British Wrestlers Reunion
Strengthening the Ring of Friendship

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PAUL LINCOLN AND THE BIRTH OF ROCK' N' ROLL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Legendary guitarist :RICK HARDY's reflections of the 2 i's

 

 

Rick Hardy, A Man whose paths have crossed with Adam Faith, Cliff Richard, The Shadows, Vince Taylor, Joe Brown, Lonnie Donegan, The Beatles and many more...

Rick's Career:

Born in October 1933 in Islington, London, his career started out in 1956, when he joined a local Watford trad jazz band called the Colne Valley Stompers on rhythm guitar.

At the height of the Skiffle Craze, he joined the Johnny Makins Skiffle Group, where he met up bass player Tex Makins who later had fame with Georgie Fame and french rocker Johnny Halliday.

When the leader of the band, Johnny Morton left with his girlfriend and second singer, Lena, Rick took over the group who became the 'Rick Richards Skiffle Group' after his new professional name.

They made some recordings that were not released at the time, such as "Shake It Daddy".

They reached the final of the National Skiffle Contest at the Hammersmith Palais in 1957.

But they disbanded soon after the other guitarist of the band Johnny d'Avensac got called up.

In early 1958, Rick started guesting at the 2.I's Coffee Bar, in Old Compton Street, then joined the resident group there "The Worried Men", as a replacement for future pop star Adam Faith who was booked by Jack Good in his rock and roll TV shows '6-5 Specials' and 'Oh Boy!'.

During those days, Rick was roped in to play with a local outfit called the "Drifters" because they needed an amplified guitar when they performed at the 2.I's. He helped them out on a talent competition at the old Trocadero cinema in the Elephant and Castle district of South London.

 The Original Blue Flames

( With Joe Brown  at Butlins Philey 1959)

After these gigs, the leader of 'The Drifters' Harry Webb asked him to join his group, but Rick turned down as he had already accepted the job with the Worried Men.

Soon afterwards the Drifters were offered a gig at the Regal Ballroom at Ripley, near Nottingham, by a dance hall manager named Harry Greatorex who wanted them billed as a singer and a group (as in Tommy Steele & the Steelmen or Gene Vincent & the Blue Caps). But he felt that "Harry Webb & the Drifters" didn't sound right, so another name had to be found for Harry who finally had adopted Rick's stage name and became "Cliff Richard".

The Drifters were later renamed the "Shadows" featuring two guitarists, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch, booked in October 1958 by Cliff on Rick's personal recommendation.

Before they joined the Drifters, they both backed Rick Hardy at the 2.I's and at a bar in the East End of London alongside Jet Harris on bass and Tony Meehan on drums who became the new drummer of the Worried Men in summer 1958. Other future members of the Shadows passed through the ranks of this band leaded by Rick : drummer Brian Bennett and bass player Brian "Licorice" Locking.

Many other great musicians depped for the Worried Men until they finally disbanded in spring 1959 such as bass players Vince Cooze (Gene Vincent & the Beat Boys), Vic Pitt or drummers Red Reece and Clem Cattini (Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, The Tornados...).

In May 1959 Rick became the resident singer in the 'Top Ten', in Berwick Street, Soho, a club newly opened by the Anglo-American rocker Vince Taylor.

Then during summer 1959, he was asked to join a rock group called Clay Nichols & the Blue Flames to Play at Butlins holiday camp in Filey, Yorkshire.

There he played alongside two of the most skilled guitarist in Britain at that time: Joe Brown and Tony Harvey who replaced him.

Joe Brown left them for Jack Goode's 'Boy Meets Girl' TV show where he backed Gene Vincent on his first british tour then had fame with own tunes such as "Pictures of You" (1962). Tony Harvey later was to play with great success with Vince Taylor & his Playboys.

By 1960, Rick worked with Lonnie Donegan in a recording session at the Lansdowne studios backing the singers Mickie and Griff for an LP.

In june 1960, he was asked to be part of The Jets, the first English rock band to play in Hamburg Clubs.

Booked by a German club owner named Bruno Koschmieder to play in his club, "Der Kaiserkeller" in Saint Pauli, Hamburg, they pioneered the way for many british bands whose career really started out there...

As they moved to another club called the "Top Ten", Koschmieder had to book other english rock bands but this once from Liverpool such as "Derry & The Seniors" then an unknown quintet named the "Beatles".

 The London Cowboys

The Jets often jammed with these newcomers and the Beatles actually made their very first release as the backing band of Tony Sheridan the Lead guitarist for the Jets.

