1964.

The set was a disused train station referred to on the ticket invite as that of Wilbraham Road Railway Station, Chorlton-Cum -Hardy.

The station had been disused but for the programme was dressed up as a Deep South railroad complete with sacks, cargo and a sign that read ‘Chorltonville’ - there was even livestock on hand with chickens and a couple of goats tethered to posts!

Photo courtesy of Brian Smith. 

The idea was simple: the acts performed on one platform while the audience sat across the tracks on the opposite side.

Those with tickets met at Central Station, Manchester to catch the 7.30pm train made up to look like an American steam loco.

The black and white footage see’s the train pull in at ‘Chorltonville’ and a youthful mob of about 200 disembark to take their seats lined up along the concrete platform.

Disembarking the crowd file passed Muddy Waters who performs his Chess record release “Blow Wind Blow” followed later by “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had” while walking along the tracks!

The remaining Blues legends are then introduced performing live to an appreciative audience despite a mighty downpour.

The roll call reads Otis Spann, Willie Smith, and Rev. Gary Davis along with Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, the latter performing firm favourites “Talkin’ Harmonica Blues” and “I’m a Roamin’ Rambler” Cousin Joe Pleasant performs his famous “Fried Chicken Blues” which delights the crowd but the biggest cheer is for the 'Queen of Rock’n’Roll' Sister Rosetta Tharpe.


The Queen tag given by Elvis and Scotty Moore who cited her as an influence due to her ‘rockin’ style of guitar playing.

Treated as the legend she is Sister Rosetta arrives on the platform by horse and cart as a spectacular rainstorm rolls in.

With this she performs her famous and hit “Didn’t It Rain Children” which includes an amazing guitar solo.

Her performance also includes “Trouble in Mind” and the programme ends with “He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands” leaving the platform to a rapturous applause.

What is recognised is that Blues and Gospel Train is of legend proportions and to think it happened in a small suburb of Manchester although the site no onger exists and is a ramblers and cyclist track.

It has to be noted the programme was the brainchild of legendary television producer Johnnie Hamp who is significant in capturing many artists on film creating important historical documents such as this.

Hand drawn commemorative bowl and plates by PAUL WILDE