|1st January 0001
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Interviewer: So, if we just start with the basics, if you could tell me your name please and spell your name for me.
Roger: Yeah my name is Roger Horton - H.O.R.T.O.N
Interviewer: Thank you and could you please tell me your date of birth and where you were born.
Roger: I was born in Muswell Hill, London on 3rd June 1935.
Interviewer: Ok, thank you very much, and if you could just tell me a little bit about your background in music and your parents, so where did it all start?
Roger: Well I became interested in Jazz as a teenager, and I got in to the music, well nepotism was involved in a way because my mother was the secretary, she was a short hand typist and secretary, well she’d be a PA today, to a man who ran a company called ‘Jazz Shows’, and ‘Jazz Shows’ promoted Jazz concerts throughout London and the Home Counties, it was at the time of the Trad boom and the big names in Jazz were Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, Chris Barber’s band and Aker Bilk’s band and ‘Jazz Shows’ promoted those bands at various town halls around London – Croydon, Walthamstow, Watford as far out as Leicester and Brighton, and places like that; and it was a very successful company because these bands were big business in those days and all the venues were always sold out. Anyway I got taken on as a sort of dogsbody really – a helper in the early days. And I used to go to the concerts and sell the programmes and that sort of thing. Quite a basic thing but nevertheless I was thrilled about it because I was incredibly interested in the music and I got to meet a lot of the musicians. Anyway later on the man who ran ‘Jazz Shows’ whose name was Ted Morton – he bought the lease to 100 Oxford St [London]. It had formerly been called the Humphrey Lyttelton Club, and Ted Morton took the lease there and I started to work there, again doing very menial jobs – seeing people in to the club and that sort of thing.
The history of the Club goes back before then. In actual fact – this year 2017 is the 75th anniversary of live music at 100 Oxford St – it’s incredible. The first people to run the music there were a pair of Jewish brothers called Victor and Michael Feldman and they put on modern Jazz there for three or four years, and then it was taken over by Humphrey Lyttleton. He didn’t actually take over the lease but his agent did and because Humphrey Lyttleton was a big name in Jazz music they decided to call it the Humphrey Lyttelton Club – very sensible thing to do. Humph [Humphrey Lyttelton] was there for four or five years and played there two or three nights a week. His band was incredibly popular, the club was full up and then suddenly out of the blue, the leaseholder then sold it to Ted Morton. He turned it into… called it ‘Jazz Shows’ which was the name of his promoting company, he called it ‘Jazz Shows Jazz Club’ and I started working there as I say as a menial thing, and then in 1964 I was made manager [laughs]. I’d been working there for three or four years, you know I knew most of the bands that were working and playing there – maybe I was an ideal candidate but the manager at the time Don Kingswell retired and I got the job, and that was in 1964, and later on I went from being manager – I was given a directorship, and then – I forget what year it was about 1992 I think, I became the outright proprietor and that continued until 2001 when I retired and my son Jeffrey took over. I handed the business over to him and he’s still there running it to this day and it’s now 75 years of music in that basement, quite incredible really. Yeah.
Interviewer: And during those years was that your main involvement in music and Jazz or did you do other things as well?
Roger: I never, I mean I’ve been involved in a minor way in other activities in Jazz, for example I’ve been president of the Swanage Jazz Festival for 28 years, since it started. I helped to start that festival and they made me president of that, which was very nice which all it involves is me going down to Swanage, enjoying three days of Jazz music every year and coming back again. So that’s nice – the Swanage Jazz festival. I became, as I told you earlier a trustee on the National Jazz Archive for seven years. I was president of the Raver’s cricket club which was a cricket club made up of players who were Jazz musicians and cricket lovers. That sadly is defunct now, but they were very enjoyable times when it was active, so I have been involved in some things since I retired full time working in the 100 Club.
Interviewer: And are you – do you still offer advice or get involved now or leave it to your son?
