Tuesday, August 31, 2010

1960s Jazz and R'n'B in Blackheath

Interesting interview at Coventry Music History with Colin Richardson about the Jazzhouse Club in Blackheath, which he co-ran at the Green Man pub in 1962/63. As Colin recalls:

“The jazz club was held at the Green Man pub in Blackheath every Sunday evening, upstairs in what was euphemistically referred to as the "Banqueting Suite". It was a decent sized room, which originally had a tiny triangular stage across one corner of the room (though this was later enlarged to an oblong area which extended right across one end of the room). The 'house band' was the Ian Bird Quintet... Every week a different 'star' soloist would be booked... Tubby Hayes, Joe Harriott, Ronnie Scott, Don Rendell, Tommy Whittle... all the current premier league instrumentalists of the day. They all got paid the same fee...£5 (which was about 3 times what the resident musicians took home!) The resident band would play the first half, then, after the break, the 'star' would play, backed by the house rhythm section. Sometimes (depending on the whim of said 'star', the other guys would return for a jam session end to the evening. The atmosphere was always friendly, the audience usually around the 100 mark, depending on how strong a draw that week's soloist was. There was a bar at the rear of the room, but the audience, though enthusiastic, was always well-behaved and knew their jazz.”

Manfred Mann also played early gigs there with his band of the same name. In 1963, shortly after arriving in the UK from South Africa, he played a jazz gig at another club run by Richardson and friends at the Hackwood Hotel in Bromley. Soon he switched to R&B:

'Next time we saw him, he pitched up at the Jazzhouse one Sunday and told us he had switched to Hammond organ and was playing R&B as Manfred Mann (he probably deemed his real name, Lubowitz, too unwieldy). He suggested that we open a 'rhythm and blues' night, saying that they would play every other Friday for a straight 50% of the door take (such was his confidence that they would draw a good crowd, which turned out to be well-founded)...

On the first Friday, I turned up at my usual time of around 7 pm...30 minutes prior to opening the doors. Normally, on a Sunday, I would arrive to find maybe 15 or 20 people waiting in an orderly queue. On this occasion as I was approaching the venue, I noticed that there seemed to be a crowd milling around and wondered if there was a problem of some kind. As I got closer, I realised that it was 'our' queue...which stretched from the club entrance on the first floor, down the stairway, out the main entrance and around the block! Around 300+ fans were waiting (with incredible patience, it should be mentioned) to get in. We were, as they say, 'gobsmacked'! The gig was a resounding success and we cleaned up! Not every group did quite as well, but nevertheless, we always made money, whoever was on.

As fate would have it, the success of the R&B night, with its much larger crowds, was indirectly the cause of its demise. It happened thus: On Saturday nights at the Green Man, a slightly dubious promoter used to stage what he described as "A Battle of the Bands", when he would assemble a bill of 5 or 6 local 'beat groups' (as they were known then) who would 'compete' for the title of the night's best group. They would 'win' the prize money of about a tenner..the rest got zilch! The promoter, of course, always made a bomb! There were often minor scuffles on these evenings...nothing serious...but one Saturday a fight broke out and a knife was used...enter the 'fuzz', who promptly closed ALL the clubs down... even though we were unconnected and had never had any trouble on our nights... [the jazz club was eventually allowed to continue]

So, our venture into the world of 'commercial promotions' came to an end..but , at least we had made a bit of money, which we used to fund the formation of a 'big-band workshop', the brainchild of Clive Burrows, co-leader of the resident quintet. The rehearsal band eventually evolved into the New Jazz Orchestra'.

The Green Man at the top of Blackheath Hill, replaced with Alison Close housing in the early 1970s, was obviously an important local music venue. As mentioned here recently, it also hosted a folk club where Paul Simon played.

As for Manfred Mann (the man), he went on to have many hits with Manfred Mann (the band), and eventually bought a music studio at 488 Old Kent Road, called the Workhouse. Many great records were made on that spot, now covered by the Asda supermarket. Incidentally, Mr Mann/Lubowitz once lived in Southbrook Road, Lee.

Keeping the South London connection, here's Manfred Mann in 1967 performing the title song to the film Up the Junction (set in Battersea) - looking here like they pretty much invented Oasis's look!