But after a five month stint in Hamburg the Jets broke up. Indeed most of them as the members of the Beatles were evicted from Germany in late 1960 apart from Rick Hardy who had to joined a package show that was touring the American bases in Southern Germany playing country & western standards.

This led to his first experience of cabaret and then his staying in the Frankfurt area for around ten years.

Rick had been backed by the Beatles at the Star Club just before their career took off in May 1962. Then he carried on his career in cabaret circuit as a great cockney entertainer

 

( Cliff returns to the 2i's site for the plaque unveiling)

 

 

( Vince Eager, Bruce Welch and Rick Hardy at plaque ceremony)

 

( Cliff with Russ Sainty)

 

( Paul Lincoln and Cliff at the ceremony)

RICK HARDY HAS DONE MORE THN ANYONE I CAN THINK OF TO KEEP THE MEMORY OF THE 2' I's ALIVE.   HIS NAME SHOULD BE UP THERE ON THAT PLAQUE.

Well, I first saw it in 1958. My wife Pina and I arrived in London in November 1958 on a Sunday morning .We had travelled on the overnight bus from Glasgow, Scotland, and we had with us the grand sum of eleven pounds sterling in cash, two suitcases containingour clothes, and a couple of pots & pans, knives & forks etc. to set up home. We found a bed & breakfast place and settled in for a couple of nights. I had seen Cliff Richard and the Drifters [ as they were called then ] on TV back in Glasgow, and I knew that they had been discovered in the 2 I's, as had Tommy Steele. So on the Monday evening around 6 pm, I caught the Metro to Piccadilly Circus, leaving my wife at the Hotel to protect our suitcases. You come out of the Metro at Piccadilly, walk up Shaftesbury Avenue, turn LEFT into Wardour St. then 1'st right into Old Compton St . and it's the 2'nd shop on the right. That's it ! Or, rather, that's where it used to be. In 1958 the 2 I's was the fuse for the explosion that was to come in the World of U.K Rock and Roll. Before Cliff there was a major happening in music called "Skiffle", and there were various Skiffle bands, some of them having hits in the charts, like the great Lonnie Donegan, The Vipers, Chas Mc Devitt and Nancy Whiskey etc.  A lot of these Guys still featured in coffee bars around Soho, so although the 2 I's mainly featured Rock, there were other influences in there. Country, Blues, Jazz, Skiffle, it was a melting pot for musicians and their music. And the influences were many and varied. HUNDREDS of Young men and Women, from towns all over the U.K . headed for London . They were all looking for the same thing - somewhere they could express themselves. And the only way they could do that was by singing and playing the Music they loved and felt - Rock and Roll. When I walked into the 2 I's with my Guitar I didn't know a soul. The Guys were knocking the Shit out of the Music. Loud , ass-kicking music, most of it built around 3 chords only, so anyone could have a go.

                             

                                                               A very young Cliff Richard


THAT was the magic, all You had to do was mean it. And it was all Live. No backing tracks. And if You couldn't crack it then get the fuck off the stage. The 2 I's gave You the chance to strut your stuff and earn some money to eat at the same time. Tell me how many places can say the same thing today. The I's was owned by a nice guy called Paul Lincoln, A wrestler by profession and a promoter of the same,But He loved running a coffee bar and R& R was booming so it was also an extremely lucrative business. Anyway,I asked the guy on the door, A gent calledTom Littlewood, if I could play and he said ok. Well I was pretty desperate, turned up the volume on the club amplifier and went for it. Like I say, You didn't have to be Stravinsky. I had a ball for the next 45 minutes or so. The guys swung hard and natural. No pretence, Just good & honest Rock & Roll. Then it sinks into my Nut . The People enjoy what I'm doing, there's just a chance I'm going to make it in London. And all the kids are playing their asses off and hoping the same thing. When I come off stage a guy called Freddy Clifford asks me to have a cup of coffee with him and a chat. It turns out He is Colin Hick's manager { Colin Hick's is Tommy Steele's brother } and he offers me a tour with Colin straight away. And He even gives me some money up front . I've cracked a deal on my 1'st night ! And so it was for many of the guys at the 2 I's Marty Wilde got his guys from there. So did Vince Taylor, as You know.Adam Faith, Joe Brown, Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, Tony Meehan, Jet Harris, Big Jim Sullivan,Bobby Woodman,Tony Harvey plus many, many more.

