The Marquee Club - A tribute site dedicated to the history of the legendary Marquee club at London's 90 Wardour street.

Interview - Manager Colin Richardson

Colin Richardson

Colin Richardson worked as a manager at The Marquee Club between Autumn 1964 until early 1965, under the supervision of Harold Pendleton and John Gee. Born on the 31st December, 1936, in South-East London, Richardson co-managed the Jazzhouse club in Blackheath between 1962 and 1965, as well as the New Jazz Orchestra. After working for The Marquee Club for one year, he joined the London City Agency as a booker in April 1965.

In 1968, Colin Richardson went to work as a general manager for the reputed London agency Bron Organization and later worked for various companies in agency/management, including Charisma Label Records (1972-1976). During the late 70's, he worked as a journalist for foreign rock magazines until 1980 when he left London to start a business of antiques and collectibles.

This is the first time this web site has the pleasure of talking with a manager from The Marquee Club. This is a wonderful opportunity to know more about the management of the club, the jazz scene in the 60's, Tony Stratton-Smith's Charisma Label, and other curiosities from the world of music business.


What is the first image that springs to your mind when you hear the words Marquee Club?

Difficult... not sure how to answer that... Hot, sweaty, loud.

In 1962, you went to co-manage the Jazzhouse club in Blackheath. How did you get into the music club business?

Through the R&B night we started with Manfred Mann who was a local. Sunday was their jazz night. Manny (Manfred Mann) approached us and suggested to open a Friday night featuring his band alternate Fridays. I had then to find a different band for the other Friday nights. It was a great success!

How different was the Jazzhouse from The Marquee Club?

Totally. It was just a large room on the first floor of a pub, very basic, rented from the pub landlord.

During the Jazzhouse days you also managed the New Jazz Orchestra, which was formed at the club in 1963.

Yes.

What do you remember about the jazz scene in London in the early 60's?

Well... the jazz nights worked on the basis of the resident band (the Ian Bird Quintet or Sextet playing the first half, then a name-guest soloist, usually someone like Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Don Rendell, etc...

In those days, you also played double-bass. Who did you use to play with?

Colin Richardson
Colin Richardson at the Overseas Visitors Club,
Earls Court, London, 1964

My band was a five piece drawn from the guys in the National Jazz Organization: Jon Hiseman on drums, Dave Gelly on sax and Ian Carr on trumpet and fluegel horn, and various pianists.

Wonderful musicians! Ian Carr is one of my jazz heroes.

Oh, yes! Legends in the making. All very young then. Jon was just 21. Sadly, Ian is not at all well, he's in a care home, I believe. I saw his brother back in January and he told me that he wasn't doing too well. So many are now the stage, so to speak. Paul Rutherford just last week...

Yes, that's sad, and Elton Dean died last year too. So, how come you quit playing?

I had to choose between making a living and playing and, as I had a wife, three kids and a large mortgage... well, no choice really.

Do you mean that in the 60's jazz music was not really professional yet?

Absolutely! Only the very best could make a living and then not exactly a rich one.

Which way were you connected with the National Jazz Federation?

Through meeting Harold and Barbara Pendleton.

Do you remember how you first met them?

The National Jazz Organization played the Reading Festival a couple of times. We won some sort of big band contest, which helped to launch the band, I can't remember exactly who I met first them or John Gee. Anyway, they asked if I was interested in being a night manager a couple of nights a week. So I said yes, I needed the extra money.

Did you use to visit the club before that?

No, not really. I was wrapped up in the Jazzhouse. I think that must been around 1965. We opened a second club in Tonbridge at the Hilden Manor. They were on every Monday, one of my two nights.

How much was Harold Pendleton involved in the managing of the club at the time?

He was mostly in the NJF office, I didn't see him at the club much.

Do you mean at the offices upstairs The Marquee Club?

No, they were a short walk away. There wasn't an 'upstairs' in my time, the office was up Wardour Street and then a right turn. I can't remember the exact address, wasn't very big... just a couple of rooms. That's where they ran the admin, booked the bands, etc.

