V-Discs, Clubmobiles and Northern Souls
Bruce Lindsay [+]
Music Journalist and Social Historian
Once World War Two was underway, many dance bands collapsed as their members joined the armed forces while the German bombing campaign destroyed venues and killed stars such as Al Bowlly. In the USA, union disputes led to a prolonged recording ban, temporarily ending the creation of new records by the dance-orientated musicians beloved by fans across the Atlantic. After the USA entered the war, the US government produced V-discs, specially-recorded (and exempt from the ban) for circulation to American forces overseas. American troops in Britain were visited by young women with portable gramophones, travelling around in converted buses known as Clubmobiles. They organised dances to boost morale, partnering the troops and often playing V-Discs which were helpfully labelled with information about style and tempo. By the mid-1940s Britain’s first modern disc jockeys were gigging in clubs and pubs. In the north of England an ex-miner called Jimmy Savile claimed, erroneously, to have started it all.