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The Six Bells, Chelsea
Some while ago, Hugo Strötbaum in the Netherlands asked: 'What's going on at the Six Bells these days? What does it look like? What happened to the Chelsea Jazz Club? There must be people around that know more about it?' Hugo has also discovered that one of DECCA's recording studios, the Chenill Galleries, was also on the King's Road and right next to the Six Bells.
In 2010, Dave Bowen followed up the query:
Does anyone else recall that before the Six Bells Chelsea was a regular venue for the leading British mainstream bands it was also known as Trog's Club and regularly featured for a number of years Wally Fawkes and his Troglodytes (Monday nights?). I was a proud owner of a membership card for the club in the late 1950s. Wally, with Colin Bates, Spike Mackintosh (Cameron's dad), Jeremy French etc. recorded an excellent EP at the time called "A Night At The Six Bells". I saw the Fairweather-Brown Band there several times and was also there the night that Ben Webster turned up to sit in with Humph's band and traded fours with Tony Coe on "Cottontail".
[Here is a video of Wally playing with Humph in 1983 BUT there is a lot of flickering on this video, so if it is tough on the eyes, go to the clip below it to just listen to Wally playing Trog's Blues.]
The Six Bells in the King's Road, Chelsea was a well-known landmark for jazz gigs, and a frequent venue for the Sandy Brown-Al Fairweather band. It is now part of the Henry J. Bean's chain of pubs, and there is little, if any, evidence of the jazz that used to be played there. Apparently the upstairs rooms have been turned into offices. Henry J Bean's website gives pictures of today's interior www.henryjbeans.co.uk/chelsea
Henry J Bean's (2006/7)
Photo courtesy of Ian Maund
Hugo recalls: 'I don't remember much about those days in Chelsea. I was on holidays in England and must have read somewhere (Melody Maker?) that they (Sandy and Al) were playing at the Six Bells.
The Sandy Brown - Al Fairweather Band at the Six Bells Chelsea, June 1968
Malcolm Cecil (bass), Stan Robinson (tenor sax), Sandy (clarinet), Brian Lemon (piano), Al (trumpet), Mike Scott (drums).
© Hugo Strötbaum
When I see the photographs the whole thing comes to life (I was 22 years old then), very good music, informal atmosphere, glass mugs filled with apple cider and those larger-than-life paintings of jazz musicians on the walls (Fats Waller, etc).
Al and Sandy at the Six Bells, Chelsea, June 1968
© Hugo Strötbaum
I went there two nights and that was all I ever saw of Sandy and Al. Strange, I remember them as two very sympathetic guys, bent on their job of making music'.
We probably each have our own memories of the Six Bells. I remember taking a girlfriend there once - she hated it! The air was clear to about five feet off the floor and above that a haze of cigarette smoke, but the music was unbelievable. Tony Coe was playing with Sandy and Al that night and the whole band was buzzing.
Of course, many other bands played there - please send us your memories and any pictures you have of the Six Bells. Does anyone know anything about the Chelsea Jazz Club? Click here to Contact Us .
I worked there in the 1970s. The upstairs (street level bar and disco) was called the Bird's Nest, and was a full-on jazz venue on Sunday afternoons - absolutely brilliant!'
Vicky Jones has sent us this picture with a couple of queries. Does anyone recognise people in the picture, and could it have been taken at the Six Bells in Chelsea?
Vicky says: 'I happened upon your site when my sister and I were trying to find out whether the Six Bells was still operating as a pub. My Dad, Leonard Jones, together with his best friend, Stanley Peake, were great friends of Bill Nicholls who was landlord in the sixties. I believe there was a tragedy involving Bill's daughter falling from the upstairs balcony of the pub and he gave it up soon after. Here is a picture of Dad and a group of chaps that Bill took out to a New Years event. We think it is either a Brewery 'Do' or was related to the Jazz Club. (Click on the picture for a larger image).
The big chap front left is Stanley Peake, next to him with glass to lips and ciggie is my late Dad, Leonard Jones.
Unfortunately you can't see Bill the landlord clearly (bald head) as he is behind the chap with glasses next to my Dad. I believe one of the chaps in the picture is called Lawrie but they were all regulars at the pub and a few of them may have been merchant seaman like my Dad and Stan.
I do remember as a teenager when they had the disco (Birds Nest by then). Sadly more and more of the smaller live venues close in favour of the mega stadiums. It is happening all the time where I live in Kingston Upon Thames but the Grey Horse and Fighting Cocks struggle on. The Grey Horse started out as a Jazz Venue but now has all sorts of music.
