The Jazz and Folk Scene
by Roy Buckley
in Richmond & Twickenham in the Early 60's
When I left school, Chiswick County Grammar (apparently where a 'well known drummer/lead singer' also went at a later date), I started work at the Paint Research Station in Teddington. This was a very friendly place to work and we had a very good social club, most of us were lab assistants studying part-time at Kingston Tech, as it was then known.
Very early on we discovered the 'Eelpiland'. I had lived on the Island for seven years as a youngster and always held a lot of affection for the place. I still have my 'Passport' to Eelpiland, no.8536, in which it states "We request and require in the name of His Excellency Prince Pan all those whom it may concern to give the Bearer of this Passport ..... any assistance he may require in his/her lawful business of Jiving and generally Cutting a Rug. Given under our Hand this 1st day of January, 1961. PAN PRINCE OF TRADS". One of our group, 'Jay' also worked for the club and was responsible for stamping every body's wrists on entry. None of us, except Jay, were very good at jiving but we all gave it a good try; with the sprung floor of the ballroom you get the rythm quite easily without even moving. The danger was spilling your beer!
My favourite group was Chris Barber and his band, often appearing with their vocalist Ottilie Patterson. Sometimes he would give way to his clarinettist, Monty Sunshine to lead. Chris would take over the double bass to make up the Quartet, particularly known for the recordings of Petite Fleur and Hushabye. At other times Chris would also take the bass while the banjoist/guitarist Dick "Cisco" Bishop would lead in a skiffle session. Other groups that spring to mind are Ken Colyer (until 1954 Colyer's band was made up of the current Chris Barber band members) although he only appeared once after I joined, Terry Lightfoot, George Chisholm, The Dutch Swing College (who also only appeared once), and Alex Welsh and his Dixieland Jazz Band were regulars. The Temperance Seven made several appearances and so did Acker Bilk, as well, of course, as the inimatable George Melly. Often at the half-time interval a soloist would give a performance; frequently this would be Long John Baldry.
Other jazz clubs in the area included the Station Hotel in Richmond, which then became the Crawdaddy Club with mainly R & B music, as is the way that the Island went, with groups such as the Rolling Stones dominating the scene. I still maintain it was the R & B supporters that caused the collapse of the sprung dance floor with their 'head-banging' and 'stomping' routines! Also, not too far away, the Chislehurst Caves warrant a mention. I only managed one visit there, but it was well worth it. On one other occasion several of us went to Brighton for an all-night jazz session. We hitch-hiked there and back, catching up on a bit of sleep on the beach for a couple of hours the next morning. For the travel we split into pairs to make hitching easier, needless to say, those travelling with a female got there and back much quicker!
(Recently, 50 years later, I discovered a new generation - they have only been around about 20 years! - in Pete Allen and his band. They have played several times near High Wycombe at Hughenden Manor, giving open-air concerts and picnics, and are thoroughly recommended.)
I liked folk music ever since the days of skiffle. I am totally tuneless when it comes to singing. I did try to learn the guitar and found I could manage it physically but again, totally tuneless. Therefore I stuck to listening to and appreciating those who could. For me, the folk scene began at the Richmond Folk Club. This was held at the community halls in Richmond and was led by Alex Cambell aided by 'Big Theo' Johnson. Alex was a real performer. He wasn't the best singer in the world, nor the best guitarist, but he did both with feeling and genuinely loved the songs he sang. He finished every evening with 'Goodnight Irene', insisting that Leadbelly always sang 'I'll get you in my dreams'. It's a pity that he blotted his copybook in later years. Generally there were about 50 members present and a wide range of performers were attracted. I remember one young man coming along who played his party piece of 'Geordie', accompanying himself very ably on guitar; his name was Martin Carthy, and he went on to great things. Other regulars were Bob Davenport (of Cushie Butterfield fame), Johnny Silvo, and Theo's brother (I don't remember his name but he was in the merchant navy and came in when he was on leave - his speciality was sea-shanties). Sometimes the big names of the folk world were brought in, such as The Liverpool Spinners, The Clancy Brothers and The Ian Campell Folk Group. For these, a larger audience also came along and the performers were on the stage rather than the small but intimate platform used at other times.
One regular performer was a young American who played a 'Martin' jumbo guitar, he played with a single plectrum rather than the 'finger picking' style current and he sang a lot of American folk, giving a very good rendition of 'Talking Guitar Blues' and a very poignant performance of 'Cocaine, all around my brain'. He talked a lot about what his old granma would say. (I just can't remember his name.) I came across him several years later at a club in Hampton.
The Richmond club eventually folded and was taken up by 'The Open Folk and Blues Club' at 'The Crown' in Twickenham, my membership number being 312. Most of the singers from Richmond Club also appeared at 'The Crown'. I remember a joung man called 'John' who often played a bit of classical music, especially his favourite piece 'Romance', I don't know his surname but I like to think it may be 'Williams', I know John Williams did play a lot of folk music.
Also in the Kingston area were other clubs, particularly one run by Julie Felix, I went a few times. Outside the area I went several times to Cecil Sharpe House to hear a few concerts, but I can't remember who was performing (it was probably the McPeakes or A L 'Bert' Lloyd). Also I went several times to the 'Singers Club' in Greys Inn Road which was run by Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger. Ewan was known as the 'Godfather' of British Folk music. Many think this mantle has now been taken up by Martin Carthy: since Martin married into the Waterson family they are considered the royalty of English folk. On one visit to the Singers Club I bumped into an old school friend from Chiswick Grammar, Barry Thomas, who it turned out was playing backing guitar for Peggy.
After this I found the folk scene was changing, being taken over by groups who were more Pop than Folk, still good but I had not adjusted to the change. I am glad to say that the modern scene seems to cater for everybody, but I only get to hear it on the radio or television.