Helene Hambrook says:
June 19, 2013 at 9:15 pm (Edit)
Remembering how I used to lie to my parents and say i was going to the Jewish Youth Club and go to see some of the best bands in the world. I should have been going to learn how to make bagels.
I’d pay a penny to cross the bridge to the woman who collected the money, in her little shelter, then i’d get to the hotel and buy a pint (my first) and then learn how to smoke and roll up a cigarette.(also my first) After people had finished their pints they chucked the glasses into the river. Nothing was a big deal, apart from getting there on the bus. But i was determined.
Over the last ten years I’ve played many gigs with my bands there, – i play electric violin and mandolin, – first East of Ealing, then more recently The Sex Pirates (Its world dance and drinking music & brilliant lyrics, with heaps of humour & witticisms). We’ve launched 2 boats, played for Aquarius private parties on the lawns, played in the Yacht Club for various and assorted different charities & played on our friends Helen & Mark’s huge barge, Lodestar, for the loads of years of Xmas parties. It holds 150 people! I now go rowing with Helen in Macerere, her parents gorgeous wooden rowing boat. I heard a woodpecker the other day when i was visiting friends! We’ve also played at Glastonbury with both bands, and toured all over Britain and Europe.
Still have lots of friends who live on land and on boats there and there are some great parties!!!
John Breining-Riches says:
June 21, 2013 at 9:45 am (Edit)
I worked part-time, as a Twickenham College student from about 1966 to 1968 in the Club as a’ bottle picker’. This was remunerated by £2 per night, a steak pie and all the Newcastle Amber I could drink. Student heaven.
The Graham Bond Organisation (inc Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce etc) is missing from your list as is Paul Butterfield. Great times, if a little fuzzy in memory. I still had to pay tuppence to cross the footbridge, but hey-ho.
Jan Roberts says:
June 21, 2013 at 9:47 am (Edit)
Yes, I went to Eel Pie Island regularly from 1963 to 1967 ish. I lived in Isleworth, near Twickenham and Hounslow. After getting myself up to Holborn tv studios to appear on Ready Steady Go as a dancer my dad became nervous. He suggested that whatever I did, I was not to go to Eel Pie Island. I’d never heard of it but spoke to my best friend Beverley Jeal about it and we decided to go and see what all the fuss was about. We were interested in all things Bohemian. Duffle coat, college scarf, smoking pipes, a handy guitar over my should (that I couldn’t play!!!) But I could play the clarinet. Wanted to play in a jazz band.
The first time we went to the Island we were totally hooked. Walking over the bridge, having a chat with the little old lady who used to stamp our wrists, was like going through a portal into another world. We loved its seediness and smell. And the music. Trad. Jazz. We were off. Chris Barber, Stubby Kay, etc. All household names then. We loved to jive and practiced all week so that we could fly across the well sprung dance floor every Saturday. We used to buy a pint of shandy and share it as we were still at school and the bar man used to help us out now and again with a free beer. There were footprints on the ceiling which we couldn’t get over. It was always dark on the dance floor and in between dancing we used to spot all sorts of characters from the tv and film world. It was a melting pot for all sorts of wierdos.
We saw the Who there (who only played once, according to my chat with Pete Townsend whom I met recently). Rod Stewart always gets a mention but his mentor and muse was Long John Baldry who were regulars. My pals used to come to Twickenham by train and used to meet Rod on the platform. So from jazz to rhythm and blues. We went to the Station Hotel and Crawdaddy club in Richmond where the Stones started out. I used to get on the stage and dance with Mick Jagger.
Eel Pie Island was where I met Tony and his pals who used to stomp to the music. Bev and I watched them and danced with them, and after all these years his best friend from that era is still alive, lives in Dorking and we still stomp together when we can but not so lively!!
Mike Rivers says:
August 16, 2013 at 11:08 am (Edit)
I love Jan’s memories. I was also one of the dancers on Ready Steady Go, having been picked out by the producers at a club (can’t remember the name) at the bottom of Oxford Street.
I met my wife Sylvie at work and had an instant connection when she mentioned that she knew of Long John Baldry who I was a big fan of. Up till then none of my friends knew LBJ.
I used to live in North London, so I didn’t know anything about the Eel Pie Club, but was a regular at The Marquee, The Flamingo and the 100 Club. My favourite band was the Yardbirds and of course the fabulous line up of the Steampacket.
For the past few years I have been trying to revive the Richmond Blues Festival and along the way managed to revive The Crawdaddy Club at the Richmond Athletic Ground that Jan refers to. Bill Wyman came to our opening night last March and we now have monthly gigs with some great bands.
Congratulations to everyone involved in this terrific project!!
John Anderson says:
June 22, 2013 at 5:27 pm (Edit)
I was a young Scots lad who came from Scotland and arrived in Twickenham on the 5th June 1960 aged 11 and three quarters. I lived in or around Twickenham through that whole decade. (10 Greville Close, 23 Brinsworth Close, & 26 Amyand Park Road and I also resided in Staines and Teddington).
I started playing guitar in 1962, I also was a pupil at Mill Hill School (1961-1966) that was where I could practice a great deal and was influenced by Andrew Rose and Dave Skinner, who when they left became “Twice as much” under the auspices of Andrew Loog Oldham. I was a regular on the Island from July 1963 and in 1965 and 1966 I was a employed as a life saver at Twickenham swimming pool (which was on the embankment close to the bridge) . So when my shift finished it was always (if it was an R&B night) straight over to the Hotel and into the bar. Even as a very much under age drinker. I met all the great names who were not great names then. I met Don Craine in our mutual dentists waiting room on London Road.
One of my group – “Traces” – we played a couple of the free slots at the Island. I think Graham Bond was headlining on those occasions, with Jack, Dick and Ginger. One of my favourite memories is from Christmas 64 when the Tridents played and at the end of the evening Jeff played ‘Hava Nagila’ and a great many of us were trying our best to do a Cossack dance of the ballroom floor. It was bouncing then!!!!
(The posh Jock kid – nickname given to me by “Wee Rod”)
Ray the Beatnik (Everitt) says:
June 23, 2013 at 1:16 pm (Edit)
In the good old days of Jazz, Blues and Booze (not necessarily in that order) there was a row boat that you paid the oarsmen to row you over, and although it was just pennies, (I don’t remember how much) we would strip to the skin and swim over, our clothes being taken on the boat therefore only paying for one! When it was my turn to take the clothes over I would run off with them, leaving me mates stark naked on the bank, till I figured the joke was over!
Later there was a bridge manned by Minnie and Henry Crun (from the Goon show, cost 2pence I believe)
They had gas lamps in the 50s if I remember correctly, and many a naughty thing could be seen in the penombre of the flickering lights, if you follow my drift!
These were pre-Stones days with Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner, Dick Heckstall Smith etc who more or less started the English blues movement there, (and at the Moist Hoist, an Ealing club plus a London pub the name escapes me).
I was only around 14 but spent many a Saturday leaping about with Newcastle Browns under me arm cos there was always a rugby scrum at the bar, so we would buy 4 rounds, usually best bitter but sometimes bottle beer as it was easier to hold when the whole place would “STOMP”, in a huge circle and the floor would bounce up and down to the rhythm of 2 or 3 hundred people Stomping, Stamping in unison, a wild frenetic orgiastic trance-like “DANCE”. The beer would slop on to yer jersies, soaking yer stomach and yer strides, the floor slippery with sweat and beer! The word funky comes to mind tho’ we didn’t have that word in our vocabularies then, but the sexual connotations and smell; the savage bright-eyed maidens, young virile men, boys just bursting with energy, it was all there! Arthur the gov would try to calm us but it was like pouring oil on a raging fire ! Shouts screams and hollers emitted by well lubricated throats, could be heard from every corner, but there was never any trouble! I remember no fights maybe a quarrel about who’s round it was but no more than that!