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I went there to see Judy Collins about 1964. She was unable to attend and was replaced at short notice by one Paul Simon. This was just prior to the release of the "Wednesday Morning 3a.m." album. I recall that "The Sound Of Silence" was badly received by the resident "Folkniks" who chattered loudly through most of the performance. They were however confounded when a few months later Simon & Garfunkel hit the bigtime. Often I wondered what became of the Green Man's fabric as I seem to remember the most beautiful Art Nouveau tiles depicting the legend of, I guess, Robin of Sherwood. Sadly many of these artifacts were destroyed in the 60's and 70's pursuit of the new.

Transpontine said...

Thanks for that, great story.

Vernon Allen said...

I never knew about the green mans connection with a folk club or with famous names such as Paul Simon ,manfred Mann ,tubby Hayes or Ronnie SCOTT playing there,
I just remember it as a trad jazz venue where the likes of
The black bottom stompers ,the frog island jazz band and
Johnny bastables chosen six used to play.
My mum and dad with his brothers and nephews were regular visitors there in the mid to late sixties until it closed for redevelopment and the local jazz scene move to the mitre in tunnel avenue.

Vernon Allen ,son of stan.
Former kidbrooke resident

Anonymous said...

Yes I practically lived in the Green Man club in 1962 until it closed in 1963 after the fight. I remember rolling up with Paul Jones sitting on the edge of the stage one night during his interval - but I think they were called Mann-Hugg Blues Band until the name change. They alternated with John Mayall on Friday RnB night.The Stones played one night near Xmas 1962. I was impressed by their sound as I was already buying blues records. Then my friend told me about their first record the following May. Another chum was mad about Modern Jazz and saw Sonny Stitt there who I had never heard of. My father said it once was a Boxing Gym where he saw Tommy Farr training. - Mike Read

Anonymous said...

I remember going to the Green Mann just off the A2 in Blackheath on Wednesday evenings in the early 70's to see the Black Bottom Stompers plus others.

It had a magical atmosphere with tall Victorian ceilings, real ale and amazing 'full on' trad jazz.

When it was demolished live music moved the Mitre, near the entrance to the Blackball tunnel, complete with the smell of a glue works nearby. It wasn't as good anyway.
Now that's was demolished as well...an end of a live music era I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Near Christmas - yes.. actually New Years Eve as I recall , fillng in while the trad jazz guys took a break .Thats how we saw it at the time and not impressed or well pleased with their noise.

Paul Stump said...

Just fabulous work. Thanks! Sonny STITT in Scarf London! Incredible.

Anonymous said...

Lots of interesting jazz and R&B connections here, particularly regarding Jon Hiseman, who was the drummer with the Ian Bird Quintet - there is a photo of them in Crescendo magazine at this link:
https://archive.nationaljazzarchive.co.uk/archive/journals/crescendo/crescendo-1963-september/143633-crescendo-1963-september-0011jpg

Jon later switched to R&B, joining the Graham Bond Organisation in 1966, then Georgie Fame's band in 1967 (I was there when they played the Orchid Ballroom, Purley on 27th November) and finally John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (with Tony Reeves on bass) in 1968 before forming Colosseum later in the same year.

Clive Burrows had played sax in the Wes Minster Five with Jon Hiseman before co-founding the Ian Bird Quintet. He also switched to R&B, joining Zoot Money's Big Roll Band for a while before forming the New Jazz Orchestra. It wasn't long before he was playing R&B again, this time with the Alan Price Set (I was in the support band when they played at Streatham Ice Rink on 2nd May 1966 and got to chat with them in the Bali Hai club before going on stage). He then joined Geno Washington's Ram Jam Band in 1967 where the organist was Dave Greenslade, who would later team up with Jon Hiseman and Tony Reeves to form Colosseum in 1968.
Dave

Lononjazzer said...

@anon and others. Some of these timelins are a bit out. I was there from '62 around '65
and I can confirm that Manfred definitely played as Manfred Mann, the Mann/Hugg Blues Brothers had ceased to be by '63. Also, Mayal's Bluesbreakers didn't 'alternate', they were one of many groups on the week when MM played. The R&B club didn't last long unfortunately, for reasons that were nothing to do with us. Not that it made any difference to 'Plod'! :-D Read about that time in more detail in my log: wwww.colinrichardsonjazz.typepad,com (Hope that's ok Admin :-) )