The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Cream, Jethro Tull, The Yardbirds and Ten Years After. These are just some of the rock superstars that, in the early 60s, passed through the doors of The Railway Hotel, West Hampstead in North West London and upstairs to a fairly inconspicuous function room that was “Klooks Kleek”. Quite where the name came from is a bit of a mystery but it is believed to be named after some obscure jazz album, Klook being the nickname of the band’s drummer.

Beatles or the Blues
Klooks Kleek was the brainchild of Dick Jordan who originally opened it as a jazz club but the explosion of new bands playing black American music and the huge following it was creating made him decide to open up a regular Tuesday Rhythm & Blues night. The UK had gone Beatles crazy, the four mop tops also had cut their teeth on this music in relative obscurity whilst playing the Starlight Club in Hamburg. Incidentally next door to the Railway Hotel was the Decca recording studio where the Beatles auditioned for a recording contract and were famously rejected.

Whilst the rest of the country was engulfed in “Liverpoolmania”, London and the South East remained firmly loyal to the blues and its legions of followers gave rise to a unique “blues circuit” that took in such clubs as The Flamingo,100 club (still very active today) in Central London, Ricky Tick , Blue Moon, Fender Club, The Crawdaddy, famous for kick starting the Rolling Stones, and of course Klooks Kleek .

The rock star apprentices
Today’s big stars were of course just jobbing musicians back then and it was the bands they played with that captured the attention of the audiences. These were just some of them: Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Herbie Goins and the Nightimers, Geno Washington and the Ram-Jam band, Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers and my personal favourite The Graham Bond Organisation. John Mayall, in particular, is worthy of further mention and although not one my favourites his dedication to the blues is legendary as he is still playing with as much enthusiasm today as he was 35 years ago albeit in the States. Countless top guitarists including Eric Clapton and Peter Green have served their “apprenticeship” with the Bluesbreakers and as such John’s services to music has recently been rewarded with an OBE.

Klook’s all stars
Klooks was like an old Victorian drawing room, some 20 metres square and unlike other venues had no stage at all. The floor was carpeted, the walls curtained in red velvet and covered in flock wallpaper, all making for very good acoustics. There were no mixing desks, lighting rigs, sound/ lighting engineers or even sound checks, the bands just tuned up and played. It was a bit like a gig in your own front room and I often left with a stiff neck after peering over someone’s shoulder all night. All the bands had catchy names and flamboyant characters from zany Zoot to moody Mayall and of course superb musicianship. The music was actually quite varied from a jazzy Georgie Fame to the strict blues of John Mayall, the powerhouse Atlantic soul of Geno Washington and Chris Farlowe to Zoot Money who blended all the genres into his highly amusing sets. The Graham Bond Organisation were quite unique in that they were a four piece as opposed to the others who were generally 5-7 piece outfits and played the blues their own way incorporating original compositions, not usual at that time. They were also sadly quite short lived as bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker soon left to form Cream with Eric Clapton but not before The Graham Bond Organisation became the most popular and respected band of that era.

In November 1966 Cream made their first live album at Klooks, I was there and was not particularly impressed, probably still miffed at the Bond split up. Cream were never going to amount to much or so I thought – oops.

When someone good was on at one of the blues circuit venues it was a good excuse for an armada of immaculate scooters driven by equally immaculate mods to travel in convoy to the gig. Whilst all these places had their own special character and fervent supporters, for me, nothing could really match the sound, intimacy and atmosphere that was Klooks Kleek.

All good things……
By December 1970 music had moved on and Klooks Kleek ceased to be. However the club was renamed the Moonlight Club and catered for a new music scene spawning such stars as Family, Uriah Heep, The Jam, The Cure and The Who amongst others. Also in the early 70s Northern Soul was born in the Manchester region of the U.K and the Moonlight Club along with the 100 club became the “6Ts” for a night or two every month - the southern outposts of Northern Soul. Today Northern Soul is still as strong as ever.