                                                          

And that's where I first saw Gene Vincent. I couldn't believe it ! Gene Vincent from the movie " The Girl can't help it " The guy who was up there on the silver screen with Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, etc- there -singing in the 2 I's. I never dreamed that one day I'd be working with Him on television and touring the U.K. Someone said { I think it was Anita O'Day } " If I had known it was going to be an Era I'd have tried harder !!" That's the truth about the 2 I's and the whole Rock and Roll thing. Perhaps somewhere in the back of our minds We hoped we would make it but we lived for the Moment. THAT's what made it tick. Even Connie Francis wanted to see the I's when she came to the U.K. The Name and the fame of the place was already filtering back to the U.S of A. Every one has heard of the I's, >From John Lennon to David Bowie. All the Great Rockers acknowledge the contribution the 2 I's made to Rock & Roll. And it was just a little cafe with an old battered piano in the basement in Old Compton street, Soho. But it had a Soul and a buzz that You couldn't find anywhere else. ……Those two guys I mentioned, Paul Lincoln and Tom Littlewood both deserve a mention in the R&R archives,. Tom Littlewood was the guy who took the money at the door. He was also Vince Taylor's manager for a while. Tom was best known for being a Judo instructor, that's why He was on the door. If You get a chance to see the movie - "The Tommy Steele Story " You can see Tom teaching Judo in a short sequence. Paul Lincoln, as I've said, was a wrestler by profession and also promoted wrestling bouts. Here's a funny story. Vince & the band were hired to a gig at a wrestling match and between bouts We went up & did our gig in the Ring, for about half an Hour or so. On the bill that night was a wrestler called" Dr. Death." And Dr. Death's big feature was that he wore a Black leather hood. He was a terrifying site. After Dr.Death's bout He came down the corridor leading to the dressing rooms,still wearing his mask, passing the guys in the band on the way. He let out some terrible roars and made to grab us one by one. We were scared out of our wits and we literally ran away. Imagine our faces when we found out that Dr Death was actually Paul Lincoln wearing a mask. Oooh ......Paul had that scene down.

                                                            

                                                           Tommy Steele

 He promoted the wrestling match, appeared on the bill as Paul Lincoln, had a rest between bouts, and appeared again as Dr. Death !! Nice work if You can get it . But He really was a sweet guy and stood as guarantor for me when I bought a new amp on H.P. { a "Vox A.C. 30. } They had just appeared on the scene. So between Paul, his partner Ray, who was also a wrestler, and Tom with his Judo, nobody fucked us around. Sudden death for anybody who tried. Before Jet Harris made it with Cliff, He used to clean up the 2 I's after the gigs, sweeping the floor and stuff. No shame in that, I've done it myself . One was at least honestly employed and could eat every day. The fee for a night's gig at the 2 I's was 18 shillings a night, from around 6-30/ 7 pm till say 11/11-30pm. Because I was married I got a bit extra - One pound a night plus a bottle of milk and the occasional packet of margarine and a loaf of bread. And boy was I grateful.!! "HEY OASIS ! DID YOU HEAR THAT ?" No fucking backing tracks and 20,000 bucks a night. Let Me tell You something. If bands like Oasis had walked into the 2 I's. they would have had their Asses kicked right out the fucking door after their first number, if they managed to get that far. And if any of our guys had put other Musicians down the way they have, with their attitude and Liam Gallagher's body language, they wouldn't have lived to see their next Birthday. These guys are always telling other Musos. what they think of them, So let me put them straight as to their musical ability-- You don't have any. Zilch. You are fucking Rotten. The only way You made it was by 100 percent Hype, and stealing old Beatles ideas. But badly !! The 2 I's would never have tolerated talentless pricks such as You !! My cat plays better than You do. But, I digress. Ahh, the 2 I's - I don't think We'll ever see a place like it again. I just wish someone would re-open it and invite everybody back again. With the right publicity it would make a fortune. Someone really should make a Movie about it. But for now lets live the Lovely memory that it is. If I close my eyes and listen hard I can hear the ghosts of those Who are long gone. British Rock & Roll owes a debt of Gratitude to the place. She really is a sweet old Lady who's been abandoned. but she still lives on in our memories. And perhaps that's as it should be.No use looking back at what used to be. Got to keep looking forward, using that heritage for inspiration. As for Me - Well, through this Web Page I hope I have given a little bit of a picture to others as to what it was like. It also gives me the opportunity to say thanks to all of my brother musicians who worked there, Those who are still with us and those who have moved on to the big 2 I's in the Sky. Dear 2 I's Thank you so much and God Bless Your Memory

 

 Sadly, Rick Hardy was killed in a car crash in December 2006, as he was preparing to appear in a 2i's tribute evening. He was 74 years old. R.I.P.

