The Troubadour, London
The Troubadour, 263–267 Old Brompton Road
|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, with a club room in the cellar famous as one of the primary venues of the British folk revival in the late 1950s and 1960s. The club was one of several London coffee house venues at which notable musicians played; other such venues included Les Cousins and Bunjies.
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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.
- 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
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 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.
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 only three sets of proprietors since its opening:
- 1954 to 1972 – Michael Van Bloemen and Sheila Van Bloemen, founders of the venue,
- 1972 to 1998 – Bruce Rogerson,
- 1998 to present – Simon Thornhill and Susie Thornhill.
The Troubadour is now a thriving cafe-bar and restaurant and the club continues to host live music and poetry, mainly by performers who, in the club's tradition, write their own material; more recent artists to pass through the club include Jamie T, Gak Jonze, Jack Peñate, The Dead 60s, Surianne, Chris Singleton, Paulo Nutini and Morcheeba. The performance space has been doubled in size but is still an intimate venue of just 120 seats. Upstairs, the café itself also continues to thrive.
- Richard Harris – Sex, Death and the Movies by Michael Feeney Callan (ISBN 1 86105 766 0), pp. 62–64.
- The Times, Saturday, 7 April 1956.
- Old Gods Almost Dead by Stephen Davis (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
- Led Zeppelin Timeline.
- The Daryl Runswick Quartet 1973.
- "Troubadour anniversary tribute".
- Independent review.[dead link]
- 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.