Ian Hunter ( Mott The Hoople) left The Apex Group in 1958, just before they recorded their first single "Yorkshire Relish, Caravan" for John Lever Records. (Lever, the owner of a local record shop, had recently joined as the band's drummer)
I mentioned John Lever's Record shop in Northampton, my home town. I reckon every town had a similar store to this one, maybe others can confirm. It had all the American imports proudly displayed in the window in the early years of the beat boom. Chuck, Bo, and other Chess heroes, as well as, a couple of years later, Stax imports - the first Booker T, for example. This shop had its own record label, John Lever Records, named after the owner. This may have been a vanity project for a single and an EP for the local band, The Apex (initially Skiffle Group, later Rhythm & Blues All Stars, etc). The Apex later contained Ian Hunter Patterson, who became Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople. Normans (posting sound of the world)
A schoolmate's dad used to work in this record shop. He always seemed rather sour towards customers, but he let us hang about as he vaguely recognised us. They would order singles in if you wanted to hear something, but the expectation to buy it was always hanging heavily on you.... It was said (I never asked anyone in the shop) that the high number of American soul / R&B tunes they stocked was because of the US Airforce base camped nearby. (American occupation had some cultural spin-offs.) http://www.justabuzz.com/ih-0-bio.shtml
"John Lever opened his small record shop at 45 Kettering Road (in the ‘narrow part’) in 1954, from which sadly in April 1957 some £200-worth of records were shoplifted, possibly in broad daylight. It was the first specialist shop of its kind in the town. In addition to selling records, John sold musical instruments and accessories, TVs, radios, record players and tape recorders at another shop at number 20, on the other side of Kettering Road, close by the Garden of Rest. He had two engineers on-site: Michael Pitts and Howard White.
Subsequently, in 1959, a second shop, solely for records, was opened at 52 Gold Street, below Swann`s gentlemen`s outfitters, where John was helped by Don White, Howard`s brother. Meanwhile, Howard White and Michael Pitts set up ‘Audiocraft’ in the old 20 Kettering Road premises, before eventually moving to Derngate as business expanded.
If a customer ordered a record from John Lever which was not in their stock of over 8000 titles, then it would be delivered to Northampton within hours. Also you could order a record from abroad and John Lever would airmail it to you, usually arriving within four days. If you needed a new stylus or other musical accessory it was good to know where you would get professional service. If you wanted a Top 20 45rpm record or a popular LP or EP you could go to one of many local shops including Spinadisc, Abel`s, Boots or Adnitt`s, but if you wanted something special and if you wanted to mix with other local music collectors, then John Lever`s was the only place to shop. John had been leading his own band, the ‘John Lever Seven’, prior to joining The Apex."
The above is an excerpt from my book- Have Guitars……. will travel by Derrick A Thompson and William Martin. Comment and B/W photographs supplied by Derrick A Thompson.
John Lever was my uncle. My mother was Doreen Lever. Doreen emigrated to Canada after the 2nd world war with her new husband James (Kenneth) McHale (Canadian armed forces) I realize John is no longer with us, but would like to know more about the family. Comment: David McHale
I am John levers niece,my mother was Betty the eldest of Johns 3 sisters.I used to work in the shop on Saturday's when I was 14.John used to give me the records out of the jukebox when they were due for changing and they had a large hole in the centre.I had an adaptor so that I could play them on my dansette portable.
Comment: Judy Wootton.
(Nov 4, 2013) Sean Lever said:I'm John Lever's Son, and yes, Doreen was my Aunt, she emigrated to Vancouver before I was born and my first trip on an airplane (with propellers) was a long flight to visit her when I was less than a year old. Don White was the shop Manager for twenty-five years and always collated the shop's top 100 singles each week - our top 100 was very different to the national top 100. Don was always held in high esteem by John - we'd always know the shop was OK if we took a family holiday - and for this we were always very grateful.
I have very fond memories of everyone who worked at the shop and the wonderful customers who kept us on our toes asking for interesting records. I also recall the record reps that came in every week selling us the latest releases. I wish I still had some of the distinctive paper bags we used, I do recall my father bringing home records in the latest colour bags he'd had printed. I have a couple of photographs you might want to post - I'll email them over.
My father died at the age of 54 when I was 17 and my Mum and the rest of us ran the record shop for another four years until we had to close it in 1985 which was a very sad day. My young Son is carrying on the family tradition of playing the drums though - now the third generation to do so.
