The Feldman Swing Club – (100 Club)
Still is a music venue in London situated at 100, Oxford Street London W1 originally called The Feldman Swing Club. The Feldman Club eventually closed it’s doors in 1954. 100 Oxford Street subsequently became the London Jazz Club, the Humphrey Lyttelton Club, Jazz Shows Jazz Club and then the 100 Club, amounting to over 60 years a jazz venue…
Feldman Club Sextet comprising
Reg Arnold (trumpet), Johnny Dankworth (alto), Ronnie Scott (tenor), Ralph Sharon (piano), Jack Fallon (bass), and the very young Victor Feldman (drums).
The Feldman Swing Club, (also known as the No1 Swing Club), began life in 1942 and was the first London club where jazz only was played, albeit for only one night a week at first. It continued through the war years on until 1954 when increasing competition from other clubs led to its demise. Maurice Burman writing in Jazz Journal in 1950 reckoned “nearly every bop player of note plays and was discovered at the Feldman Club. Johnny Dankworth, Ronnie Scott, Leon Calvert, Henry Shaw, Ralph Sharon, Eddie Thompson, Ronnie Ball, Bernie Fenton, Mac Minshull, Tony Crombie, Laurie Morgan, Flash Winstone, Don Rendell, Harry Klein, Joe Mudele, Pete Chilver, Dave Goldberg, Lennie Bush, , Tommy Pollard, Victor Feldman and many others. Leon Roy and his Band, the only large bop band in the country at the time made it’s debut at the Feldman Club and was extremely well received…
The 100 Club has a legendary status within the history of modern British music, having played live music since 24 October 1942 In 1942, the venue was a Restaurant called Macks, which was hired out beginning 24 October every Sunday evening by Robert Feldman at £4 per night to host a jazz club featuring swing music of the day. The initial line-up of the “Feldman Swing Club” advertised to showcase the talents of his jazz loving sons and their band in the Melody Maker included Frank Weir, Tommy Pollard, Kenny Baker and Jimmy Skidmore with guest artists the Feldman Trio, composed of Feldman’s children, including then 8-year old child prodigy Jazz drummer Victor Feldman. The band consisted of Victor, also known as ‘Kid Krupa‘ because of his style of playing, and his two brothers Robert (clarinet) and Monty (accordion). They were joined by legendary British jazz man Jimmy Skidmore (tenor sax) for the opening night on 24th October 1942.
The club was popular with working people and American GI’s, who introduced the jitterbug dance craze to the club, banned at most other music venues. Patrons included Glen Miller who auditioned young Victor Feldman, and the club hosted many top American jazz acts, including Mel Powell, Ray McKinley, Art Pepper, and Benny Goodman. Later Be-bop as well as swing was featured. British musicians such as Guitarists Peter Chilver, Laurence Caton and Dave Goldberg with saxists Ronnie Scott and Johnny Dankworth were featured. It became a mecca for black musicians from the Empire, such as Frank Holder, Coleridge Goode and Ray Ellington.
Occasionally, big-name touring bands will play “secret” or low-key unadvertised gigs there, relying on word of mouth to fill the 350-capacity space. The “Coda Club“, a monthly social gathering of jazz musicians from the Feldman Swing Club era, continues to be held. On 10 June 2007, George Melly, whose association with the 100 Club goes back to the days when he performed there with Lyttelton, gave his last ever public performance.
In 2009 Feldman’s Swing Club was named as one of 12 venues which had made the most important contributions to jazz music in the United Kingdom, for its contributions in the 1942-1954 period.
Gradually news of this new jazz location became widespread and the premises was visited by a number of American servicemen, as well as Britons who wanted to listen to jazz and to dance. Some of the G.I’s were well known jazz musicians in their own right. An early visitor to the club in those days was forces big band legend Glen Miller, who appeared at the Club around this time accompanied by several members of his famous band including Ray McKinley, Mel Powell and Peanuts Hucko. Of course, this was during WW2 and quite often as people enjoyed their night out, bombs were raining down all around, but the crowd, safe in the knowledge that the clubs location in the basement of 100 Oxford Street made it a very effective bomb shelter, carried on regardless. Indeed the Feldman‘s advertising at the time read ‘Forget the Doodle-bug! Come and Jitterbug! At the Feldman Club’. Soon the likes of Jack Parnell and George Webb were performing on a regular basis and the club started to enjoy its 1st period of success.
