Manchester can claim to have been the proving ground for many pop stars, but who knew Rod Stewart was among them?

The very first paid gig for the man with the sandpaper voice was Manchester’s Twisted Wheel in 1964.

And over a hundred members of the Rod Stewart Fan Club converge on the club in Whitworth Street on Saturday to recall pop history in the making.

Stewart had a chance meeting with singer Long John Baldry on a railway platform in Twickenham.

Rod was singing the blues and playing harmonica, and Baldry was sufficiently impressed with the youngster to invite him on the road.

Ian  Roberts, Middleton-born president of the Rod Stewart Fan Club, said: “Rod was 17 at the time. He was still living at the family home in Highgate.

“He had left school, been to Spain as a busker and got deported for being a vagrant.”

Baldry, Stewart and band headed up the A1 for Rod to make his professional debut at the Twisted Wheel, which, having moved from its original home in Brazennose Street to Whitworth Street, would become known as the birthplace of northern soul.

Roberts said: “Legend has it that he was pushed forward by Long John and asked to sing Night Time Is The Right Time, and he was asked to fill quite a big gap, and didn’t know any other songs, so he made it last 45 minutes.

“In order to do so, he was given a ‘black pill’ – some kind of drug.”

Serving his pop apprenticeship in a number of bands, Stewart would be a regular visitor to the north west, playing at a variety of clubs in towns such as Rochdale, Oldham and Middleton. Some of those early Rod songs will be played when the fan club convenes at the Twisted Wheel.

The evening’s special guest will be Mary Cady, Rod’s elder sister. Roberts, a 49-year-old area amusements manager for Mecca Bingo, based in London, has been a Rod fan since 1974.

“The first single I ever bought was Sailing,” he says.

He has met Rod several times and says he is  ‘a good guy, very approachable’. But he is not  hugely enthusiastic about Rod’s recent incarnation as a crooner of the great American songbook.

“I admire him for doing it, but like most diehard fans, it’s not my cup of tea,” admits Roberts.

» Night Time Is The Right Time, the Rod Stewart Fan Club’s evening of nostalgia at the Twisted Wheel, Whitworth Street, Manchester, takes place on Saturday January 15, 2011. Doors open 6pm, tickets £6.

Manchestersoul.co.uk