Chris Barber was another important figure in London's jazz scene of the early 60's. Do you remember him?

Yes, I remember Chris very well. His sister Audrey also worked for the NJF.

He was very much involved in the club and the NJF, right?

Well, he was a regular attraction, plus the NJF was an agency also, booking out various of the traditional bands: Kenny Ball, Acker Bilk, etc... Also the American guests they booked for the festivals: Humphrey Lyttelton was another regular, every Wednesday, my other night.

Can you give me a brief description of what your job was like at the club? What kind of things did you use to do?

I had to oversee the whole evening. Ensure the box office was set up, cash float, etc... See the band was ready to go on at the right time, cash up at the close, pay the bands, etc... Lock up and go home. Everything except the catering.

What about choosing bands for the programming?

No... that was mainly Harold and Barbara or John Gee. I booked by the office. Long John Baldry, I remember well... they were always difficult. I always had problems on the Monday night. Long John Baldry and Rod Stewart, always arguing over money, as well as Reg Dwight, later to re-invent himself as Elton John, whereas Wednesdays with Humph were a dream, never any problems, true professionals.

Do you mean fighting with you or fighting each other?

Well, with each other mainly, though I had to get involved. Just to get them out of the club, so I could close up and catch my last train! Pains in the arse all of them!

Peter Banks of Yes told me a funny story about John Gee. He told me about this little ritual of getting invited to an indian restaurant by the band who wanted to play The Marquee.(1)Do you know about that?

No, that's news to me, but then, as I say, I didn't have much to do with that side of things. Knowing John, he wasn't averse to pulling the odd favour though!

All the artists say how strict he used to be with them. Was it the same for you?

He was always straight with me. A bit 'prissy', as we say. But, alright.

Really? Even being yourself a "real" jazz fan?

Never quite sure about that... he was a BIG Sinatra fan, thought, lived and breathed his music. No one compared to Frank for John.

Some people think that the club would have never been successful if it was not for him, what do you think?

Well, that's going a bit far, I think. It was a team effort, everyone played their part. The most important guys were Harold and Barbara, undoubtedly.

Do you remember Jack Barry? He used to run Las Chasse club upstairs and later he went to manage The Marquee Club.

Yes, I knew Jack well, though my recollection is the other way around. I think La Chasse came afterwards... he became manager later, I think, after my time.

I believe he first started working in the catering for the festival when he already had La Chasse and later he started working for the club when John Gee sang the swan song.

That sounds roughly right... you have to remember that once I joined the London City Agency, my connection with The Marquee changed.

Why did you quit the job at The Marquee?

I became an agency booker... trying to get my bands in there. To join the London City Agency that was a full time job and became my career.

I think the London City Agency, one of the most innovative music agencies at the moment.

Well, they weren't very big or influential, but they were very active on the jazz and blues scene .

You worked for artists such as Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Jesse Fuller, and The Artwoods...

That's right. It was a great learning experience for a novice booker like me.

How different were the American artists from the British ones, in terms of dealing with the business stuff?

Though these guys were not yet the big names they became later, more difficult mostly. They expected to be treated like stars, which of course they were in a way. Not getting the high fees that came later.

Did you have any kind of collaboration with The Marquee Club in order to provide them with bands or whatever?

No, that wasn't my remit there. I just ran the club on the night. I booked bands in there from outside agencies that I worked for.

Did you use to visit The Marquee or any other London clubs to find new bands?

Not really, I just did my job. Though if I spotted a new band that didn't have representation, I might suggest that Johnny Jones or Barry Dunning, my bosses, check them out.

Where did you work after the London City Agency?

I worked for Gerry Bron, first in 1968, for three years. Colosseum days!

Also as a manager?

Yes, but from within the Bron Organization I was general manager for the company.

Colin Richardson and Johnny Winter
Colin Richardson with Johnny Winter, Los Angeles, 1978

I guess they were exciting days, but I always wonder how jazz fans like you got adapted so well to the new music scenes. Things were changing very fast, weren't they?

