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The Start of the Eel Pie Jazz Club - May 1956

by John Winstone  (Eelpiland Passport No 5)

[click on pics for full size images]

Following the programme on BBC Radio 4, 30th January 2007, I finally tried to do what I have been intending for some many years which was to try to make contact with dear Arthur. The Google search told me what I didn't want to hear which of course was Arthur's death and funeral.

Now to explain: Arthur Chisnall together with Stuart Rae, Brian ??, Ray ??, Tom ?? and myself (plus one or two others) started the initially free parties in May 1956, thanks to Mike Snapper's willingness to allow his employee Arthur to use the Hotel for the Jazz based events. To clarify some uncertainty on the website, Mike had his own base in Kingston at Snapper's Corner and Arthur ran for Mike a small junk shop in Richmond Road, Kingston.

the Kingston junk shop run by Arthur Chisnall
Arthur Chisnal's antique shop (Kingston) - interior
Tiny (Tom Taylor)
  Arthur Chisnal's antique shop (Kingston)
(l-r) Stuart Rae, John Winstone, ?
Arthur Chisnal's antique shop (Kingston)
(l-r) ?, ?, Arthur Chisnall
  Arthur Chisnal's antique shop (Kingston)
(l-r) Cliff Maidment, ?, ?, John Winstone

Tiny mainly played guitar & bass, and helped at the Island as a bouncer where he met Cliff Maidment, and settled on Isle of Wight where Cliff himself was based. Tom was a very active musician and also taught. He died in 1997 at 63.

We were amazed at the success of the first event which was made known purely by grapevine. We had expected a few dozen and it turned out to be in the hundreds which tested the bouncing floor somewhat. We had to start charging a door fee after the first few to pay for repairs and of course the bands who wanted a little more than the traditionaI crate of beer. I knew Acker from Bristol and tried the beer crate trick on him - unsuccessfully! And we were able after a few weeks to give Mike Snapper £3 per week rent. I was the sort of treasurer for a while looking after the receipts of One & sixpence a head. I still have the very primitive notes of the discussions, plans, band contacts and the promotional material - i.e. the letter to the local student unions.

John Winston's Eel Pie passport
John Winstone's passport (1956)

The main bands in the first couple of months were Terra Buona and Omega who played for about £6 to £8. I have a ticket for Ken Colyer on 10th August 1956 at 4/6 (members) 6/- guests, plus some flyers covering most of the 1957 bands including the trad favourites Bilk, Bell, Brown, Mulligan, Welsh, Merseysippi, Crane River (£12/£15), and Avon Cities.

I remember the ferry which was in my time a manned rowboat before the bridge was built and I occasionally slept in one of the huts on the island which was filled with the old bed mattresses from the hotel days. I lost touch with the enterprise long before it evolved into guitar rather than blown music in order to pursue my professional career.

I was never associated with Arthur's good works but was pleased to read about them and also to hear from a mutual friend who got to the funeral of the wonderful send off arranged for Arthur.

I would like to know if any of the original founder members are still around so that I might re-establish contact after all these years.

John Winstone (February 2007)

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help welcome identifying people in the photos
thanks to John Winstone for the article and scans
comments to
revised 6 August 2019