Please contact us if you can help Vicky.
Trombonist Mike Hogh tells us that in the above photograph sent in by Vicky Jones he is 'about 80% sure that the man on the extreme right of Vicky's photo is Matt Farrally (not sure about the spelling of the surname), who was the head barman at the Tally Ho in Kentish Town in the early '60s.'
I was a pot man there in the 60s - no pay but plenty to drink. Zoot Money used to play upstairs, and we used to sit in the garden with The Stones road manager and a famous guy that used to be on 'That Was The Week That Was' ( no name mentioned) smoking weed.
The art students from the college on the other side of the road used to drink the Six Bells dry every night during rag week.
I was just surfing the net and came across your page about the Six Bells of Chelsea. My dad is Bill Nicoll who with my mum, jean, ran the pub in the sixties. I am the daughter who fell from the balcony - approximately 30 feet. I suffered a broken neck, but am glad to say that I am fine and have no lasting damage. Both my mum and dad are still alive, although they are getting on now.
Trombonist Mike Hogh:
I'm pretty sure that the first band to play upstairs in the Six Bells was Mike Martin's band, which had Mike (clarinet and alto), Phil Addison (trumpet), Mike Hogh (trombone), Gerry Green (drums), Robin Walton (bass) and, I think, Derek Gilby, (piano). We had a vocalist called Pat Adams. Phil confirms that we started there in 1960 and had a write-up (he thinks it was in the Telegraph), which alerted other bands - after which Fairweather-Brown etc. moved in!
Photograph: L-R: Pat Adams (vocals), Robin Walton (bass), Mike Martin (clarinet and alto), Maurice Wrixton (tenor), Phil Addison (trumpet), Mike Hogh (trombone). The drummer was Gerry Green and the pianist Derek Gilby.
Roger Kinsey also remembers the Six Bells:
'As a former student of the Chelsea College of Science and Technology, located in Manresa Road opposite the Chelsea School of Art the Six Bells was our nearest and dearest watering place. I was at College from 1964 to 1967 and you will see on the right my photo of the Six Bells which appeared in our Student Union Handbook for three years to my knowledge. The photograph was taken in 1965.'
The Six Bells, Chelsea
Photograph courtesy of Roger Kinsey ©
'The blog regarding drinking the pub dry during Rag Week each and every night is incorrect. We drank the pub dry one night of the Rag Week in 1965 and 1966 - even us students in those days would never had had the capacity to drink a pub dry every night over six days.'
'I shot two 16mm films in 65 and 66 of those Rag Weeks and in 1966 we had the wonderful Jimmy Savile as our Patron of what was called the South London Rag Week.'
The Six Bells Garden, Chelsea
Photograph courtesy of Roger Kinsey ©
My photograph (on the left) of the garden at that time leads me on to tell you that on June 6th 2012 I have organised a reunion luncheon event when up to, so far, 44 old Chelseaites from those heady College days, are partaking. We intend to locate ourselves in the garden on that afternoon, God willing, will provide fine warm weather for us, after we have luncheoned at a local Sardinian family owned restaurant. A reunion for some of them who have not seen former college colleagues for 45 years. So 44 of us will not be attempting to drink the pub dry on that day !!!'.
Bill Brown in Australia adds more information to out tapestry on the Six Bells:
I refer to the article by Mike Hogh regarding the Six Bells that fine haven for Mainstream Jazz in the sixties. He remarked that he thought that the Mike Martin Band was the first to play there starting around 1960. I visited the club around 1962 when of course it was in full swing with the bands of Bruce Turner, Fairweather/Brown, Wally Fawkes etc. in attendance.
I was reminded of an article where the club was mentioned in Jazz Journal. I dug it out. It was an article in the edition of March 1963 by the late Jeremy French, trombonist/trumpeter.The article was called 'Mainstream In England' and dealt with the bands that played in that style between the twin forces of 'Trad' and 'Modern', and used the Six Bells as their base. I will quote from his article:
'The Jazz connections of the pub extend through several decades . Before the war it was well known as a place where dance-band musicians would meet for 'jam-sessions' as they were then called, and a number was composed in it's honour by Spike Hughes, called 'Six Bells Stampede'.
As far as I know the pub then went off the jazz map for twenty years until the winter of 1958/59 when the Wally Fawkes Troglodytes, having become redundant at a club in Piccadilly owing to a drastic change in it's entertainment policy, began looking for a new situation in London. I remember meeting Wally and Jim Godbolt at the Bells one autumn evening and dubiously inspecting a heavily tapestried room which had, to my mind, strongly Masonic associations plus a vague feeling of Hampton Court Palace [Queen Mary's ante-room, I think] about it.