Well, although I was mainly into jazz, I liked other music too: blues, etc... Plus most kinds if it was good of it's kind. And the type of music played by Colosseum was a fusion of jazz, rock and blues.

So in 1972, you went to work to Tony Stratton-Smith's Charisma Label. What do you remember about him?

Strat was a great guy to work for. He really did have Charisma! The comment I just made, about "anything good of its kind", that was Strat's attitude. He put out stuff no-one else would dream of releasing. For instance, two or three albums of John Betjeman's poems set to music.

Yes, I heard about this policy of his before.

He was proud of the way Charisma worked, as were we all. Genesis and Lindisfarne made the money that he then spent on smaller worthwhile projects. It was a unique label!

But I heard that Genesis almost drove the label to bankruptcy.

Not while I was there (72-76), maybe later, when they upped their advance/royalty demands.

Can you remember how did you first meet Stratton-Smith?

Yes, it was while I was working with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band at Bron's, he took over the management after taking over their recording. We were their management and agency until that time. Later on, when I was running a management company in partnership with EMA Stockholm, he approached me with an old mate, Fred Munt, Bonzo's roadie, and asked me if I would like to join Charisma and run their agency. So I did, but soon I realized they had two very good young agents already. So I moved to record company promotion in Europe and later the other world territories.

I heard that Tony Stratton-Smith would spend almost every evening checking out bands and socializing at the bar at The Marquee.(2) Is that right?

Yes, his evenings were always spent out and about at one gig or another, ending at the Speakeasy. He liked a drink and good food.

I also heard that he taught a lot of musicians about good food and good wines. People who were used to eat fish and chips having an expensive meal at a French restaurant!

Yes, he often threw restaurant parties with the groups and he was well known for his expansive gestures. Like the 7th birthday celebration at Kempton Park, which I helped organize.

During the Charisma days, you got to work with Paul Conroy, Glen and Gail Colson. Can you remember about them?

Colin Richardson and Ray Jackson
Colin Richardson with Ray Laidlaw of Lindisfarne, 1975

Yes, I remember them well. Paul was one of the two agents. A good man. He later became Manager Director at Virgin after they had taken over Charisma. After my time, Gail was Tony's 'right hand' and Glen was press. When I left Gail took over my role, which she had always coveted.

At Charisma, you got to manage some new bands that later became extremely successful, such as The Nice, Genesis, Lindisfarne and Van Der Graaf Generator. How was your relationship with them?

By the time I joined, Van Der Graaf Generator had folded. So had The Nice. I worked with Peter Hamill when he started his solo career. And of the Nice formed Refugee with Patrick Moraz. Neither were very successful.

I think that Peter Hammill built a solid career, not very successful, but continuous at least.

Yes, true. He's still performing now, I believe, although he did have a heart attack a while ago. Otherwise, I had good working relationships with Genesis and Lindisfarne. String Driven Thing, plus some other solo artists.

Trevor Williams of Audience told me in an interview that the guys from Van Der Graaf Generator were "were a bit deadly serious".(3) Do you remember this?

I don't recall Trevor Williams, but yes, they were pretty serious. Audience were also about over when I joined and Steve Hackett was soon to leave Genesis. So I worked a bit with him on his first couple of albums and another solo career began. Lots of activity! wow, what was that: activity.

Who is the most difficult artist you worked with during the Charisma days?

Probably Patrick Moraz... but Tony Banks could be a little difficult at times, though mostly we got on. Graham Bell was also a bit of an ego guy. Otherwise, I was pretty proud of my ability to relate to the musicians, having been one myself helped.

I read about Paul Conroy saying Genesis "were seen as a bit posh" and "They all sounded like Prince Charles"(4). Do you remember this?

Well they were all public school, except Phil (Collins) and Steve Hackett. Peter (Gabriel), Tony (Banks) and Mike (Rutherford) all went to Charterhouse (5) , which is where it all began.

And also Anthonny Phillips, who was not in the band anymore at the time.

No, he's gone by then. He never could handle the professional life apparently.