Later, I made friends with Champion Jack Dupree and he invited me to sing with him! Through the mists of time I remember seeing Buck Clayton, Howling Wolf and oh so many others whose names I forget (they will return when I’ve had a drink or two).
Ken Colyer was a great favourite, as was Alex Welsh, they were not the commercial lot like Terry Lightfoot and Kenny Ball, (although very good musos, they didn’t swing for us!). Graham Bond was around also, but I don’t remember seeing him at the Island, but at Klooks Kleek.
The years passed and the young’uns grew up, styles changed, the mods and rockers period, the music changed and developed (as it should). We were into be bop and “free” jazz, Ronnie Scotts old place as well as our old idols, and slowly we stopped going to the Island around 1968/69. I remember hearing that the floor finally caved in and it was officially closed down for a while! We had seen the growth of Jeff Beck and co, we already knew Jagger and co, cos we used to play football with Charlie Watts as kids at Sudbury near Wembley and had met them in different clubs and pub venues in and around London!
I left England many times during that period to play and sing in Europe with many different bands and such, but never, no never found a club like the Island! 50 odd years or so later, I’m still warbling with different bands plus me own, and still have never come across another “ISLAND”
Wish you well with the project ….
I’ll tell you more next time, gotta go, gotta gig
Malcolm Watts says:
June 23, 2013 at 10:12 pm (Edit)
I had been to Eel Pie Island in 1966 and 1967 and seen John Mayall and several of the now legendary bands of that era. We didn’t know the relevance at the time. I can picture the dilapidated state of the building – there were holes in the floor and roof, and I think trees were growing in through the windows. I had my first serious taste of Newcastle Brown.
In 1968 I was trying to play guitar. I played in a band called Sunset Harp, with Dave Burns on vocals, Steve Herbert on drums, Nick Green and me on guitar, with Roger King on bass. There was a one-time Radio 1 DJ called Tony Mercer, who got us the gig. We discussed playing for 100 hours non-stop to break the world record that had recently been made by a band called Toast. This he hoped would bring the venue back to what it was. In fact Tony Mercer went on the Stuart Henry show on BBC radio and told the world exactly this, that Sunset Harp were going to break the record. Sadly, Steve recalls that as far as he can remember, he started work, Roger got a new job, and it all fell to bits.
Steve also remembers the guy on the towpath by the Thames who sold the seafood and hot-dogs. He was called Terry Callick and he told us he was also a photographer and he had taken the cover photos for the Downliners Sect first two LP’s (possibly others). Steve went home and checked his story, and yes he still has the LP’s.
I can remember that someone with a little Morris Minor pick-up truck met us, and we had to transfer our amps and drums from our van to the Morris Minor, which could just squeeze over the bridge to the island. I think we played for a few hours on a Saturday, and that there were very few people there. We must have just given up and gone home.
Barrie Wentzell says:
July 5, 2013 at 12:25 am (Edit)
Jan Roberts asked me to send you my old membership cards for the ‘Legendary’ Eel Pie Island Project you are putting together. I managed to find my membership card from 1963 & my ex’s with some info cards on ‘upcoming gigs’ including the emerging Rolling Stones.
I was, a few weeks back, sitting by the Thames outside ‘The Swan’ with an old girlfriend from the day, gazing across at Eel Pie and reminiscing about life some 50 years back when we went to the Island on Saturday evenings to listen to ‘Trad Jazz’, drink cider, and bounce up and down with the rhythm of the sprung dance floor, as ‘ravers’ danced and made merry to the music.
I was living in Wimbledon in the early 60′s where my parents ran a fruit & veggie shop and on Saturday nights after the Island, unless there was a party to go too, a few of my friends would come back to my place, and we’d carry on playing music on the old Dansette, talking about the concerns of the day. My parents would be usually in The King Of Denmark pub a few doors down with the ‘locals’ including Oliver Reed and various crazy Aussie dentists, who would come back for a continuation of the evenings festivities and join me and my friends to party into Sunday morning.
I was learning photography at the time but somehow didn’t get to take any pictures on the island. The lighting was sparse and pictures could never express the unique environment, and feeling of this decaying edifice which true had seen better days, but in the early 60′s was a haven for the hungry youth of the day, it gave us a place to meet and make some, for me, lifelong friends and fellow ‘Ravers’ who still rock on to this day!
A big thanks goes to Arthur Chisnall who made it all happen, and for his pioneering work with giving us a place where ‘all were welcome’, even the police who sometimes appeared to check that we were not having too much fun. I don’t remember any violence or punch ups, as it really was all about Love & Peace back then, minus cell phones, computers & all. Life was simple & much more fun?
Hope this helps the ’cause’,
Best o’ Cheer,
Roy Buckley says:
July 9, 2013 at 10:34 am (Edit)
THE JAZZ AND FOLK SCENE IN RICHMOND AND TWICKENHAM IN THE EARLY 60′S
When I left school: Chiswick County Grammer, (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 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, 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 would lead in a skiffle session, at this time it was Cisco Bishop who took over from Lonnie Donegan. Other groups that spring to mind are Ken Colyer, (Until 1954 Colyers 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 also appeared once; Alex Welsh and his Dixieland Jazz Band were regulars. The Temperance Seven made several appearances and so did Acker Bilk, as well, of course, 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 include 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, they are to be 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, found I could manage it physically but again, totally tuneless. Therefore I stuck to listening to and appreciating those that can.
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 copy book 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, 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, 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 young 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 and was once part of a folk group, was it Sky ?
Also in the area, i.e. Kingston, 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, this 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 Grammer, 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.
Sarah Walls says:
July 9, 2013 at 10:52 am (Edit)
I first came across the Island in about 1964. I can have only been about 14 at the time – my first memories are more of the bar than the club – very often you could scrape together the 1 shilling and three pence for a half of cider but not the 2 and 6 to get . Being so young I think it was the most exciting place I’d ever been to I can remember Jack who ran the bar and Arthur who ran the club but one of may main memories is of Carol, Jack’s daughter who I don’t think liked us girls much and would ban us if you looked at her the wrong way – happened to me once – you only had to stay away for a weekend then she forgot. The trip across the bridge was like entering a different world – sometimes there were police on the bridge asking ages – you had to work out what year you were born in to be 18 in case you were caught out. I remember feeling very different from everyone else as a teenager, but just like most teenagers wanted to belong somewhere – the Island was somewhere you could belong to. I had to lie to my parents about where I was going because the Island still had the reputation left over from when it had been used my the gentry and their mistresses – my grand mother spoke of it as a brothel
When I first started going to the Island it was still mainly Blues and Jazz – Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, a bit later the John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, Long John Baldry, the Downliners Sect – my favourite – further into the sixties the Island began to become more ‘ Hippie’ I saw the Pink Floyd for 3 and 6 – that’ s about 17.5p – they played in the summer and I can still remember sitting on the grass outside.
The atmosphere was very hard to explain – fantastic – smoky – I’ve looked at some footage on You Tube recently and that’s what it was like. Originally on going to Eel Pie, I was really into Black American Blues and probably still am – I never liked full on jazz much even then and still don’t – the Stones were may favourite back then – my husband and I met there, we got married on July the 5th 1969 and left our wedding reception to go the Stones free Hyde Park concert – don’t think I could afford the tickets for this years.
I think the sixties was a time when all sorts of social rules and taboos were challenged – new generations that hadn’t had to live through a war may have had something to do with it so I think it was a special time. I still keep in contact with 2 or 3 friends – in fact even though we’re in our 60s and live some distance from each other my best friend is someone I went to the Island with.