However when I returned from a holiday in Austria some months later, I found the Club already in full swing. Well, the corner occupied by the band was in full swing anyway. Actually it took many months for the club to become fully established. Wally's band, of which I was a fully paid up member, appeared every Monday evening, and in the four years of it's existence the club had grown out of all recognition. It was now open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and is generally well attended. The 'hunting-scene' portraits had given way to 'jazz scene' portraits, and a proper band stand had been installed [to the great relief of trombonists].
Bruce Turner fan Jack Marlow writes: ‘After visiting your site and seeing the "larger than life paintings of jazz musicians" mentioned by Bill Brown at the Six Bells pub in Chelsea page, I thought that this information might be of interest.
Bill Philby, my uncle, had painted a two-colour mural of Louis Armstrong in the living room of his flat in Leyton. Jim Godbolt, a long time friend of Bill's, during a visit, asked Bill to paint six for the Six Bells. Bill Philby was working as a commercial artist from home at the time and he asked me to give him a hand doing the paintings and to paint a mural at Jim Godbolt´s flat. The larger-than-lifes were painted on 3ft x 6ft sheets of hardboard with emulsion paint. Bill traced black and white photos of the musicians and then reduced them, by eye, to a high contrast picture. The tracings were around 7 x 9 inches. A grid was drawn on the tracing paper and the hardboard for the transfer. The two colours were just the basic deep tone, then mixed with white to make the pastel shade.
As far as I can remember we painted: Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Pee Wee Russell, Fats Waller, the rest I don´t recall. They were simply nailed into place, squared up by eye, on a wonderful sunny afternoon in the club hall.
[The pictures can be glimpsed in the above photograph of Al and Sandy - Ed].
Dave Anderson remembers The Six Bells in Chelsea when it first started out as Trog's Club. Dave says: 'Trog's was an established Jazz club (Mainstream Jazz) and the Blues bands played on Thursday night. It was new and the audience picked up as it went along but it certainly wasn't jumping. I lived in Chelsea in the sixties and used to go on Blues night and listened to Alexis Korner, Graham Bond & Zoot Money. Great Days.'
Medwyn from the island of Anglesey in North Wales sent us this picture of a membership card for Trog’s Club, saying: 'Yesterday, I was clearing out some stuff with the mind to put some music memorabilia on Ebay to fund my Motown / Northern Soul / Reggae / Mersey Beat collection, when I happened upon this membership card for the Trog's Jazz Club, Six Bells, King's Road, S.W.3. I bought this in a lot, together with some Liverpool related membership cards as I collect Mersey Beat memorabilia.'
Clarinettist Rod Watts writes from Lincolnshire to add to our steadily increasing page of memories of the famous Six Bells jazz venue in Chelsea:
'I have very fond memories of the Six Bells. Back in 1959 I purchased, from a friend, a B&H clarinet for the sum of £10 and this started my association with jazz which still exists!. A couple of years later I was given an Alto Sax for my 21st! At that time I was attending a Jazz Class at the City Literary Institute where the tutors were the likes of Colin Purbrook, Jeremy French, Dave Castle and Ronnie Duff depending on their gig schedule! Quite often, at the end of the session, some of us would share a taxi with the tutor and make our way to the Six Bells to hear the like of Wally Fawkes, Sandy Brown and John Cox. I once had the temerity to sit in with the Fat John band which included at the time (if memory serves me right) John Cox, Ronnie Duff, Ian Armitage, Ray Crane, Johnny Mumford and Dave Castle. Sadly, I left London that summer, and have never found a jazz environment to match the “Bells”. My playing days are now over - my last bands were the Shepton Mallet Big Band and the Frome Swing Band'.
Tony Abel writes:
'I came across The Six Bells online today, I remember going there often in the early 60s. I am sure I saw Humph playing there with Bruce Turner. Nobody else has mentioned this, could I have imagined this?
'I can clearly remember having a row with Sandy Brown in the bar of The Star Hotel in Croydon, the Croydon Jazz Club was there every Friday night. I wanted him to play a number I liked and he got a bit angry, maybe he was having a bad day?
My fault I am sure, I was a stroppy young git in those days.
Wish I could do it all again, I mean experience the music, not the row.'
© Sandy Brown Jazz 2010 - 2016
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