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The clubs - where British modern jazz began in the 1940s...
Club Eleven
Club Eleven, named after the number of founder members, began life just before Christmas in 1948. It was a co-operative arrangement designed to bring bebop to the attention of the jazz public at large. The musicians involved were Ronnie Scott, Hank Shaw, Leon Calvert, Johnny Rogers, Bernie Fenton, Tommy Pollard, Lennie Bush, Joe Muddel, Tony Crombie and Laurie Morgan plus manager Harry Morris. Johnny Dankworth and Denis Rose were regulars from the start. Some gave up steady work, Scott left Ted Heath, Fenton severed relations with Oscar Rabin, and Rose, Crombie, Muddel and Dankworth came from the now defunct Tito Burns orchestra.
This venue with these musicians were the first truly organised bebop sessions in Britain. With the star-studded assembly of musicians, Club Eleven became the focal point for the new jazz and the inspiration to many other young musicians throughout the country.
The music was played by the Johnny Dankworth Quartet comprising Dankworth, Bernie Fenton (pno), Joe Muddel (bs), and Laurie Morgan (d) and a band led by Ronnie Scott with Hank Shaw (tpt), Johnny Rogers (alto), Tommy Pollard (pno), Lennie Bush (bs), and Tony Crombie (d). The Dankworth quartet became a quintet when trumpeter Leon Calvert was added.
Mac's Rehearsal Rooms, 44, Windmill Street, (where the Moffat Club had been), became the first venue operating on Thursday and Saturday nights. Entry was by descending a wooden staircase to a cramped low ceilinged room with a bandstand at one end. It was dimly lit with with bare light bulbs with a few battered sofas. Only bebop was played - fierce and urgent music! The early months of the Eleven saw the highest peak of enthusiasm in the history of British modern jazz. The jazzmen continued to listen and study as many records of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis that they could get hold of. Broadcasts, recordings, and concerts came in quick succession and public acclaim was such as to force a move within a few months to much larger premises at 50, Carnaby Street, satisfying the legions of fans coming from all over the country to the by now famous Club 11. It was now operating six days a week in the evening and was open in the afternoon as a meeting point for musicians. At this point Johnny Dankworth left to form his Seven taking Joe Muddel with him, and Harry Morris also quit.

Tony Hall writing in 1960 said "I can never recall such a sense of evil excitement in a club. The atmosphere was so vivid that the red glow from the stand and the savage beat made me think of hell on earth!"
The phenomenal rise of the club, though dependent on the new jazz music it embraced, owed much to the personality of group leaders Ronnie Scott and Johnny Dankworth.
Unfortunately after this the early enthusiasm among the musicians began to wear off, they began to quarrel about the financial side of the club and the old spirit was gone. On the night of 15th April, 1950, Club 11 was raided by the Drugs Squad. Six musicians appeared on drugs charges and Denis Rose was arrested by the Military Police as an Army deserter. The news of the arrest, trial and conviction of some of the Club Eleven members occupied the front page of almost every national paper in the size of type usually reserved for earthquakes or war. Though this publicity did nothing to lessen attendances, the decline of the Club 11 was only a matter of time. There were a number of other factors contributing to the dissolution of an organisation that for the two years of its existence had a profound influence on its leading figures and devoted followers but it folded shortly afterwards. more...

The Downbeat Club (1)
This club opened on the Bag o'Nails premises every Sunday afternoon from February 8th, 1948. Regarded as having an exciting atmosphere it often featured the Tito Burns band as well as various pick-up bop groups and it was here that Ray Ellington made his debut with his quartet. It only lasted for six months or so...

The Downbeat Club (2)
Saxophone players Jack Sharpe and Mike Senn ran the Downbeat Club in Old Compton Street from 1958. Sharpe had led the Downbeaters from 1957 taking over from original leader Jimmy Deuchar, and this became the Downbeat Big Band.

The Marquee
The first Marquee, originally a ballroom, was at 165 Oxford Street on the corner of Poland Street, and beneath the Academy Cinema. Sunday jazz sessions started there in 1957, run by pianist Dill Jones and Peter Burman, an agent, to be taken over by Harold Pendleton the following year. Harold and Barbara Pendleton ran weekends there in conjunction with Harold's partner Chris Barber and it was here in 1960 that the Dankworth band commenced a Sunday night residency. The Marquee grew from being a weekend club to presenting music seven nights a week and moved to Wardour Street in 1964 and later to Charing Cross Road.

The Johnny Dankworth Club
From 1955 the Johnny Dankworth Club was at 79 Oxford Street in the premises of the London Dance Institute. This was another large basement on the south side, between Soho Street and Dean Street and it was here around 1959 / 60 that the new Dankworth Orchestra was introduced.

The Flamingo
Jeff Kruger opened 'Jazz at the Flamingo' on August 29th, 1952 at the Mapleton Restaurant in Coventry Street. It was the first 'luxury' jazz club and set the scene for a club 'war' between the old fashioned Feldman, the '51, the Flamingo and a short lived venture called the Bandbox in Leicester Square. Tony Kinsey was the resident leader for eight years with various small groups and many star names. The Flamingo moved to new premises in April 1957 in Wardour Street... more...

The Bouillabaise
In 1943 the club was run by a man named Bah. The band was a West Indian rumba band led by Clarry Wears. Tony Crombie was the drummer there when Ronnie Scott joined. Denis Rose sometimes played there. The band played the current dance tunes (hard and loud), jazz was not required. The club closed and became The Fullardo, another black club that encouraged jamming.

