The Jazz Era
Live music began at 100 Oxford Street on 24th October 1942. It was first played at Mack's restaurant (as it was then known) when British jazz drummer Victor Feldman's father hired the venue on a regular Sunday night to showcase the talents of his jazz loving sons and their band. The band consisted of Victor and his two brothers Robert on clarinet and Monty on accordion. They were joined by legendary British saxophonist Jimmy Skidmore for the opening night.
News of the venue spread and American servicemen and Britons who wanted to dance and listen to jazz began to arrive. Some of the GIs were well known as jazz musicians in their own right. An early visitor to the club in those days was big band legend Glen Miller, who appeared at the Club around this time accompanied by several members of his famous band including Ray McKinley, Mel Powell and Peanuts Hucko. This was during World War 2 and quite often as people enjoyed their night out, bombs were falling, but the crowd carried on regardless - safe in the knowledge that the club's location in the basement made it a very effective shelter. In fact the Feldman's advertising at the time read 'Forget the Doodle bug-Come and Jitterbug-At the Feldman Club'. Soon the likes of Jack Parnell and George Webb were performing on a regular basis and the club started to enjoy its first period of success.
By 1948 the club's name had changed to the London Jazz Club and reintroduced the dance music of the era - Jitterbug and Swing. In the 1950s when Lyn Dutton became the new leaseholder - Lyn was Humphrey Lyttelton's agent and decided to name the club after his hugely popular client. The Humphrey Lyttelton Club scored a major coup in 1956 when the legendary New Orleans band leader and trumpeter Louis Armstrong played with his band during a break on his British tour with the Lyttelton. Other visitors to the club around that time included the great Billie Holliday who came to listen to The Alex Welsh Band. In 1958 the Humphrey Lyttelton Band had a Top Twenty hit with 'Bad Penny Blues'. Unwittingly for Humph, this became one of the records to kick start the 'Trad Jazz' boom over the next few years. 'Trad' was to become absolutely huge in Britain from 1959 into the early 1960's with the club at its epicentre.
Bands such as Humph's and the Chris Barber Jazz and Blues Band had been playing at the club on a regular basis but became so big that they were now concert hall outfits. So in came the Trad Jazz scene - the likes of Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball and Terry Lightfoot all played the club.
The Blues comes to the 100 Club
The 100 Club as we know it today was born in the mid 1960s. Chris Barber had been bringing some of the finest American Blues artists to Britain and soon they were treading the boards and wooing the crowds at the 100 Club. Huge names like: Muddy Waters, Little Brother Montgomery, Cousin Joe Pleasant, Albert King, Sunnyland Slim, Otis Span, Jimmy Rushing, Louisiana Red, Bo Diddley and B.B. King, alongside their American soul cousins Jackie Wilson and George Jackson. The British Blues and Beat scene was also well represented in this period with Steam Packet featuring Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry and Julie Driscoll appearing, along with Alexis Korner, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and The Animals.
Many bands who went on to become world famous also played the club at this time including The Who, The Kinks, The Pretty Things and The Spencer Davis Group.
The '70s saw some of the toughest times in the club's history. The unions' work to rule policy and the subsequent three day week reduced the public's spending money. Electricity was automatically switched off between 6 and 9pm. This meant either closure on these nights or later opening hours. There were bright spots, noticeably the appearance of Maynard Ferguson and the success of the live pirate radio broadcasts by Radio London (the first time DJs learnt their trade at the Club), but it was becoming increasingly difficult to attract customers to the Club.