Roger: No, I mean the nearest Jazz club to here is a very famous one – the Concorde in Eastleigh. The man who runs that – Cole Mathieson has been a pal of mine for donkeys years so if I want a dose of Jazz now I go over to the Concorde Club, I’ll give you a copy of his programme before you go – terrific people play there – on Wednesday evenings he’ll have anybody from Alan Barnes to a big band or a touring American – Scott Hamilton or somebody of that nature but anyway - yes that’s what I do now, I am retired but I take a bit of interest, I still meet up with a lot of my old Jazz friends, mostly who were retried now but been nice. But my memories of the 100 Club, I mean, during my tenure, we had to – the thing is operating in Oxford St is extremely expensive – very high rents, very high business rates, I mean my son rang me up to tell me that his business rates this year from April 1st this year are going up by £18,000 a year to £90,000 a year. It’s only a basement in Oxford St for God’s sake, it’s not trading on a pavement level, but anyway I like to think that I was pretty successful running the 100 Club. In fact I was very successful, I mean I wasn’t able to run it as a seven nights a week Jazz club which I would have like to have done – being a Jazz fan, so I put on any type of music that I thought would fill the club up. You’ve got to get people in to your club seven days a week – it’s not easy. In the early days during the Jazz boom we used to pack people in, we’d pack 600 in there. It seemed to me that the more smoky and sweaty it was, the more people liked it, which was great but later on Westminster City Council got very tough on clubs - there were one or two rather nasty incidents – never in the 100 Club but in other premises so they decided to license clubs and - we - the current licence now is for 290 people, that’s as many as you are allowed to admit. Which means it’s pretty comfortable in there even if you’ve got 290 people but anyway I would put on any type of music that I felt would bring business in to the club – we put on Traditional Jazz, Big Band Jazz, Modern Jazz. For a while we had a Reggae night, we had all sorts of Rhythm and Blues bands, we had massive names in the Blues scene like Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf, Jack Dupree, Memphis Slim, everybody who was around or who we thought would do business we put on because there were agents in the scene who would ring you up and say I’ve got so and so touring for two days do you want a date? Do you want two dates? Or whatever, and you would take whatever you felt.
We started the Punk festival there, which seems to be the main memory that people have of the 100 Club, as of the Punk festival starting with the Sex Pistols. I mean I was there and I was appalled by the lack of any musical direction of any kind but there you are – people just poured in to it – all the new ‘get ups’. I mean the punk thing really was - it was another instance where youth had a go at the establishment, and they did that by dressing up in ludicrous gear and dying their hair green and sticking safety pins in their ears and their noses and all that sort of thing. I was appalled by it – but the club was packed, the bars were busy, so you put it on. There you are. I met Johnny Rotten a number of times, and when we had a Sex Pistols reunion twenty years later – he came in to my office - you couldn’t have met a more nicer, ordinary guy in your life than Johnny Rotten – John Lydon; but anyway we did all the Punk Rock stuff. It was all harmless but it got a bit - following on from that, you got one or two bands who were ‘skinhead’ bands and that was a bit menacing. It was the only time in my 38 years there that I thought ‘I don’t like this, this is a bit menacing’ cropped hair and, really they were football hooligans, supporters of Millwall and Chelsea. Anyway we put it on for a bit, and then I got rid of it because I didn’t feel that it was doing us any good.
We put on things like Bluegrass music. We did lots of benefits and fundraisers for musicians who were sick or the relations of musicians, siblings and wives of musicians who had died. Every type of band and promotion has happened in that venue and it’s still happening now, since I left, I mean I left in 2001, my son has had an enormous amount of big-named people there, and he’s had mostly bands starting to get known doing their early gigs in small venues before they became concert artists or open air artists. He had Oasis there, he had Suede, he’s had Tom Jones, Jessie J, Beverly Knight - a whole host of people still playing there now to this day, which is very pleasing for me because I would never like to see the place close. But I saw Jeffrey - my son - last week and he said ‘Dad, it’s difficult, times are tough and you’ve got to keep finding that rent and rates every week, and you’ve got salaries to pay, cleaners and all sorts of people, you’ve got piano tuners, sound engineers, lighting engineers - the overheads of running a club like that are very extensive. [13’58”]
Interviewer: Would you say the other overheads have also gone up over the years as well?
