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The birth of the British beat boom has generally been associated with the Beatles in Liverpool in the early 1960s. Simultaneously, in the South West London suburbs, the different, grittier sound of Rhythm & Blues was emerging. Transplanted from the rural states of the black American South, and the clubs of industrial Chicago, Blues and R & B became something quite different in the hands of white suburban teenagers. All the more so when they added their passion for rock ‘n roll, the effect of which was to take homegrown R & B out of the hands of its early practitioners, who preferred the more raw, acoustic form.

The first evidence that a post-war musical subculture was beginning to take hold centred in a dilapidated hotel on Eel Pie Island, Twickenham. It had been a tourist attraction in the 19th century and, renown for its sprung ballroom floor, was hosting tea dances during the 1920’s and 1930’s. However, by the mid-fifties it had fallen into disrepair and its owner was not sure what to do with it. It was The Grove Jazz Band who first had the idea of starting a Jazz Club on The Island.  This was an accolade gradually bestowed on Arthur Chisnall, a Kingston junk-shop owner who became involved in organising weekly dances there a few months later.  But it was Arthur who brought fame to the the Club as a result of his social work in giving young people a voice, and bringing in name jazz acts like Ken Colyer, Kenny Ball and George Melly.

In 1961, Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies founded the first home-grown R & B outfit, Blues Incorporated, and founded their own jazz club in 1962 – the Ealing Club – in a cramped basement room opposite Ealing Broadway Station. Early visitors to the Ealing Club included future Rolling Stones Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and Charlie Watts. Within a year, these young men were unknowingly altering the course of popular music just down the road – in Richmond, Surrey.

National Jazz Festival

One of the jazz movement’s central figures was Harold Pendleton who had founded the Marquee Club in Oxford Street in the late fifties. The first National Jazz Festival, organised by Harold Pendleton, took place in Richmond in August 1961, with names such as Chris Barber, Johnny Dankworth, Tubby Hayes and Ken Colyer.

By the 1965 Festival, R & B’s invasion of the pop consciousness was complete. Whilst the afternoon sessions were reserved for the usual 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 and Long John Baldry.

The Crawdaddy Club

The Crawdaddy Club, which started towards the end of 1962, was the idea of Giorgio Gomelsky, filmmaker and blues enthusiast, who’d filmed Chris Barber’s band at the first Richmond Jazz Festival. 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. Within a couple of months they became so popular the small hall was bursting at the seams and overflowing onto the street. The Crawdaddy (a condemned building) was forced to move 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, The Stones scored 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, the Yardbirds boasted such names as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

Eel Pie Island

Eel Pie Island had an even longer pedigree in presenting R & B music. Many major names in British R & B - Cyril Davies’ Rhythm & Blues All Stars, Long John Baldry’s Hoochie Coochie Men (with Rod Stewart), John Mayall’s 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 200,000 worth of repairs which the police had deemed necessary and squatters soon moved in. In 1969, the Club briefly reopened as Colonel Barefoot’s Rock Garden, welcoming progressive bands like Black Sabbath and the Edgar Broughton Band. In 1971, after a demolition order, the Eel Pie Island Hotel burnt down ‘in mysterious circumstances’.

THE PRESENT

 The Eel Pie Club was founded in April 2000 at the suggestion of musician, R&B slide guitarist, Tom Nolan.  Following the success of the 1998 and 1999 Richmond Rhythm & Blues concerts in Twickenham which featured The Yardbirds, The Downliners Sect and Stan Webb's Chicken Shack, Tom approached the organisers, Gina Way and Warren Walters, to run the Club while he organised the technical side of things.  Tom also led his own band, Tom Nolan & The Bluescasters and the first Rolling Stones Tribute Band, The Strolling Bones.  The aim of the Eel Pie Club is to preserve and continue the heritage of Rhythm & Blues in the area where it all began in the 1960s.  Nine years later, in 2009, the Club received the accolade of being voted 'Best Place to Hear Blues in England' by the Saturday Guardian.

Tom movwd to Cornwall in 2010 and the Club is now owned and run by Gina Way and Warren Walters.  It has a Membership of almost 1200 and has evolved into one of the major music venues in the UK and a haunt for musicians and music lovers alike.  5% of the profits of most of the Club's gigs is donated to charity.