After decades of live music The Railway Tavern, West Hampstead has now become a trendy bar playing today’s dance music, musicians have been replaced by DJs, artists in their own right such is the skill required to mix and scratch in time with the music. Ironically many of these DJs expertly mix 60s soul, R&B and 70s funk to a modern beat giving them new life and a new audience.
Useful web sites:
http://www.johnmayall.com
http://www.zootmoney.org
http://www.grahambond.net

A really BIG thank you to Allan Ashton for submitting this article - certainly rolls back the memories! Please visit his website Electrodrums here

Allan lived and worked in London/south east until semi-retiring to Spain in 2004. Played drums in bands for over 40 years, Blues, R&B and a soul band called “Respect” for about 12 years. He now writes freelance for local mags in Spain and also in the US. Allan still plays regularly and runs the above site about electronic drums:


Far Out !!

33 Comments on “Klooks Kleek”


By ipod music. September 12th, 2007 at 3:30 pm

Hello, nice post. Bookmark it.

By Ray. July 18th, 2008 at 12:53 pm

i CAN ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT A D.J.NAMED (i think )P.B PLAYED SOME RECORDS WITHOUT SPEAKING BEFORE THE MAIN BAND CAME ON TO THE CARPET. HIS INTRUDUCTION WAS ‘RAMSEY LEWIS’S WADE IN THE WATER ‘ABSOLUTLY FANTASTIC READING THE ABOVE BROUGHT BACK SOME GREAT MEMORIES HOW LONG AGO !!!!

By Swampy. October 31st, 2008 at 5:33 am

Thanks for the history. A friend and I were wondering what happened to the place (we’ve never been there, we live in Oz) and you’ve given us the whole story. Anyone interested in the sound of the place should get a copy of John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers’ cd ‘John Mayall Plays John Mayall’ recorded live at Klooks Kleek on Monday 7th December 1964. A cracker!

By Swampy. October 31st, 2008 at 5:40 am

Oops - forgot to mention that you should also listen of course to the Graham Bond Organisation cd ‘Live At Klooks Kleek’ also recorded circa 1964. Some issues of the cd are titled ‘Person To Person Blues’ but it’s the same music. They do ‘Wade In The Water’, so Ray above may like to hunt it out if he doesn’t have it already.

By Alan Johnson. January 18th, 2009 at 4:54 pm

There is a new landlord at the Railway Hotel with live music set to return in March! Will post details when confirmed.

By Nicki Clough. October 22nd, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Somewhere around ‘66 my Highgate ‘Prince of Wales’ friends and I went to see Eric Burdon & the Animals perform at the Railway Hotel - cracking good music and the place was jammed - it had narrow stairs, lots of smoke and the smell of beer. Eric performed ‘House of the Rising Sun’. This is all I can dredge from memory! But is it the same ‘Railway Hotel’?? Was there more than one??!

By Frank. November 4th, 2009 at 3:43 am

I live in Abbey wood Erith Kent. I have a small room that I set upa home recording studio in. But I need help.
I have a pc with an M-audio 10 x 10 sound card. Cakewalk Sonar 8 sequencing software, A small Mackie mixing desk,
1 controler keyboard, 1Yahama Sy35 keyboard, 1 Drum machine. Midi-sport 2×2. 1 korg sound module. Two flat screen Monitors, Pair of powered studio monitors.
I need help in setting up the system to achieve the sound that I need to get, by linking the out put from the sequencer to the Sound card and to the Mixer channels. I get sound but not separated as per channel . After my set up is completed I will require some tuition
Can you help me and what would be the cost?
Please let me know if you can look at my project and when. or if you know someone that may be able to help.
Frank

