Where the heritage comes from
The Richmond area has a rich and varied musical heritage, beginning over 60 years ago.
The Eel Pie Island Hotel, situated on a small eyot between Twickenham and Ham, opened in 1830, and hosted numerous day trippers from London, arriving by paddle steamer. Charles Dickens mentions the hotel in Nicholas Nickleby, where you could “dance in the open air to the music of a locomotive band, conveyed thither for the purpose”. A ballroom was built alongside the Hotel in 1898, and while tea-parties rather became the norm in the early 20th century, at this point, access was only by boat, expressly, a chain ferry from the Twickenham bank, but by the 50s, there was not much musical activity on the Island. By April 1956, Brian Rutland’s Grove Jazz Band was drawing crowds to The Barmy Arms, which were overwhelming the venue. Rutland knew Michael Snapper, local entrepreneur and owner of the Hotel, and gained access to the ballroom, and thus was able to export his jazz gigs over to the Island, allowing Snapper the extra takings over the bar that would ensue. After a short time, Arthur Chisnall, an employee of Snapper at his Kingston Antiques emporium, took over the booking of jazz bands for the Island, and shortly afterwards, following ‘advice’ from the local constabulary, founded a legitimate jazz club, complete with memberships (members were provided with ‘passports’) and entrance fees. Jazz legend Ken Colyer played on the opening night of “Eelpiland”. Thereafter, jazz thrived on the Island, especially when a narrow bridge between the Island and the Twickenham embankment was opened in February 1957. Other names that helped that “thriving” were Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball, Terry Lightfoot, Cy Laurie, Sandy Brown, and basically anyone who was anyone in Trad Jazz circles during the 50s.
By the early 60s, jazz clubs were proliferating throughout London, and reaching out to the suburbs, with Ealing Jazz Club a notable example. During the summer of 1962, a combo, not yet fully formed and initially calling themselves the Rollin’ Stones, embarked on a series of appearances at the Ealing Club on their Blues nights, started by Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies, who themselves became known as the founding fathers of British Rhythm and Blues. There was something new on the horizon. By February 1963, The Rolling Stones had established a residency at the back room of The Station Hotel, opposite Richmond railway station, and along with similar minded young musos, and buoyed by the success of their Beat-driven allies from Liverpool, launched a systematic attack on the jazz establishment. The Eel Pie Island club had already put on four ‘Beat Groups’ for a “Rock and Twist” night in autumn 1962, and seeing the resulting success of The Stones in Richmond, promptly booked them on a residency at the Island that would last until September 1963, by which time The Stones had hit the charts, and were way too big for the borough, instead taking to the theatre / ballroom touring circuit with Bo Diddley and The Everly Brothers, never to return (until they finally did to play the rather larger Twickenham Rugby Stadium in 2003). But the jazz stranglehold had been broken, though it remained a staple presence on Saturdays, with R&B on show on the Wednesdays and Sundays, until Chisnall’s licence was unaccountably revoked in September 1967, and, faced with an estimated bill of £200,000 to cover the required renovations, Eelpiland closed. The club had managed to feature a whole range of R&B bands, over and above The Stones, such as Manfred Mann, The Yardbirds, Long John Baldry’s Hoochie Coochie Men (formed after the death of Cyril Davies, and quickly featuring a young Rod Stewart, recruited after their first gig under their new name when Baldry encountered a drunken Rod performing an impromptu harmonica stint at Twickenham railway station after he’d attended that first appearance), Steampacket (again featuring Baldry, Stewart, Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger), and the Graham Bond Organization. Venerable original Blues artists from the US appeared, such as Sonny Boy Williamson, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Champion Jack Dupree, Memphis Slim, Jesse Fuller and Buddy Guy all making their mark on the Island, along with a number of R&B / soul review acts, such as Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band, Herbie Goins and The Nightimers, The Freddy Mack show, and Ronnie Jones and The Blue Jays. Representatives of the emergent British Blues Boom appeared, such as John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (including his illustrious roster of lead guitarists: Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor), Chicken Shack, Ten Years After, and the original supergroup, Cream. Its final year was characterised by the new sounds of psychedelia, with Pink Floyd, Family, and Tomorrow appearing. Following that initial closure in 1967, and some superficial renovation, sporadic promotions ensued over the next two years, featuring the likes of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, The Nice and The Moody Blues, but probably most notably in October 1968, when the Who previewed their upcoming “Tommy” material, but consistent appearances only returned to the Island when Caldwell Smythe took over the operation in autumn 1969, and renamed the venue Colonel Barefoot’s Rock Garden (after the punters’ footprints that were used to embellish the ceiling of the Hotel), and promoted increasingly hard rock and progressive oriented acts like Genesis, Mott The Hoople, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. Music ceased in about November 1970, by which time the original Hotel (it had long since ceased functioning as a pub, let alone a hotel) had been requisitioned as a commune, and fell into wholesale disrepair. While Snapper was angling for sale of the property, it burned down in mysterious circumstances in early 1971, the sale went ahead, demolition was completed, and the resultant Aquarius development now occupies the site.
