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What do Bo Diddley, The Stones & Clapton have in common? The Crawdaddy

In early 1963 a filmmaker named Giorgio Gomelsky changed the course of rock and roll history when he took over a club in the back of The Station Hotel in Richmond, Southwest, London. (photo credit: ©RockTourLondon)

The club, originally called BRRB, had a small stage but Gomelsky believed that a band playing regularly would build a loyal audience and, in turn, would prove more profitable. With this strategy in place he hired a group called The Dave Hunt Rhythm & Blues Band, that featured Ray Davies on guitar (who'd later form The Kinks) and Charlie Watts on drums, and gave them a Sunday night residency. (photo credit: Igor on Pinterest)

All was going along fairly well until a snow storm stranded The Dave Hunt guys causing them to cancel the night of 24 February 1963. That was when The Rolling Stones took the stage in their place. It would be the first public performance of the band with new members Bill Wyman on bass and Charlie Watts on drums. Yep, the same Charlie Watts (the one and only Charlie Watts actually seems more appropriate).

That first show wasn't exactly what anyone would call a success. Gomelsky had to persuade customers of the main hotel to come to the show going as far as to offer two for one admission. Within three weeks word was out and The Stones took over that residency. The group ended each of their sets with an extended version of Bo Diddley's song Craw Dad giving Giorgio the inspiration to rename the club The Crawdaddy. (photo credit: mygenerationtumblr on Pinterest)

On 14 April 1963, Gomelsky, having a desire to make a film about The Beatles, went to Teddington Film Studios where The Fab Four were recording an episode of 'Thank Your Lucky Stars'. Giorgio told them about The Rolling Stones and The Beatles decided to go and check out their show that night.

After the set, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones went back to Mick Jagger's Chelsea flat and a lasting friendship began. It's always been said there was a rivalry between the two groups but the bands were actually very close. Lennon and McCartney wrote The Stones second single, "I Wanna Be Your Man" and throughout the 60s McCartney and Jagger coordinated their record release schedules staggering them to avoid overlapping hits that would cause fans to choose one band over the other. Also, it was George Harrison that personally recommended The Rolling Stones to Dick Rowe at Decca Records - who had passed on The Beatles - and suggested he sign a deal with the still unknown band. He did.

The Crawdaddy was where a young Andrew Loog Oldham saw The Stones one Sunday night. He approached them a few weeks later saying he and a business partner were looking for acts to sign up for records and appearances. The band jumped at the chance and Gomelski's plan to manage The Rolling Stones vanished in the blink of an eye to Oldham.

By July of 1963 The Stones got too big for The Crawdaddy's small stage and ventured off on tour. The vacancy that caused in the residency was quickly taken over by another R&B group called The Yardbirds which featured a young guitarist named Eric Clapton.

Clapton was a prolific guitarist and used light gauge guitar stings as he said those made it easier to bend notes but it was also very common for him to break at least one string during a song. Between songs, Clapton would take the time to change the broken string causing the anxious audience to break out into a slow handclap. This inspired Giorgio to refer to Eric as 'Slowhand' and a forever nickname was born. He had missed out on The Stones and he wasn't going to make that mistake again. He became the official manager and producer for The Yardbirds. (photo credit: louder on Pinterest)

By now audiences were overflowing into the street and ownership of the hotel was growing alarmed at the noise and crowds. Giorgio moved the club to a much larger venue under the grandstands of the nearby Athletic Ground in Richmond (perhaps this was someone else's inspiration for Ted Lasso's fictitious football team...wink).

That location would go on to host bands like Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart, Elton John, The Kinks and a host of others but popularity in the club fizzled out eventually and Gomelski moved to France after he founded the short lived label, Marmalade Records and had a falling out with Polydor, his corporate backers. In 1978 Gomelsky moved his family to New York City where he became a talent scout for RCA Records.

In 1988 when Mick Jagger inducted The Beatles into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame he reminisced about seeing The Fab Four right in front of him from that small stage at The Crawdaddy. He remembered them wearing beautiful long black leather trench coats and he said, "I thought to myself, 'If I have to learn to write songs to get one of those, I will.'" (photo credit: Bing Images)

Giorgio Gomelsky died in January 2016 at the age of 82.

So, as I stood in front of what is now One Kew Road, reading its sign about this being the place The Beatles met The Stones, I offered up a "Thank you, Giorgio" before I headed back across the street to the Richmond underground station knowing I had just stood where he changed the course of rock and roll for the better.

(photo credit: ©RockTourLondon)

Our video tour The Stories of Some Kensington (and a couple other) Places visits One Kew Road. Click here to visit there and a bunch of other cool rock and roll places and their stories for yourself.

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©RockTourLondon, 2022

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