Well, he just had a stage fright problem at the time, but he developed a long studio career. Anyway, it has been also said that it was actually Paul Conroy who came up with the idea of getting Peter Gabriel dressed up in a red dress and a fox's head. (6) Can you remember about this?

Not really, though that doesn't seem all that's likely. I think all the theatrical ideas stemmed from Peter. You'd have to check that with Paul or Peter.

During the 70's, Tony Stratton-Smith organized a series of Charisma Label nights at The Marquee, featuring most of the artists from the label. How important you think the label was for the club?

Charisma Label

Well, most bands wanted to appear there when they were 'on the rise' as it were. Later though, they were too expensive. But yes, there were Charisma packages put together from time to time. I remember that that is how we got Genesis away in Germany. With Lippman and Rau. Lindisfarne were a bit miffed that Genesis were better received over there. When they had just had a No.

Is there any particular anecdote from The Marquee that always makes you laugh?

Laugh? Not so much... things were always too frenetic for humour.

For instance?

I do look back and smile at the rows. Long John Baldry and the Steampacket always had at the end of the evening. Though at the time I was pissed off at them, as I wanted to close up and go home! They were so petty! And ego struck!

During the late 70's, you worked as a music journalist. Did you review any gigs at The Marquee Club?

No... my journo days were -0 and for German language mags, mostly overseas.

So you were not in London anymore?

Well, yes... I still lived here, but had to travel a lot.

When did you quit working in the music business and why?

I moved out of London in 1980. That was when my music biz days came to an end.

Colin Richardson and Paul McCartney
Colin Richardson with Paul McCartney
at Abbey Road studios, 1980

Any particular reason?

Mainly because I had had enough of all the bullshit and the fact that the music biz had been taken over by the suits! Lawyers and accountants! With very little interest in the music!

I guess that must have been a sad moment for the music business to the people from your generation.

Yes and it hasn't gotten any better from what I see and hear, so no regrets.

Well, Harold Pendleton was a professional accountant but he loved music with his heart, don't you think?

Yes, absolutely. He was an exception to the rule. And there were some... I also think that the arrival of punk didn't help. Well, not for me anyway. I couldn't believe that so many talentless egos were allowed to get away with what they did.

I know that the punk thing was devastating for John Gee.

And for me! That was just too much. Same as John, I guess. Although now I look back... there were some bands that did have some talent.

As a member of the audience at The Marquee, which gigs do you remember enjoying especially?

Colosseum, obviously. But then I was biased. I remember The Move and their overpowering stage act. I saw so many... they tend to blur.

The Move are playing next month at the new reincarnation of The Marquee in Upper St Martin's Lane. Not the same Move and not the same Marquee, of course.

I wonder how many of the original band are in there, if any!

As far as I know, Roy Wood is still there, but I really don't know about the rest.

Gaad... is he still alive?

Hopefully! I really want to get him interviewed...
What did you think when you heard about the demolishing of the original building at 90 Wardour street in the 80's?

I didn't hear about it. I was in the West country and really out of touch with things.

If you had to define the effect that The Marquee Club had in your life and in your career, how would you put it into words?

Well, I guess I would say that it was an extremely important step on the way to my music biz career. I made some very influential contacts, which I sustained over the next years or so. It provided me with excellent experience in dealing with bands: Long John Baldry, etc.... And meant I could pretty much always get my bands on there when I wanted. As they say... it's who you know, as much as what you know! Remember, Harold, Barbara and John also ran the Reading Festival at that time, so my relationship with them paid big dividends later on. Though I was only there a relatively short time... it played a big part in the overall scheme of things.

Notes:
(1) Peter Banks, interview by TheMarqueeClub.net, 2007.
(2) Ray H, interview by TheMarqueeClub.net, 2007.
(3) Trevor Williams, interview by TheMarqueeClub.net, 2007.
(4) Interview by Clark Collis, Mojo magazine, March 2001.
(5) English public school located in Godalming, Surrey.
(6) Sleeve notes, "Foxtrot" Remaster edition, Atlantic Records, 1994.

Interview by K. Barroso, August 2007.
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