Roger: Everything has gone up without question but anyway it’s still going and this is the seventy fifth year of live music in that venue. I mean that’s pretty good. I don’t know of any other club that’s lasted that long, I don’t. I mean It is extremely famous, what has changed between the days that I ran it and now my son runs it, is that today you would look on the website and say ’ there’s a gig I want to see’ you’d get your ticket through Ticket Master or something and you’d turn up and that was it but when I ran it you could always go in to the 100 Club, there would be people you knew because we ran an extensive membership and regular people came time and time again, because it wasn’t just a particular band they’d come to see, it was the fact they knew there’d be a few pals they’d meet there and the dancing side of it was incredible. Everybody loved to dance and I’ve always maintained that once you’ve got people dancing you’ve got them on your side – that’s a fact. People go into clubs standing around looking gloomy, once they start dancing and a couple of drinks – it’s a great evening for them.
And we ran a very, very huge membership, we got a lot of Japanese visitors and people from all over Europe would come back - they became friends, every time they had a short holiday or weekend in London they’d come in to the 100 Club ‘how you doing?’ you know. I made it my business to get to know hundreds and hundreds of people, I mean it was a bit on my part you know… I did it because if people can say ‘I know the boss there’ they’ll come back, you know they might be hanging around in the West End ‘what we gonna do?’ after they’ve eaten a meal ‘let’s go the 100 Club’ I know the boss there – bring a few friends in, and that’s how it happened. We had a terrific ground base of members and friends; they might go and work abroad for a few months but as soon as they got back to London – back in the 100 Club. Very good, you know.
Interviewer: And is that something that you set up yourself that membership or did it exist before you took over?
Roger: No, I mean ever since the first day I worked there, there was always a membership. I mean at one time, and this is not an exaggeration, we had 15,000 members, now you’ve got to remember this was the days before computers so we sent out a monthly newsletter. So 15,000 envelopes had to be typed, stamped. In my mum and dad’s house there were about four typewriters, my sister used to help, my dad even typed and you had to do this every month you know. All these envelopes had to be done all inserted, stamped, put it in the post and then there were all the renewals which came in, people used to renew, it was only about 10 ‘bob‘a year or something like that – when you think about it I don’t know how on earth we managed to do that but you do it, you know.
Interviewer: And is that the main way you communicated with people or did you do like posters and…?
Roger: It was then. Because there were no such thing as websites and computers so you had to communicate by post. You could stick posters up. I used to have 100 double crown posters printed every year of the week’s attractions and I would get a guy to go around the West End and stick them up on the sites – fly post them – all over the West End, and I’d have them up in the Club and outside. I’m sure that brought in a lot of customers but then that was stopped when I got a visit from a Council official saying ‘look if you keep doing this we’re going to prosecute you.’ So I had to stop that but about that time computers were coming in and websites, and it became easier to communicate with people without all that printing posters and putting stuff in the post but in those days that’s what you did to communicate, and it worked – it was very effective.
Interviewer: And did you know London quite well before you started working in the Club then?
Roger: I was born in London - Muswell Hill, North London. I worked in London all my life until I retired.
Interviewer: So did you come in to contact with other club owners did you all know one another?
Roger: Yes, the great rivalry, no it wasn’t rivalry – there were three clubs, if you discount Ronnie Scott’s club because that was more of a posher night club; but the three clubs were ourselves; the Marquee which was opposite us in Oxford St until it moved down into Wardour St; and the other club down at the bottom end of Wardour St which was called the – it’ll come to me. But Harold Pendleton was the boss of the Marquee, for donkeys’ years he started off the first Reading Festival. He’s retired now but the Reading Festival still exists every year - he started that off, and him and I – we still communicate. He’s a bit older than me - he’s 90 but he’s still OK, but the Marquee and the 100 Club – they were never rivals because they were both full up most of the time. I mean Harold down at the Marquee he kicked off with the Faces and Rod Stewart and people like that, we had appearances by The Animals, The Artwoods, The Pretty Things you know, there were all these emerging bands that were appearing on the scene, and the public was really potty about them you know. So I think the Marquee and the 100 Club between them have really put a stamp on the Pop music scene from its beginning in the sort of 60’s.
