Sandy Brown Jazz



Eel Pie Island - on the river Thames near Hampton Court. Did you ever go? Looking back I have some regrets that I didn't, even though I lived not far away, but in those days it had something of a 'reputation' - a little unsavoury and not exactly safe (Ron Rubin remembers the point of his double bass Eel Pie Isalnd bookdisappearing through the floor boards.) It was probably nothing of the sort and there was certainly good music played there. But Wimbledon Town Hall or the smokey rooms at the Crown at Morden or the Six Bells in Chelsea were more acceptable to my south-west London parents. Mind you, at fourteen I was taking myself to Kingston Empire to witness the end of Variety which couldn't even be saved by the static nude shows they introduced. As someone said - my parents probably didn't realise what was on the bill!

Dan Van Der Vat and Michele Whitby have now written a book about Eel Pie Island, published by Frances Lincoln Ltd. but click here for a closer look, and click here for the full Publisher's description which includes:

'EEL PIE ISLAND is the only inhabited island on the semi-tidal Thames. Its most famous contemporary resident, Trevor Baylis, OBE, inventor of the clockwork radio, has been heard to describe it (with some exaggeration) as "120 drunks clinging to a mudbank". Named for the favoured snack of Henry VIII, who was said to stop here on his way to and from Windsor ... in the middle of the twentieth century it was a venue for jazz and later English R&B groups, where the likes of Chris Barber or George Melly, and then the Rolling Stones or Rod Stewart, performed in the dancehall of the hotel. A surprising number of people all over Britain and beyond remember Eel Pie Island and its gigs - usually with a nostalgic smile.'

Trombone player Mel Henry remembers Eel Pie Island (See article below carried over from December):

'The recent article about Eel Pie Island brought back memories. I DID play there in the 50s - with the University College Jazz Band (only one of us actually went to U.C.). In those days, we had to get there on the chain ferry (no bridge). Our drummer lost some of his kit on the journey - not a good start. Then the piano in the old hotel was right in the crack - our pianist just sat in front of it all evening without playing a note. Finally, the landlord refused to pay us because of no piano player. The raucous crowd couldn't have cared less, even if none of us played a note! Much later, I was a G.P. in the area and one of my patients was a cello maker - lovely guy - he had a workshop on the island until it burnt down in a big fire in about 1990.'

October 2014:

Eel Pie Island Project posterSadly, we did not hear about a project that took place last year that focussed on the well-known jazz and rock venue of Eel Pie Island. Eel Pie Island in the Thames near Hampton Court had a questionable reputation in the 1950s and 1960s, you would probably not let your mum know you were going there! Bass player and pianist Rob Rubin remembers the point of his double bass disappearing through the floor.

Fortunately, there is still some information about the project online, including a written and audio record of people's memories. A collection of over 70 interviews and first hand accounts of ‘Eelpiland’ through written contributions and oral history interviews, as well as documentation and photographic archive of ‘Eelpiland’ – visit the ‘Your Memories’ to read submitted accounts from clubgoers and listen to edited extracts of a spoken word collection. If you have a memory you’d like to submit to the project, please click here.

A digital collection of interviews, photos and memorabilia has been lodged with Richmond Local Studies, and is now available to the public. A further film is being made and we hope to let you know more about that as it develops.

Click here to read about the project.


Don Coe writes: 'With a slim chance that  maybe you have not seen this here is a comprehensive listing of bands who played the Island from 1956 to 1970+. among whom, of course, was Sandy Brown. (Plus me with Bill Brunskill, The Jubilee JB, Mole Benn, Ian Bell and a few others I cannot recall!) - click here.'


If you found this page interesting, you might also like our pages on:
Wood Green Jazz Club: Fishmongers Arms
The Cy Laurie Club
The Dancing Slipper, Nottingham
New Merlins Cave
The Six Bells, Chelsea
The Prince Of Wales, Buckhurst Hill
Cooks Ferry Inn

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