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Klooks Kleek was a jazz and rhythm n’ blues club at the Railway Hotel, West Hampstead, North West London. Named after a 1956 album by jazz drummer Kenny Clarke entitled Klook’s Clique (Savoy Records 12006), the club opened on 11 January 1961 with special guest Don Rendell (tenor sax) and closed nine years later on 28 January 1970 after a session by drummer Keef Hartley’s group.
There were over 1200 sessions at Klook’s Kleek, around 300 of them featuring jazz and the remainder rhythm ‘n’ blues. Zoot Money, Ten Years After, John Mayall and Graham Bond recorded live albums at KK. The UK Blues boom of the early 1960s brought to the club many living legends. The full story of the club and the Decca Studios next door is told in a book by Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms [ 2], which includes Appendices listing every jazz, blues and RnB artiste who appeared.
Klook’s Kleek founder Dick Jordan was a jazz enthusiast and aspiring trombonist who had made previous attempts to establish a jazz club in the inner suburbs of North-West London. KK proved to be third time lucky Don Rendell played the club a record 20 times, followed by the hugely popular Dick Morrissey, Tubby Hayes, the best-known jazzer of the time, played KK seven times. The only non-British jazz came from the Polish Modern Jazz Quartet led by Zbigniew Namyslowski who returned by popular acclaim three weeks later. The policy of featuring top British jazz soloists made the club viable as long as the 18-25 year olds remained interested in jazz. The promoters – in 1962 Dick Jordan had invited childhood friend Geoff Williams to partner him at KK – also believed in making their punters part of the club, rather than just a crowd of fee-payers. So there were competitions and coach outings which helped ensure loyalty to the club. [Weinding and Colloms Pps 145-147] But jazz at KK ceased on 11 November 1964.
An attempt to revive jazz nights in “Dopey Dick’s” on the same premises lasted for 18 months from April 1967. With earlier performance restrictions removed several American jazz “royalty” appeared, including saxists Ben Webster, Roland Kirk, Sonny Rollins and Zoot Sims. Drummer Max Roach, also appeared. British artistes included pianist Stan Tracey, and the man responsible for bringing the Americans to his own famous club in Soho, Ronnie Scott. The last-ever jazz session, on 29 October 1968, featured organist Jimmy McGriff.
Rhythm and blues
In 1963 the promoters were very aware of a burgeoning scene in both blues and RnB which arrived at Klooks Kleek in the shape of Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames .The band’s mix of Louis Jordan, soft soul, funk and even vocal versions of bebop numbers (“Parker’s Blues”) met the interests of a pretty diverse audience. Their first appearance at KK was on a scheduled Jazz night causing a queue of a rare length and mass approval of their music. They opened the Tuesday RnB nights on 10 September 1963 and performed a further twenty-one times, continuing to appear at this small venue even after two No 1 chart singles. Their legendary manager, Rik Gunnell,  allowed them to work for “peanuts” every so often because the band so liked the ambience of KK..
Appearing regularly in rotation with Fame were the Graham Bond Organisation. Apart from the prodigious musical skills of the leader on keyboards and saxes, the rhythm section was Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, Guitarist John McLaughlin (“Mahavishnu Orchestra”) was also a member of GBO.
By the beginning of 1964, RnB nights had become so successful that an additional Monday session was introduced. Georgie and the Blue Flames opened on 13 April that year to the usual full house, but Monday nights proved not to be viable, and on 1 April 1965 Thursday became the second club night. Zoot Money who was already on the way to becoming a club legend opened. The last Monday session took place on 26 July 1965. Thursdays endured until November 1969.
Also appearing in the early sixties were Rufas Thomas (walking the dog) and Lucky Gordon (linked in the Keeler/Profumo affair) and of course the Cyril Davies All Stars with Long John Baldry.
The Mike Cotton Sound’s 45 appearances were made mostly on Thursday where they were effectively the house band.
Graham Bond made 39 appearances under the RnB banner and a further 4 as a Modern Jazz artist.
Zoot Money and The Big Roll Band performed 34 times. They were Club’s most popular attraction.
John Mayall brought many future stars through his various bands He Appeared 33 times and did much to foster interest in blues nationwide.
Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames played 22 times within the first two years of RnB at KK. Commercial success then took them into larger venues, but spin-off bands, e.g. The Night-Timers who played 21 gigs, kept the genre going at smaller clubs like KK
1963 had also seen the start of a deepening interest in both country and urban blues with national promoters bringing groups of American blues artistes over for concert and club tours. By 1964 this was in full swing and KK featured well-known bluesmen particularly in the Autumn of 64 and Spring of 65. Sonny Boy Williamson II, (backed by the Moody Blues!), John Lee Hooker, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, T-Bone Walker (backed by John Mayall), Champion Jack Dupree and Buddy Guy all delighted their audiences. Hooker and Wolf both made return visits in later years; Freddie King and Otis Spann appeared in 1969. Britain was not to be left out. Alexis Korner, a crusader for the blues for more than a decade also appeared half-a-dozen times in 1964.