You know I look back on my times doing a 16 hour day [laughs] which I used to do, you know – we used to have all-nighters and that sort of thing – Northern Soul, oh god everything. I look back on it now and I think, I don’t know how on earth I did it really, and my wife helped me and she’d be an enormous help, and we look back and sometimes we talk about it and think ‘how on earth did we do all that?’ and socialise at the same time. Because whenever we had a night off we were always out in Soho, meeting up with other people in the business and eating out in restaurants and whatever you know. Yeah and when I think about it, I think no-one could have had a nicer life than I’ve had really, I’ve got no regrets about anything. Once or twice I felt as I got older I got maybe a little unimaginative in my booking policy but it didn’t really worry me cause as it wasn’t as though I was having any empty nights, so there you go. [22’11”]
Interviewer: And what like cause obviously you’ve had a long career by this point what motivated you to keep going with Jazz, with music?
Roger: You don’t need any motivation, it’s just you’re there, you’re the boss and you get on with the job and you do it year in/year out and sometimes I did feel it was very tiring, especially in the last few years when I was in my sixties it was tiring; but nevertheless you still you still did it, I mean you get used to going to bed at 2 o’clock in the morning. Our opening hours at the weekend were always 7.30-1:00 in the morning. On every third Saturday we’d shut at 1:00, quickly have a mop round the club, open up at 1.30 for an all-nighter till 8:00 in the morning. I used to have a flat around the back of the club. You’d get back there for two or three hours and you’d get up to see the people out in the morning and lock up and whatever. I never regarded it as – when you think about it –I suppose it was long, hard hours but you never thought about it like that at the time you just got on with it, because it was such an enjoyable job you know: I’ve never worked for anyone else in my life and I think that’s a very nice thing to do. I’ve never had anyone looking over my shoulder or telling me what to do but having said that I always think we treated all our staff with great respect and we had some very, very good staff who were with us for years, they never left and they never wanted to leave. They were very happy you know.
Interviewer: Did you have quite a big staff?
Roger: Well we had myself and my wife and my eldest son – full time, lots of bar staff who were part timers, and door staff and security staff, they were all part timers but we had a lot of them over the years – you got quite a turn over. We used an awful lot of Australians and New Zealanders as barmaids and bar staff and security staff. They were always coming over for a gap year or whatever, looking for jobs, and we found them to be incredibly loyal and good workers. So you know that was lovely as well but you know I think what sticks out in my mind most of all is the variety of performers which played there over the years. I mean I read yesterday that Chuck Berry died – I’d left the club but my son promoted him in the 100 Club in 2006, there’s some lovely pictures of him on the stage. You know, people of that stature, you know it’s quite rewarding to think that those sorts of people came and played for you.
I think we had a very nice reputation in that no-one ever got ripped off you know that happens in a lot of clubs, performers get ripped off but we never ripped off anybody off. An such people will come and play for us. When I think about it we had people like Bo Diddley, Gerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry as I said. Enormous amounts of Pop people and Blues singers and Blues guitarists, Clapton [Eric Clapton] played there. There’s hardly a name I can think of that didn’t play there at some time or other. We had two gigs of the Rolling Stones in the 80’s; one of them was at the start of a big tour warm up gig. I remember that well, because everything surrounding bands of that stature is so secretive. We got a phone call, I think it was on the Thursday from the Stones' Office and said ‘look, would you like to put the Stones on this coming Sunday as a warm up gig? Well somebody was booked – we had to cancel them and promise them another gig but they said ‘you won’t have to do anything, they’ll just turn up and play’ 200 tickets will sell, we’ll announce it on Capital Radio ‘200 tickets for sale, call in at Capital Radio offices’ which happened and the gig went ahead just simple like that you know. [27’30”]
Interviewer: And was it mainly that’s how you got gigs – people contact you a lot of the time or did you also seek people out?
Roger: People did contact us a lot to book artists but at the same time, if I’d heard of somebody who I’d like to perform in the Club and no one had got in touch with me I would certainly ring up and say ‘ what’s happening here, have you got room for a gig at the 100?’ Sometimes they didn’t have. I mean there were one or two bands which were quite big bands, big Pop bands and they’d do gigs like the Festival Hall or something. I’d find out that the next night on a Sunday they had a night off, and I’d ring up and say ‘look, don’t have a night off come and play in the 100 Club’ and some would say ‘No, they’re too worn out or we can’t do it.’ But once or twice - ‘yeah, we’ll come and do that’ I mean it’s a question of who you knew in the business, and having good contacts all the time.