The mood of the nation eventually manifested itself in the biggest music phenomenon since Mersey Beat, and the 100 Club was the home of its dissidents! On Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st September 1976 it was host to the first ever Punk festival. On the 100 Club stage the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, Siouxsie & The Banshees, the Buzzcocks, the Vibrators and Subway Sect were seen for the first time in London. All of them were unsigned. The Melody Maker's opening line of its review stated "The 600 strong line that stretched across two blocks was indisputable evidence that a new decade in rock is about to begin." It was to be one of the most famous events in the club's history. The Punk festival of '76 also had an enormous effect on music in general. It changed the club's fortunes and its image for good. No other venue wanted to put on Punk at all so it stayed at the club on and off for the next eight or nine years incorporating its second wave with bands like UK Subs, G.B.H., Peter & the Test Tube Babies, The Exploited and Discharge. The 100 Club is still the spiritual home of the Punk movement.
The Reggae Sessions
Around this time another the Saturday lunchtime Reggae sessions were becoming the place in London to listen to reggae and acts that played the Club included the Equals with Eddie Grant, The Mighty Diamonds and Steel Pulse. There was also the Saturday soul club which was a big success and was hosted by Capital Radio's Greg Edwards.
The famous 6T's Northern Soul All Nighter also made its 100 Club debut at this time, in May 1980 to be precise. Organised and Promoted by Northern Soul DJ and Record Collector Ady Croasdell, it is still going today and has included live sets from Soul luminaries such as Doris Troy, Ray Pollard, Barbara Acklan, Tommy Hunt, The Flirtations, Terry Callier, Lou Ragland and Tony Middleton and has had famous Northern DJ's like Ian Levene spinning the decks frequently.
South African Jazz
As the eighties began, yet another form of music arrived at the 100 Club. South African township music was first initiated by Chris McGregor, leader of the highly acclaimed The Blue Notes and The Brotherhood of Breath, championed the scene. Julian Bahula, the distinguished African drummer, ran a regular Friday night featuring many musicians who were political refugees isolated from their South African homeland because of the apartheid laws and who were members of the outlawed A.N.C.
The weekly Friday nights became a whole movement for change. Great African musicians like Fela Kuti, Marion Makeba and Hugh Masekela appeared on the Friday night bill as did Youssou N'Dour, Thomas Mapfumo, Dudu Pukwana and Spirits Rejoice. They ran for almost ten very successful years until the release of Nelson Mandela.
The Indie scene
A chance phone call from concert promoter Chris York enquiring whether the club would be interested in showcasing one of his new bands started it all. The band were called Suede and in September 1992 they kicked off the club's successful period in Indie music. Over the next four years Oasis, Kula Shaker, Echobelly, Catatonia, Travis, Embrace, Cornershop, The Aloof, Heavy Stereo and Baby Bird would be just a few of the names to play the club and right up to the present day, the club has seen gigs from Semisonic, Toploader, Muse, Shack, Doves, JJ72, Jo Strummer, Squarepusher, Ocean Colour Scene and The Webb Brothers.
Over the years there have been many weekly nights dedicated to particular kinds of music. The Speakeasy Sunday evening ran for over ten years and showcased the best of British and American Blues and R'n'B. The London Swing Dance Society have been teaching people how to Jitterbug and Jive since 1988 and are still going strong. The Comedy nights have seen Al Murray, Arthur Smith, Rich Hall, Harry Hill, Bill Bailey and Mark Lamarr appear here. Mark has often DJ'd on other nights too. Jazz has continued to run through these decades of course: Humphrey Lyttelton and Chris Barber have returned frequently along with many of the British jazz names mentioned earlier. Teddy Edwards, Ruby Braff, Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis, Lee Konitz, Al Casey, Stephane Grappelli, Barney Kessell, Herb Ellis, Charlie Byrd and Teddy Wilson to name but a few. Even 'Wild' Bill Davison has returned to play the club as a very old man.
The club has remained special to many people over the years and a lot of well known bands and musicians have come back long after they met with fame and fortune. Paul Weller, who played here with The Jam during the early Punk days and is a good friend of the club, has returned on numerous occasions to showcase new material. The Rolling Stones and Metallica have used the club for secret warm up shows before world tours and festivals.
We hope you'll come and experience the magic of the club - see you soon!
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