Reunion for owners of iconic West Hampstead Klooks Kleek nightclub where Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Led Zeppelin played
- Credit: Archant
The owners of an iconic West Hampstead nightclub that once hosted Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Led Zeppelin, had a rare reunion last week, more than 50 years after the now derelict venue first opened its doors.
To its home above the Railway pub in West End Lane, Klooks Kleek drew crowds from all over London in the 1960s and was famous for booking live acts that went on to become global icons.
Back when local boys Geoff Williams and Dick Jordan opened the club, rent was just £5 a night and a bottle of whisky was all they needed to keep the police off their back when the neighbours complained.
Those were also the days when Stevie Wonder toured under the name Little Stevie and Elton John was a 20-year-old keyboardist called Reg Dwight.
Some 50 years later, the pair, who met in primary school in St John’s Wood, returned to the pub to take a trip down memory lane and make merry with 1960s R&B star Zoot Money, who first found his singing voice at the club.
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“As I was driving up here, all the horrendous things came back to me,” joked Zoot. “I thought, I wonder what it’s going to be like now. The windows are all blacked out now and the bar has moved.
“But I’m glad they’re holding on to the pub [below]. It represents what a railway hotel and pub used to be … but it will probably be gone soon as well.”
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Zoot Money was most famous for playing the Hammond organ with his Big Roll Band, and he was a prominent force in the Soho music scene of the 1960s.
But his attachment to the club in West Hampstead was strong – he even recorded an album at a makeshift studio in the venue.
Mr Williams and Mr Jordan shared duties at the popular club, with the former in charge of the admin and the latter working on the bookings.
Together they were known as the “honest club proprieters”, despite the heady mix of blues and rock‘n’roll that drifted out of the window each night.
“The drummer from The Cream, Ginger Baker, he said to me one day, ‘You really are decent guys, you two’, which is quite a thing coming from musicians who learn to be cynical,” explained Mr Williams.
“We didn’t pay very much because of the size that we were, but we got good bands.”
Returning to the neighbourhood has been bittersweet for both men, who moved out of London long ago but whose rock‘n’roll legacy lives on, as their club gave rise to some of the biggest musical talents of the last century.
“It’s very strange,” said Mr Jordan. “There’s not much left. Funny thing is, today we were outside, looking at the building across the road that used to be a police station, and this old lady came up to us and said, ‘Are you taking a trip down memory lane?’ and we thought, wow, how do you know?
“Maybe we knew her once. Some things change, but others never do.”