Interviewer: And did you build that up from your early days as well?
Roger: Yes I mean when I started out as Manager I was really green behind the ears you know [laughs]. I couldn’t get – come to terms with all the boozing’ that went on between Jazz musicians. There was no drugs, it was not a drug scene but heavy drinking – yes there was and one of the first things I did was to apply for a licence for the Club and I took over as manager in ’64, and we got a license about 18 months later. Prior to that in the intervals, people used to go out and round to the pub round the corner - it was always a hell of a job to get the musicians out of the pub and back to do another set but once we got our own license that increased our turnover enormously, and that freed up a lot more money to pay for better artists.
Interviewer: That’s great thank you and in terms of, would you say you’ve had anything structurally either formal or informal that’s supported your Jazz activities over the years? It could be financial, personal?
Roger: No we never had any support of any kind, not when I was there. My son has had some subsidy from a vast American firm called Converse. I think they’re a clothing firm.
Interviewer: Yeah, shoes.
Roger: Anyway he’s had seven years of support from them now that’s come to an end but he tells me that he’s just signed a two-year deal with Fred Perry so that is happening now. But in my days we never had any, it wasn’t the thing, nobody seemed to latch on to- you might get some support from somebody – no we never had any support, it was just money on the door that you took had to support the running of the club, no one was giving you any freebies.
Interviewer: And did you find that the local scene rallied around the 100 Club over the years, as it became more well-known – did it get a particular status?
Roger: Well about five years ago there was a possibility that the Club would close because it could no longer afford to operate in Oxford St, whereas I said earlier the rent and rates are some of the highest in the Country and Jeffery my son let it be known the Club was in a bit of difficulty. Well, the people who rallied round were staggering. Paul McCartney came and did a gig for us one lunchtime.
Roger: Ronnie Wood came and did a gig for us, Van Morrison came and did a gig for us and raised quite a lot of money, and the Club got back on its feet and it’s still going along now. But it’s not easy to keep going as the overheads are so high but I’ve got high hopes for it continuing for a while yet. I mean I really think, we’re not talking about any club here we’re talking about an institution – 75 years of live music. I mean if someone was to ask the public in general ‘would you please write in and let us know if you ever had an enjoyable night at the 100 Club’ thousands of people I feel sure would write in and say ‘ I was at such and such a gig’ and ‘ I was at such and such a .. and ‘that was the best gig in my life’ that sort of thing you know, and that’s the reputation it has. I mean if ever it closed I’m sure a Blue Plaque would go over the door saying ‘this was the site of the 100 Club’. Have you ever been in there?
Roger: What did you go in there and see?
Interviewer: The most recent thing was ‘The Answer’ and they were supported I think by Aaron Keylock.
Roger: Sorry what’s that?
Interviewer: ‘The Answer’ they’re an Irish band that came over recently.
Roger: ‘The Answer’ yeah. Were there many people there for that?
Interviewer: Yes there were cause I think it may have been one of their warm up things before a tour as well.
Roger: Right, yeah.
Interviewer: And they were supported by a new ‘Bluesy’ singer called Aaron Keylock.
Roger: Right, well I’m glad you’ve been there.
Interviewer: That was quite recently but the thing that really struck me, you’ve still got all the pictures on the walls and everything as well.
Roger: Fantastic isn’t it? I mean you only have to walk round those walls and see all those faces of famous people – that music, forever – whatever happens in that basement in the future, that music will echo around those walls and will never be forgotten.
Interviewer: Because I think that was something that I thought was quite nice, would you say that that history is something that your family hold quite dear and you kind of try and ‘memorialise’ it almost within the Club?
Roger: Well I mean 1964, I started and my son is there till this day, so we’re talking about 36, 46 over 50 years the Horton family has been involved in the 100 Club. Nobody makes anything of it and I don’t really care whether they do or they don’t, but nevertheless when I think about it I’m pretty proud of it. I am - yeah. [34’30”]
Interviewer: And do you ever go down there now?
