PART 1: EARLY DAYS
Jazz aficionado Harold Pendleton quits his accountant job and moves to London, later becoming the secretary of the National Federation of Jazz Organisations of Great Britain. Later simplified as the National Jazz Federation (NJF), it had been founded by a committee of musicians, journalists and club owners who wished to regulate the quality of London’s jazz scene.
Pendleton also becomes the drummer and, subsequently, the manager of Chris Barber’s traditional jazz band, as well as bringing to the UK many American artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf to perform with the band. With banjo player Lonnie Donegan in the line-up, Barber’s band also helps to trigger the skiffle craze. Together, they record the huge Transatlantic hit Rock Island Line in 1954.
Inspired by the Newport Jazz Festival in the US, Lord Edward Montegu asks Pendleton to organise the UK’s first open-air jazz festival at his estate in Beaulieu, Hampshire. Despite stating he preferred to work in roofed locations (not least due to the British weather), Pendleton takes on the challenge.
Although the first festival is a success, Pendleton parts ways with Montegu over its future direction. The festival lasts another five years and attracts significant coverage on BBC television. This, however, helps to cause and then amplify the widespread media storm around the so-called ‘Battle of Beaulieu’ riots in 1960. Consequently, Pendleton is asked to return to manage the festival in 1961 which – given the rise of further crowd incidents – he wisely declines.
As the NJF’s secretary, Pendleton is now promoting around 200 concerts a year, including legendary shows at the Royal Festival Hall and trips abroad, such as an excursion to Paris where a party of NJF members watch Louis Armstrong perform.
Lacking a regular venue for NJF concerts, Pendleton seizes the opportunity to host jazz nights in the basement of the Academy Cinema at 165 Oxford Street, London W1. Often cited as the most important European venue in the history of modern music, the Marquee Club is born here on April 19th 1958 with the first ‘Jazz at the Marquee’ event. It is the first of many steps towards changing the face of British live music.
Fired up by the success of the first Beaulieu Jazz Festival and armed with a strong desire to not only restore the reputation of jazz after the Beaulieu riots but also demonstrate how a festival should be run, Pendleton’s quest to create his own event on a suitable site finally ends.
Against the odds, he persuades the owners of the Richmond Athletic Association to allow him to hold the UK’s first National Jazz Festival (NJF) on its grounds on August 26-27, with wife Barbara looking after administration.
The NJF brings new talent to bigger audiences and plays a crucial role in the support and development of jazz, blues, R&B and – later – rock music in the UK, as well as introducing festival culture to the masses. Continuing today at Reading and Leeds, the festival will continue to showcase a range of genres for more than half a century, launching what will become Entec in 1968 and the festival’s Reading home in 1971.
Brian Jones advertises in Jazz News to find band members for his new R&B band. Later, a Marquee cancellation by Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated presents the opportunity for new band to make its live début. When on the phone again to Jazz News to confirm this first gig – on July 12 – Jones was asked for the band’s name. He saw a Muddy Waters album lying on his floor and one of its tracks was ‘Rollin’ Stone’. On the spur of the moment, The Rollin’ Stones are born.
Featured within an otherwise mostly traditional bill of acts including Acker Bilk, Humphrey Lyttleton, Chris Barber and the Tubby Hayes Quintet, The Rolling Stones’ appearance at the third National Jazz Festival marks the first significant move away from a ‘purist’ jazz approach. The Stones emerge victorious and are booked as one of the headliners the following year.
On March 13th, the Marquee Club relocates to 90 Wardour Street, London W1. The opening night stars Sonny Boy Williamson, Long John Baldry with the Hoochie Coochie Men (featuring Rod Stewart) and The Yardbirds who, with Eric Clapton, record their LP début Five Live Yardbirds that same night. It is also here that The Who begin their influential Tuesday night ‘Maximum R&B’ residency.
The fourth National Jazz & Blues Festival is broadcast on BBC1.
Already the owner of the successful booking agency Marquee Artists and music publication Jazz News, the Marquee Group of Companies opens Marquee Studios at the rear of the club in October. The Moody Blues’ No.1 hit ‘Go Now’ is recorded at the studio’s first session booking before building work is complete.