More on Club Eleven and the Fallardo Club
ronnie scott's

Club Eleven c1949
Club Eleven c1949

Feldman Swing Club (aka No.1 Swing club)
Founded in 1942 in the basement at 100 Oxford Street, this was probably the first real jazz club playing live music on a regular basis, although initially it was only on a Sunday. Joe Feldman, manager of a clothing factory, hired the basement principally as a showcase for his infant prodigy son Victor, who had an astonishing command of the drums at the early age of eight, and, when only ten, was a guest with the visiting Glenn Miller's AEF. Musicians of all types played here, a very young Humphrey Lyttelyon for instance, appearing with a very young Johnny Dankworth.
Feldman's on Sunday nights was the haunt of the jazz- minded dance-band musicians and semi-professionals, among others Ronnie Scott could often be heard playing the new bop. Victor, later played with Ronnie Scott's big band, on piano and vibraphone, before emigrating to America to play with Woody Herman, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley and others.

Maurice Burman writing in Jazz Journal in 1950 reckoned "nearly every bop player of note plays and was discovered at the Feldman Club. Johnny Dankworth, Ronnie Scott, Leon Calvert, Henry Shaw, Ralph Sharon, Eddie Thompson, Ronnie Ball, Bernie Fenton, Mac Minshull, Tony Crombie, Laurie Morgan, Flash Winstone, Don Rendell, Harry Klein, Joe Muddel, Pete Chilver, Lennie Bush, Dave Goldberg, Tommy Pollard, Victor Feldman and many others. I must also mention Leon Roy and his Band, which is the only large bop band in the country. It made it's debut at the Feldman Club and was extremely well received".

The Feldman Club eventually closed it's doors in 1954. 100 Oxford Street subsequently became the London Jazz Club, the Humphrey Lyttelton Club, Jazz Shows Jazz Club and then the 100 Club, amounting to over 60 years a jazz venue... more...

Fullado Club (Also known as Fallardo)
Situated in New compton Street it was originally called the Bouillabaise, a drinking club run by a West Indian. It's main clientele at that time was the London West Indian community although it was also an attraction to the many black US servicemen arriving in London in 1945. It was a free and easy place for musicians to drop in and jam and where 'off the cuff' bands would be formed. The club was in full swing in 1947 although most of the music played there was still swing with bebop gradually making it's way in.
Musicians such as Ronnie Scott, Tommy Whittle, Don Rendell, Denis Rose, Johnny Dankworth, Hank Shaw, Tommy Pollard etc. all played there regularly. Situated in New Compton street it was, apparently, where musicians first heard Charlie Parker, when cloakroom-man Horace played and replayed Charlie Parker's Groovin' High, (some say O, Lady be Good), which ultimately inspired London's boppers to create the Club Eleven! These Charlie Parker and then the Dizzy Gillespie records that followed had the effect of instantly revealing to these musicians the way they wanted their music to go. Several musicians regard this club as more important than Club Eleven in the development of British bop. In the late 1950s it was the Zanzibar Club, once graced by American stars Chico Hamilton and Gerry Wiggins.

The Metropolitan Bopera House
This short lived club was opened in early 1948 by Denis Rose and Harry Morris, It was a comfortless , bare basement at 6 New Compton street where the Fallardo Club had been previously. The sextet playing here were Ronnie Scott, Johnny Dankworth, Dennis Rose, Tommy Pollard, Lennie Bush and Tony Crombie. Ronnie Scott made his first records for Carlo Krahmer's Esquire label while he was playing here. In December 1948 the Bopera House musicians re-invented themselves as Club Eleven. Tony Hall later said of the club:
...apart from the Club XI down at Mac's, there was a Sunday afternoon offshoot called the Metropolitan Bopera House which was run by the 12th man, Harry Morris. There was just one naked light in a very barren cellar - no amenities of any kind. You couldn't even get a cup of tea and the chairs were all broken. Harry M.orris would have to come in and change the naked light bulb with a handkerchief. The musicians would come in and that was the first time I'd ever encountered the drug scene. I saw the effect it was having on the musicians. Sadly, most of the XI were on something or other, several on heroin very badly. Nearly all of them cured themselves later, but a few didn't make it.

Others...
Cuba (Denman Street), Jamboree (1943 in Wardour Street, run by Carlo Krahmer, later became the Flamingo), Bag o'Nails (Kingly Street), Nuthouse (1944 in Regent Street, Carlo Krahmer band), Casablanca (Gerard Street), The Moffat Club (Mac's Rehearsal Rooms - Great Windmill Street), The Bebop Shop (Tottenham). In 1950/51: Blue Note (Little Newport Street), Bird's Nest (where the Fallardo had been), , Florida Club, Sunset Club (Carnaby Street), Rik Gunnell's Blue Room (Garrick Street) and Club Basie (1955/6 Tavistock Restaurant, 18 Charing Cross Road). Mac's Rehearsal Rooms (Windmill Street where Club XI opened on December 11th, 1948.)
50 Carnaby Street, (Club XI from April 1950.) More...


More on Rik Gunnell...
A snapshot of the club scene - Xmas 1955...
The decline of the clubs - the mid 1960s...


This page was last updated during December, 2014.
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