Roger: I was there last week. Occasionally I go up to London and have a lunch with some Jazz friends of mine, and when I do I always call in and see Jeffery and we have a ‘gas’ for half an hour mostly about Tottenham Hotspur because were both fanatical about Tottenham hotspur [laughs]. So every time I do go, I do what you said, I walk around and I look at those faces. I mean its staggering – Joe Strummer, all the punks, all the Jazz - famous Jazz American people - staggering really.
Interviewer: That’s wonderful thank you, and how would you say that, because there must have been barriers when you were first involved in it and over the years - obviously you mentioned overheads, how did you overcome any challenges you faced - did you have any help – how did you keep going?
Roger: Well what I did as a businessman, every week we produced a profit and loss account. How much money had come through the doors and over the bars, t-shirts sales – we sold thousands of t-shirts; against outgoings, salaries, wages, rent, rates and every week that was produced and fifty-five weeks out of sixty it would show a profit. On the odd occasions I made a loss, I didn’t get furious but I’d think ‘this isn’t good enough’. I didn’t cut everything to the bone, I didn’t see the point of that but I thought ‘ok, we’ve made a loss this week so I want a bigger profit next week’; and you know I just never spent money we hadn’t got. A lot of businesses in my opinion make a mistake by starting off spending money they haven’t got, running up bank overdrafts and loans. I never had a bank overdraft or a loan ever. And if you have a business like that there’s no reason why you can’t keep sailing along. But another interesting thing to do with the music was – I think it was Chris Barber who in the 60’s, early 60’s, introduced Britain to American Blues and he brought over and did a tour with his band with Big Bill Brunty. They played in the 100 Club. Later on he was responsible for bringing over the whole Muddy Waters band, Freddy King and his band, the Memphis Slim, Champion Jack Dupree, all these Black artists suddenly started appearing in England and after touring England going off to tour in Sweden, Scandinavia whatever. And it must have been wonderfully enlightening for all these people who, over in America, had played only to Black audiences, small dismal venues and whatever – scratching a living, and when they came to Britain, there’s White people slapping them on the back, buying them drinks, playing in clubs which were packed. It must have been so reassuring for them, no apartheid, no colour bar nothing like that whatsoever. Everybody welcomed them in and they went and worked in Germany, in Sweden. A number of them came and lived in Europe for the rest of their lives once they had sampled what it was like, you know. Terrific really isn't it?
Interviewer: And would you say Jazz has had a big impact in terms of kind of being like a cultural exchange for British people as well with changing attitudes, towards things like race, and people from other countries?
Roger: Well I mean the thing about Jazz music is you either like it or loathe it but if you like it, it’s a great friend maker. I’m not going to distinguish between Traditional Jazz and Mainstream Jazz and Modern Jazz. If a player is a good player, he’s a good player and there are wonderful Jazz musicians and I knew loads of them: the Stan Traceys the Mike Westbrooks, lovely, wonderful men – the traditionalists, the mainstreamers and so many Americans who came and toured. Scott Hamilton and in the early days Earl Hines, Teddy Wilson, really top of the tree names – Charlie Shavers, George Lewis and they all played the 100 Club which was marvellous you know. So yeah I think that the Jazz people are very much a clique but a happy clique. At the Swanage festival we had two huge marquees on the front, in one we put all the more early styles, and in the other one we had all the modern styles. Both of them were packed every day and people wander around and chat and there’s so many people I meet up with and I knew that person he’s a great fan of the modern musicians and that person will be in the traditionalist tent listing to - I don’t know banjos ringing or something. So it is a great family the Jazz thing. I do think that, you know, Jazz is always presented at a certain level, there’s never gonna be a huge boom in it ever again like that, it’s never ever gonna take off, it's gonna be there and there'll always be plenty of people who love it but it's never gonna sell a million records for this, that and the other. It’s not gonna be like the Pop scene.
Interviewer: Do you think that things like Rock n’ Roll and the Beatles, and things like that had an impact, positively or negatively on Jazz?
