RICHMOND & TWICKENHAM BLUES

THE CRAWDADDY CLUB & EEL PIE ISLAND
 


 

In the early 1960s, in the South West London suburbs, the sound of British rhythm & blues started to evolve. The first evidence of this centred on a dilapidated hotel on Eel Pie Island, Twickenham. It had been a tourist attraction in the 19th century and, renowned for its sprung ballroom floor, was hosting tea dances during the 1920ís and 1930ís. However, by the mid-fifties it had fallen into a state of disrepair. Arthur Chisnall, a Kingston shop owner, had the idea of holding weekly dances at Eel Pie Island, and artistís such as Ken Colyer, Kenny Ball and George Melly became regular visitors.



 

In 1961, Alexis Korner, guitarist and vocalist with a skiffle/folk background, and Cyril Davies, vocalist and harpist, who had previously performed as an acoustic blues duo, founded the first home-grown R&B outfit, Blues Incorporated, and also founded their own club in 1962, the Ealing Club, in a small basement room opposite Ealing Broadway Station. Blues Incorporated changing line ups included Jack Bruce, Graham Bond, Jimmy Page, Charlie Watts, (to be replaced by Ginger Baker), with Long John Baldry and Rod Stewart regularly sitting in on sessions. Early visitors to the Ealing Club included Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones.



 

 


At that time one of the jazz movementís central figures was Harold Pendleton who had founded the Marquee Club in Oxford Street in the late fifties.
He organised the first National Jazz Festival in Richmond in August 1961, with a line up which included Chris Barber, Johnny Dankworth, Tubby Hayes and Ken Colyer. By the time of the 1965 Festival, R & B shared equal billing. Whilst the afternoon sessions were reserved for jazz acts, the evening sessions featured The Yardbirds, The Who, the Mike Cotton Sound, The Moody Blues, Manfred Mann, Georgie Fame, The Graham Bond Organisation, The Animals, Spencer Davis, and Steampacket with Rod Stewart, Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and Long John Baldry.


The Crawdaddy Club, which started towards the end of 1962, was the idea of Giorgio Gomelsky, filmmaker and blues enthusiast. His first resident group was the Dave Hunt R & B Band, which briefly featured Ray Davies who later formed The Kinks. In February 1963, the Rolling Stones played their first gig at the Crawdaddy Club, at the Station Hotel Richmond for a fee of £1 each, plus a share of the door. The Station Hotel needing renovation, and the club needing more space, the Crawdaddy moved to a larger venue, the Richmond Athletic Ground.
 

 

By April 1963, the Stones had two gigs a week at the Crawdaddy and a weekly slot on Eel Pie Island. During this time, they achieved their first chart hit, Come On.

After the Stones departed on tour, another leading R & B group from Kingston, the Yardbirds, took over the Crawdaddy residency from 1963-66, and various line ups included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.



 


Eel Pie Island has an equally long pedigree in presenting R & B music. There were early appearances by Cyril Davies. Although an original member of Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, he had left in late '62, taking Long John Baldry with him, to put together the 'Rhythm & Blues All Stars' with the aim of playing Chicago-style blues. The All Stars quickly became a popular attraction and occasional members included pianist Nicky Hopkins, Jeff Beck and drummer Micky Waller, who replaced the legendary Carlo Little. Other members variously included Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger, with Rod (the Mod) Stewart doing the odd solo.



 

Tragically the band was short-lived when, in early '64, Davies died aged 32, said to have been of leukaemia, but it has also been claimed to have been of pleurisy. Baldry took the remnants of Davies' group and formed The Hoochie Coochie Men (with Stewart, Auger and Driscoll) who in turn, evolved into the Brian Auger Trinity. Also making regular appearances were John Mayallís Bluesbreakers (featuring Eric Clapton), the Downliners Sect, the Tridents (featuring Jeff Beck) and The Who, all performed on the Island between 1962 and 1967.

 



 

In 1967, Eel Pie Island was forced to close because the owner could not meet the cost of the repairs that the police had deemed necessary, and squatters moved in. In 1969, the Club briefly reopened as Colonel Barefootís Rock Garden, and line ups included progressive bands like Black Sabbath and the Edgar Broughton Band. In 1971, after a demolition order, the Eel Pie Island Hotel burnt down Ďin mysterious circumstancesí.


 

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