I had a homemade bag – velvet with an open top – on the way home over the bridge one night we were larking about and the guy I was with swung my bag around and it flew out of his hand into the river, never mind not much in it – some months later the police knocked on my door asking for me with my bag – it had been found near the Island and they thought something dreadful had happened to it’s owner – the hardest thing was explaining this to my Mum
David Snelling says:
July 9, 2013 at 11:04 am (Edit)
My earliest memories are of the chain link ferry which used to carry islanders across the river before the bridge was built. The ferryman would stand on the back and turn a large metal wheel over which the chain passed, towing the punt-like ferryboat across the water. At around the same time, an elderly showman, called I think Cockleshell Charlie, would set up camp on the sloping steps on the Twickenham side of the bridge in front of the swimming pool. He’d don an improvised metal helmet with a visor and linked by rubber tubes to a large stirrup pump. Spectators, usually fit young men, would be ‘volunteered’ to man the pump and Charlie would then wade into the water and disappear, performing tricks below the surface like smoking a cigarette and blowing the smoke out through the exit valve, and retrieving items lost by passers-by. From time to time the pump brigade would tire of their unpaid work and stop pumping. This would cause Charlie to burst from below the water spluttering, swearing and vowing revenge.
But this was strictly a Twickenham-side experience. Like most parents of the early Sixties – probably about 1962 or 1963 – my fairly liberal folk mistrusted the Island and all it came to stand for. Living in their shadow, as an only child at a fee-paying school and being pressed relentlessly onward towards Oxford, I was the model of good behaviour, dutiful study and sartorial conformity, with neat suit and tie, demob type haircut and completely conformist behaviour.
This all changed one memorable and golden summer weekend in (I think) 1963. A classmate took me to a party in Richmond in a tall hilltop house owned by an art teacher, his painter wife and their four wild-child offspring. As I approached the open front door, the shuffling beat of Bo Diddley’s ‘You Can’t Judge a Book by Looking at the Cover’ was blasting out into the road. The air inside was thick with the smells of beer, cheap red wine, cigarettes, dope, oil paint, patchouli and sweat. Beards and black polo neck shirts were much in view. Paintings were all over the walls. Exotically dressed partygoers were dancing like dervishes. I felt like a real twerp in my Bentalls two-piece check suit and suede brogues. The next day I walked along Twickenham riverside by the island, now linked to the mainland by a bridge. Five exotically dressed, long-haired young guys were crossing to the forbidden territory of the island – the Stones. For me it was a real Damascus moment, one which my mother always saw as ‘the weekend when I started to go to the bad’.
Before too long, the lure of the island became irresistible. An older, more worldly chum suggested we go and see (as I recall) the Artwoods. We crossed the bridge, paid our 4d to the two old ladies with the fingerless gloves (thank you, dear!), walked up the winding path and through the doors of the extraordinary old ramshackle dance hall that housed the Eel Pie Island Club. My pal procured two bottles of Newcastle Amber, we bounced across the wobbly dance floor and began eyeing up the packs of girls waiting for the band to begin. Once the music was on, we moved in and began trying (futilely, in my case) to chat them up and waft them to the promised land. But in time, after several visits, it did get better – you pinched other people’s chat-up lines and found, to your surprise, that women wanted exactly the same as you. Another Damascus moment!
I wanted to be in a band with a passion that almost made my chest burst, but sadly never managed to master the red Watkins Rapier which my parents bought me after a series of gentle guitar lessons – learning without enthusiasm the songs of Burl Ives, Bert Weedon etc. No-one seemed to know how to play the stuff that by now was swamping the airwaves and packing out the clubs. So instead I became a frequent visitor to the island, until autumn 1966 when I left London to go to university. Stand out names: Alex Harvey, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (both (frequently) with some guy called Eric Clapton (whatever did happen to him?). Long John Baldry. Graham Bond. Zoot Money. The Downliners. Cyril Davies (once), Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band. The Herd. On one glorious occasion, Memphis Slim. And many others now lost in the mists.
The atmosphere was as profound and complete a culture shock as any time before or since. It was a window onto a world which until then I never knew existed, like Alice through the looking glass or stepping through the back of the Narnia wardrobe. It felt a touch dangerous, though experience showed that it was one of the safest places for miles for young people to meet up. Bearded Arthur Chisnall kept the lid on difficult customers and quietly, effectively, neutralised them, or had them removed by one or two handy looking friends. Of course the bushes rustled with ‘courting couples’, to quote George Melly, “sex rose into the air like steam from a kettle”, and there was plenty of dope smoke in the air – but only outside the club, to the best of my recollection. You could talk to anyone, no introduction needed, just start chatting, share a beer, pick up tips about upcoming gigs or new records – a wonderful free and easy feeling of comradeship with people from all walks of life and levels in society, not that levels ever seemed to matter. Nor was there ever any fear of being mugged, attacked etc – we all felt part of some larger community of soulmates.
My musical tastes are much the same now as they were then. I often go to the Eel Pie Club at the Cabbage Patch and still recognise one or two people I used to see on the Island in the 60s. A particular favourite back then was the local band called The Others, though I can’t be sure if they ever played on the Island. They’ve resurfaced, we’ve seen them twice locally and they’re still a class act. Other blasts from the past include Zoot Money, The Birds, The Yardbirds (or members), Georgie Fame, Alan Price, Alan Glen, The Downliners. And their descendants, people like Robin Bibi, the Norman Beaker Band, Paul Cox, Jack Pinder, the Rollin’Stoned.
I think that we firmly believe that we had more fun then than our kids do now. I think that it was a very special time, but history does teach us that every generation pompously thinks that way about itself.
I still keep in contact with at least one of the girls I used to knock around with then, is still a very close friend; several other people whom I socialise with now (and who were Islanders in the 1960s) still go to ‘gigs’ that reflect the musical tastes of Eelpiland. Sadly quite a few have bought backstage passes for the Great Gig in the Sky.
I remember watching a bunch of rockers (ie bikers) standing on the bridge taunting the police to come and get’em, then leaping off into the river as the thin blue line made its ponderous way up towards them. They were finally laid low by a police launch that had hidden behind a steamer.
The success of those bands certainly set me off on a course I’ve never (yet) left. My wife and I were in Tennessee and Mississippi last year on a nostalgia trip around the blues clubs, a direct result of the sheer delight acquired in the course of those fantastic days. And what that showed us was that being old doesn’t mean that no-one wants to hear you play – quite the opposite. Only with hindsight do you realise that it was a pretty special place, back then we were too busy having fun, hearing great music and getting lucky to ponder the social significance of the moment.
Heather White says:
July 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm (Edit)
ISLAND OF DREAMS
Those of us who were teenagers in the late fifties and early sixties were lucky enough, in this area, to experience the most atmospheric Jazz Club of all time – Eel Pie Island.
The Art College students, the Bohemians and the Beatniks frequented the numerous coffee bars and folk clubs. Folk music, skiffle and blues then led them on to the many jazz places around the Richmond area. New Orleans jazz was the new boom in music. Jazz was everywhere – you just had to dance!
Eel Pie Island was the largest jazz venue, held in a run-down hotel, its “sprung dance floor” was unique! A delight for all who skip-jived and stomped. It was freezing in winter so we danced in our duffle coats. There were many levels and dark corners. It was gloriously scruffy.
Arthur Chisnall who ran the club was always there to chat to and help us if we had any concerns in life. He gave us his time. We drank Newcastle Brown from the long necked bottle, trying to make one last all night as we had very little money to spend – anyway, it wasn’t a necessity!
Local jazz bands and well-known ones played there for over a decade. The Crane Rivers and The Downtown Syncopate.-cs Ken Colyer, Chris Barber and Eric Silk, to name a few. Later we had The Temperance Seven. Sometimes we had a fun interval with Ivor Cutler. Together with the jazz – Blues became popular – a favourite was The Cyril Davis All Stars. Later Blues artists from America performed, such as Jessie Fuller and Howling Wolf.
We dressed down, in dark clothes, wore our hair long and put on layers of mascara to go over The Island’. I came on the 667 trolley bus, climbed the bridge, paid the 4d toll to the two old ladies, and then as I walked through the trees, I’d hear it – the trumpet and trombone – playing jazz. It used to make me break into a run – to get there fast! The Island was “our place”, an oasis where we could express ourselves. So different from anywhere else.