By John Maher. November 9th, 2009 at 3:16 pm

I would like to add to your list of “rock stars that have past through the doors of the Railway Hotel” - Jimi Hendrix.I was privileged to have lived at the Railway Hotel in my mid ‘teens - my father managed the pub between 1967 - 1970 when it closed to make room for modernization.
Of the most famous rock stars I saw there was Jimi Hendrix - he was introduced as a surprise guest by Dick Jordon the owner of the club and was therefore not previously advertized on the billboards .If my memory serves me well I believe it was Feetwood Mac ( I am open to correction) who was
the main band playing that night in 1968 and Jimi Hendrix jammed with them - a brilliant performance!
Anybody out there at that performance?
Regards,
John Maher

By Home Recording Studio Design - FREE Video for You - Home Recording Studio Center. December 1st, 2009 at 5:02 pm

[...] Extra’s - Klooks Kleek - The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Cream, Jethro Tull, The Yardbirds and Ten Years After. These are just some of the rock superstars that, in the early 60s, passed through the doors of The Railway Hotel, West Hampstead in … [...]

By Paul Ernest. December 24th, 2009 at 7:03 pm

My friends and I used to frequent Klooks Kleek regularly in the mid 1960s because I lived in West Hampstead. I’m sure I saw black American R&B and blues singers there as well as the British bands named. One night I walked by and heard Howlin’ Wolf singing even though I was on the street outside. I was really torn - should I go to hear the Wolf or carry on by and go to Dave Young’s and get stoned. To my eternal regret I got stoned instead! (At the time it seemed like the better choice!) I remember bumping into Tom Jones in the audience another time and he said “these black guys can really sing”. I was surprised by how short he was.
In 1966 I went to university (Sussex) and there heard Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and others. A rather straight acqauintance told me a new rather good banc were coming. I asked who they were and he said “Cream”. I said I never heard of them so they can’t be anybody worthwhile! My third regret is I was going to go to the launch party at Roundhouse featuring the Doors. I really meant to go, but again got too stoned.
But I did see loads of others perform in the 1960s: Beatles, Stones, Captain Beefheart, Pink Floyd about 4 times, Jimi Hendrix 5 times, The Tamla Motown tour 1963? I first got into R&B and Ska around 1962 at the Roaring Twenties club in Carnaby Street, but that was all DJ stuff.

By alan breen. March 22nd, 2010 at 5:38 am

Lovely,Alan.

It brings back so so so many great memories.(Wish I’d had the confidence to chat up some of those great looking girls…..Was 21 and so tongue tied after having been to an all boys grammar in Sheffield).Anyway I never failed to make the short Tuesday hop from our shared Finchley house (Magggie Tatcher’s Morris Minor was permanently parked in the garage).

My personal favourites were Chris Farlowe graced with Albert Lee and Herbie Goins, who I think had Mcloughlin.I do think several of the sidemen are worthy of mention.And of course Clapton raising Mayall’s band to dizzy heights …what an explosion of sounds we’d never heard before! Could’t wait to buy Friday’s Melody Maker to find out who was playing where.The nice thing was the band’s were often in town on Sunday night at the Flamingo.

Was pivotal in pushing me to take up tenor and I still play jazz in hotels and restaurants here in Malaysia

By Paul. March 29th, 2010 at 11:28 am

Without wishing to be pedantic, Klooks Kleek didn’t reopen as the Moonlight Club in the 70s. Klooks Kleek was on upstairs from the Railway Hotel; the Moonlight Club opened in the basement below the Railway. Both have now been closed down for a number of years, although the Railway is still a pub. Up until the end of 2009 they had live music on Saturdays (usually covers bands), but that seems to have stopped now.

By John Altman. April 11th, 2010 at 10:36 pm

I was there the night Hendrix jammed - it was with John Mayall. He borrowed Mick Taylor’s guitar and played it upside down. I went with Mick Ralphs of Mott the Hoople - we were both regulars and knew Hendrix would be there as Mayall had tipped me off in Dobells Jazz Record Shop a few days earlier. The club was named after Kenny ‘Klook’ Clarke the founder of bebop drumming. Without a doubt Klooks Kleek was the best live venue to catch anyone who was going to be anyone or already was! I also saw the New Yardbirds there before they became Led Zep as well as all the jazz and blues greats

By Dick Weindling. May 11th, 2010 at 10:10 am

I am currently writing a book on the history of Klooks Kleek and the Railway Hotel, with the cooperation of Dick Jordan and Geoff Williams who ran Klooks throughout the 1960s.

