A great friend of the club, John Habes of the Crawdaddy Blues Band, has written a comprehensive history of the club from the inception of the word Crawdaddy through to the present day, marking 60 years since the club first opened its doors. We've reproduced it below with John's permission and we highly recommend giving it a read.
THE CRAWDADDY WORD:
"Crawdaddy" and the more common "Crawdad" originated in the New Orleans, Mississippi Delta and the surrounding area of the U.S.A and are traditional nicknames for the native freshwater crayfish found in swamps, streams, and brooks. The word “crayfish” is modified from the old French "ecrevisse", and is used in the more Northern States, but “Crawdad” and “Crawdaddy” are the names commonly used in the South and South East, along with the self-explanatory name "Mudbug" used in the swamp country. In Australia they are called “yabbies”. Crayfish are eaten all over the world and they are also frequently used as a fishing bait.
THE CRAWDADDY SONG:
“The Crawdad Song” is a Southern traditional children's song used for games involving jumping and skipping rope and bouncing balls, and it is included in several classic published collections of great American folk songs. It was recorded by many different folk and country artists, notably Woodie Guthrie and Doc Watson. Even Jerry Lee Lewis and Harry Belafonte all put their own styles into versions of the song. The blues version that most British fans first heard was by Big Bill Broonzy who Chris Barber brought to the U.K. in the 1950s and 60s and it was this "folk blues" that inspired the early British skiffle groups and the Rhythm and Blues bands that emerged from their jazz band "parents". The variation “Hey Crawdaddy!” was a song on a quite rare Bo Diddley live recording released in two parts on a 45rpm single. It was a merging of the "Crawdad Song" and his own song "Hey Bo Diddley" with the latter's call-and-response audience participation chorus played to his signature Bo Diddley beat, affectionately known collectively as "Shave and a haircut - two bits!”. It was this song that the Rolling Stones loosely adapted (especially at the Crawdaddy Club) and used as a closer in their act, often as an encore. The beat was already used by the Stones for Diddley's "Mona" and "Pretty Thing" and Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" so an extended medley could fill almost any spare time in their set.
THE CRAWDADDY CLUBS:
In the late 1950s, the first R and B bands had emerged from a jazz and skiffle background firstly playing Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, and similar "Folk Blues" songs. By the 1960s they had progressed to Blues both from the 50s and as it was still being played in Chicago. They played the big central London jazz clubs like the Flamingo, Marquee and 100 Club, and Alexis Korner joined with Cyril Davies to form "Blues Incorporated" and built up a large following at the original basement EALING CLUB in West London.
It was there that future members of the Rolling Stones and several other top 60's R and B bands watched, learned and sat in as guests and played with them. Also in the West of London area was Eel Pie Island in Twickenham, which had started as a jazz club and was now regularly hosting R and B nights. Following in the steps of these successful clubs, the Crawdaddy Club would become what many claimed to be the biggest influence on the British pop scene since the Cavern in Liverpool .......
Crawdaddy Club 1.
In 1963, Manager Giorgio Gomelsky represented a number of bands including the Rolling Stones, and he was looking for an out of Central London venue for the Stones and other bands (His first band
to play at the Crawdaddy was the Dave Hunt Band). He settled on the Station Hotel at Richmond in Surrey just west of London with direct links to both North and South London as well as Underground links to all over the Capital. It was also close to the already popular Ealing Club and Eel Pie Island in Twickenham.
The Rolling Stones were already attracting new younger audiences to the Blues and R and B scene at their appearances at the Marquee Club and around London both alone and when playing as a support band. “Hey Crawdaddy” was the song often used by the Stones to close their explosive set and Gromelsky decided it would be a good "bluesy" sounding name for his new club where the Rolling Stones were soon to be the main weekly resident band.
Crawdaddy Club 2.