Stevie Wonder appeared so long ago he was still prefixed as “Little”, between the initial Motown hits and the emergence of the adult superstar in the 1970s. Also paying their dues at Klooks Kleek were inter alia Jon Lord of Deep Purple, playing in the Artwoods, named after Ronnie Wood’s older brother and leader of the group; Purple themselves played one gig in 1969 before the big time beckoned; Bluesology had a 20 year-old called Reg Dwight, later Sir Elton Hercules John; Cream, all of whose members were familiar with KK from previous bands, played a couple of gigs before their first mega-bucks US tour and again between that one and the next; they were recorded “unofficially” on the latter gig in November 1966 . The Nice who gave birth to Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP) were regulars in ‘67 and ‘68. Rod Stewart appeared with three different bands – his own Soul Agents backed Buddy Guy, he was a member of Shotgun Express with Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood, and appeared with the Steam Packet with Long John Baldry, Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll. Ten Years After's live LP "Undead" was recorded at KK in 1968. The original Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green were regulars in 1969; Christine Perfect keyboards and vocals in their later incarnation had given her first-ever professional performance at KK with Chicken Shack in 1968. The Mac made full use of their appearances at KK by making unbooked recording raids on Decca Studios next door 
The proximity of the club to Decca also helped a new group to test their proposed single on a live audience. On 29 September 1964, the interval band, The Moody Blues, performed Go Now.
Other KK regulars who established themselves on the national stage in later years were The Alex Harvey Band, Chris Farlowe, Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band. Another regular in 1968/69 were Family, a progressive rock outfit.
Visitors and commendations
Situated next to Decca Studios, KK was a favourite drop-in before or after work for music stars, notably Tom Jones, Lulu, and Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five. Eric Burdon often dropped-in, particularly when Georgie Fame or Zoot Money were appearing, sometimes accompanied by other members of the Animals. The surprise visit which passed into legend was the one made by Jimi Hendrix whose manager Chas Chandler, formerly of the Animals brought him in one night when John Mayall was topping the bill. Jimi was never booked, but he was invited to jam with the John Mayall band, and that night’s crowd was ecstatic. Individual memories of Klook’s Kleek abound, some of them misted by time but all of them enthusiastic .
The bands themselves loved the location and the ambience of Klook’s Kleek. Jimmy Page said, “We loved doing gigs in places like Klook’s Kleek but in the end they were turning away more people than could actually see the show”  At Georgie Fame’s 55th birthday bash at The Forum, he brought on Zoot Money to do “Papa’s got a brand new bag” with the words, “He had the best RnB band in the 60s”, which Zoot denies – “No he did”. As the number finishes with both at the top of their form Zoot shouts, “Klook’s Kleek 1964”  .John Mayall and Dick Heckstall-Smith both recall dropping in to the club to see Cream and Graham Bond respectively. Dave Thompson in his history of Cream mentions that the audience at KK “was already spilling through the downstairs bar and into the street. If people couldn’t actually see the band they could listen through the wall.” 
Mick Fleetwood summed up the atmosphere, not just at Klook’s but all over London thus, “Ah, Swinging London – if one could only re-create that lost, heady air of freedom and opportunity that was sweeping over sleepy, stuffy London town during the mid sixties”. 
Other clubs at the Railway Hotel
Following the closure of Klook’s Kleek the owners of the Railway Hotel established both a Moonlight Club and a Starlight Club, neither of which had any connection with KK.
Live at Klooks Kleek, the Graham Bond Organisation recorded live on 5 October 1964. Released long after recording and the reservoir for several later releases in different countries, some as recent as 2006.
Solid Bond Recorded 16 months earlier on a jazz night GBO was a sextet of stars – Bond, Baker, Bruce, Heckstall-Smith and McLaughlin. Warner Bros WR 3001, re-issued Aug 2008 on Rhino Records.
John Mayall plays John Mayall recorded live at Klooks Kleek 07/12/1964, Decca Records 1965
Zoot Money “Zoot!” live at Klooks Kleek 31/05/1966. Columbia SX 6075
Ten Years After “Undead” live at Klooks Kleek 14/05/1968 Deram SML 1023
- Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms “Decca Studios and Klook’s Kleek”, The History Press (2013) with Appendices compiled by Geoff Williams. ISBN 9780750952873
- Mick Fleetwood with Stephen Davis and Nicola Mazzella “My life and adventures in Fleetwood Mac”, Avon Books 1991
- Allan Ashton:Klooks Kleek (http://www.downthelane.net/extras/2007/09/08/klook-kleek/)
- Dave Lewis with Simon Pallett “Led Zeppelin, the concert file”, Omnibus Press (2005)
- Georgie Fame and the Big Birthday Band, (26/06/1998, 3 Line Whip records 710813)
- Dave Thompson “Cream – The World’s first supergroup” Virgin Books (2010)