I would like to hear people’s memories of the Club which we could publish.

Email me at:
dweindling@blueyonder.co.uk

By Roger Phillips. September 27th, 2010 at 9:21 am

I was in a band called the Bobolinks that played at Klooks Kleek on 3 occasions around 1965/1966. We were just the ‘fill in’ band between the first and second sets which featured top names. On one night it was John Mayal’s Bluesbreakers, although I’m not sure if Clapton was in the band at that time. On another occasion it was the Steampacket although my recollection is that Long John Baldry played one set and Rod Stewart the other. I also thought that Rod called his ad hoc band ‘Rod The Mod and the Soulmates’ but I can’t find any evidence of that. Lastly it was two top American blues men and as far as I can recall it was Buddy Guy and T-Bone Walker. Having checked other sites that show Klooks Kleek dates of that era, I’ve not been able to tie down exactly when these gigs might have taken place. Unfortunately I lost contacr with my fellow band members soon after, but the drummers name was Pete Vernon and I believe the guitarist was Pete Smith.

By Mike Abbott. November 26th, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Think I discovered KK from their ad in ‘International Times’ and went there every Tuesday with Tony, a friend who was also into good music. Today we reminisce about the bands we saw at KK, band that went onto fill stadiums all over the world. In the summer of 66 the Tuesday evening queue wouldn’t number more than about 40 or 50. Within a year or so the line waiting to get in would number 200 or more. Think we stayed the course til it shut but forever thankful we could see and appreciate some v good music from some v talented musicians.

By Bill Mathieson. March 21st, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Played bass guitar in Klooks Kleek with O,Haras Playboys several times in the late 60s.Fab memories. It was one of the best London clubs we gigged regularly, like the Ram Jam -Flamingo- Bag o Nails -Scotch of ST James,etc.

By Jane Williams. April 11th, 2011 at 3:20 am

I wonder if Roger Phillips will read this? I googled “Klooks Kleek” because it was where I remembered seeing Georgie Fame C. 1965 (?). I just today bought a ticket for a gig he will be doing on Sunday 8th May 2011, at The Castle pub, Childs Hill, Finchley Road. Nowadays he’s accompanied by his two sons.

By Jane Williams. April 11th, 2011 at 3:27 am

PS to Roger. I went to the Manor House pub to hear Long John Bawdry. He introduced a new singer Rod “the Mod” Stewart and stood aside whilst Rod did his number. Rod looked really cool with a long black hairstyle, black Victorian-style togs and a high collared “mod” white shirt. That was a good gig!

By Patrick Linnane. April 25th, 2011 at 6:10 pm

At my old age, I know little about computers, so when my daughter Carol showed me a photo on the web of my old pub, The Railway, I was surprised it looked so good.

My name is Patrick Linnane and I was assistant Manager at The Railway Hotel in the 50’s. I then got marrieed and moved as Manager to The Three Pigeons in Richmond, Surrey. A year later in 1959, I came back to The Railway Hotel as Manager. I started Klooks Kleek with Dick Jordan & Jeff Williams about the middele of 1960. My daughter Carol was born there in 1963 and had the pleasure of being bounced on Rod Stewart’s knees on a few occasions when she was a baby and she was fussed over by Georgie Fame & Alan Price to name but a few. I left The Railway about May 1966. I managed a few other pubs after that and then spent 23 years at The Royal National Theatre as part of the Catering Department. I retired in 1993 and returned to Galway, Ireland. I was good friends with John Maher whose son has posted above - John also retired back to Galway like me and we lived only a few miles apart until he sadly passed away. I have a newspaper clipping from The Kilburn Times who did an editorial on myself and The Railway in March 1965 - my daughter says she can’t add it to this site but she can email this to you if you would like to see it. I have so many wonderful memories of The Railway and its good to see that it is still remembered and talked out by so many people.