The Station Hotel in Richmond had been run by Giorgio Gomelsky, of French-Russian extraction, since early in 1963, and who assumed the mantle of unofficial manager of The Stones. Galvanised by The Stones’ electric effect on punters, he embraced the R&B music that was becoming all the rage in the south, and thus renamed his operation The Crawdaddy (after “Do The Crawdaddy”, the Bo Diddley song that The Stones used to finish their show), to Americanise / Bluesify his club. The crowds in the club started to hit 500, which was well in excess of the pub’s licence, so as the owners were starting to think about closing the club down, Gomelsky promptly moved The Crawdaddy to the nearby Richmond Athletic Ground (home of London Scottish and Richmond Rugby Clubs), whose clubhouse could accommodate these numbers. As with Eel Pie Island, The Stones played their final Crawdaddy gig in September 1963, and would be replaced by the up-and-coming Yardbirds as residents (a live recording of visiting US bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson, backed by The Yardbirds, was made at The Crawdaddy in December 1963). In that year, The Station Hotel / Crawdaddy operations hosted 27 appearances by The Stones, with Eel Pie Island weighing in with 24. If you liked The Stones, this was the place to live. While infrequent gigs took place here under its various subsequent guises, such as The Bull and Bush, its current incarnation as One Kew Road is as an eatery, though the upstairs space is occasionally used for musical events, usually promoted by Music Heritage London (responsible for the Swinging 60s Shuttle Bus tours which start behind the building) featuring 60s names like Mike Berry or 60s tribute bands.
The Richmond Athletic Ground has its own place in local music lore, quite apart from The Stones involvement. In 1961, Harold Pendleton, then the man behind The Marquee club in London, used the ground to host the first ever National Jazz Festival. After The Stones, Long John Baldry and Cyril Davies became interlopers in the 1963 event, the following year the Ground played host to the 4th National Jazz& BluesFestival, with honours spread evenly between the ‘old order’ with established jazz performers like Alex Welsh, Chris Barber, Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes, Humphrey Lyttelton and Kenny Ball, alongside representatives of the ‘new guard’ such as The Stones, Long John Baldry’s Hoochie Coochie Men, Graham Bond Organization, Manfred Mann, and The Yardbirds. The 1965 edition maintained the split, but introduced further new blood such as The Moody Blues, The Who, The Animals, and the Spencer Davis Group. The US pop music TV show “Shindig!” filmed this festival, under the banner “Shindig Goes To London”. Footage of this is available on YouTube these days, and it appears, tellingly, that while the film crews were there for the entire event, no footage has emerged of any of the jazz performers on show that year. It appears the Americans knew their audience. The following year, the Festival upped sticks to Windsor racecourse, and ultimately became the National Jazz, Blues and Rock Festival in 1972 when hosted at Reading, featuring progressively less jazz on the menu. It is now known simply as The Reading Festival, but it all started here in Richmond.
The Turk’s Head, St.Margarets, has hosted numerous performances, both musical and comedic (to wit, The Bearcat Club) in its adjoining Winchester Hall, as well as some local acts in the pub proper. Following the disastrous fire on Eel Pie Island in 1996, when a number of artists’ workshops and studios were destroyed (thankfully with no injuries), Nick Lowe played a benefit here for the Eel Pie Trust set up to recompense victims of the fire: Nick had previously used the hall to try out material that would appear on three subsequent albums. The pub also features as the one that an errant Ringo Starr wanders into when he goes walkabout in “A Hard Day’s Night”, with both that film and its successor “Help!” being partially shot at nearby Twickenham Film Studios.
The Bull’s Head in Barnes has been a noted venue for jazz since 1959, with a number of live recordings having been made there. Humphrey Lyttelton played here every month for 42 years, while Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Phil Seamen and Stan Tracey all put in performances. While jazz is the predominant fare, artists as varied as PP Arnold, Alan Price, Jeff Beck, Zoot Money, Blossom Dearie and Jamie Cullum have played here. Despite structural changes involving moving the performance room around, the venue is very much still open for business, and The Barnes Blues Band, featuring Papa George and Bob Tench are usually on view once a month. The venue featured in Martin Scorsese’s “History of the Blues” documentary in 2003.
Not far from The Bull’s Head is the site of Olympic Studios. Built in 1906 as a theatre, it was used mainly as a cinema before becoming a television studio in the late 1950s. In 1965 it was purchased by Olympic Sound Studios, and converted into the renowned recording studio that many will be familiar with today. Artists that recorded here include The Rolling Stones (including their first ever single “Come On”, not that that is a recommendation, as even they weren’t happy with the choice of song), The Beatles (normally associated with Abbey Road, but tracks for “All You Need Is Love” were recorded here, along with b-side “Baby You’re A Rich Man”), The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Troggs (“Wild Thing”), The Who (“Who’s Next”), Led Zeppelin (everything up to and including “Physical Graffiti”), and Queen’s “A Night At The Opera” was laid down here. The Studio was eventually declared closed in 2009, and has since been redeveloped as a smaller studio facility, but has mainly reverted to its old role as an independent local cinema.
