Four months ago, it was announced that Judy Street – the subject of a feature on this blog barely a week earlier – had been turned back on arrival at Manchester Airport ‘due to an inadequate work permit’.
That scuppered a planned five-date visit for the Nashville-based Northern Soul cult legend, the promoters of her Preston’s Got Soul special appearance apologising for a situation they said was ‘out of Judy’s and our control’.
The singer and music teacher was devastated by that turn of events, although moves were soon afoot to rearrange part of that visit for later in the year.
That has now become a reality, with the performer set to headline the next Preston’s Got Soul show at 53 Degrees on Friday, October 3.
Judy remains something of a cult hero on the scene after recording one of Northern Soul’s most-coveted tracks of all time 45 years ago.
The Tennessee resident only recorded two songs in the 1960s, yet passed into the annals of soul history thanks to Hollywood-based songwriting legend HB Barnum.
As a sweet teen – just turned 19 – she delivered slow-burner You Turn Me On and seminal dance track What in 1968, the flip-side of the single going on to catch the imagination on Wigan Casino’s legendary all-nighter scene around five years later.
That B-side has never been out of fashion since, and although only 1,000 copies were initially pressed, it is rated among Northern Soul’s finest moments.
Judy was born in Indiana, discovered in Arizona and recorded in California before settling in Nashville, Tennessee, where I caught up with her before her re-arranged UK trip.
So Judy, everything went a little awry last time you turned up in England. You wrote a bit about it on your website, but if the memories aren’t too painful, try and tell us what happened and why you were refused entry.
“I guess I have told this story 1,000 times already. Here is the short version!
“In all my negotiations for singing at five venues in England and Scotland in May, not one person – myself included – thought about asking if I needed a work permit for these engagements. So I did not have one when I arrived at customs in Manchester.
“After a six-and-a-half-hour delay in a small room, interrogation, searching, finger-printing and being treated like I was a criminal, they allowed me to go all the way to Preston to stay for one night.
“But that was on the strict understanding that I would return the very next morning at 7am for my deportation back on Delta Airlines to the US.
“I was not allowed to have my passport back until I touched down on American soil the next day. I was just sick to my stomach over this.”
But there was a little light at the end of the tunnel, and it came shortly after you arrived back on American soil.
“Well, as soon as I touched down in Nashville back in May, I was at the baggage carousel when my phone rang.
“The display suggested it was my son, so I answered, ‘Hi honey!’ And this voice said, ‘This is not your honey, it’s Russ Winstanley!’”
I’m guessing that’s Russ Winstanley, the famed Northern Soul promoter and DJ?
“Yes! He said, ‘I would like to invite you to sing at one of the largest Northern Soul weekenders in England this year, in September. Would you consider doing that?’”
A plan quickly formed, and that’s where Judy is now, with a trip to Skegness in Lincolnshire sketched in, and the original Preston date back on the cards too.
There was a big reaction via social media and your website to that customs nightmare at the time, suggesting the strength of your UK fan-base today – all these years after recording the Northern Soul anthem that made your name.
“My fans were wonderful in all their support during that time.”
I take it everything’s in order this time around, and you’re raring to go.
“If you mean do I have a work permit number … yes, I do!”
Your eldest son was at your side last time. Is he coming over with you this time?
“Since things were so crazy last time, I don’t want to put anyone in that position again, and I am coming alone this time.
“My son is all out of time off work for this year. Maybe next time, but that is getting ahead of things.”
What’s your itinerary? Will there be time for a little sight-seeing while you’re over? Is there anywhere in particular you want to see?
“Yes, I do have the weekdays off, and plan on doing some sight-seeing. Pretty much like in May – to Wigan, Liverpool, Preston …”
What will you be up to in Skegness? The Butlin’s bill looks impressive for Northern Soul fans.
“The Butlin’s Northern Soul weekender is pretty much the bee’s knees – so cool! I will be the opening act on Friday night of that event, just before Archie Bell and the Drells.
“Make sure you get there early, so you don’t miss me. I’ll be singing with Diane Shaw’s band. What a privilege that will be!”
Do you think you’ll finally get to learn first-hand that Preston’s Got Soul the following weekend? And will you be singing live?
“Yes! That following weekend I will get to do a ‘re-do’ of my Preston’s Got Soul date.
“It will be me singing with my tracks, like I had planned in May. Two sets, two changes of outfits. This girl is happy!”
While back in the UK, Judy also aims to promote her new Cover Girl CD, a collection of original songs and much-loved Northern Soul tracks.
That latest recording includes new versions of Northern Soul classics like Do I Love You (Indeed I Do), Long After Tonight Is All Over, Sunny, and Tainted Love.
“As far as Cover Girl is concerned, we decided to hold out for its release until I can perform it live.
“So yes, September 26 to 28 in Skegness and then October 3 in Preston it will be available to purchase!”
Judy was also set to make public appearances in Wigan, Edinburgh, Manchester and Bolton last time around. Will she be coming back to do more UK shows soon?
“Now I know all about how my work permit works, I plan on being able to come back many times in the near future. And I’ve already been asked to come back to Scotland.”
For the original Judy Street feature on these pages, head here.
Judy’s Preston’s Got Soul headline appearance is part of a Wigan Casino 41st Anniversary Special at Preston’s 53 Degrees, featuring the best in Motown and Northern Soul and also including DJ sets from Dave Evison, Glen Walker-Foster, Wigan Young Souls, Derek Smith, and Roman.
The Butlin’s Skegness Northern Soul Survivors Weekender runs from September 26 to 29, headlined by Archie Bell and the Drells and also featuring – along with Judy Street – Dean Parrish, Tommy Hunt, Chuck Jackson, the Flirtations, The Diane Shaw Band, Johnny Boy and The Wigan Young Souls Dancers. For more details head here.
Alternatively, check out Judy’s own website for her own updates and information here.
This is a revised and expanded version of a Malcolm Wyatt feature for the Lancashire Evening Post. For the original online version, head here.