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. 

Advert for The Gaff, jazz club at the Green Man with compere George Melly. The Green Man is described as 'South London's greatest jazz centre' (from Jazz News, 28 February 1962, found at great National Jazz Archive)

[post updated September 2022 with advert from Jazz News]


  1. 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.

  2. Thanks for that, great story.

  3. 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

    1. Yep I agree My name (Manager/ organiser 1961-64) is DAVE REIDand it was Ronnie Ross (not SCOTT) the guests played with house band, always, during my time Manfred only played once interval with Mike Hugg and Trev Tompkins(drs) and Tony Reeves(bs)
      The Hackwood hotel club (called Dave’s ME) was where we tried out new arrangements and invited pop mated to play jazz (Glen Hughes, Jet Harris etc)
      Much of the original post is inaccurate, unfortunately but the early years before I became a teacher were great and were the foundation of a lot of later nationally known groups Dave Reid

  4. 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

    1. 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.

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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:

    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.

    1. Sadly my name has been changed to Richardson. I am Dave Reid and co-founded the Ian Bird Quintet as resident band. Manfred and Mike High actually asked if they could play interval (using Trevor Tomkins and Tony Reeves drs and bs) on vibes and piano.
      The second club was at the Hackwood Hotel in Bromley called Dave's.
      Both clubs were advertised weekly in the Melody Maker on Fridays.

  8. @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 :-) )

  9. Remember playing there on the last night, we were changing between various bands. Bill Brunskill was playing half way up the stairs, was the landlady, a handsome woman, named Joyce ? Keith Nichols, John Maddox were regulars.

  10. The jazz pianist Roy Budd, from South Norwood, had a connection with the Green Man at Blackheath. In Chris Groom's book 'Rockin' and Around Croydon' it says:
    "At sixteen he was playing four or five nights a week in a Thornton Heath jazz pub, subsequently moving to the Green Man at Blackheath where he met Ian Bird, who also ran Croydon's Tropicana club."
    Ian Bird must have liked the Tropicana club as he named a tune after it, which you can hear on YouTube at this link:
    Does anyone know where in Croydon the Tropicana club was located? Tubby Hayes played there in 1967.

  11. We used to run a folk club called the Kerouac Club at the Green Man, from Feb. - June 1968.
    The first night was Tuesday, 27th Feb. and featured Jonny Silvo and The Chapter Three. We always ran at a loss, using Student’s Union funds from Poplar Technical College. I believe we once booked Gordon Giltrap. Does anyone remember?

  12. Dave, I have no recollection of you at all during my stint as co-manager of the Jazzhouse with Alan Smith and Les Carte, which was '62, '63 and '64. I was invited to join their team when the jazz club I was running on Mondays at the Amersham Arms, New Cross folded. The house band was indeed the Ian Bird Quintet (occasionally Sextet when Frank Powell joined them on trumpet). I was there when Clive Burrows had the idea to form a rehearsal big-band, which eventually became the New Jazz Orchestra, which I became the manager up to and including the time of them recording their live album at Decca Studios in March '65. Maybe your time was earlier, I don't know, but much of what you wrote does not chime with my recollections.

  13. I guess 60 years later people's memories of exactly who did what may differ, but thanks for the recollections everybody. Don't know if you've had a change to look at the National Jazz Archive which is online but they have lots of old issues of Jazz News from that time which you can search, and the Green Man comes up in the listings. Seems that before the Jazzhouse there was a jazz club called the Gaff there, do you recall? I have added a 1962 advert to the post from Jazz News for a night there with George Melly.

  14. Yes, they do indeed, Transpontine. As Queen Elizabeth (RIP) recently said: "Recollections may vary". However, I stand 100% behind the accuracy of my original post, much of which can be found in Jon Hiseman's biography: "Playing the Band" by Martyn Hanson. Thanks for your comment though. Colin Richardson.
    PS Reading the Gaff ad, this Friday club must have closed by the time I joined the "Jazzhouse" team, Our Friday night attempt at running an R&B club with Manfred Mann would have been sometime in the summer of 1963.

  15. Colin Richardson12 October 2022 at 12:02

    It's a small world. Further research on the National Jazz Archive revealed that the GAFF was set up and run by Sidcup born Jim Godbolt, an unknown 'Traddie' at that time, but who would go on to run his own band agency, representing the Swinging Blue Jeans and other bands. Around 1970 he joined forces with a larger agency/management company, Bron Artist Management, where he worked alongside me, looking after bands that included Colosseum, Uriah Heep, Gentle Giant and Gene Pitney's UK tours. Later still, he became the editor of JARS (Jazz At Ronnie Scott's) house magazine, as well as writing a hilariously funny autobiography of his experiences titled "All This and 10%". A genuine British eccentric who wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but I liked him and stayed in touch with him, on and off, right up to his death at 91 in 2013.

  16. I found this piece in the 'Tonbridge Free Press' dated 16th August 1963: “A TROUBADOUR pioneering modern jazz in the 15th Century manor house, the Hilden Manor, is Ian Bird. At 25, the leader of his own quintet, he and other jazz groups aim to repeat their already established success at the Green Man, Blackheath. The Jazzhouse, as the club is called, is at the Manor every Sunday. The Ian Bird Quintet played the first two dates and are playing alternate week-ends taking turns with other name bands.”

    Weds: TROPICANA 18 George St., Croydon. Licensed until 2 a m
    Sundays: GREEN MAN Blackheath Hill, S.E.10.
    Average Adm. each club 5/-. Enquiries: TOWnley 2061. (01 693 2061 in 1968 ads)
    (Classified advert that ran in 'Crescendo' magazine from April 1967 until March 1968)