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In the early 60’s something rather strange was taking place in Britain and particularly around Twickenham. Roy Carr of the ‘New Musical Express’ summed it up rather neatly…

“Squeezed into off-the-peg Italian mohair bumfreezers and cuban heel boots, earnest young singers attempted to disguise regional accents as they made their chest beating claims… “Ah’m A King Bee…”, “Ah’m Yo Hoochie Coochie Man…”, or just plain “Ah’m A Ma’an…” before crowing on about mojos, wang dang doodles, crawlin’ king snakes, hell hounds on their trail, American cities most would never get to visit and all those pretty women allegedly left panting for a repeat 60-minutes more of their inexhaustible favours.”

Middle-class boys and girls had just discovered rhythm and blues!

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During the subsequent ‘blues boom’ of the 1960’s Twickenham and Richmond became the hub of the rhythm and blues scene in Britain. Maybe it was because of easy access to specialist record shops and dance halls where authentic R&B ‘greats’ like Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke and Doris Troy sometimes played. Maybe it because of the high-profile clubs in the area like the Crawdaddy in Richmond and the Eel Pie Hotel in Twickenham. Maybe it was because local teenagers were more switched on than most. Whatever the reason it was good enough for blues shouter George Melly to call our bend in the river the “Thames Valley Cotton Fields.”

“They wanted to play the blues so bad - and they played it so bad!”

Sonny Boy Williamson

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Nearly 60 years on rhythm and blues and the spirit that drove it is still alive and well. The music of rhythm and blues legends like Muddy Waters, the Temptations and Aretha Franklin can still be heard in clubs and on the radio. “Soul Limbo” by Booker T and the MGs is still the theme music for cricket on the BBC. “Harlem Shuffle” by Bob and Earl sparks off 2017 film ‘Baby Driver’. Local R&B bands still gig in pubs and clubs around the district. Their hair may be gray and their voices hoarse but today’s musicians still climb on stage to crank out what old time bluesman Willie Dixon once described as - “The true facts of life expressed in words and song, inspiration, feeling and understanding.” - and if you didn’t know that then you don’t know the blues. Sho nuff?

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KEYBOARD PLAYER WANTED!

A local R&B band, “Walking the Dog” is about to say goodbye to its keyboard player and is looking for a replacement - age, experience and gender immaterial. If you can find your way around the Stax, Chess and Tamla songbooks and are ready for gigs call Martyn on 0208 892 5211

“Harlem Shuffle” by Bob and Earl

– from Martyn Day