Later, at the end of the evening we used to fall out, hot and exhausted from dancing. My hair used to be all wet and I was positively steaming!
The memory of those dark, chuckling, excited, happy shapes re-crossing the bridge swiftly, to catch the last bus or train home – so satisfied – still fills me with joy – those wondrous Island days.
Thank you Arthur.
Sue Palmer says:
July 10, 2013 at 11:15 am (Edit)
Thank you so much all of you for leaving such fantastic and evocative memories of ‘EelpiLand’ here.
A joy to read.
Sue (project manager – eel pie island music project)
Penelope Chamberlain says:
July 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm (Edit)
I most certainly went “over the island” in the late 1950s. It was mainly trad. Jazz in those days. Friends played in a group called the Riverside Jazz Band. You used to have your hand stamped by an old crone on the Twickenham side of the bridge. You said’ I’m with the band !’ (Groupies before there were such things!). I do remember Long John Baldry, Alexis Korner etc. Also saw the Stones at the Station Hotel and the Rugby Club. My sister is 5 years younger than me and was part of the Mods and Crawdaddy set. The hotel was pretty grubby……wooden floor swilling in beer. Duffle coats and very macho.
Sheila Stacey says:
September 30, 2013 at 8:55 pm (Edit)
Had some wonderful times there in 50s so many memories
Colin Sheffield says:
July 22, 2013 at 5:14 pm (Edit)
The summer of love 1967. We used to open the doors about 8 o’clock, the weather was about as hot as it is now and at first all you could hear was the sound of tinkling and then, appearing out of the overhanging greenery along the path, came gaggles of pretty young girls wearing satin bell bottom trousers with tiny bells sewn around the bottoms.
Cream. Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. At one point in the set Jack and Eric would leave the stage and have a pint watching Ginger from the bar as he played on. Just before he totally collapsed they would drink up and rejoin him. I don’t suppose he actually remembered being there.
Drugs. It probably wasn’t as bad as people might assume. Anyone seriously dealing was spotted and got rid of. Mostly is was just people sharing out what they had with friends, mainly grass or dope or a bit of speed or acid, very few obvious problems.
Violence. Hardly at all from regulars, and we could rely on the people there to help us on the odd time something did go wrong, which was mainly gangs from elsewhere who had a problem with hippies, mostly they did not get past the doors.
Tony Lamond says:
July 22, 2013 at 5:31 pm (Edit)
“If aye we could recapture
Life’s first fine careless rapture”
I first went to Eel Pie Island and there was a jazz band called the Grove Jazz Band which was run by Brian Rutland. He went on to be a professional jazz player and is still around. In those early days his band played in a backroom at the Twickenham Pub. There are photos on the web of this band playing. They later moved across to Eel Pie Island due to lack of space for all the fans.
When I look back I think how innocent and unworldly I was. It all seemed so exciting back then. I was not in a band myself then but really enjoyed Trad music, my musical tastes have moved on now.
The atmosphere was all very decadent but by today’s standards innocent beyond belief. We had not even heard of drugs let alone smoked them. And as for hard drugs well I would not even understand what they could be. As a reflection on today’s life and culture I feel that it is just a piece of nostalgia. You knew that it could not last. As they say about Woodstock – “if you can remember the detail then you could not have been there”.
It was a special time to me then but just a phase that I am glad got through without any lasting regrets.
As for keeping in contact from friends from that period, yes in recent times I have emailed various people from the group of lads that I mixed with.
I have posted photos onto the web and Brian Rutland has a few also. There was a lady who contacted me a few years ago. She was producing a play in the UK and wanted to use the photos. I had posted her some and I said go for it. I was subsequently contacted by an old friend who was on holiday in some part of England when he and his wife went to see the play and he was stunned to see himself on the cover of the programme. I don’t think that any of us was aware that we had such a wealth of talent coming out of EPI at this particular time.
It seemed so important at the time, but my interests in life changed so it is less so now.
My life moved far away from Richmond in the UK. I was there with Mum and Dad from age 16 to 19. I was an apprentice engineer at Petter Engines – then part of the Hawker Siddeley Brush Group. My attendance at Eel Pie was only for some 18 months, on a Saturday Night. I used to go to L’Auberge. A piece of chocolate cake, a hot chocolate and then the pictures next door at the Odeon. Life was complete!!!
Tony Lamond says:
July 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm (Edit)
I am unable to provide any fascinating stories about events on Eel Pie Island. I was simply a young lad going there on the occasional night to listen to and jive to the jazz playing there. There is a saying that if you can remember what went on at Woodstock then clearly you were not there.
Looking back, and of more recent years twice re-visiting Richmond, I was amazed at how little it had all changed. Even many of the stores were the same – particularly the shop fronts. The railway station was totally unchanged as was the bus terminal in front of it. Burtons the tailors had gone from the High Street – I suppose that is because men stopped wearing suits. I remember buying my first suit there. Richmond Green and Richmond Theatre are all exactly as was. We even went to a re-play, on a visit several years ago, of “An Inspector Called”.
Did you ever read George Orwell’s classic, “Coming up for Air?” It is about a tired old insurance sales person who decided to go back to the town where he grew up and to meet the people he still remembered. He said: I will be like a great sea turtle – it will be like coming up for air. But of course everybody had become so different – I think it is called ‘ageing’ – but let us not dwell on that.
I went once to Eel Pie Island and found that it was hugely different to when I attended some 50 years ago [gasp – did I say fifty years!!!???] There has been an enormous growth in the trees, a path /road leading from the foot-bridge had been developed and a lot of funny little houses, that almost looked like holiday huts, had been erected, presumably they are for retired folk – and very nice they would be too. The hotel had completely disappeared.
Of course along the towpath on Twickenham side, just near the footbridge there was an indoor ice rink. We all went there on a Saturday afternoon. Up the top of Richmond Hill [generally described as the prettiest view in all of England] the famous English actor John Mills had his very nice Regency residence – I think it was called “The Wick”. On the green slopes leading down to The Thames they used to stage Shakespearean Theatre complete with horses and knights in armour. All for free. Fantastic.
Up in London there was a famous jazz club called, I think, Club 51, otherwise known as Cy Laurie’s. You went down steep stairs into a dungeon environment. Totally unsafe and would never be allowed now.
Beverley Turnage says:
August 5, 2013 at 8:18 pm (Edit)
Yes I was there, not for the jazz but I remember Pink Floyd and Arthur Brown and lots of amazing musicians who are still in my life. We went on to frequent “The Crown” folk club and “The Old Anchor” and those formative days are still with me in keeping music live and encouraging my booking the best of new and old friends, with talent, at the venue I am now involved with. I am so privileged to have been involved with the Twickenham Music scene back in the day. Fondest of memories and certainly a huge influence in my life.
garth eaglesfield says:
August 7, 2013 at 4:48 pm (Edit)
In the summer of 1964 after taking our A levels at Hull Grammar School myself, my friend Nev and his girlfriend Mary all hitchhiked down to London to explore the big city. When we arrived we went to Trafalgar Square, it was probably the only place we’d heard of. We’d brought tents and so in our broad Hull accents we asked a policeman where we could pitch them. I can only imagine what he must have made of us but he very patiently suggested that our best bet was to go the end of a tube line, perhaps to Richmond, and we might find somewhere there. So we set off for Richmond and arrived there sometime after dark.
When we came out of Richmond station we saw a long haired guy walking past so we asked him where we might pitch our tents. Recognising kindred spirits I presume he pointed us towards the Old Deer Park but before we parted company he asked us if we’d heard of the blues club on Eel Pie Island. The answer of course was no but he said he would be on the door at the club the next night and if we showed up he’d let us in free.
