Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On The Trail of The Beatle Who Vanished: The Live Gigs

The 2 I's Coffee Bar in the late 1950s.
 When Jimmie Nicol first ventured into the heart of London to start his professional career, the first place he went was to the birthplace of British Rock and Roll. No, not Liverpool's Cavern Club. That came later in history. Rather, he went to the place where every young musician wanted to be discovered; the 2 I's Coffee Bar.

The 2 I's became the place where young baby boomers would go to stay out late, drink coffee, and listen to the juke box and live music being played by Britain's first wave of Rock and Roll in the 1950s.

The Soho section of London exploded with the music of jazz, skiffle, R&B, Trad Jazz, and Britain's own version of Rock and Roll. The 2 I's, opened in 1956, saw the birth of the first generation of Britain's rock stars including: Georgie Fame, Tommy Steele, The Vipers, Vince Eager, Colin Hicks, and ultimately a young drummer named Jimmie Nicol. It was here that Nicol heard about auditions for Colin Hicks & His Cabin Boys. He passed the test with flying colors. It would be his first regualar band, and led to his first experiences touring and recording.

Today, the 2 I's Coffee bar is no longer in operation, however, the building survives and is honored by a plaque for being the official birthplace of British Rock and Roll. On the second day in London, I traveled to this

hallowed spot to view what remains. I went to 59 Old Compton Street. It was easy to find and upon arrival, I looked in the vacant space and saw the stairs leading down to the club, imagining the tiny room crammed full of teens, hopped up on coffee and a new, wild form of music being played by the likes of Tommy Steele, Vince Eager and a young drummer who would sit in with anybody… Jimmie Nicol. Here is where Jimmie Nicol performed his first professional live gigs. Jamming with a Who's Who of future rock stars.

The Next stop was just around the corner and down the street.

The coming of age of the Blues; Soul and R&B scene in the early 50's and 60's, was when the Flamingo club in London put on shows at its venue from midnight to Dawn.

The Flamingo in the 1960s.
A fixture since Jeffrey Kruger first opened its doors in September 1952, the club from its inception became the hot spot - the hottest spot for music fans of all ages and classes with visitors standing in line for the club to open coming from all over Britain and Europe to spend an evening at the Flamingo.

In the spring of 1964, Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames were holding court at the Flamingo with their hot live mix of R&B and jazz, jamming through the night for a mixture of bohemians and US Servicemen. Members of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who were frequently seen in the audience of what was the hottest live club act in London at the time.

In May of 1964, the Blue Flames drummer became ill. Bass player Tex Makins suggested to Fame that they get Jimmie Nicol to replace him. Quickly, Nicol was in the group as their drummer. This was a big move for Nicol, but not as big as the one that would come next as Fame led to "fame" for the young drummer. But that story will have to wait until the release of The Beatle Who Vanished.

Jimmie Nicol and Tex Makins jamming with Georgie Fame - May, 1964.

Today, sadly the building is used as an inexpensive Chinese fast food restaurant. There are no plaques and no indications that this once proud building housed the hottest live rhythm & blues band in London’s swingin’ sixties.

Wardour Street, London. The former Flamingo club
Next time, the Rock And Roll Detetive will hunt down the recording studios where Jimmie Nicol recorded in London.

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(c) 2011 Rock And Roll Detective (R).

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