Thursday, June 09, 2022



Following on from Andrew Humphreys' 'Raving Upon Thames'  - a Richmond/Eel Pie Island musical history my friend Chris Lewis tipped me off to 'As You Were': The true adventures of the Ricky-Tick club. The book has been written by John Mansfield (with the help of younger brother Colin). The photo above shows John (right) with Philip Hayward (left) who he met when they were both doing national service in Germany after the war. 

John's life was changed when, as a teenager, he came across a wind-up gramophone and a box full of 78's. He became hooked on jazz and studied it. In 1952 he joined the newly-formed Slough Town Military Band for a couple of years and learnt to play the saxophone. When he was called up he used this musical experience to try and sign up as a Military Bandsman for the 13th/18th Hussars. When Philip turned up as a new recruit an instant rapport was established between them and for the next ten years they were a virtually inseparable double act except for a period from 1958 when Philip was posted to Malaya whilst John was discharged and returned to Britain.

Their mutual interest in music was first piqued in Hamburg when they met and hung out with The Crane River Jazz Band, a seminal outfit who first came together in 1949 and which for two years featured the cornetist Ken Colyer who was to make a great impact on the jazz and blues scene.

In 1959 John was working on a building site in Windsor opposite a pub called the Star and Garter which had a Trad Jazz club that he began to frequent and get involved in. He was very quickly offered a chance to run the club which he made a great success of. He became the manager of a band as well and bought a Lambretta scooter to scout other other possible venues in the neighbourhood. He also joined a convoy of scooters who regularly went to Eel Pie Island as this was the jazz club to go to. Further trips to London jazz clubs followed. 

When Philip returned to the scene the two would-be entrepeneurs were scratching around to make a living as their only source of income was their Sunday night jazz club which, in the summer of 1962, they renamed the Ricky-Tick jazz club. That September John was tipped off to the fact that Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated were playing at the Ealing Club. This was his first encounter with live electric blues which he says blew him away which is not surprising considering the line-up was AK with Graham Bond, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. This got him thinking about establishing an R&B club on a Friday at the Star and Garter. The first gig on the 7th December was a great success so John was keen to book them for the next Friday. Alexis said he was booked but suggested a band called The Rolling Stones who were playing interval spots at the Ealing Club.

The Stones played the Ricky-Tick on Friday Dec 14th 1962. It was Bill Wyman's debut and their first provincial booking. Following that, Brian Jones hustled more gigs in Sutton, Richmond, Putney and Twickenham. Their second Ricky-Tick gig on 11th Jan 1963 was sold out.

The Star and Garter became a music venue seven nights a week, five of the gigs being run by other promoters. The R&B Friday nights featured the Blues Incorporated or the Stones which brought in ever larger crowds which set them off looking for other venues. On the 22nd Feb they put on Alexis Korner at the Wooden Bridge Club in Guildford and the Stones at Windsor. By the first week in March they were promoting these and other bands at Reading, Windsor, Poole, Southall and Guildford. The Stones played eight gigs for them in eight days by which time, says John. 'they had established a fantastic and fanatical following'. The crowds were getting so big that they had an external metal staircase fitted at the back of the club. Capacity there had reached 300.

Promoting gigs in those days relied on rather dull woodblock printed posters and handouts to spread the word. John was amazed when he saw a huge poster with a huge screaming negro face advertising a R&B gig featuring Hogsnort Rupert - a band  with saxes. Hogsnort turned out to be the pseudonym of Bob McGrath, a student at the Farnham School of Art. He became the designer and stencil cutter for  Ricky-Tick promotions and taught them how to be silk screen printers. That March Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames were, says John, instantly adopted as the Ricky-Tick favourite as the main band ushering in a soul-jazz version of R&B.

During 1963, the Thames Valley area became the 'Blues Delta' of Britain with Ricky-Tick promoting regularly in Windsor, Slough, Maidenhead, Reading and Guildford. They put on gigs with Cyril Davis, John Mayall and Eric Clapton for blues purists . The Animals played their first gig down south, the same week that John and Phillip put on Sonny Boy Williamson supported by the Yardbirds at Windsor. John writes that by late 1963 the entire UK were feeling the 'British Blues Boom' with over 100 groups on the R&B circuit.

Early in 1964 John and Phillip were able to get a lease on Clewer Mead, a mansion by the river which John had been interested in for three years. It consisted of a large ballroom, a host of ancillary rooms and seven large flats - all for £16 a week!! Bands and artists playing here included Georgie Fame, John Lee Hooker backed by The Groundhogs, Bill Hayley, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Jerry Lee Lewis and Howlin' Wolf. 

They had room in the mansion to establish a substantial silk-screen operation producing not only 1,000 posters a day when required but also a wide range of t-shirts. In the following months or years further landmark gigs featured The Who, Long John Baldry, Little Stevie Wonder. Jimi Hendrix, The Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and on...

Phillip died in 1993 thus ending a partnership that had made a substantial impact on the British music scene of the day through a promotion and booking business that spread to venues across the south-east bringing the best of jazz, R&B, soul and rock to a wide audience. It's a real-life account of the music scene at that time and further evidence of the intensity of 1960s culture well illustrated with the posters and handouts of the period. The book is well designed, printed and bound and is a welcome addition to the story of British music

There is a complete list of gigs at the various Ricky-Tick venues here

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