Patrick Linnane

By Jane (posted above). July 16th, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Well, Patrick, you certainly had varied pub career! I salute you because I know how hard a trade it is, owing to my mum running two pubs.
The Railway will be long remembered. Alas pubs aren’t the same now. There are too many gastropubs and managed houses. Young chaps from all over come for a bit to work in pubs and then move on. One gets no continuity. My own local, the famous Bull and Bush, is something of a wine bar on one side and a bistro of the other. The prices are high and one feels uncomfortable standing at the bar. All the old customers have moved on. I think many more would have closed unless they concentrated on food especially after the smoking ban. I have given up going to London pubs - those that are left that is. Last year I was part of a campaign which “saved” The Duke of Hamilton in Hampstead, it being the last real ale, real pub. there. One hopes it can carry on for a long time to come. It would have been a development of two posh houses by now if we hadn’t had the campaign.
I did go to Georgie Fame and his grown up sons performing at the Castle pub, Childs Hill a couple of months back. The place was packed out by people of all ages. A good evening! Unfortunately, the pub has since changed hands again and the English governors, who did a mean egg and chips, have gone on their way. We’ll see how it goes but I think it will be more of a youngsters’ disco pub now.

By Richard. August 16th, 2011 at 8:29 am

I discovered Klooks Kleek when in the sixth form in the late sixties. I loved the informality and being so close to ‘heroes’. Two bands so far not mentioned - Savoy Brown and Chicken Shack. I think it was Savoy Brown that first got me there.

By brian. January 25th, 2012 at 11:49 am

The Alan Bown Set singing My Girl In The Month Of May will always be my fondest memory of the Klooks Kleek.

By Rolando Rye. January 29th, 2012 at 5:48 pm

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By Bob Kerr. February 19th, 2012 at 10:48 am

I lived in Cleve Rd 1965-7 and remember seeing great jazzmen at the Railway. I think a deal had been done with Ronnie scott`s whereby people like Roland Kirk would play an early session at the Railway before going down to Soho.Anyone else remember?

By Greer Erskine. February 29th, 2012 at 11:58 pm

I loved going to Klooks Kleek in the 60s and in particular the gig with Roland Kirk was awesome. The place was packed and buzzing and two tiered, with the audience on the stairs, up the walls and some sitting on others shoulders. A wild night. Also used to enjoy the Fender Club.My memory is very hazey but my old mate Fay has been trying to remind me of those great days.

By Colin Smith. June 29th, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I still have a ticket for Klooks Kleek in an old wallet. I used to go when I was still underage for the jazz nights( probably around 1963. Tubby Hayes was spectacular, but Joe Harriott was blistering. Sadly, I remember entering the Gents and seeing Phil Seaman shooting up in a stall. He was a mess then, but still played like a demon. I remember Dick Morrisey, I’m sure I could remember other names. Glad it’s not been knocked down. It was a magical period. I didn’t know anything about its R&B history because I was a committed jazz fan. What a time that was? Can it really have been that great to have been alive in the 60’s. I recently met Suzy Quatro’s saxophonist out at the Cock Inn (?), Sarratt, Herts. His band knew all the names too. The circuit in those days consisted of the Marquee on Wardour St, 100 Club, Flamingo, and all the jazz pubs, Bulls Head, Barnes Bridge, Humph Lyttleton’s Six Bell’s Chelsea, The amazing Sunday lunch jams at the Tally Ho, Kentish Town, and many more I’ve forgotten. Going out at night during the week was worth it. Different jazz scene every night. Not today. Reading the postings above I see that Patrick Linnane must have been manager when I used to go there.
Great experience Patrick..thanks pal.