So we spent a night under canvas in the Old Deer Park, in the middle of an athletics track as we found out the next morning, then after seeing the sights of London we made our way to Eel Pie Island and sure enough we got into the club free that night. The experience was pretty intense compared to life in Hull, like being in another world, but sad to say I can’t now even recall who was playing. When the club closed our new friend said we could sleep at his parent’s house that night and we slept in our sleeping bags in the summerhouse in their garden. We were discovered there by his father the next morning leading to a somewhat tense confrontation between father and son but it all ended amicably. Two days later we hitchhiked back to Hull, arriving in splendour in a coal lorry that had only recently been unloaded and still bore ample evidence of its load, as did we.
It really was the quintessential early 60s experience in every way and I’m not sure that I ever had one that surpassed it later on. Sometime during our two Richmond/Twickenham nights we took a strip of pictures in the photo machine on Richmond station and I’ve included one of them here.
Brenda O’Connell (Howard) says:
August 16, 2013 at 10:05 pm (Edit)
Bob and I went to Eel Pie during 1964-1968. We are still married and live in Canada. Had the best years on Eel Pie Island and along the riverbank in Richmond, with guitars and singing. Have some pics from that time….I worked for Marianne Faithfull and we are still friends and back in touch.
jonas tee says:
August 24, 2013 at 3:30 pm (Edit)
dear sirs, I used to get a bus no 667 to Richmond ice rink on sunday, afterwards, I go when the beatniks and trad jazz time was time out. I go there when the artwoods were playing and the man of the moment was long john baldry great singer! jimmy james and the vagabonds. the floor used to bounce up and down whilst having a bop with a pint in one hand spilling the beer all over the floor ,slipping and sliding trying to look co o l great days. ps I met my first girlfriend with her black pvc coat with her course long hair copper in color I would marry her tomorrow , one more thing I know of fluff in Richmond and Twickenham area also of mick slattery the doppelganger of hawkwind. regards to all jbtee.
Chris Chesney says:
August 29, 2013 at 12:14 am (Edit)
Sorry, my memories of the first time that I went to EPI are somewhat hazy. You know what they say. If you can remember the 60′s, you weren’t there!
We first played the island in 1969, Judy Astley’s boyfriend played bass and she kept a diary of the period, so she’ll know the exact date. We were support. The gig was not particularly rammed! The headline act had brand new Fender amplification (all of them) which you hardly ever saw in the UK, so I figured they had funding. I remember the difficulty of getting our gear over the bridge!
Our band was called Sour Milk Sea. Later we auditioned Freddie Mercury (née Bulsara) but at this stage we were a 4 -piece. The atmosphere seemed like a step up from the pubs! It was a large, impressive venue. I was into Blues and prog rock. Now I’m pretty catholic and have a wide appreciation.
Of course it was a special time! Everything today’s pop culture rests on, was born then. I still keep in contact with people from then, Judy, Pete Agerholm, Simon Fallon (lived opposite Paul Milne our bass-player. Boris Bransby-Williams our original drummer (later joined the Cure). We took it all for granted! No massive epiphany. I suppose the first acid trip. Certain gigs stick in the mind, ‘cos we played really well, but not particularly at the Eel Pie!
Val Evans says:
August 29, 2013 at 7:20 pm (Edit)
Not sure what I can add to others memories of the Island.
Went there many times over the bridge paying the ladies my penny. I used to go when I had very little money, as we got paid weekly and was let in for free by Joe. We used to jive etc. Saw bands like The Nice, Artwoods and John Lee Hooker etc. On nice days we would sit outside on the grass talking etc. and drinking the cider or Newcastle Browns. I used to live in Putney and took the 37 bus into Twickenham. They were good days and made lots of life long friends.
I even had a bit of the wall which I retrieved just before they were pulling it down, with peoples graffitti. Unfortunately, my then landlord thought it rubbish and must have thrown it out?
Mike Murphy says:
September 1, 2013 at 4:30 pm (Edit)
Having just turned 70, it’s incredible – and encouraging – to see that there are so many still around who remember those days ! We were diehard Stones fans and used to go down The Island on Wednesdays (as well as seeing them at Ealing on saturdays and Richmond on sundays !).
Just a few things stick out in my memory: the toll of 4d (tuppence each way); an earnest conversation with Keith Richards as to whether Chuck Berry was more Blues than Rock n Roll (those things mattered a lot !); a more practical conversation with Brian Jones about where to buy imported Chess LPs, Slim Harpo LPs (I wanted to hear the original of “I’m a King Bee”). He told me about Imhoff’s in the Tott.Court.Rd. And then, not so fond memory of Rod the Mod making eyes at my girlfriend, with whom my relationship had gotten a bit threadbare anyway.
John Bevins says:
September 12, 2013 at 3:19 pm (Edit)
How nice to have this chance to relive a part of my life that gave me so much pleasure.
I was in a local Band from Hanworth for four years called THEM but changed the name to Themselves, when Van Morrison arrived on the scene. Themselves had a great local following, once taking 12 coaches to Wimbledon Palais when coming joint 1st in The All Britain Beat contest. The Band played at Eel Pie and I well remember the sprung floor. Our local rivals were The Others and I saw that they had reformed this year. How amazing !!!.
Themselves supported Georgie Fame, Ike and Tina Turner, The Pretty Things, The Downliners Sect (Hello Don your Mum was very good to us), Spencer Davis and several other major bands at that time. At 67 I joined a Blues Band last year. It is true what they say Old Men play Blues.
If any of the members of Themselves are still on the Planet – Hello to Tony, Keith, Brian and Mac. It was great while it lasted.
Thanks for the memory.
Alan Winter says:
September 26, 2013 at 12:41 pm (Edit)
Well here is the photo that no one thought was ever taken. It’s 1962 and us 11 year olds have just passed our 11 plus exams and been sent to Chiswick County Grammar School for boys. It was a rugby playing all boys school then. (The girls were behind 18 foot barbed wire fences next door!), We were allowed to look through the netting but that was as close as it got until we discovered the air raid bunkers by the sports pitches. – What memories!!
Phil Collins is extreme left in the front row (quite recognisable I think) and I’m second from the left in the back row, It is a 1st year photo of form 1L with Mr Lawrence the art teacher and our form master in view.
What a creative time at the school in those early 60′s years. Apart from Phil and I were Chaz Cronk who lives in Hampton and has played guitar with the Strawbs since the 70′s, Steven Grives who went on to great things in the acting world with lead roles in Flambards and the film Mutiny on the Bounty with Anthony Hopkins. John Edwards ( Rhino) has been the bass player with Status Quo for many years now and still lives locally in Teddington. Sandy Loewenthal – a beat musician who has taught Londoners to play calypso for many years. Lots of the chaps from that period at the school did well and went on to great things despite the corporal punishment that was a regular part of school life in those days. The point being, we all went to Eel Pie Island in the mid to late 60s and on until the hotel burnt down. I’m sure we’d all remember the Beatles turning up in Chiswick Park opposite the school one lunchtime to have a photoshoot for the Sergeant Peppers album.
bob wagner says:
September 28, 2013 at 12:37 pm (Edit)
As a student at Twickenham art College my friend and I (Jim Martin, anybody know where he is?) spent so much time and money at Eel pie that we decided to work there! We worked in the evening on Wed …… and Sat mornings and Sat evenings.
We saw all the famous bands, blues men and jazzers mentioned by others for free!, only having to collect the occasional beer glass for the privilege. I have many behind the scenes memories, the hotels tattyness – the famous sprung dance floor, which we swept it on a Saturday morning, it had so many holes!, convenient for us as all the cigarette ends and rubbish went into them!
Jazz night (Sat) was harder work, heavier drinkers!
Collecting the beer glasses from the mud of the river when the tide was low (thrown in by the punters), they were covered in green slime, …… scrubbing them and hanging them back up in the bar. Emptying nearly empty barrels of beer into other ones (it was served later!)