Roger: Definitely. It made us at the 100 Club at the time, when we were doing seven nights a week of traditional jazz. I dropped that right down to three nights a week and we started doing four nights of Rock n’ Roll, and Rhythm and Blues. We had The Pretty Things did a residency there, we had early gigs from The Who and The Animals and these gigs were full up. The people coming to the Jazz – the Jazz didn’t drop off but I had to drop it down from seven nights a week to three or four. Yeah I mean you just go with the trends -everything comes and goes. [41’58”]
Interviewer: And when that came about did you find that you had to make new connections in order to book those bands?
Roger: I did but it was quite easy, because you booked a Pop band and their Agents or Managers would look in - you’d get to know them. The best thing you can do as a club proprietor is to make friends with a lot of people. Always get to know other people in the business. Become friendly with them, go to lunch with them, go out for a night’s boozing with them but when they’ve got something to sell, they’ll sell it to you.
Interviewer: That’s good thank you. Would you say that because for some people, Jazz has been linked with things like Trade Unionism, political activities - has that ever been the case for you?
Roger: Never. There has never been any Union activity whatsoever. I didn’t know a single Traditional Jazz man who was a member of the Musicians Union. I met a lot of Modern Jazz people who were all members of the Musicians Union. The Musicians Union Secretary at the time – Brian Blain was a Modernist himself and he was a very nice popular guy and he did an awful lot of good work in getting modern musicians to become members of the Musicians Union. I never quite saw what benefit that gave anybody. I mean I never heard – once or twice when musicians were seriously ill we would put fundraisers on for them, and all their musician friends would come and play for them for nothing and we’d get a full house and we gave the beneficiary five, six sometimes seven thousand pounds but I never heard the MU say we’ll chip in. No one ever came saying ‘here’s £100 towards…’ no one ever did that. So I don’t quite see what the Musicians Union actually does for anybody. It probably does a lot of good work but I don’t know about it.
Interviewer: That’s fine thank you. Would you say that when you were first starting out that your parents and the older generation had a particular – what was their thoughts about you being involved in the music industry?
Roger: Well my mum was secretary to the man who ran Jazz Shows so she was into the Jazz. She would type out all the contracts for the musicians, so she was in the business so to speak as it was and she was extremely popular with a lot of the musicians at the time. I was in my early twenties, my mum would’ve been late forties, but bands touring abroad, Kenny Ball and all these people, would send my Mum postcards from Russia or wherever they were saying ‘Molly, hope you’re keeping well, regards to Roger, back in the Club soon’ you know that sort of thing – very nice friendliness. So I think my mum had a very good life in that she became friendly with an awful lot of people.
Interviewer: And did you have quite a lot of fiends involved in the Jazz scene as well?
Roger: Not friends from before I came involved in it. Friends I made while I was in it. Yes I’ve got so many musician friends I meet up with them from time to time. We have sort of reunion lunches and have a couple of hours down memory lane you know what it’s like when you get old [laughs heartily]. But sadly a lot of my friends have died – good players have died but there are still a few around from my days.
Interviewer: So when you were at school and things like that did you find that you were more in to music than other people you knew at that time or was everyone have similar interests?
Roger: Well I mean in my early days at the 100 Club when there was a lot of Traditional Jazz there, I would say that two thirds of the audience came to dance. They’d never heard of the band but what they did – the other third knew about the bands, knew about Jazz music, and sat and listened to the players but I would say that two thirds came down with their girlfriend to dance all night. Yeah that’s what I think.
Interviewer: Yeah? That’s great thank you, then just looking to the future and thinking back to your contribution, is there anything that you’re particularly proud of or you’d think of as an achievement from your career?
Roger: [laughs] I’m proud of the fact that I was the boss of the 100 Club for 37 years, I’m very proud of that because I think I did a good job. I don’t know whether I’m proud of anything else, I don’t know, I mean I’m not particularly modest – I don’t go round – a lot of my neighbours never knew what I did in my life. I never tell anyone what I did, that’s not because I want to keep it secret but I just think ‘it’s no big deal’ [laughs].
Interviewer: Would you say Jazz has had a particular impact on British society or the 100 Club as well - has that had a particular impact?
