Monday, June 18, 2007

Rik Gunnell and The Flamingo

An obituary in The Guardian today for music promoter Rik Gunnell (1931-2007). The clubs he was involved in were critical in London music in the 1950s and 1960s, most famously The Flamingo in Wardour Street where 'In the club's basement, black and white people mingled to an extent unknown elsewhere in London in the 1960s. Judy Garland dropped in to the club's AllNighter, and Christine Keeler played off her lovers there. A who's who of British rock and R&B appeared at the Flamingo under his aegis and a breathtaking roll call of Americans, including Stevie Wonder, Bill Haley, Patti LaBelle, John Lee Hooker and Jerry Lee Lewis'.

Other clubs he was linked to included 'Studio 51, a jazz club where the new bebop was played' after World War Two; the 2-Way Jazz Club (from 1952); the Blue Room (also 1952), featuring modern jazz; The Star in Wardour Street; Club Basic in Charing Cross Road; and Leicester Square's Mapleton hotel. The latter became an all-nighter called Club Americana in 1955 , and Gunnell started extra nights there as Club M which became popular with 'African-American servicemen based then in Britain; and 'Caribbean and African settlers of the Windrush generation'. He moved to the Flamingo in 1958; when it closed in in 1967, Gunnell took over the Bag O'Nails in Kingly Street.

Good stuff on 1960s British r'n'b and soul at Brown Eyed Handsome Man.


Buzz Stephens said...

Rest in peace Mr. Gunnell, But speaking of Judy Garland, there is an exciting new group on Yahoo called The Judy Garland Experience. The group features ultra rare audio files, amazing photo's, lively discussions, and the most eclectic bunch of Judy fan's you will find anywhere.
The membership includes Garland family members, historians, authors, film makers, other celebrities, and fans of all levels. The only person missing is you!
This week in our audio section we are featuring Judy's November, 1968 concert at Lincoln Center where she tenderly pays tribute to Harold Arlen, Her complete performance in 1953's psychological musical, Lady In The Dark, and some other odds and ends including an oh so rare concert performance by Judy's friend Anita O'Day. Please stop by our little Judyville and check it out, you may never want to leave.

Transpontine said...

I think that's called a blatant plug, but I will allow it if you can come up with any photos or contemporary reports of Judy Garland hanging out at the Flamingo or other London nightspots.

Buzz Stephens said...

You are right, it is the most blatant of plugs, sorry about that. But it really is a great group. I'm not home, nor near my pictures or scanner right now, but I do have pictures of Judy at the old Talk Of The Town, I will post them when I can.

Anonymous said...

Hi I am new here ! Rik Gunnel my dear old al is also Gone ! I gues I am getting old ! I still have many memories and many letters invitng me back to my hoe in London.. and lots of fun nights out with Rik in New York and wow time flies ... I was just reminscing (sp?) here in Costa Rica about my old friends of long ago..I looked up first Mickey Most whom I dated way back when I was a song writer for Mowtown and what a sweetie I remember on our first date he brought me a teddy bear ..REST IN PEACE both Mickey Most Rik Gunnel, Nicky Blair, Wes Farrell.. and many others whom I have found on this amazing Internet ..alas that they have passed on. I am at lest relieved to know that many were older than I am BUT proves life is short ...Enjoy it while we can eh?

Anonymous said...

"I looked up first Mickey Most whom I dated way back when I was a song writer for Mowtown and what a sweetie I remember on our first date he brought me a teddy bear"

Hmmmm..... I remember him waving a gun around at the Scotch of St James...................