The Flamingo Club in Wardour Street and the fight between Johnny Edgecombe and ‘Lucky’ Gordon

Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames at The Flamingo Club

Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames at The Flamingo Club

It’s not widely known but Georgie Fame was slightly connected to the Profumo affair, the political scandal that led to the resignation of John Profumo the Secretary of State for War in October 1963 and ultimately the fall of the Conservative government, a year later, in 1964.

In 1962 Georgie Fame had started a three year residency at The Flamingo Club – famous for its weekend all-nighters where it stayed open ’til six in the morning on Friday and Saturday nights. It was situated at 33 Wardour Street, a building which also housed the Wag Club during the eighties and nineties, and is now the Irish-theme pub O’Neills.

The police outside The Flamingo in Wardour Street

The police outside The Flamingo in Wardour Street

The Flamingo Club which originally specialised in modern jazz was opened by Rik and John Gunnell in 1959. The club quickly became popular with West Indians and also black American soldiers that were still stationed in quite large numbers just outside London and who had few other places to socialise. Georgie Fame once recalled:

“there were only a handful of hip young white people that used to go to The Flamingo. When I first went there as a punter I was scared. Once I started to play there, it was no problem.”

Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames

Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames

georgie-fame-at-the-flamingo

Fame, who was born Clive Powell but was instructed to change his name as part of Larry Parnes’ stable (he was originally Billy Fury’s pianist), often employed black musicians, one of which was the strikingly named ‘Psycho’ Gordon – a Jamaican who come to the UK in the late 1940s.

Psycho Gordon often brought to The Flamingo Club his brother ‘Lucky Gordon’ a part-time jazz singer and drug dealer. Lucky had also been a boyfriend of the infamous Christine Keeler and it was at one of the hot and sweaty ‘all-nighter’ Flamingo sessions in October 1962 when Gordon bumped into another of Keeler’s black lovers – Johnny Edgecombe.

Gordon and Edgecombe started arguing and it soon developed into a vicious knife fight. The fracas ended with Edgecombe badly slicing the face of, this time a rather unlucky, ‘Lucky’ Gordon. No one knew, least of all the two protagonists, but the fight started a slow-burning fuse that eventually caused the explosion that became the most infamous political scandal of the twentieth century.

Aloysius 'Lucky' Gordon the sometime lover of Christine Keeler

Aloysius 'Lucky' Gordon the sometime lover of Christine Keeler

Gordon was treated for his wound at a local hospital but a few days later in a fit of jealousy, and rather unpleasantly, he posted the seventeen used stitches to Keeler and warned her that for each stitch he had sent she would also get two on her face in return.

Meanwhile a scared Edgecombe, along with Keeler, went into hiding from the police. Keeler even bought a Luger pistol in a bid to protect herself from the dangerous and still threatening Gordon.

On December 14th 1962 Keeler finished with Edgecombe, after finding him with another lover, saying that she would testify that it was he who had attacked Lucky Gordon at The Flamingo two months previously.

Keeler went to visit her friend Mandy Rice-Davies at Stephen Ward’s flat in Wimpole Mews with Johnny Edgecombe following her there in a taxi. When Keeler refused to speak to him he angrily shot seven bullets at the door of the flat. Frightened, the girls called Ward at his surgery and he in turn called the police who soon came and arrested Edgecombe.

Johnny Edgecombe

Lucky Gordon and Johnny Edgecombe

Before Edgecombe’s trial, Keeler was whisked off to Spain, one assumes because somebody, somewhere, thought various people would be badly compromised if she was allowed to talk in the witness box. Conspicuous by Keeler’s absence Edgecombe was found not guilty, both for assaulting Lucky Gordon and the attempted murder of Keeler. He was, however, found guilty of possession of an illegal firearm, for which he got seven years and served five.

Christine Keeler in Spain

Christine Keeler in Spain

keeler-sunbathing-in-spain

On April 1st 1963 Christine was fined for her non-appearance at court and Lucky Gordon was bundled away by the Metropolitan police, shouting “I love that girl!” Not long after Keeler bumped into Gordon back at The Flamingo Club and again he had to be dragged away from her by other West Indian friends of hers.

The police struggling with Lucky Gordon 1st April 1963

The police struggling with Lucky Gordon 1st April 1963

In June 1963 Gordon was given a three year prison sentence for supposedly assaulting Keeler and in the same month Stephen Ward was arrested for living off Christine’s immoral earnings.

By now the whole story involving Profumo and the Russian attache/spy Ivananov was emerging, drip by drip. The chain of events that started with the fight of Keeler’s jealous ex-lovers at The Flamingo Club eventually caused the infamous resignation of the Secretary of State for War John Profumo, the suicide of high society’s favourite pimp, portrait painter and osteopath Stephen Ward, and ultimately, it could be said, the fall of the Conservative government.

Christine Keeler outside the Old Bailey 1st April 1963

Christine Keeler outside the Old Bailey 1st April 1963

Christine Keeler with friend 25th April 1963

Christine Keeler with friend 25th April 1963

Stephen Ward unconscious after his suicide attempt. He died a few days later.

Stephen Ward unconscious after his suicide attempt. He died a few days later.

In December 1963, after a drunken tape-recorded confession that she had lied about Gordon assaulting her, Keeler pleaded guilty of perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice at Lucky Gordon’s trial. Her barrister had pleaded to the judge before sentencing:

“Ward is dead, Profumo is disgraced. And now I know your lordship will resist the temptation to take what I might call society’s pound of flesh.”

It was to no avail and Christine Keeler was sentenced to nine months in jail which ended what her barrister termed, a little prematurely:

“the last chapter in this long saga that has been called the Keeler affair.”