When the Hotel got too small to hold the audience it moved to the nearby Richmond Athletics Ground clubhouse, and when the Rolling Stones finally became too big for the clubs they moved onto pop stardom with hordes of screaming fans and the theatre tour circuit. Gromelsky replaced the Stones at the Crawdaddy with his new band the Yardbirds as the residents. They had just recruited a young Eric Clapton on guitar from another local band the Roosters. They made the Crawdaddy Club their own and got a huge following, and though they recorded their classic album "Five Live Yardbirds" at the Marquee Club they also recorded a live album backing the visiting U.S. Bluesman at the Crawdaddy Club " The Yardbirds with Sonny Boy Williamson". The Yardbirds own set at the Crawdaddy that night was also recorded but not released until the 1980s. The Yardbirds also moved on as the hits came (as did Eric to John Mayall, to be replaced by Jeff Beck from yet another local band the Tridents and then already established top session man Jimmy Page). The Crawdaddy club continued to host other visiting American artists and many other bands that became huge like Kinks, Who, Spencer Davies, Manfred Mann and local favourites like Long John Baldrey, Chris Farlowe, the Artwoods, Downliners Sect, Pretty Things, Yardbirds successors The Others, and Ronnie Wood's Birds. Many of these bands contained members who went on to do great things with other bands. Always a great night out, the audience would also often contain celebrities like the Beatles, Animals and Rolling Stones.
Crawdaddy Club 3.
Giorgio Gromelsky moved to America and the club fizzled out until the local college Isleworth Polytechnic (now West London University). outgrew its student union bar in 1966. They hosted concerts with Cream, the Creation, and John Mayall but could not afford the Who or Hendrix as the bar wouldn't hold enough people at 5 shillings (25p) a ticket to break even. Richmond Athletics Ground filled the bill for 2 years or so and the Crawdaddy Club re-emerged run by the Isleworth Polytechnic Students Union. The Who and Hendrix were sadly by then out of reach but they hosted some great bands including Long John Baldrey with Bluesology and Steam Packet, Soul Explosion, Peter Green's new band Fleetwood Mac and John Mayall's new Bluesbreakers, Future stars like Elton John, Rod Stewart, Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll were among the members of early bands.
1969 saw the end of the Isleworth connection but as a postscript, flyposted bills and adverts appeared around Richmond for a new Jimmy Page-fronted band “New Yardbirds” gig at Richmond Athletics Club in the summer. The gig was successful but a follow-up gig there never took place, the band was renamed and, with their first album out, Page's Led Zeppelin packed the Lyceum ballroom in the Strand in London a few weeks later and were touring the U.S. by Christmas.
Crawdaddy Club 4.
There was a brief re-emergence of the Crawdaddy Club at the old Station Hotel original venue. The pub had been the Bull and Bush in the 1970s with a basement disco bar, and then a bar with restaurant at the rear. In the 1990s the management put a "Crawdaddy Club" historic plaque over the door and decided to revive the name for live bands playing in the bar on a couple of nights a week. Local Blues Bands like us in the Crawdaddy Blues Band, Dr Bob and the Nurses, and Travelling Shoes kept the old Rocking R and B flame alive and kicking for a year or so. They also hosted gigs by many other types of live bands at the resurrected Crawdaddy Club and had a good following of old Crawdaddy Club people and some young "Mod Revival" fans too.
Crawdaddy Club 5.
In March 2011 60’s R and B fans Mike and Sylvie Rivers re-opened the Crawdaddy Club at Richmond Athletics Ground to try to recapture the sounds and atmosphere of those great early times and to this day continue to host monthly gigs with new and established top-name acts, both veteran and current bands and artists to an audience of all ages. Nothing can be quite as exciting as when it was all NEW in the 1960s. Nevertheless, it is still a great night out, well worth visiting 60 years on!
Established in 1962 by Giorgio Gomelsky, the CRAWDADDY CLUB, Richmond was, alongside Eel Pie Island in Twickenham and The Ealing Club, on the forefront of Britain's R & B Music Scene.
THE CRAWDADDY CLUB was the first residency for the Rolling Stones and helped to launch the careers of such music legends as Eric Clapton with the Yardbirds, Paul Jones with Manfred Mann, Long John Baldry and Ray Davies before he started The Kinks, amongst many others.
It was originally located at The Station Hotel opposite Richmond Station, but by 1963 the enthusiastic crowds outgrew the size of the venue and moved across to the Richmond Athletic Ground where it continued with the Yardbirds as the house band and with many other great acts from that fabulous era.
In the early 1990s, it was revived, at the original site, by Will Johns and a group of friends, where they hosted a weekly jam night as well as performances by some of the best local and national blues bands over a period of a few years before the venue changed management.
We are proud to have revived this historic club 12 years ago in the same room that hosted so many legendary musicians and bands at the Athletic Ground and run monthly live events with some of the best bands of today to keep the rich musical heritage of Richmond alive.
A timeline, covering the history of the club with many interviews and rare photographs was created by historian Amanda Franquet , and is linked here with her permission.