( Young Wayne Bridges walking past the 2i's in a mac)

 

The 2i’s Coffee Bar was a coffee bar in the basement at 59 Old Compton Street, Soho, London, England, between 1956 and 1967. The 2i's was owned by Paul Lincoln, an Australian wrestler and wrestling promoter. Legend has it that its name derived from earlier owners, two brothers named Irani.

The coffee bar had live music and several stars were discovered or performed at the coffee bar, such as: Rory Blackwell, Tommy Steele, The Vipers Skiffle Group, Cliff Richard, Hank Marvin, Terry Dene, Wee Willie Harris, Carlo Little, Joe Brown, Eden Kane, Screaming Lord Sutch, Jay Chance, Tony Sheridan, Johnny Kidd, Jet Harris, Paul Gadd (later to be known as Paul Raven and then Gary Glitter), Dene Lincoln, Ritchie Blackmore, Alex Wharton, Mickie Most, Bill Kent and Big Jim Sullivan.

 

 

                                                                  Vince Taylor

 

                                                                        

According to an article in Time

 

Skiffle was brand-new to the UK, and in particular at The 2i's Coffee Bar and nearby, The Cat's Whisker, founded by Peter Evans where "Soho hipsters swelter and suffocate for it... and... generally the musicians were paid with coffee and Cokes". Evans later started the Angus Steak Houses from this Soho bar.

Led Zeppelin's manager, Peter Grant was a bouncer at the 2i's prior to his career in the music business.

On 18 September 2006, a Green Plaque was unveiled at the site of the 2i's coffee bar to commemorate its existence. Today it is known as the Boulevard Bar and Dining Room. The basement is now just a lobby area

 

 

 

 

 
The 2 i's Coffee Bar in Old Compton Street

(The 2 i's Coffee Bar in Old Compton Street.)

In 1953 the Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida opened the Moka coffee bar at 29 Frith Street in Soho which provided London with its first Gaggia expresso coffee machine. Some have argued that the simple opening of this West End coffee bar was the early morning double-expresso that London needed to kick-start its way out of the grey post-war depression, setting itself up to become the world’s trendiest city in only a decade’s time.

Quickly other coffee bars sprung up around Soho, often providing live music, these included the Top Ten in Berwick Street and the Heaven and Hell bar in Old Compton Street, but the most famous of all, and next door to the Heaven and Hell, was the 2 i’s at number 59.

Almost over night young people, who now for the first time were starting to be known as ‘teen-agers’ had somewhere to go they could call their own. The coffee shops were unlicensed and there was nothing to stop teenagers coming to Soho to listen to music, live, or on the jukebox. If you were young, Soho was suddenly the place to be.

Gina Lollobrigida in 1953

(Gina Lollobrigida in 1953)

The Moka coffee bar in 1953, seemingly offering a free electric shave

(The Moka coffee bar in 1953, seemingly offering a free electric shave)

Skiffle band playing on an old bomb site in Soho 1956

(Skiffle band playing on an old bomb site in Soho 1956)

'teen-agers' in Soho 1956(

(Teen-agers' in Soho 1956)

Soho Square 1956

(Soho Square 1956)

Lonnie Donegan September 1956

(Lonnie Donegan September 1956)

 

Two i’s was bought in 1955 by an Australia wrestler called Paul Lincoln (Dr Death when in the ring – and one of the sport’s first masked wrestlers),

paul-lincoln-as-dr-death2

cleverly enabling him to fight twice on the same bill, and thus doubling his fee). The name of the bar came from the two brothers called Irani he had bought it from.

 

The 2 i’s wasn’t a particularly busy place initially and it was quickly losing money, but this all changed when Lincoln started to put on skiffle groups that were becoming popular with teenagers, especially after Lonnie Donegan’s Rock Island Line had become a hit. Skiffle was suited totally to the new coffee shops due to the minimal, cheap and un-amplified instruments the bands used and thus able to fit into the tiniest, sweatiest cellar.

 

When a skiffle group called The Vipers came to play one night at the 2 i’s, a friend of theirs called Colin Hicks helped them out with some vocals and so impressed a watching record producer from Decca that it was Hicks who was signed to his label. Hicks was quickly taken on and managed by a former shopkeeper called Larry Parnes, who persuaded him to change his name to Tommy Steele. The name stuck and a hit single called ‘Rock with the Caveman’ soon followed and literally within days Tommy Steele became Britain’s first genuine teenage pop idol.
 
