While many may mourn the lack of a live music scene in Hereford, there was a time, from the mid sixties through to the seventies, when revelers were spoiled for choice.
Famously, the 1963 appearance of the Rolling Stones at the Hillside Ballroom on Ross Road in Hereford, also known as the Redhill Hostel, has become part of local legend. Slightly further afield, Park hall in Wormelow, while a rather smarter venue, attracted people from miles around for live music and dancing.
But who among you remembers the jazz club at the Racehorse pub in Widemarsh Street? Elsewhere may have been all counter culture, tuning in and dropping out and wearing flowers in your hair, but in the mid sixties this club was THE place to be in Hereford.
Among the jazz lovers would have been Derek Evans, a jazz fan par excellence. With his friend and former Hereford Times artist, Peter Manders, Derek would follow the jazz trail, from Brecon, to Hereford, Ronnie Scotts and onto jazz festivals in the south of France, photographing some of the jazz greats.
Founder of the club, with her future husband, Ed, was Lady Jan Falkiner, then a fresh-faced and confident young woman of just 17. Huge jazz fans, they decided to open a club.
She did some promotional photographs for the club, taken by Derek Evans.
Lady Jan said: “He would be there with another of his protégés, Mike Charity.”
“I seem to remember the club ran once a week, on one of the market days, and ran for around ten years.
“The club took over the skittle alley of the pub and we had live music every week. It was very loud, very crowded and extremely smoky.
“I was in the cloak room, taking jackets and coats. If you were anyone in Hereford, then you would be seen at the club.
“Everyone would dress up – it was a glamorous place to be and we all had enormous fun.”
It wasn’t liked by everyone, however. A review by Felix Watkins of the Hereford Times described it as thus: ‘It is like a hydrogen bomb going off.’
No pre-recorded music here – live music was a pre-requisite.
Lady Jan’s husband played saxaphone when he could on the small stage and the Perdido Street Jazzmen played every week. The line-up would consist of those listed but could vary as any musician could come along and sit in, including some well-known local names.
Terry Court, better know for his prowess as an auctioneer, would often step up to the drums for the odd set, and Peter Hill, former Chairman of Hereford Utd, was also known to lead from the front and sing.
George Cooper of the Hat Band was a local Hereford Vet, the name so chosen because they wore and changed hats to suit the mood of each song.
Another was Jeff Nuttall of the Easy Rider Jazz Band. A lecturer at Hereford Art College he was later pipped for the post of Poet Laureate by Ted Hughes.
The club closed its door for the last time in the mid 1970s. “It was time and we were all moving on with our lives,” said Lady Jan, who moved to London with her family.
This short episode in Hereford’s music scene has all but been forgotten. If anyone can add or illuminate some more, I should be delighted to hear from you.
By Marsha O'Mahony