The Troubadour, London
|Location||Old Brompton Road|
|Public transit||Earl's Court|
|Type||Coffee house and music venue|
The Troubadour at 263–267 Old Brompton Road in Earls Court, established in 1954, is one of the last remaining coffee houses of its era in London and although it has expanded over the years to incorporate the two buildings either side the original, the original coffee house remains relatively unchanged since its opening, with the cellar venue renowned as one of the primary venues of the British folk revival in the late 1950s and 1960s. Other notable coffee house venues of the time which hosted musicians of note included Les Cousins and Bunjies, both of which have since closed leaving the Troubadour as one of the last venues where it is still possible to experience something close to what it was like.
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The club has played host to a number of major artists in various stages of their careers. Notable among these have been:
- Richard Harris – in early 1956 where he auditioned and rehearsed his own production of the Clifford Odets play Winter Journey (The Country Girl) while studying at the then nearby London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). A newspaper review of the time credits the resulting production at the Irving Theatre to "The Troubadour Experimental Theatre group".
- Charlie Watts – in summer 1961, where he was "found" by Alexis Korner playing drums in a "Thelonious Monk-style" jazz quartet and recruited to join Blues Incorporated.
- Bob Dylan – Christmas 1962, performing under the name Blind Boy Grunt.
- Paul Simon – in early 1965.
- Joni Mitchell - played in 1970
- Elton John – Elton John#Debut album to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1969–1973) Leon Russell was in the audience.
- Jimmy Page – 1975 post-Earls Court Arena gig come-down session.
- Robert Plant – likewise, Led Zeppelin had no official dates at the Troubadour
- Jimi Hendrix – while he lived in London
- Lionel Grigson along with other jazz musicians – including Spike Wells, Mick Pyne, Dave Gelly and Daryl Runswick – played regular Sunday afternoon gigs in the 1960s.
- Morrissey – in February 2012.
The club is, however, chiefly associated with folk music. Notable artists appearing under this banner have been:
- Sandy Denny – who was the subject of a 2008 tribute show held at the venue.
- Sonja Kristina (latterly of Curved Air) – who played, organised club nights and helped out
- Robin Hall – later regular on BBC Tonight programme
- Sandy Paton – visiting American, subsequently prominent in US folk music scene
- Michael Grosvenor Myer – later folk music critic on The Times, The Guardian, Folk Review magazine &c
- Martin Carthy – one of the most influential figures in British traditional music and acknowledged influence on Dylan
- Eric von Schmidt – a curator and performer of traditional music and acknowledged influence on Dylan
- Davey Graham – one of the most influential figures in the 1960s folk music revolution in England
- Linda Thompson
- Richard Farina – a figure in the US counterculture and folk rock scene of the early 1960s
- Bert Jansch
- Roberto Diana – in 2014 and July 2017
- Mark Abis
- The Spinners
Many of these acts are captured performing at the venue in the photographs of Alison Chapman McLean.
Behind the scenes
A key name in the history of the Troubadour is that of Anthea Joseph (1940–1997), who organised many of the folk events at the club and was often credited as "the Manager" of the venue. It was inspired by the traditional role a troubadour held in the High Middle Ages as a herald and story teller. It is widely reported that when Bob Dylan arrived in London for the first time he was given no instruction other than that of his mentor Pete Seeger to seek out "Anthea at the Troubadour". In 1968 she joined Witchseason Productions as Joe Boyd's assistant.
During Bruce Rogerson's ownership of the Troubadour it had not been used as a music venue for some years, so he asked The Flynn Brothers to manage some music evenings in the downstairs cellar, thereby making it a music club again. The Flynn Brothers revived the folk music scene there by bringing back notable artists such as Martin Carthy, John Renbourn, Davey Graham and Bert Jansch.
Decor and ambience
The Troubadour in Los Angeles was a copy of the London club (it even copied the sign above the door) that opened in 1957 and runs still today. From the beginning it was a much larger venue but with a similar ethos.
The Troubadour has had four proprietors since its opening:
- 1954–72, Michael Van Bloemen and Sheila Van Bloemen, founders of the venue
- 1972–98, Bruce Rogerson
- 1998–2015, Simon Thornhill and Susie Thornhill.
- 2015–present, Giles McNamee
The Troubadour is now a café-bar, restaurant and club hosting live music, comedy, poetry and theatre, mainly by performers who, in the club's tradition, write their own material; more recent artists to pass through the club include Florence Welch, Jamie T, Gak Jonze, Jack Peñate, The Dead 60s, Surianne, Chris Singleton, Paolo Nutini and Morcheeba. The performance space has been doubled in size but is still an intimate venue with a capacity of 110. Upstairs, the café focuses on traditional 'comfort' food. In 2015, the venue passed under the ownership of Giles McNamee.
- Michael Feeney Callan, Richard Harris – Sex, Death and the Movies (ISBN 1 86105 766 0), pp. 62–64.
- The Times, Saturday, 7 April 1956.
- Stephen Davis, Old Gods Almost Dead (ISBN 1 85410 866 2).
- The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan#Traveling to England.
- "Still on the Road 1963 – Concerts and Recording Sessions.
- Simon & Garfunkel#First breakup
- "Joni Mitchell - Joni Mitchell at the Troubadour, London in 1970". Tumblr. Retrieved 2017-11-14.
- "Elton John And Leon Russell Reunite On 'The Union'", NPR, 20 October 2010.
- Led Zeppelin Timeline.
- The Daryl Runswick Quartet 1973.
- "Troubadour anniversary tribute".
- Independent review. Archived 22 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- Tim Cumming, "Sandy Denny Tribute, The Troubadour, London", The Independent, 22 April 2008.
- Richard Fariña at The Troubadour: A collection of photos by Alison Chapman McLean.
- "Obituary: Anthea Joseph", The Independent, 8 January 1998.
- Tim Cumming, "Would you like Dylan with your coffee?", The Telegraph, 6 May 2004.
- Graham Hassell, "Obituary: Michael van Bloemen", The Guardian, 18 February 2009.
- "Welcome to The Troubadour", Troubadour.
- "The Troubadour has been saved!". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2018-01-24.