By Mike Hall. September 11th, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Some great memories come back to me, reading these tales about Klook’s Kleek.
I was a student in London in the late 60’s, living for a time at New College on Finchley
Road, which is just up the road from the Railway Hotel. Later, when I was a musician,
auditioning for bands, I used to be able to get my Melody Maker on Wednesday evenings at
the news stand outside West Hampstead tube station, to get the phone numbers early & get
first crack at the auditions!
My most memorable night was when Jimi Hendrix jammed with John Mayall. I seem to recall a
black drummer called Al Sykes, who was a member of Chicken Shack at the time, jammed with Mayall too. I just hope a photo emerges sometime from that night.
I have one of Alvin Lee playing there, but of course, Murphy’s Law being what it is, I
didn’t take my camera along the night Jimi played. Digital cameras didn’t exist in those
days, so it was a big deal taking photos with a cheap camera, with flash bulbs, black &
white film etc. In fact, talking of Ten Years After, they made their ‘Undead’ album there
while I was in the audience. It was so easy to make live albums at the pub as they just
had to run the leads next door to the Decca recording studio.
I also saw Deep Purple, Chicken Shack, Fleetwood Mac etc there & several of the jazz
organists, like Jack McDuff, who played there on a Tuesday night, I think. I may still
have my Klook’s Kleek membership card stashed away somewhere.
It’s good to read about the Castle pub up the road at Child’s Hill too. I used to go
there for the Sunday lunch time session with a great trad band & guests such as Alan
Elsdon, the Bonzos, & film & TV actors.

By Joe. November 24th, 2012 at 10:01 am

I lived in West Hampstead in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and went to the Moonlight Club at the Railway Hotel many times, seeing Adam and the Ants, Joy Division and many other great bands of the time. The Moonlight was downstairs, towards the back of the building, but occasionally there would be gigs in an upstairs room that that was called (I think) The Starlight Club. I wonder if this was where the original Klloks Kleek was? I might be wrong…it was over 30 years ago! Whatever, I had some amazing times in this building, as it sounds like many of you all did too.

By Geraldine Breen. February 17th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

My parents were managers of The Railway Tavern in the early 70’s. we left there in1979 when I was 9 years old. I have many strange memories of that time. I would sometimes help my mum in the cloak room and would often hide from the strange looking people coming into the club (punk rock nights were scary). I remember one night a man urinated on my mum because she refused to let him in. The bouncers picked him up and threw him out the door! My mum would be the best at giving more info, she was really in the thick of everything lol. I have memories of meeting lots of different bands, but not having a clue who they were. I remember the topless Go-Go girls on a Sunday morning. There were old time music hall nights. We were evacuated on many a night because of bomb threats, my mum used to wrap me in a blanket and carry me down to the bottom of Broadhurst Gardens somewhere. It was an amazing building to live and grow up in, lots of hiding places for a young child. Unfortunately we missed the Klooks Kleek era, but have heard lots if amazing stories. At that age I didn’t appreciate the many amazing musicians that played and drank on The Railway, which is sad. It was a big part of my life though. If you want to know anything I can always contact my mum, I’m sure she would be happy to reminisce!
Geraldine Breen (Keating)

By Denis Hoare. April 17th, 2013 at 12:06 am

Ref to Joe above. The upstairs club was definitely the Starlight, and the Moonlight was going at the same time downstairs. Entrance to the Starlight was by external stairs on side of pub, in Broadhurst gdns. Great times there. I came from Camden/Kentish Town and remember many many music pubs, TallyHo, etc Great times.

By Dick Weindling. August 21st, 2013 at 10:51 am

Our book, ‘Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek’ will be published by The History Press in November 2013. I am sure it will bring back lots of memories.

For stories about West Hampstead and Kilburn have a look at our blog:
kilburnhistory.blogspot.co.uk

By West Hampstead Life | The Railway’s musical legacy. April 17th, 2014 at 5:19 pm

[...] stage at Klooks – or would have done if there had actually been a stage. This article from Down the Lane tells the whole story. “Klooks was like an old Victorian drawing room, some 20 metres square [...]