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Sadness at the death of Maxwell Rees, Cambridge’s ‘godfather of soul’





The funeral was held today (Friday, 26 January) of Maxwell Rees, a widely-respected Cambridge DJ, record shop owner and ‘soul agent’, who has died from cancer at the age of 69.

Described as “a Cambridge musical lynchpin” on X (formerly Twitter), the music aficionado’s long-time friend, fellow soul music DJ and broadcaster on Cambridge 105 Chris Brown told the Cambridge Independent that Max had been heavily involved in the city’s soul music scene since the 1970s.

Maxwell Rees in 1979. Picture: Chris Brown
Maxwell Rees in 1979. Picture: Chris Brown

“He sold his soul records out of Jed’s shop, which was Jays Records,” recalls Chris, 61, a friend of Max’s for nearly 50 years.

“He sold his soul music from Jays Records and as 13, 14-year-olds going to youth clubs we used to go and see him and buy our records.

“And I was very lucky because I lived at the Cambridge University Press and he played darts for their darts team, so I could pick his brains on the darts matches and he took me under his wing.

“When Jays Records moved to Fitzroy Street from Burleigh Street, he had the whole of the first floor selling his records, so everybody would go in there and you’d get all the latest dance and soul imports – it was the place to go really.”

Chris, who started DJing alongside Max in the late ’70s, describes his friend as “the go-to for everything soul, as far as knowledge goes” and reveals that “Cambridge had a very good underground soul, black music scene back then”.

He remembers Max DJing at the “legendary Howard Mallett Club – which was the place to go in the ’70s for soul music” – along with other well-known soul DJs Tony Dellar and Roger Stern – and notes that he also appeared at other top venues in Cambridge such as the Hobson’s Choice bar in Regent Street, from 1986 to 1991, The Real Deal Soul Club at Frames Snooker Club in the early ’90s, and the Rubber Soul R&B nights at the Junction, also in the ’90s.

Chris says that Max was “everybody’s idol” and adds that “every single DJ or record collector that matters in Cambridge will have a bit of Max Rees knowledge, or some Max Rees records or some Max Rees stories.

“To put it in a nutshell, Max Rees shaped our record collections, he shaped our social circles, and definitely mapped out my life as a DJ.”

Maxwell Rees with Chris Brown. Picture: Chris Brown
Maxwell Rees with Chris Brown. Picture: Chris Brown

Chris emphasised that younger R&B DJs “didn’t look at Max as an old man – they looked to him as a fount of knowledge, and always respected him”.

Max sometimes referred to himself as a “soul agent” and Chris says he had various record shops, including one on Kingston Street, off Mill Road.

“Hot Numbers the record shop was called,” he explains, noting that the iconic sign on the side of the shop is still there.

“He’s definitely Cambridge’s godfather of soul music, and people bandy this word ‘legend’ around – these young ‘legendary DJs’ – I mean when you take Max Rees that puts it all into context.

“Max Rees is a legend and nobody would ever disagree on that one. You’re going back to when there were about five of us playing soul music, and now there’s probably 1,005 people DJing in Cambridge.”

Max died on 19 December. He is survived by his daughter Claudia and his son Marcus.

His funeral was held at Huntingdon Crematorium, Sapley Road, Huntingdon.



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