Roger: The 100 Club has, Jazz music I don’t think has. I think the 100 Club has because it’s promoted every style of popular music there ever has been for all these 75 years it’s been in existence but Jazz music itself still remains at that same level. Whereas I said earlier - people are either great fans or they can’t stand it – wouldn’t dream of going to a Jazz concert – they’ve never heard of anybody in the Jazz business, that’s what I think.
Interviewer: So what would you say in terms of Jazz what it’s meant to you and your life?
Roger: Well it’s been, well my whole life has centred around Jazz and Tottenham Hotspur. Supporting Tottenham Hotspur has been a complete waste of time because they never win anything but I will support them until the day I die. Jazz music, it’s been my life and I love Jazz music, but nowadays – in that cupboard in there is full up with vinyl, I never ever get any of it out, look at it, play it, never ever, but I do occasionally go over to the Concorde Club at Eastleigh and see my friend and listen to the likes of Enrique Tomaso or Pete Long’s big band or a tribute to Count Basie or whatever they put on, which is always super and I enjoy it thoroughly but I don’t go out of my way to think ‘I’ve got to hear some Jazz today’. I don’t do that.
Interviewer: And do you have any plans then for the future to still be involved in Jazz in any way?
Roger: Well, the only Jazz I’m still involved in is the Swanage Jazz Festival. This is the 28th year and sadly it’s going to be the last year because the man who does all the does all the work, who books all the bands, who hires the marquees, the sound systems, the light men; has decided that it’s too much work for him to do and he’s decided this year is going to be the last year. I mean it’s a big festival. It involves at least thirty bands, they’ve all got to be paid. Having said that it’s always paid its way and made a small profit but Fred, who runs it who does the donkey work ‘I’ve done it for 28 years, its killing me.’ He said ‘the moment one festival ends, in July you have to start thinking about next year’s’ and he said ‘ it’s just too much’ and that’s happened to a number of Jazz festivals that have suddenly disappeared off the scene; and the festivals are becoming less and less. That’s a shame I think but having said that, I mean if you bother to look up what’s happening say in London on the Jazz scene, there are dozens of pubs, clubs putting on Jazz gigs, there are dozens of young players who can really play. I mean I’ve heard one or two fantastic piano players – Gareth Williams is one, and fantastic saxophone players –Simon Spillett and these people. So Jazz is alive and well. But it’s never going to create anything big – you know. The Jazz lover I think is perfectly happy. He can hear good players round and about but it’s never going to take off, it’s always going to be minority music, music for the minority. Having said that you’d be surprised, if you listen regularly to ‘Desert Island Discs’ how much Jazz music is played on that by people who are unconnected completely with Jazz: actors, whatever, painters you know. Jazz music features quite well on ‘Desert Island Discs’ so people do listen to it.
Interviewer: ‘So in that case then I guess The 100 Club you kind of covered as well, that the future is potentially a little bit hazy at the moment but hopefully…
Roger: The future – the lease has got to be resigned in June this year. The leases last five years. I expect my son to sign a five year lease in June, but coming with a new lease comes a higher rent, whether that’s going to be affordable I wouldn’t like to say. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will do because it would be very sad if the 100 Club disappeared. Maybe it’s time for a change of ownership of the 100 Club. I mean in the case of Ronnie Scott’s club, I don’t know whether you know this but Ronnie Scott and his partner Pete King, ran it for years. Twice they needed financial bailouts to keep going and then Ronnie died and Pete King died not long after Ronnie died and Sally Green a theatrical impresario took over the lease and she put in a man called Paul. I forget his surname and he has turned that club round to where it is sold out practically every night – anything between £50-£100 to get in. What this guy Paul has done has realised that there are thousands of people in London who are quite well off, and they don’t balk at paying sixty quid to see something. And he’s got – I walked past the front of Ronnie’s last Wednesday, the whole programme for March and April was listed outside and seven dates in April had sold out over them already and that’s going in 50/60/70 quid. I mean Dr John played there last year – it was £100 to get in but sold out. You maybe have got to set your sights a lot higher, maybe Jeffery will do that, maybe he’ll pass the lease on to someone else who will do all that. So I do feel that the 100 Club will continue. It’ll continue under the name of the 100 Club because no one will want to change the name but maybe under new ownership – who knows?
Interviewer: So we will see and hopefully it will have many more years to come.