Working on the door and refusing ‘Rod the mod’ (Rod Stewart) entry when he said he was “with the band” (Long John Baldry). People at various times jumping into the river being pulled out and thrown out of the club, a clubber climbing onto the balcony of the hotel only to leap off as the Alsatian dog that lived upstairs decided to see him off!
Later I was told by a friend (I had left by then and working) that the club had been closed because a girl went into the toilet, pulled the chain and the cistern fell on her. I don’t know if that is true but it would describe the general state of the building.
We were told by Arthur that the island was private property, which meant that the police could only be on the island if called to attend, so if any trouble broke out call the bouncers to settled it, we did……
I later designed record sleeves for many musicians including Chris Barber who remembered playing at Eel pie.
I have student drawings of that time still in sketchbooks.
The club was a dump, the hotel dilapidated, BUT the bands were great and it belonged to us……….
A great place to be in your youth, a place where I made many lifelong friends …….
Cheers to the Eel Pie ……
Ryan Gunning says:
September 30, 2013 at 4:55 pm (Edit)
You have a response above from John Anderson, dated 22.06.2013 talking about his band ‘Traces’ and time at Eelpisland. I was at school with John and also knew Dave Skinner from ‘Twice as Much’ I wasn’t really a regular at Eel Pi but remember seeing ‘Family’ there when Roger Chapman was their vocalist. I lost touch with John after leaving Mill Hill in 1966 and, as your reply is so recent, it would be good if you could put me back in touch. I remember he used to have a Framus guitar which I was very envious of at the time, around 1963.From his comments, I wonder if he still lives in the local area?
October 7, 2013 at 10:26 pm (Edit)
I have John Anderson’s contact and will email you!
Sue (project manager)
Helena Mallett says:
October 9, 2013 at 5:01 pm (Edit)
I first went to the island in about 1967. I remember going over the bridge, paying the woman and stepping into another world. The bands that first come to mind are Stray, Mott the Hoople, the Third Ear Band… The atmosphere was amazing! Love and Peace, Bells and Incense and loads of hair! I am still fond of Mott the Hoople, The Stones, King Crimson, Hawkwind and Pink Floyd. Nowadays all the oldies still appeal, reggae and World Music. I think todays’ culture is the Total opposite of what it was then. Now It’s all about achievement and money, whereas then it was about Love and Peace. It was absolutely a special time! I only keep in contact with one very old friend from those days and two others that I’m friends with on Facebook. We laughed and laughed and laughed – but I have no idea at what! I don’t think that we were aware of how important the music of those bands would become. At that age I don’t think you think further than the moment you’re in, I didn’t anyway. Yes I thought that there was a special feel to Eel Pie Island and also L’Auberge in Richmond where I spent a lot of time.
Bev Davey says:
October 9, 2013 at 5:23 pm (Edit)
I first went to the island in 1962 as a 15 year old and continued until I was 18. The old lady at the turnstile wore black and on arrival at the hotel my first impression was of a heaving mass of people. You paid 2/6 to go in, got your rubberstamp. The staircase to the upstairs bar had a hippie green light. I went along to see Trad and modern jazz. I remember Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball, Ken Colyer, Geoff Cole, Lonnie Donnegan and his skiffle band, Chris Barber and I also enjoyed Rock ’n’ Roll. The atmosphere was as if there was not just a real bridge but also a metaphorical one. You never saw any trouble there, or if there was you weren’t aware of it, as it must have been nipped in the bud before it could develop. I enjoyed classics as a child. I still favour jazz, jiving and of course the stomp. Management there tried to stop us from doing it. It was ever so good; every week there was someone or a group who were different from the one before. The fan base at the time was mainly college kids, or kids who were going to go on to further study. I have contacted a few from that time. It was a key experience for me, going from childhood to adulthood. I still play tenor horn now in a local brass brand where I live and enjoy listening as well as playing.
Peter Moody says:
October 9, 2013 at 6:24 pm (Edit)
I first encountered Eel Pie Island by playing there and being involved in the ‘new’ Rhythm & Blues scene that had being slowly growing from c 1962. I guess my first visit to the island would have been 1964. My memories of it as being superbly suited as a venue for what was at the time a ‘cult’ movement. Its demise and demolishment is seriously sad.
I played in The Grebbels in 1964-1965, an R&B band promoted by Giorgio Gomelsky, the first manager to The Stones, The Yardbirds, The T. Bones and The Authentics. We were all his Crawdaddy Club bands. I then played in The John Dummer Blues Band from 1965 – 1966. This band grew from the remnants of the Muskrats in 1965.
I remember seeing Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (Clapton era) and Phil & The Stormsville Shakers there simply being involved on those nights. But of the rest! Where did one remember seeing who and where! The atmosphere was varied; cold in the winter until the gas burners were fired up! Blurry with the first tasting of Newcastle ale sold there. The musical atmosphere was probably the best experienced – especially as a player. A haunting place when empty of people.
As a music fan I have enjoyed listening to American Rock & Roll since 1957 until it led me to Black R & B in 1962. I’ve stayed there since! I left my chosen career industry in 1996 to spend the last 10 years of my working life as a blues consultant to the record industry. I’m still playing with it today! I would guess there are many variants on how the experience of Eel Pie Island affected people. Some will have never left this grass-roots experiencing time and have never adapted to following life patterns as age and the needs-to-grow into ones following loomed. Others will have left this time behind and left it just as a phase of their growing up.
To me, those times reflect importance. Not because it was the time to find and experience the music of the times, but of how we (born of say 1942 to 1950) found independence and a new way forward that really was alien to our parents and the post-war efforts that were the pre-war norm’ was wished or expected of us. It was not the end , nor a rebellious end of it, but just growing up with like- minded youngsters, of which many today, are esteemed leaders or retiring leaders of our modern country’s best life engineers. I keep in contact with many from that period – both the well-known and the isolated and reclusive ones, ith all types in ‘the middle.’
I remember Peter Green and I talking just about that hack in the sixties. I remember saying, “I’m going to stay in my ‘career-type-job” and he, I clearly remember talking of about going back to butchering when it was all over. We all, well most of us, thought it was just a fling – never thinking that a British led interest into what was then considered, just what it was – black folk music would end up being one of the huge earners in the music industry, let alone the British industry in total. Sadly to this end there were many tears, as the industry and many of the players began exploiting and plagiarizing the original music – as the £ signs of big bucks played for many, a gravy train time way forward!
There wasn’t a sense of being part of something special but of a selective music base, yes – but more a special time. We were playing the pop music of that time, The Crawdaddy and Eel Pie were at the centre of a whole national scene. Mayall said… ‘I hadn’t come to London to find pop success. I’d come to play blues.” I very nearly killed myself, along with Clapton, Mayall and a few others trying to get Mayall’s bloody organ over the that original little bridge!
Grant Smith says:
October 10, 2013 at 1:51 pm (Edit)
I went to Eel Pie Island Club for the first time in 1966 when I was 17. At that time I was studying art and design at Twickenham College and living in Twickenham.
Any art student worth their sort who did not like blues and did not go to the Island at that time was pretty well not cool. It was partly through my artistic skills in being able to make convincing forgeries of the little passport membership cards that I, and other students who were still under age, managed to get in. It was only after the hall and club had closed that I lived in a flat on the island behind the rowing club and next to the hall.
Although I was very much a late-comer to the Island scene I would be happy to recount a few memories in an interview…
Mick Kasmir says:
October 22, 2013 at 3:37 pm (Edit)
Trouble is I’ve only been to Eel Pie a couple of times, the main event I remember is seeing the Stones there in 1963.
I remember saying to a friend ‘bloomin’ heck they’re a skinny bunch of urchins’, ignoring the fact that we were a skinny bunch of urchins!!
At the time we used to get to places such as Richmond etc on Vespa scooters (lived in West London near Portobello Road).
The whole atmosphere of that time I feel was quite unique. There was no such thing as mobile phones or the web, so it meant that people one met seemed to have a perspective of the world similar to one’s own, they gathered at these places through some inner need rather than the latest ‘cool’ place to go, or be seen at.
