Nottingham promoter who said 'no' to Take That has no regrets after turning down one of the biggest boybands in history

Johnny Moore, who turned down the chance to work with Take That, despite a personal invitation from Robbie Williams
Johnny Moore, who turned down the chance to work with Take That, despite a personal invitation from Robbie Williams -Credit:Joseph Raynor/ Nottingham Post

Promoter Johnny Moore has brought some big names in showbiz, music and sport to Nottingham. Frank Bruno, Barbara Windsor, Martha and the Vandellas and most recently Paul Gascoigne amongst them.

But forever more, Johnny will always be known as the man who said 'no' to Take That. Back in the early 90s he turned down the opportunity to work with the five fresh-faced lads who went on to be one of the biggest boybands in UK chart history.

On the eve of Take That returning to Nottingham with This Life on Tour's two gigs at the City Ground on May 25 and 26, the 58-year-old, says he still has no regrets.

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Johnny, who has worked in the entertainment industry for four decades, started off as a DJ before getting into promotion work, bringing music acts to 90's nightclubs, Ritzy and the Black Orchid. His very first event was a Christmas Glam Slam with Mud and Sweet.

Then came Absolute Kaos (formed by a little known Simon Cowell) who attracted a 1,600-strong crowd at the Black Orchid, and 2wo Third3 (pronounced Two Thirds), which Johnny described as "really good".

Then came a phone call from Nigel Martin-Smith, the man who formed Take That as Britain's answer to US sensation New Kids on the Block. Johnny recalls: "He told me they were tipped to be the hottest boyband ever. I thought to myself another person telling me this band is going to be big. I'd heard it all the time. It's the typical agent/manager ringing a promoter up, saying they're going to be brilliant."

He took a punt, negotiating a fee of £300, which he split 50-50 with Black Orchid manager Ian Harries. "I couldn't see how it was going to work from the club's point of view as it was an under 18's disco, no alcohol sales, it was just going to be pop and a few bar snacks," he says.

His promo team stood outside schools, handing out flyers advertising the gig on Friday May 1, 1992. Admission was £2.50 with the flyer or £3 without - a far cry from the £240 VIP tickets for this weekend's concerts.

Johnny says: "We hardly sold any tickets, about 150 people turned up, all girls. Five young pretty boys pranced around the stage. All I can remember is the black leather catsuit look and they did a costume change. The girls that were in there were screaming their heads off because they were five good-looking young lads.

"The dance routines were good, you couldn't fault them, the vocals were OK. The personality from all of them was brilliant. It was good fun.

The flyer for Take That's 1992 gig at the Black Orchid in Nottingham
Take That in 1992 around the time of their Black Orchid gig

"I can't remember the songs. They performed to backing tracks, miming mostly. I was so disinterested in them. I shouldn't say this but I was so blasé. There was that much stuff coming through. You never know in the world of promoting. It is like going to a casino - it's a gamble. It's still a gamble and I've been doing it for 40 years this year."

At the end of the performance Johnny and Ian totted up the takings and expenses. They ended up £30 down and agreed to split the hit.

"Robbie Williams collared me and said 'Johnny can I give you my number?' I said yeah, thinking well you can but I'm not going to call you as I'm never going to book you again. He said 'Look I don't want to speak out of turn but I've had a chat with the lads, we really like you.' I stood there and I thought don't make this hard for me because it's not going to happen. I said 'OK Robbie that's really nice'.

"He told me where else they were doing these little things and right at the end of the conversation he said 'Me and the lads would like you to get on board, perhaps join our management team or we'd like you to be our promoter'. I turned round and said, and I don't know what possessed me to say this, 'Robbie, I've got to be honest with you, it's not going to happen'. He said why's that?

"I said 'Two things. I really don't think you're going to make it and secondly I've lost £15'. Robbie looked at me. I thought he was going to cry. I felt quite bad."

Take That pictured in 1993
The flyer for Take That's 1992 gig at the Black Orchid in Nottingham -Credit:Joseph Raynor/ Nottingham Post

To spare any more awkwardness he wrapped up the conversation quickly and wished them good luck. Soon afterwards Radio 1 played the band's first single and the rest, as they say, is history.

Selling more records than any other English group since The Beatles, the band has had 12 Number 1 singles in the UK including Patience, Shine and Greatest Day, plus nine albums that have topped the charts.

When the band had its first Number 1 with Pray in 1993, Johnny did think about eating humble pie and ringing Robbie to offer his congratulations but decided again it in the end. "I looked at his name and number in my phone and thought is it right of me to ring up now when I've told him they're not for me?"

Seeing the band go on to have worldwide fame, does Johnny regret turning them down? He says: "I can honesty say no - I'm not the sort of person to live a life of regret. I feel quite fortunate it was me who put them on in Nottingham. It was me who said I don't think you're going to make it and it was me who can say you lost me 15 quid and a few weeks later after my great decision they went straight to Number 1.

"I was young and naïve back then... I should have been in the band," he laughs. "The principle of promoting is you don't get it right all the time. You can hit big and you can lose big and thankfully I have hit big on more occasions than not hitting big.

Take That's latest tour at the Utilita Arena, Birmingham
Take That pictured in 1993

"Probably Robbie won't even remember me now, this guy in Nottingham. He probably would if I showed him the flyer. But if he had a really good memory he'd probably say 'you were that hard-faced stern promoter that told us you'd lost 15 quid and thought we were c**p'."

Johnny thinks it's fantastic that the City Ground is hosting the band, now a trio after the departure of Robbie and Jason, and he hopes there will be many more gigs to come at the stadium. "It's going to be a good show. I hope it's amazing. I hope Take That do a great job and I wish them all the best."

Asked if saying yes more than 30 years ago would have made him a richer man, he replies: "A little bit more. I've done alright with lots of fingers in lots of pies."

He has done alright, more than alright. He's lives in Southwell and owns Nottingham cocktail bar French 75 as well as his promotions work, even though he was expelled from school back in the 80s and told by teachers he would never make anything himself.

Soon he'll be promoting snooker star Jimmy White at Southbank Bar in Friar Lane, Nottingham, and he is looking at a programme of stadium boxing in the future.