The 2i's Coffee Bar

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2i's Coffee Bar
2isx.jpg
Location Old Compton Street
London, W1
United Kingdom
Public transit London Underground Leicester Square
Owner Paul Lincoln
Type Coffee bar
Opened 1956
Closed 1970

The 2i's Coffee Bar was a coffee bar on Old Compton Street in Soho, London, that was open from 1956 to 1970. It played a formative role in the emergence of Britain's pop music culture in the late 1950s, and several major stars including Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard were first discovered performing there.

History[edit]

The name of the 2i's derived from earlier owners, Freddie and Sammy Irani, who ran the venue until 1955.[1] It was then taken over by Paul Lincoln – an Australian wrestler and wrestling promoter known as "Dr. Death" – and Ray Hunter. They opened it as a coffee bar on 22 April 1956.[2][3] Tom Littlewood, previously its doorman and a judo instructor, became its manager in 1958.[1]

The basement of the coffee bar had live music making use of a small, 18-inch wide stage. Lincoln and Hunter started putting on skiffle groups; the first resident group were the Vipers, who included Wally Whyton. It soon won a clientele attracted because of its rock'n'roll music, and for a time became "the most famous music venue in England," and attracted talent spotters and music promoters such as Jack Good, Larry Parnes and Don Arden.[2]

The coffee bar allowed standing room for about 20 people, and had a serving counter with an espresso coffee machine, orange juice dispenser, and sandwich display case. The coffee bar was run by Jon Vickers-Jones who was the assistant manager. He would help with setting up the stage area for the musicians and would often record them rehearsing on a Grundig Tape recorder. A door at the back led to the manager's office, and a narrow stairway led down to a "dismal and dark cellar about the size of a large bedroom, lit by a couple of weak bulbs. At one end was the small 18 inch stage made of milk crates with planks on top of them. There was just one microphone, left over from the Boer War, and some speakers up on the wall."[2] In November 1956, Paul Lincoln opened a second venue, The New 2I’s Club, which ran every weekend in the multi-scene cellar at 44 Gerrard Street.[citation needed]

Several recording stars were discovered at, or performed at, the coffee bar, including Rory Blackwell, Tommy Steele, The Vipers Skiffle Group, Cliff Richard, Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, Brian Bennett, Tony Meehan, Jet Harris, Brian 'Licorice' Locking, Vince Eager, Terry Dene, Wee Willie Harris, Adam Faith, Carlo Little, Joe Brown, Clem Cattini (The Tornados), Eden Kane, Screaming Lord Sutch, Tony Sheridan, Keith Kelly,Timothy Fitzpatrick, Lance Fortune, Jay Chance, Albert Lee, Johnny Kidd, Paul Gadd (later to be known as Paul Raven and then Gary Glitter), Ritchie Blackmore, Alex Wharton, Mickie Most (as the Most Brothers)[4] and Big Jim Sullivan.

According to an article in Time,[5] skiffle was new to the UK, and the 2i's Coffee Bar and, nearby, The Cat's Whisker, founded by Peter Evans, were where "Soho hipsters swelter and suffocate for it... and... generally the musicians were paid with coffee and cokes".[6] Evans later started the Angus Steak Houses from the bar. Lionel Bart and Mickie Most worked there as waiters.[2] Led Zeppelin's manager, Peter Grant, was a bouncer at the 2i's prior to his career in the music business.[7]

The 2i's closed in 1967. It later became the Dome Café Bar and then the Boulevard Bar. The site then became The House of Ho, a modern Vietnamese restaurant owned by world-renowned chef Bobby Chinn. Every Sunday the restaurant holds 'Bobby's Rock'n'Roll Brunch' to celebrate the history of the site [8] and its rock and roll roots.[9] The House of Ho was rebranded HO and this branch has now closed (as of May 2016).

Legacy[edit]

On 18 September 2006, a Green Plaque was unveiled at the site of the 2i's Coffee Bar to commemorate its existence, and to celebrate 50 years of British rock and roll.[2][10]

Ringo Starr mentions "the 2i's Cafe" – "That's where Tommy Steele would play" – in the song "Rory and the Hurricanes" on his 2015 album Postcards from Paradise.

Resident groups[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Musicstorytellers: People With 2i’s. Retrieved 24 October 2013
  2. ^ a b c d e f 2 I's Coffee bar, The Birthplace of British Rock. Retrieved 25 October 2013
  3. ^ "The London Compendium". Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "Kent MusicBiz - Musicians - People". Kentgigs.com. Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  5. ^ Time, Monday, April 15, 1957
  6. ^ McDevitt, Chas: Skiffle: The Definitive Inside Story. Robson Books. ISBN 1-86105-140-9
  7. ^ Welch, Chris (2002). Peter Grant: The Man Who Led Zeppelin. London: Omnibus Press. p. 19. ISBN 0-7119-9195-2. 
  8. ^ "THE HISTORY OF THE 2i's COFFEE BAR". Musicstorytellers. Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  9. ^ "House of Ho". Houseofho.co.uk. Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "Westminster City Council - Green Plaques Scheme". Westminster.gov.uk. 2004-11-10. Retrieved 2012-12-22. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′45″N 0°7′58″W / 51.51250°N 0.13278°W / 51.51250; -0.13278