I suppose music wise, Dylan was the artist that had the most effect upon me, saw him for the first time as a skinny kid (again!) at The Troubadour in Earls Court about 1961 when he was over here to appear in a TV play.
Anyway I suppose that’s all a bit beside the point.
We also went a lot to jazz clubs such as Ken Colyer’s and Cy Laurie’s (Laurie’s in Ham Yard in the late fifties).
There was also a very interesting coffee bar called the G’s, or Gyre & Gimble, situated round the corner from Villiers Street in Charring Cross. I’ve so far only met one person who knew about or had even heard off it. Very very beatniky it was, superb atmosphere where one could spend hours over one cup of coffee. I remember Wizz Jones and Long John Baldry there, and supposedly Rod Stewart also, whom I never saw.
Getting back to to Richmond/Twickenham, we often ended up at the L’Auberge coffee bar by Richmond Bridge. Many happy times there.
David Drury says
2013/10/30 at 9:37 pm
Summer 1964 – Paul and I met some girls at Hampton by the river and they asked if we were going to the Island, only having heard of it by name, we agreed to meet them. That was the first time I set foot on it. We rode there on our scooters in the evening at 16 – we should not have been allowed in but it was freedom.
The next few months flew by and we saw group after group, and girl after girl – the Tridents, the Yard Birds, first with Clapton and then Beck, John Mayall, Graham Bond, Hoochie Coochie Men with Baldry and Stewart, Cyril Davis, Alexis Corner, not to mention Don Crane and the Downliners Sect. And of course the great Blues people from the States: Sony Boy Williamson, Jesse Fuller (sat in the corner hardly visible over the heads), Muddy Waters, John lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed. Sunday night became so important, not to mention Wednesday.
Then just before Christmas Paul asked if there was any girls I knew as his current girl was away, I introduced him to Linda and Ann whom I hardly knew. I always remember one night a few years later there were some people carrying out a survey on the response to a new group I wasn’t greatly impressed as they seemed to rely on light effects and were to far away from the blues, I put them down as a no but what did I know about Pink Floyd.
Another night Champion Jack Dupree came down from the stage and offered to buy us a drink whilst we chatted, I was greatly impressed by him and his story of how he expected to buy a new Cadillac soon.
Ann and I have been married 45 years now and I still get over to the Eel Pie Club when I can. It is a shame I did not know about the exhibition but I would have loved to come and watch.
all the best
Terry Hayday says
2013/11/15 at 11:00 am
I first went to the down-at-heel hotel in 1957, with my parents when I was about ten, and I recall playing Elvis Presley’s “Teddy Bear” on the juke box. A few years later, I was a regular visitor to the rickety R&B ballroom, listening to Long John Baldry, the Alex Harvey Band, Alexis Korner, The Others (from Hampton Grammar School) and a whole series of supporting blues groups. I remember Rod “the Mod” Stewart making several guest appearances with Long John Baldry and the Hoochie Coochie Men and one of my mates said: “no wonder he is surrounded by so many girls, have you seen that amazing look in his eyes!”
In 1967, I tried to get in to see Pink Floyd, but it was sold out. Not to be deterred, I rowed a small dinghy from Twickenham Yacht Club to the other side of Eel Pie Island, dropped anchor and listened to the loud music moored in the Thames. I didn’t see Pink Floyd, but I certainly heard the music and the vocals by Syd Barrett. By then, though, the British R&B scene at Eel Pie Island was already past its best.
on Feb 22nd 2014 at 1:42 pm
Any old Islanders still alive??? How about a re-union? Lady Docker, Helen, Carole, Sylvia, Mad Roger, Tall Roger (aka Ivan) Terry the ballet dancer, Ken the tree surgeon, Rowan the Stones roadie, Nick, Cathy etc etc. We’re all old codgers now but as we are the original rock’n’roll generation, mostly not quite ready to pass the zimmer frame! How about it? Jeannette
Luca Alberici requests (from firstname.lastname@example.org)
on Apr 16th 2014:
Hello to all of you. My name is Luca Alberici and I write from Italy. I am an avid collector of everything related to my favorite Band: Genesis. I know that the Genesis played a gig at Eel Pie Island on April 10, 1970 and would like to know if you have any kind of material that could bear witness to the presence of the group in this concert as photographs, tickets, posters, adverts, films, sound recordings, etc. In case you have something I’m ready to buy everything you have but if it were possible, I would politely ask you if I can get some good scan the material you’ve found
I hope to receive your news as soon as possible and in the meantime, we offer you my most cordial greetings, Luca.
I’m very sorry for my bad english language…
Mary Williams says:
I didn’t get to see the exhibition, but in the late 40′s? Or 50′s my uncle used to play at eel pie island. He had the Hugh Douglas band. I wondered if you have heard of him. I’m anxious to get any info about his performances on EPI.
David Mansell says:
Submitted on August 8, 2014 at 9:13 pm
We played there as “The Shades of Blue” as supporting group together with John Mayall in 1964/65, (not sure of the date) when a German television team came with the intention of filming them playing. As they were so delayed that everybody thought they were not coming, we were asked to keep playing, and the television people filmed us instead. We never heard anything of them again. Does anybody know who they were or if the recording exists?
Ron Drakeford says:
Submitted on October 8, 2014
It is questionable whether or not Eel Pie Island was the birthplace, it certainly figured heavily in it, as the R & B movement in the South evolved in many places and the most notable like Eelpie happened on the back of the Traditional Jazz Clubs. On the forefront of the movement were the likes of Eric Clapton and the Yardbirds who gained experience and found their feet playing intervals at the Fighting Cocks in Kingston and subsequently at the Railway hotel in Norbiton. They were encouraged by the local Jazz band, The Canal Street Jazzmen that played at these venues. the support and musical advice imparted to these musicians from the jazz fraternity has never been fully recognised. Parallel activities were taking place at Richmond and obviously Twickenham. Believe me, I know, I was there advising. Please see my blog on sandybrown jazz. Key to the whole movement was the Art colleges in Kingston and Richmond and the students. Regards
Submitted on October 9, 2014
I’d agree with you on whether Eel Pie Island was the birthplace of R&B: I think if any single place could lay claim to the birthplace, it would have to be Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies’ Ealing Club enterprise. Eel Pie Island could be regarded as A home of R&B, amongst many others. I was primarily concerned with interviewing and editing interviews of folk who had been to the Island then, and the recurring themes that cropped up were the other venues, whether Ealing, Richmond or Kingston, and the influence of Art Colleges in the area on the whole scene, so I completely understand your comments regarding those.
Despite the rather grandiose claim at the top of the site, at least the narrative within the home page does point out that Eel Pie Island was A key venue, and that it was “part of a music revolution”.
I was wondering if you could cast your experienced eye over the Roll Call I’ve created on the site as, while I’m fairly confident about the R&B and Rock narratives I’ve included, the Jazz perormers’ ones are as the result of my own ignorant research, as Jazz is no area of expertise for me! Whatever, I think I’ve found some really interesting stuff to try and balance the whole thing, but it obviously never hurts to have a second opinion, so that would be great.
Pete Watt (Site Admin)
Ron Drakeford says:
Submitted on October 10, 2014
Hello Pete, pretty accurate and comprehensive list! Just shows you how Arthur conducted his affairs. I note a mention of “The Riversiders” on one Saturday booking. There seems to be no account of the regular Sunday night spot in early sixties when the band (actually the Riverside Jazzmen) when they were resident. As they were resident, perhaps Arthur did not need to include them in his booking list. Riverside Jazzmen were led by clarinettist Alan Cresswell, managed by John Mortimer. The band was popular if not too proficient in the early format, but they did engage the audience, and the repertoire consisted mainly of well known popular numbers. One year the Melody Maker musicians poll was “rigged” and the Riverside band did well on an individual musician basis. could have been something to do with the Sunday crowd at the Island. Another piece of useless information! Getting good at that!
