The Rolling Stones at the Ealing Club 50 years ago

On the evening of 7 April 1962 Mick Jagger and Keith Richards visited the Ealing Club to see Blues Incorporated for the first time.

The famous 17 October 1961 meeting on a Dartford railway station platform and an ensuing conversation regarding blues records brought the future songwriting partnership together in search of better music.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

By March 1962, just like many other blues record collectors, they had already seen the ads in Jazz News and New Musical Express for a rhythm and blues club in the London suburb of Ealing.

Having formed a band Little Boy Blue and The Blue Boys with Dick Taylor (later of the Pretty Things) and Alan Etherington, Jagger & Richards travelled 20 miles to Ealing in Etherington’s father’s Riley Pathfinder car, parking it in Madeley Road, strolling past Ealing Broadway station and then descending, 20 urine stinking steps…nothing changes.

 

Brian Jones, from Cheltenham, had been attending the venue with Dick Hattrell in the weeks following the opening night on the 17 March 1962. According to Bill Wyman’s book, Brian Jones sat in with Blues Inc on two successive Saturdays. On 31 May 1962, Blues Inc had also recruited a new bassist, Jack Bruce (later of Graham Bond Organisation and Cream) with Long John Baldry joining Cyril Davies on vocals.

Sometime during the evening of 7 April, Jones was presented to the Ealing Club crowd by Alexis Korner. With his Hofner Committee guitar, Jones as “Elmo Lewis” showed off his slide guitar skills with the Elmore James song Dust My Broom.

His stage presence and ability impressed both Richards and Jagger as it had done Alexis Korner.

This initial meeting brought together people with a mutual interest in the blues. In England, blues recordings had quite often arrived as cheap packaging to protect records of more popular artists that were being distributed to American armed forces personnel in Europe. Radio recordings had been limited to occasional appearances by black American Blues artists on the BBC, throughout the late 1950s.

The trad jazz revival was at its peak and figures such as Kenny Ball, Acker Bilk and Chris Barber were topping the hit parade and discussing contracts for American tours. Keith Richards and Bill Wyman talk about how in 1962, rock n roll was dead in the water with the absence of the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. Chuck Berry’s career was also at a low point as he fulfilled his jail sentence in the US. The singer, who was a major influence on the Rolling Stones, would gain greater British recognition for his landmark song, Johnny B Goode that had failed to chart when first released in 1958.  Meanwhile, Elvis was concentrating on filmmaking, as was his British equivalent Cliff Richard.

Pop figures topping the charts were viewed by many as being very commercial. London youth of 1962 were looking for a new sound, just like the teenagers of Liverpool, from where Merseybeat would begin to stir at the end of 1963.

The Rolling Stones in Ealing

It was the formative months between 7 April 1962 and March 1963 that found future members of the Rolling Stones visiting the subterranean basement club, located opposite Ealing Broadway station. Alexis Korner’s band Blues Incorporated provided blues jams with Mick becoming a regular feature on vocals and Brian Jones & Keith Richards guesting on guitar.

Keith Richards would write letters about his favourite rhythm and blues club in Ealing and since 2012 has boosted the story of the club with a second blue plaque.

Brian Jones, Mick, Keith 1962

In Spring 1962, Brian Jones was to find pianist Ian Stewart. Eventually, Alexis Korner would offer a bunch of musicians consisting of Mick, Keith, Brian and Ian the chance to perform at the Marquee Jazz Club,  that had opened its doors to British rhythm and blues thanks to Blues Inc’s ongoing success at Ealing.

12 July 1962, would be the “Rollin” Stones first official gig, at the Marquee Club. Regular Saturday slots at Ealing would then be taken by the band and 22 Rolling Stones gigs would follow.

Keith's First Gig - EALING

Keith’s First Gig – EALING – plaque erected in Sept 2015 as part of “Cross Eyed Heart” Promo

British Rhythm and Blues 1962
The combination of electric guitars and pounding drums, all playing music whose primary inspiration and source were black American blues records, is what British rhythm and blues was all about, with Ealing was its first hub.

In 2012, six of the top 10 guitarists named in a Rolling Stone magazine article had links with the Ealing scene.

Rolling Stone Magazine

The passing of Jim Marshall the founder of Marshall Amplification (a company that started less than two miles away in Hanwell) was world news in April 2012. Black American blues artists such as Leadbelly and Muddy Waters would have gained some of the recognition they deserved amongst mainstream American audiences and whilst their music traveled to new continents beyond America.

In 1962 Ealing was full of live venues and the Town Hall was even a regular venue for major acts of the day such as Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball and Chris Barber.

The Ealing Music Scene in 2017

Since the original publication of this web page in 2012, numerous attempts have been made to make live music a sustainable proposition at the original Ealing Club venue. The Ealing Club CIC (a non-for profit social enterprise) has also been trying to stimulate and define the narrative of Ealing’s contribution to music via exhibitions and music events.

Following a visit to Ealing by Charlie Watts in March 2012, Ealing’s historical connections have been affirmed in a growing number of books, documentaries and film projects that mention the area’s past contributions. Late 2016 saw mentions of Ealing’s Rolling Stones connections: reviews of the Stones Album ‘Blue and Lonesome’, CBS ‘Sunday Morning’ and Robert Fricke at Rolling Stone Magazine were notable examples.

Campaigns to highlight the club have no doubt centred some attention on the wider plight and the challenges facing established small live music venues across the UK. (See Ealing Club Blog) 

In absence of a sustainable venue in Ealing,  The Ealing Club Community Interest Company has worked with numerous partners to raise awareness of Ealing’s music heritage while inspiring new opportunities for live music. Several events have been boosted or inspired by celebrating music heritage, most notably the The Ealing Blues Festival, Hanwell Hootie, EMFF, SoundBite Festival and Ealing Eclectic.

On 6 May 2017 saw the largest ever Hanwell Hootie and in July 2017, headline acts at the Ealing Blues Festival included Mungo Jerry and the Blockheads. Arts Council funding is set to help push forward Ealing Eclectic once more, in late 2017.

Future Plans 

Plans are afoot for redevelopment of central Ealing and a growing number of people are showing interest in incorporating the roots of Ealing’s music heritage into future developments. A feature film documentary, Suburban Steps To Rockland – The Story of The Ealing Club was premiered on 4 November 2017. Perhaps this last project can achieve more than any plaque or exhibition to boost opportunity for live music in West London.