In the late 1950's promoters Nanda and Ron Lesley ran the very successful Ipswich Jazz Club, held on a Monday evening. In the winter the venue was an indoor swimming pool, the St. Matthews Baths Hall, covered by a remarkable 'bouncing' floor. In the summer the venue moved to the Manor Ballroom. Nanda and Ron also promoted at a similar club in London and had close links with Alexis Korner, Cyril Davies, Giorgio Gomelsky and Harold Pendleton, who were all associated with an emerging and very successful Richmond, Twickenham and Ealing  jazz and blues scene.

In 1962 Nanda and Ron Lesley began to introduce British R 'n' B artists to the Jazz Club and one of the first bands to appear was Blues Incorporated. The growing popularity of the blues, coupled with a lessening of interest in jazz, gradually led the Jazz Club to gradually evolve into Bluesville.


Nanda and Ron Lesley would book artists to appear at the London club and also at other provincial clubs in the same week, and Ipswich Bluesville became an important venue for new talent. Cyril Davies appeared with his newly formed Rhythm and Blues All Stars, a band that included Rod Stewart (Rod the Mod in quite a minor role), Long John Baldry, Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll in the line up.



After Davies sadly died prematurely aged only 32, Baldry appeared leading the newly formed Hoochie Coochie Men, and later came Stewart with Steampacket and then Shotgun Express. The Yardbirds, Graham Bond, The Animals, John Mayall, Spencer Davies, Zoot Money, Georgie Fame, among others, all appeared and all were regulars from the Richmond/Twickenham scene.


However the resident band in early 1963 at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, did not appear. That was the Rolling Stones and they were provisionally booked for Bluesville but the success of 'Come On' resulted in the cancellation of local small gigs as they embarked on a nationwide tour at larger venues. (They subsequently appeared at the Gaumont, Ipswich, in November 1963.)



Bluesville regulars also travelled to the 101 Club in London, and to the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, the Marquee, and to the Klooks Kleek Club in Hampstead to see a wealth of talent. The strength of interest in the blues in the early 1960's led to American artists such as Gary Davis beginning to visit England, and several appeared in Ipswich including Sonny Boy Williamson and Champion Jack Dupree (the latter appearing at the YMCA hall).

In 1966 Eric Clapton, who had earlier appeared at the venue with the Yardbirds, returned with Cream to the Baths Hall, and in a pre-national tour gig, Led Zeppelin appeared there in 1971.


One American artist who launched his career at the Ipswich Club however was Geno Washington, at the time a member of the USAF stationed at nearby RAF Bentwaters. In June 2002 he appeared again at the Manor Ballroom, which has changed only a little from its Bluesville days, referring to it as his spiritual home. Many of the people in the audience that night were the same as those who had watched him perform there 37 years before.

Not long after the Led Zeppelin gig, Nanda and Ron Lesley gave up promoting in Ipswich and moved to the south coast. Ron Lesley died at a Torquay nursing home in October 2007 aqged 89.