Mike was the indie pioneer - tributes to Holyground founder

Mike Levon
Mike Levon

MUSICIANS in Wakefield and way beyond are mourning the man who established Britain’s first independent record label.

Holyground Records founder Mike Levon died in Pinderfields Hospital on Sunday, while waiting for a liver transplant. He was 66.

The former teacher, youth work co-ordinator and occasional radio presenter spent more than 40 years indulging his passion for making and producing music, including the first recordings made by Bill Nelson of later Be-Bop Deluxe fame.

Born in Grantham, Mr Levon arrived in Wakefield in 1963 as a trainee teacher at Bretton Hall. He met his wife-to-be Shirley the following year and they married in 1970.

Bretton quickly became the centre of a thriving music scene, which had its city centre outpost at Moodie’s, on Bread Street. It was there Mr Levon began recording bands and singers, which led him to set up a studio at his and Shirley’s flat on Cass Yard, off Kirkgate.

He established Holyground in 1966 and soon found musicians from across northern England beating a track to the studio.

Recalling those times, Mrs Levon said: “The door at Cass Yard was always open and a steady stream of musicians and bands passed through.

“They would just turn up, whether we knew them or not, but were always made welcome by Mike.

“I usually stayed downstairs with their girlfriends, but some were so young they came with their mums.

“The important thing with Mike was always the quality of the music rather than anything financial.”

Holyground received a second lease of life from the late 1980s when Mr Levon was made aware of the value of the early tapes. He spent the next 20 years re-releasing them on CD and was still working on new material at the time of his death.

Daughter Rose said: “People have been saying what he did for them, but also what he was to them, too.”

Mrs Levon added: “He was a perfectionist, he wanted to do the best both for his family and the bands he worked with.” And both Rose and son John agreed: “He was a great dad, always there for us.”

A celebration event is planned for next week, the date and details to be advised on the Holyground Records Facebook page.