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Uncle Bonny's Chinese Jazz Clubs


After the late trumpeter Bunny Austin raised a question about the 'Chinese Jazz Club' that once ran in Bristol, we were intrigued as to what that was about. Since then, a number of people have contacted us with their memories:

Chris Duff in Canada writes:

'The reference to the Bristol Chinese Jazz Club brings to mind Bonny Manzi, who ran the Brighton Chinese Jazz Club at the Brighton Aquarium from the late 1950s for a number of years.  I frequented this club and enjoyed the music of most of the leading traditional style bands of the era.  He had a catch-phraze "chop-chop velly velly good" and promoted crocodile sandwiches.  I should make it clear that Bonny Manzi was not Chinese! His name indicates an Italian background, but I can't be sure. His club was hung with Chinese lanterns and burning joss sticks were everywhere. It is possible that Uncle Bonny, as he was known, opened up a club with the same format in Bristol. Can anyone confirm this?' (Please contact us if you know).

Chris Mitchell in Switzerland now writes: 'I was playing with Cyril Preston`s band at this time. We played for Bonnie Manzi (Uncle Bonni) many times in his clubs - Brighton, Crawley and Bristol. The Bristol club was situated in the Corn Exchange building, and just around the corner was a very good cellar selling very good sherry and port. In the interval the band quaffed quite a few Schooners. Bonnie was a good guy, always wearing a boater with upturned brim, à la Bud Flanagan. He paid well but when you played on a percent basis, he seemed to have let the entire nursing staff in for free. Or famously, with Alex Welsh, “There were lots of shadows that gave the impression of more punters.” I last saw him, at an Eel Pie shop that was called 'Manzies', don't know if it was a family thing?

Ron Drakeford recalls: 'We played the venue in Brighton a few times with the Preacher Hood band, and as we had a good following in the Berkshire / Buckinghamshire area, we were invited to be one of the bands to play at the newly opened Chinese Jazz Club in Swindon. I don't recall one in Bristol, but there may have been one later.'


Ralph Mayles writes: 'I was perusing your site today and saw an item about uncle Bonny Manzi and see you were looking for information about him. I didn't know him personally but I was a Mod in the mid '60s in Bristol and used to go to the Corn Exchange and Uncle Bonny did have a Tuesday Chinese Jazz Club Night there, although the music was mainly rhythm and blues. He brought bands like The (English) Birds (Ronnie Wood on guitar); The Steam Packet (Long John Baldry / Rod Stewart /  Brian Auger etc.);   Cream; John Mayall's Bluesbreakers;  / Graham Bond Organisation; Bo Diddley - to name a few. It was the place for up and coming underground R 'n' B artists and  was my  main hangout '65 till '67 ish. Wednesday was more Pop and I think was run by a guy called Freddy Bannister  who did the West of England Rhythm & Blues Festival with Led Zeppelin etc., I believe,  and then Knebworth.  On Wednesday nights I did see The Byrds; The Walker Brothers; The Beach Boys; Kinks; Small Faces; The Hollies  and lots of other bands that had hits in the charts at the time. Friday and Saturday were Records Nights 

I didn't know Uncle Bonny's surname was Manzi until I started looking for information about him a few years ago ... a guy called Lou  Manzi  is well known in the south for running Clubs although I'm not sure if they are related, but I would assume that with an unusual surname like that they probably were / are ....



Uncle Bonny's Jazz Club poster



Gerald Creed has sent in a picture of this poster saying:

'For about 50 years I have managed to hang on to this poster despite many moves etc. Does this bring back any memories for anyone?'

'I used to go to The Corn Exchange in Bristol for the Tuesday Night Uncle Bonny’s Jazz Club with some of my mates but I don’t remember how I came to have the poster.'

Thanks to Elliot Jackson in Canada who tells us that the poster is from 1965. Elliot says: 'I was born in Bristol and was a regular attender seeing such great bands'. (It is interesting how few posters from past times included the year).






Bristol Bridhe Inn


Ian Thomas sends us these pictures saying: 'I was in the most excellent Bridge Inn, Bristol again the other day, where they have this Bristol Chinese R&B Jazz Club poster displayed. It's a great poster - I'd love to have been there to see Johnny Lee ...... so on my return I had a little search for 'Uncle Bonny' and I came across your site, and the interesting items about  the Chinese R&B Jazz Club. So I hope this is of some interest to you.'

I think the poster is particularly interesting in that it advertised half price admission for nurses, an indication that nurses, mostly women in those days, would be coming to the club. I also wonder what 'crocodile sandwiches were? (Ed)


Bristol Chinese Jazz and R&B Club poster


John Westwood writes of Ian Thomas' message in our November 209 issue: 'Another good day (or three!)'s read for which many thanks. I look forward to all the update and info. Initial perusal poses a point... back in the 70s I used to play on occasion at the Bristol Bridge Inn in Baldwin Street, on the first floor (it was Henry's Bootblacks residence at the time) and have happy memories thereof. But the photo you have captioned now isn't that pub, and today the building is a Japanese restaurant. We also used to play at the Crown, at the back of St Nicholas Market,  and the Malt & Hops but that's another story! The centre of Bristol was a hotbed of hotmusic back then.... now there's only the Old Duke, where I plan to go tomorrow. How the world changes!'




Chinese Jazz Club arrivals


Robert Coles writes: 'Having read your article on Uncle Bonny you may be interested to know that there was a Chinese Jazz Club just up the road from you, it was in the Pavilion, Bath, on a Monday evening in the early 1960's.  I might be wrong but I think it was earlier than the Bristol club in the Corn Exchange. There is an advert in Jazz News for 3rd October 1962 for Chinese Jazz Clubs in Brighton, Bristol, Crawley and Swindon. I remember on some nights there were free tickets for those in "rave gear"  I got in for nothing!!  Silly days!'

[It would be nice to know more about 'Uncle Bonny' (? Lou Manzi) himself. If anyone can remember him or knows more about him, please contact us. Ed]

Chinese Jazz Club arrivals text





Please contact us if you can shed any more light.


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Tracks Unwrapped
Jazz Remembered
Video Juke Box
Jazz As Art

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