No. 83–85 Wardour Street: The Round House. From at least 1756 until 1862, this public house at the south corner of Brewer and Wardour Streets was known as the Blue Cross; in the latter years the name was changed to the Round House, possibly in reference to the rounded north-east corner of the building. The present building was erected in 1892; the corner still forms a rounded angle. Taken from: ‘Brewer Street and Great Pulteney Street Area’, Survey of London: volumes 31 and 32: St James Westminster, Part 2 (1963), pp. 116-137.
The Round House was renamed The O-Bar around 1990 and following a £1 million refurbishment it became the Soho Residence in 2019.
Cyril Davies and Bob Watson set up the London Skiffle and Blues Club in September, 1955, in a first floor room at the Round House pub at the corner of Wardour Street and Brewer Street. They had been playing in a small acoustic group during the interval in performances by Steve Lane’s Southern Stompers traditional jazz band in the Fox and Goose in Ealing. Cyril moved from banjo to 12 string guitar during this time. It was one of the first skiffle/blues clubs.
Later Cyril and Alexis Korner changed the club’s name to the London Blues and Barrelhouse Club. It ran until 1961.
The move to more blues music initially led to the loss of most of the skiffle fans but after a slow start the audiences in the new club grew steadily. It quickly became a focal point for the increasing numbers of blues enthusiasts who were able to see Cyril and Alexis Korner performing with UK and visiting American blues and folk performers such as Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Slim, Little Brother Montgomery, Jack Dupree, Speckled Red, Derroll Adams and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.
The regular local performers were pianists, Keith Scott and Dave Stevens, guitarist, Geoff Bradford, Lisa Turner, banjo, and washboard player, Mike Collins. Visitors to the club included the McEwan brothers, Long John Baldry, Davy Graham and Ralph McTell.
You can hear Keith Scott and the club organiser, Pete Dyer, discussing and playing some piano blues in this informal reunion in 2014.
The BBC reported live from the club during a broadcast for the London regional programme Town and Country, recorded on the 15th Feb, 1960. Keith Scott taped the program from his radio. You can listen to the full 5 min recording and read a transcription of the broadcast by clicking here, or get a feel for what the club was like from viewing a short 2 mins audio/image video.
Cyril and Alexis moved from the acoustic blues that they played and recorded in The Round House and Cyril moved to amplified harmonica similar to that played in Muddy Waters band by Little Walter and James Cotton. They started playing electric blues and within a year they formed their pioneering band “Blues Inc” and were playing weekly sessions at the new Ealing Blues Club at Ealing Broadway (March 1962). They were joined on stage by young art students like Mick Jagger, Eric Burdon, Paul Jones, Long John Baldry… and the UK R&B music revolution was underway.
There were also a regular monthly folk nights at The Round House, run by Bob Davenport, Curly and Pete Dyer which continued after Cyril and Alexis left the club in 1962. Paul Simon appeared there in January,1965.
Long John Baldry revisited the pub and was interviewed there for the 2007 TV documentary on his life, In The Shadow of the Blues, just before his death.
If you are interested in the beginnings and birth of the 1960s British R&B Blues boom there is much more information on the Cyril Davies website.
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