Peter Stringfellow: “I’ll never forget where I started”
Sheffield’s King Mojo Peter Stringfellow is currently gearing up to take the Stringfellows brand to every major city in Europe. Joe Moulam spoke with the nightclub legend to find out more about his journey from Sheffield lad to international icon.
Hi Peter, how are you today?
I’m great thanks and very happy with life. I’m just waiting for my beautiful wife and daughter to get home.
Believe it or not, you were one of the very first people we interviewed for Exposed when we launched over twelve years ago – thanks for talking to us again!
(We’ve not even got a copy so it’s something of a collectors’ item these days, and he’s joined some illustrious company since – Arctic Monkeys, Arnold Schwarzenegger… erm, Steve Brookstein from The X Factor…)
Ah, that’s fantastic to hear. But I can’t say I can remember that far back I’m afraid!
No danger. Tell us a bit about what life was like growing up in the Steel City for you?
I definitely still feel fondly for Sheffield, and I’ll never forget where I started. We lived in Pitsmoor, in what was known affectionately as ‘Steelworker Cottages’, but they were basically slums. We were happy though, and I didn’t know any different until I met the posh kids at school aged twelve – before that the word ‘rich’ wasn’t even in my vocabulary. Then, after I joined the merchant navy, I came home from travelling the world and my parents had moved to Gleadless Valley. We had some real luxuries there like indoor toilets.
Your business career began with The Black Cat Club. What first inspired you to get involved in the nightclub game?
The short, blunt truth is that I saw a way to make money; it wasn’t initially for a love of music. Though there was a band I thought was great, and still do, called Johnny Tempest and the Cadillacs and I booked them at the local church, which would later become The Black Cat Club. I earned £85 on my first night, which was a massive amount of money as I was previously making £20 for a whole week’s work as a delivery driver for a bakery. Later, when I was the manager for Johnny and the Cadillacs, I tried to get them a booking and ended up getting a job myself compering – mostly because I wouldn’t stop talking!
And you famously managed to book The Beatles on the cusp of their success…
Yes, I’ve always had a knack for spotting the next big thing. We had lots of bands in after they’d released just one single, like The Kinks and The Rolling Stones. I booked The Beatles for £65 back in 1963, just before they released ‘Please Please Me’, and that was a massive amount of money for an unknown band, but I just knew they’d be big. We sold that many tickets for the Beatles gig we had to move it to the Azena Ballroom, which has now been turned into a supermarket. I went in once and realised the stage where John Lennon had been playing was now the bakery counter.
You managed to bring some huge names to Sheffield back in the day, to the small King Mojo venue in Pitsmoor. Are there any others you’re particularly proud of booking?
Oh, yeah. We had The Small Faces, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks, Fleetwood Mac – the list goes on. If you name a big band from the 60s or 70s, they’ve probably played at one of my clubs.
Why the move from music venues to the world of gentlemen’s clubs?
Well, I was expanding into America with Stringfellows New York, Stringellows Miami and Stringfellows Beverly Hills. But the economic recession of the 80s really hit me hard. It was all my own money in those clubs – I was the owner, I wasn’t just running them – and they had to be closed. I’d seen a striptease club in Miami called Pure Platinum and thought the idea was amazing, so we started it in New York in 1990 under the name ‘Stringfellows presents Pure Platinum’ and the table dancing took off. I saw the same opportunities for a club in London, and the rest is history.
The plan is spread the Stringfellows brand across Europe over the next couple of years, and you recently opened a new venue in Paris. There’s no resting on your laurels then?
I still love the business… this is what I do. The Stringfellows brand is obviously very sought after, and rightly so! We’re in talks to open locations in most of the major cities of Europe. It’s exciting times and I still enjoy every minute of it.
Finally, how’s your Christmas shaping up? Any special plans?
We’ll be heading over to the south of Italy where my beautiful wife’s parents live, a beautiful place in the country with orange trees and artichoke fields, then we’ll be straight back to London for New Year’s Eve to watch the fireworks. It should be a good one!