By 1948 the clubs’ name had changed to the ‘London Jazz Club’ and re – introduced the dance music of the era (Jitterbug and Swing) back to the club on Saturdays and Mondays after the Feldman‘s had changed their musical policy on the regular Sundays to a more modern bebop style. Eventually the Feldman‘s stopped promoting altogether and the new owners the Wilcox brothers became the next inheritors of this famous address.
The club’s lease changed hands during the 1950‘s when Lyn Dutton became the new lease holder. Lyn happened to be the agent for Humphrey Lyttelton and decided to name his new club after his hugely popular client. The Humphrey Lyttelton Club scored a major coup in 1956 when the legendary New Orleans band leader and trumpeter Louis Armstrong appeared at the club with his band during a few days break on the British tour he was doing with the Lyttelton band at the time. Other visitors to the club around that time included the great Billie Holliday who came to listen to The Alex Welsh Band featuring Beryl Bryden. During this period the Humphrey Lyttelton band were becoming increasingly popular, a success which was starting to manifest itself in the Hit Parade. In 1958 they had a Top 20 hit with ‘Bad Penny Blues‘. Unwittingly for Humph, this became one of the records to kick start the ‘Trad Jazz’ boom over the next few years. ‘Trad’ was to become absolutely huge in Britain from 1959 into the early 1960’s with the club at its epicentre.
Bands such as Humph‘s and the Chris Barber Jazz and Blues Band had, prior to this, been playing at the club on a regular basis but had become so huge that they were now concert hall outfits. For example, Chris Barber first played the club in 1954 and by 1956 was too big to play in clubs the size of the Humphrey Lyttelton Club any longer. The club briefly changed its name again to ‘Jazz Shows‘ and in 1964 the current proprietor Roger Horton bought a share holding into the club and decided that with the decline of its recent staple diet of Trad now at an end, it would be a good idea to change the club’s name again and attract other forms of music outside the jazz umbrella as it was becoming clear that promoting jazz 7 days a week was now impossible.
It did not spell the end of jazz though. Instead of the Trad and Swing styles of jazz that were part of the club’s infancy, the club were now booking big stars of the U.S. jazz scene such as Bud Freeman, ‘Wild’ Bill Davison, George Lewis and Earl Hines as well as home grown talent including the famous Alex Welsh Band and the Ken Colyer Band, who were now able to play the 100 Club after the sale of Ken’s famous 51 Club in Soho.
The club has remained special to many people over the years and a lot of well known bands and musicians have come back long after they have met with fame and fortune. The 100 Club is a legendary venue. It has been home to many different bands of many different styles and its longevity and success over the last 60 years have been down to an open minded music policy and the dedication of its many patrons over those years. There is nowhere else like it in the world.
Hundreds of popular music’s finest artists from the worlds of Jazz, Rock, Blues and R’n’B to Punk, Indie, Comedy and Soul have played the 100 Club. Here are just a few of those illustrious names. Long may it continue…
Loose Tubes, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Champion Jack Dupree, Barney Kessel Sonny Boy Williamson, Slim Gaillard, Sonny Stitt, Stephane Grappelli, Big Joe Turner, Maxine Sullivan, Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, Georgie Fame, Nat Gonella, Scott Hamilton, Miriam Makeba, Betty Wright, Herb Ellis, Maxine Brown, Laurie Holloway & Marion Montgomery, Warren Vache, Chris Barber, Maynard Ferguson, Archie Shepp, Lee Konitz, Clark Terry, Billy Butterfield, Memphis Slim, John McLaughlin, Teddy Wilson, Charlie Byrd,
In the late 1940s: Cuba (Denman Street), Jamboree (Wardour Street), Bag o’Nails (Kingly Street), Nuthouse (Regent Street), Casablanca (Gerard Street), The Moffat Club (Mac’s Rehearsal Rooms – Great Windmill Street), The Bebop Shop (Tottenham). In 1950/51: Blue Note (Little Newport Street), Bird’s Nest (where the Fallardo had been), Studio ’51, Florida Club, Sunset Club (Carnaby Street), Gunnell’s Blue Room (Garrick Street), Club Basie (Charing Cross Road).