Pain in the neck pre bridge days when we had to dash to get last bus home. This meant trying to be first in the queue at the bottom of the steps to get on the ferry. Not too infrequently a surge from the back of the queue would result in everyone going down one or two steps and guess where the first ones on bottom step ended up?
Interesting note on John Shillito. John came down from up north and basically was shoehorned into the remains of the Jubilee Jazzmen. (Replacing Dave Reynolds on Tpt who became ill) This of course became John’s band and a notable inclusion on clarinet was a very young player one Sammy Rimmington, who has become well established internationally.
Anthony Abel says:
Submitted on October 27, 2014
I went to the island from 1962-1964 what a brilliant place for traditional jazz, I used get tanked up in a pub in Twickenham before going across the bridge.
Fantastic music and the best of all was Ken Colyer of course.
I was so off my face going home one Saturday night someone bet me 5 shillings I would not jump off the bridge, I did and enjoyed it so much I did it again. There was a police car on the bank but they just watched me make a fool of myself. The down side was I had to travel dripping wet back home to South London.
I stopped going there as Cy Laurie’s and the Ken Colyer Club were easier to get to, the all nighters there were fantastic!
I remember another of your contributors, Barrie Wentzell, a great photographer who went on to be staff photographer at The Melody Maker. I had a couple of photographs he took of me and my then friend Bryan at the Bexley Jazz Festival at the Black Prince, they were stuck on my bedroom wall but to my dismay my mother ripped them down and binned them
Oh happy days, I wish I could do it all over again
Regards Tony Abel
Laurence ‘Fig’ Fagan says:
Submitted on December 19, 2014
In the mid sixties, I was in a band (we called ‘em groups then) called The Worrying Kynde, and we played Eel Pie Island several times supporting the Artwoods and John Mayalls Bluesbreakers. I remember we had to unload our equipment on the ‘mainland’ and transport it over to the venue on a handcart. I also recall the actual dance floor being ‘sprung’ and it went up and down as you walked on it….scarey! The dressing room was above the stage and Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page were up there one time we played, don’t know why. Once, after supporting the Bluesbreakers, I had a chat with Eric Clapton at the coffee/pie stall that used to be (I think) back over the bridge) about the sort of strings he used, and I remember him being really friendly and sociable; the difference in status among musicians wasn’t that obvious back then….we all played the same venues and were forever bumping into each other.
Eel Pie Island as a venue, was brilliant, and all the bands I met, big or small, loved playing it.
Grenville Sheringham says:
Submitted on February 1st, 2015
I ran Richmond Arts workshop in 1968/69 and rented Eel Pie off Snapper as an arts venue. The rock gigs were fundraisers that eventually took over. I and three others had our 21st birthday party in July 1969 there. Hawkwind Zoo and Stray both played for free. About 400 people turned up.
Steve Crawford says:
Submitted on March 30th, 2015
I was looking at stuff to do with music and Eel Pie Island and found a link that led me to your gig records list, which I must say I found fascinating.
Additionally, the band I used to play bass in, Nemesis, features twice (’69 & ’70) in that very list, which brought a wry smile to my face and brightened an otherwise dull day.
Ah, those were the days indeed!
Thank you for the memories and fun.
Christine Stockwell says:
Submitted on November 16th, 2015
Hi fluff. I went to twickenham tech with Tim summers and my friend Helen goubsky and the 3 of us hung around for years together until I fell out with Tim a couple of years back. Used to spend quite a bit of time at the anchor too as I lived on Lebanon park. I remember you and your lovely hair very clearly and the fact you had a toddler which I thought very grown up. Live in norwich now but my youngest daughter teaches in teddington so spend a lot of time round the old haunts. Wasn’t it all so much fun then..? Great to see you still looking pretty. All the best Christine v
Brian Corsie says:
Submitted on December 30th, 2015
Hi. Very interesting reading about the “island”. Noticing a gap at the end of 1963, my wife and I can confirm that, on one of our very first ‘dates’, we had the pleasure of attending on 31December that year and saw/ heard our first British R&B. Cyril Davies was billed but, as is well known, his illnesss prevented his appearance. A little hazy on all the details of the band but there was certainly Long John Baldrey and, pretty sure that Charlie Watts was on drums. Having been so impressed we later saw LJB and the HC Men several times at other venues in Sourh London. Can definitely recall Rod Stewart during those times but, although we like to think that Rod was there that News Years Eve night, can’t really say for certain.
Hope this fills a little gap.
Cheers for the website
Brian Corsie. (Currently with The PigsFoot Stringband)
Ron Bartholomew says:
Submitted on April 29th 2016
Pete “Polish” (real name possibly Lubovicki) worked with Arthur Chisnall as a “Youth Worker” at Eel Pie Island Hotel in the ’60s. Pete was one of the founder members of Middlesex Housing Association, with me and others in 1969. I am trying to find Pete for a proposed reunion of many old friends who went to Eel Pie Island & other local Jazz, Blues, R&B and Folk venues.
Stan Endersby says:
Submitted on June 1st 2016
My name is Stan Endersby and I am a Canadian guitarist who was in England between 1968-1971. A friend took me to Eel Pie Island and I stayed all night and jammed with some musicians. I met a whole bunch of great people and one lady called Anthea. A year later, I was playing with Peter Quaife of the Kinks in Mapleoak and was living in Hampstead and went to the Roundhouse to see The Incredible String Band. Anthea remembered me; I think she was with her old man and I invited them to my place in Belsize Park Gardens. She said she was with a few friends from Eel Pie Island and I told her to bring them along. There were about 20 people in my flat and just like my first visit, this one was one that I will never forget. I even mentioned it in Peter Quaife’s obituary. I would love to hear from Anthea. My first to the island was eventful to say the least. I have a very fond memory of the people that I met. I hope they are all having great lives
Paul Thomas says:
Submitted on July 11th 2016
I was a regular at Eel Pie Island (when I wasn’t away at university) from early 1963 to summer 1965. We lived near Epsom and would pack two cars with people nearly every Sunday for Cyril Davis and Wednesday for the Stones. A friend and I were away in France for three weeks in the summer of 1963 (Miles Davis at Juan-les-Pins!) and discovered on our return that you had to be in the queue very early to get in for the Stones as they had become very popular during our absence. (Remember the graffito “Rolling Stones gather momentum!”?). A share of the cost of the petrol, the toll for the footbridge, ten Players Navy Cut, 3/6 to get in, eight pints of draught cider—all for a quid (my daughters don’t believe me). After the last Stones gig (we were there very early!) many of us jumped in the river and swam across. We were soaked from dancing before we got in the water. More sadly, we were there the night Long John Baldry announced Cyril Davies’ illness and again a few weeks later when he announced his death. The silver lining was that Long John Baldry invited Rod Stewart, a regular in the audience, to come on stage and sing a couple of numbers, the first time I heard him. I left the UK to work abroad in August 1965 and never went to Eel Pie Island again. Fond memories of sweaty evenings, subversively great music and wonderful vibes.
Pat West says:
Submitted on July 14th 2016
I went to eel pie island in the mid 1950’s – loved it and danced as much as I could before my curfew started – then I ran and got a cab!!! Dont remember any people from there cause all we did was dance with our partner. The music was incredible – I was also at the Lyceum most nights and every lunch time in the mid 1950’s – what a blast and what memories!!!! We were so lucky to be at the beginning of the music for teens era!!
Richard Searle says:
Submitted on December 20th 2016
My visits to the Island were in 1960 and on the night in August when Kenny Ball was playing I met the lady who was to become my wife, so I am hardly likely to forget that. The club really was a crazy place bearing in mind that the late ’50s early ’60s were “quite” different to later periods. There could have been few other places like it. Conversely having your hand stamped with an inked pad to show that you had paid was delightfully old fashioned. It was a privilege to have been there at that time.