While The Station Hotel / Crawdaddy and Eel Pie Island are the most notable venues of local musical heritage, a number of other lesser known locations exist.
Opposite The Station Hotel, in what is now known as The Railway Tavern, was The South-Western, where a young Eric Clapton rehearsed with Tom McGuiness, later of Manfred Mann, as The Roosters.
The Crown in St. Margarets hosted a vibrant jazz club during the 60s, boasting a similar roster of talent to The Bull’s Head, with the likes of Tubby Hayes, and the Dick Morrissey Quartet, but also moved over to Blues when The Blues Scene opened, ran by members of The Dynaflow Blues Band, and who regularly featured Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke (who lived nearby) of Free. This would have been in the large function room to the rear of the pub, now subsumed into the redeveloped gastro pub that The Crown has become.
The Winning Post on the Great Chertsey Road in Whitton, hosted numerous contemporary rock bands during the 1970s, including Argent, Be Bop Deluxe, Edgar Broughton, Camel, Cockney Rebel, Rory Gallagher, Groundhogs, Hawkwind, Heavy Metal Kids, Kokomo, Lindisfarne, Pink Fairies, Savoy Brown Blues Band, Stray, Sutherland Brothers & Quiver, Thin Lizzy (five times in 14 months), and Uriah Heep. It was one of the earliest provincial (or at least ‘suburban’) venues to put on Punk bands, with The Jam and Chelsea making appearances here in 1977. These days it hosts a Rock’n’Roll night on the first Friday of every month.
The Mulberry Tree, Richmond Road, Twickenham hosted various local musicians during the late 80s and early 90s.
KEEPING THE SPIRIT ALIVE
The Mystery Jets emerged from Eel Pie Island in 2003, and their activities eerily echoed those of nearly half a century before, in that they hosted ‘illegal’ gigs on the Island (titled “The White Cross Revival”, evoking the name of the original pub that had stood on the site of the Eel Pie Island Hotel), advertised by word of mouth and on College notice boards, and were frequently visited by police, leading to their shutdown. “It was OK” said band leader and co-founder Blaine Harrison, “We’d already got a contract by that time!”. They’ve now got six albums under their belt.
The Carnabys emerged out of Twickenham in 2011 playing at local pubs and summer fetes. Since then in 2013, they won the Hard Rock Rising competition, contested by 12,000 bands from 94 countries, leading to an appearance at the Hard Rock Calling festival held at London’s Olympic site, and on the same bill as Bruce Springsteen, Kasabian, and Paul Weller. They released their second album in 2016, and if you hear a band giving it loads while you pass by The Cabbage Patch some lunchtimes, that’s them, as they use Patchworks within the pub for rehearsals!
The Eel Pie Island Museum is expected to open in Spring 2017, located at 1-3-Richmond Road, Twickenham. Details can be found at www.eelpiemuseum.co.uk and there is a Facebook page dedicated to Eel Pie Island Museum.
KEEPING THE MUSIC GOING
The Eel Pie Club, operating out of The Cabbage Patch in London Road Twickenham, has been keeping the spirit of Eel Pie Island alive since 2000, and features musos either of that era, or those who still practise the noble art of blues and R&B that originated back in the 60s. The Club operates fortnightly, see www.eelpieclub.com for details. On occasions, The Clarendon Hall in York House has been used for gigs that have needed more room, and in recent years it has hosted The Yardbirds and The Pretty Things amongst many others, and it was here that the idea for the Eel Pie Club itself took root in 1999.
The Crawdaddy Club has been revived and operates again out of its eventual location at the Richmond Athletic Ground’s clubhouse. Gigs are put on every two months, featuring mainly R&B based performers, again echoing its original fare. See www.crawdaddyclubrichmond.com
Summer sees a number of open air music days, with events occurring at the Moormeads recreation ground in St.Margarets and at Strawberry Hill House in the grounds of St.Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill.
“On The Edge” has been a two day celebration of World Music” held on the embankment at Richmond for a number of years.
Since Twickenham Stadium played host to erstwhile local regulars The Rolling Stones in both 2003 and 2006, a number of high-profile concerts have taken place here, featuring at various times, The Police, Iron Maiden, The Eagles, and will host U2 in 2017.
The Stoop, home of Harlequins Rugby Football Club is getting in on the act, with Elton John due to appear in summer 2017.
Kew Gardens regularly hosts open air events during the summer, with the likes of Jools Holland appearing.
Similarly, Hampton Pool puts on a series of open air concerts (“Summer Picnics”) during the summer.
The Barmy Arms, where Brian Rutland drew those unmanageable crowds back in 1956, hosts, as part of London 60s Week at the end of July, an annual open air appearance by The Eel Pie All Stars, who feature former members of 60s survivors The Downliners Sect, along with other local R&B / rock luminaries. The event is usually attended by hordes of Mod-era scooters, suitably adorned. (Unfortunately, I understand London 60s Week no longer happens, but the gig at The Barmy Arms went ahead anyway last year, and I believe it is intended to happen again this year)
Visit the following link to find out about current gigs.
Pete Watt, March 2017