Great memories; how music and the music business has changed.
(Nov 3, 2013) Glen Banks said:Should have said, doubling not doudling!
Oct 31, 2013) Glen Banks said:The sour looking man was probably Don White, John Lever's manager. He always looked sour but in fact had a good sense of humour. He did like his jazz.
(Oct 31, 2013) Glen Banks said:I worked at JOHN LEVER'S for a number of years. We supplied almost if not all of the DJ's around the county. I was there when the big refurbishment happened, doudling the the size of the store. Happy times indeed.
(Dec 12, 2014) Bought all my singles at Levers when I worked at the Black Lion with KewG Disco as a DJ Happy days. Levers had a lot of non commercial stuff which is what we played! Comment: DAVE BUTLIN.
Name Rob McNally Comment: Bought my first record from the Gold Street shop in 1973 aged 13, cum on feel the noize by Slade, helped propel it straight to No1. Still buying from the premises which is now 'Spun Out'. ( Sept 27, 2016)
Name David Watts Comment: I remember John Lever very well as I was the builder that converted the shop from a butchers shop. ( Nov 25, 2016)
Name James Spero Comment: Back in the sixties I would order UK versions of albums from John Lever, Cream, Hendrix, Who etc. got the name of John's store from a fellow enthusiast. delivery was always prompt and the records arrived in NY USA in good order. I still have those albums. with the renewed interest in vinyl i was wondering if the store might still be operating and found this site. (Jan 16, 2017)
In the early to mid 60's I bought loads of imported Gene Vincent singles, EP's and LP's. Always enjoyed going there.
HI ..I was ONE of Johns girlfriends in about 1959 He was a lovely guy....very laid back. He took me to gigs mmainly American air bases. A very strange coincidence here...my g/daughter is a MCHUGH,,,DAD from Wexford I THINK.
My maiden name was Kempster I worked as a saturday girl from the age of 15 in 1966 to 1968 I also worked during my school holidays and earned £5 a week. If I remember correctly at the time a single was 6/8d and a long player 32shillings and 6d . I remember Don and John very well I actually lived across the road from John lever in a small village outside Northampton. That time for music was incredible an explosion of talent.. firstly from the record imports from USA but then from young groups throughout the Uk.
I have fond memories of the John Lever record shop long before I moved to Roade in 1974. Before then I lived in London and would regularly send to JL’s for import records by post, which were advertised in the NME - most particularly Cliff Richard German language singles which had great picture sleeves. Little did I realise that I would, after getting married, move to Northamptonshire and thereby discover the actual shop, which I remember as an Aladdin’s Cave full of treasure trove. Sorely missed, John Lever provided a friendly environment for my obsession of collecting vinyl. Ah those days of yore.
Living in Los Angeles at the time, I somehow found the John Lever shop's address as a mail-order vendor.
From then for a few years, until UK imports finally became easier to find in the U.S., I ordered all my UK Beatles, Stones, Cliff, etc. albums from the store.
Delivery was prompt (all things considered), and the packages were very protective. I owe a lot to John Lever -- of course, I also paid a lot! But it was worth the money.
Todd Everett Everett
So good seeing this site!! Many memories esp around 78 -80's
Regularly went there most Saturday mornings to flick through the new wave singles etc!! - especially a memory of seeing the ' ideal for living ' EP by Joy Division now extremely rare and valuable!!
I notice the Religious Overdose poster in the picture so it's around those times!! Great stuff!!
Be nice to go back!!
Extract From 'Still Whispering After All These Years'
While Mum did her shopping I'd be in the records department of our local Co-Op playing in the listing booths. Or I'd bre down at John Levers Record shop is Gold Street in the centre of Northampton. I'd cycle down there and just hang around , listing to the music they were playing in the shop,or waiting for the Decca delivery van to arrive with new release on Thursday evening at about 5:30 pm. Decca had all the great labels at the time. Having the thrill of feeeling that I got this record a day before it was officially released. Bob Harrisa ( 2015)
There were records in England which were not available here is the US. I found an ad in Billboard magazine for John Lever records. Around 1964-65 I ordered some Rolling Stores and Jeff Beck records. I still have them as well as the mailing packages and lists of records available at John Lever Records. These are some of my fondest memories of my teen years... M. Scott(2022)