 
Tommy Steele 25th February 1957

(Tommy Steele 25th February 1957)

Tommy Steele at the Bread Basker 1957

(Tommy Steele at the Bread Basket 1957)

An acned Tommy Steele performing in Soho 1957

(Tommy Steele performing in Soho 1957. How young he was, is written all over his face.)

Steele’s overnight success made the basement of the 2 I’s coffee shop the most famous music venue in the country. It was only a small place though, and like the other Soho venues was usually very hot and sweaty, with a small 18 inch stage at one end, one microphone, and some speakers up on the wall.

Clutching their guitars, teenagers, from all over the country, started coming to the 2 I’s, or even Soho in general, to try and find fame and fortune. Cliff Richard and the Shadows (initially the Drifters) all met by being regulars at the cafe. Bruce Welch of the Shadows once said:

“The Two I’s was the place to be discovered. If it was good enough for Tommy Steele it was good enough for us.”

Larry Parnes, considering himself an ‘impresario’ and known to many as ‘Mr Parnes, Shillings and Pence’, started to manage other singers and after the success of Steele insisted on creating cartoonish pseudonyms, thus Reg Smith became Marty Wilde, Ronald Wycherley became Billy Fury and Clive Powell became Georgie Fame. Joe Brown, however rejected his Parnes’ name of Elmer Twitch (not surprisingly) and solely, it seems, had a music career with the name with which he was born.

Billy Fury and Larry Parnes

( Ron Wycherley a.k.a. Billy Fury and Larry Parnes)

Joe Brown

(Joe Brown)

Mr Parnes Shillings and Pence

(Mr Parnes Shillings and Pence)

Georgie Fame

(Clive Powell aka Georgie Fame)

marty-and-kim-wilde-1962)

(Reg Smith aka Marty Wilde and a young Kim Wilde)

Roy Taylor aka Vince Eager

(Roy Taylor aka Vince Eager)

Larry Parnes wasn’t known as the ‘beat svengali’ for nothing, and his relationship with his proteges was ‘fatherly’ at the very least. Vince Eager at one point was wondering why he hadn’t received any record royalties:

“You’re not entitled to any,” Larry Parnes told him. “But it says in my contract that I am,” Eager protested. “It also says I have power of attorney over you, and I’ve decided you’re not getting any,” Parnes replied.

Parnes’ power in the music business swiftly declined with the rise of the Beatles (indeed he rejected them as a backing group for Billy Fury at one point) and, always happier with family entertainment, he went on to produce theatre shows. However the mid to late fifties was an incredibly exciting and creative time for British music and the attraction of rock ‘n’ roll brought talented (and, to be fair, not so talented) teenagers from all over the country to try their hand at a new musical fashion.

It seemed, at last, that anyone from any background could make it. Only Punk, perhaps, echoed the musical ‘can do’ atmosphere of this period, just two decades later.

Frith Street in 1956, known as Froth Street in the heyday of the coffee bars

(Frith Street in 1956, known as Froth Street in the heyday of the coffee bars)

Leon Bell and the Bell Cats and some hand-jiving kittens

(Leon Bell and the Bell Cats and some hand-jiving kittens)

Doing what teenagers do best, hanging around in Soho

(Doing what teenagers do best, hanging around. In Soho)

The skiffle group City Ramblers in 1955

(The skiffle group City Ramblers in 1955)

Bill Kent entertaining the ladies at the 2 I's coffee bar

(Bill Kent entertaining the ladies at the 2 I's coffee bar)

It’s now over fifty years since the heyday of the 2 I’s coffee bar in Old Compton Street. A lot of the Soho cafes, like everywhere else, are either closing down or becoming part of the ubiquitous Starbucks chain. Starbucks, of course, branched  last year and started their own record label featuring cutting edge artists such as Carly Simon and James Taylor.

The ubiquitous coffee chain also signed Paul McCartney, who fifty years ago was inspired by the skiffle boom created by the Soho Coffee shops to join John Lennon’s skiffle band The Quarrymen and we all know what happened to them.

The Quarrymen in 1958

(The Quarrymen in 1958)

A long way from the Moka coffee bar

(A long way from the Moka coffee bar and Gina Lollobrigida)


The 2i's today, November '09

(The 2i's today, July 2011)

 

 

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