Lucky Gordon after his release from prison

Lucky Gordon after his release from prison

Christine Keeler arriving at court, October 1963

Christine Keeler arriving at court, October 1963

29th October 1963

29th October 1963

Just before Christine Keeler’s trial Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames recorded a live album entitled Rhythm and Blues at “The Flamingo” and it was released in early 1964. The following year Fame had a number one hit with his version of ‘Yeh Yeh’.

After the publicised trouble at The Flamingo, American service men were banned from visiting the club. However, drawn by the weekend all-nighters and the music policy of black American R ‘n’ B and jazz, The Flamingo Club was already becoming the favourite hang-out for London’s newest teenager cult, the Mods. But that’s a different story…

rhythm-and-blues-at-the-flamingo

outside-the-flamingo

"What if I sit astride the chair? It might just work."

"What if I sit astride the chair? It might just work."

Skatalites – CHRISTINE KEELER

Georgie Fame – Night Train (recorded at The Flamingo)

Derrick Morgan – Fat Man

Derrick and Patsy – Hey Boy Hey Girl

Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland – Turn On Your Lovelight

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles – I Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying

Kim Weston – Looking For The Right Guy

John Lee Hooker – Tupelo

Brenda Holloway – I’ll Always Love You

Marvin Gaye – Pride and Joy

Buy some Georgie Fame stuff here

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81 Responses to “The Flamingo Club in Wardour Street and the fight between Johnny Edgecombe and ‘Lucky’ Gordon”

  1. Meleesa Sullivan says:

    Whatever happened to John Gunnell? I know that Rik Gunnell died a few years back, but haven’t been able to find any information about John.

    The Flamingo was a great club in the early sixties (before it went Mod). I began going to the Sunday afternoon sessions, then the all-nighters. Everyone had a good time, there was rarely any trouble and, yes, you could smell the pot in the air, but no-one got too rowdy. I remember some of the minor celebrities who played there on Sunday afternoons, such as Tony Sheridan and a Welsh group that had a hit record called “The Listz Twist”.

  2. m00k says:

    I used to frequent there, initially around 1956 when it was the Razz every Friday and Petie Rich used to run Sat+Suns. Never any trouble, no pot, just the odd stray slap (and ticle). Off to O’Neils for a pint of Fosters @£5.10 next weekend – long live rock and roll and god save the queen =).

  3. rufus chalmers says:

    i was station,right out side london at the american airbase from 1962 until 1966,and the famous all nighters jazz club was defenitely our home away from home.Goergy fame was the man.the hippest white kid ,that played and sang “our music”.

  4. @ meleesa I worked for the Gunnells in 1966/7 at the agency. Used to hang out with Rik & John frequently… often experiencing some hair-raising events. I too have been trying to find out what John is doing. Last I heard he was looking after Miller Anderson and was living on the south coast. I tried emailing Miller…but got no reply.
    Was sad to hear about Rik’s death…he was larger than life, though could be unpredictable. If you manage to get any leads, please let me know (and I will do the same). CR

  5. In 1963 I use to go to the Famingo all nighters bur all ways fell asleep before 2am usually just as Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames came on stage ..I then open a club in Sheffield ( my 3rd by then ) which i called The Mojo …and started all nighters every Saturday ..I booked all the groups from the Gunnells ..Georgie of course..Long John Baldrey and The Hoochy Coochy Men ( with Rod Stewart as their 2nd singer ) ..Graham Bonds Organasation ..Tony Knight and The Chessmen. ..Chris Farlow and The Thunderbirds ..John Mayal and The Bluesbreakers..and The Ram Jam Band which eventually got Geno Washington as thier lead singer !!….and as the saying goes ..the rest is history !!!!!

  6. Barbara Lodermeier says:

    I also have Georgie Fame’s greatest hits album. And he did a song for the movie “Bonnie & Clyde” with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. Great song. I love rock music, but something about jazz really called to me!

  7. Barbara Lodermeier says:

    I think I was born at the right time, but in the wrong place. I should have lived in London, England. Just got through reading Barry Miles book. Boy, I would have loved hanging out in that bookstore/art gallery (the Indica Bookstore, owned by John Dunbar, Marianne Faithfull’s then husband,and Peter Asher, brother of Jane, and of Peter and Gordon, and Barry Miles). Indica is where John Lennon met Yoko Ono! Those must have been some heady times!

  8. jeffrey kruger says:

    article lovely BUT RICK GUNNEL NEVER DID START THE FLAMINGO NOR DID HE EVER HAVE ANY OWNERSHIP THE FOUNDER AND SOLE OWNER AT ALL TIMES DURING ITS 17 YARS HISTORY OF THE CLUB WAS MYSELF,JEFFREY KRUGER SO PLEASE CORRECT THIS TOTALLY WRONG STATEMENT AND MISCONCEPTION. GUNNEL WAS AT ALL TIMES AN EMPLOYEE OF THE CLUB
    BUT I REPEAT NEVER E4VER AN OWNER IN WHOLE OR INPART

  9. Interested to see Peter Stringfellow’s comment above (who, it has to be noted, went on to greater things). In ’66/’67 I was a booker at Gunnell’s and well remember negotiating contracts with him on five of the seven bands he mentions. He was just as much a character back then, as now.

  10. Peter says:

    The friend pictured with Christine Keeler on 25th April 1963 looks very much like Paula Hamilton-Marshall, at whose flat Keeler stayed during the Profumo furore. Paula was also given a jail term in the Lucky Gordon perjury case.

  11. Fred Elwell says:

    I used to frequent the Flamingo in the fifties. It featured the greatest jazz musicians in the country. The LCC. wouldn’t allow them a drinking licence, so we had to go to the nearest pub for a drink! Great memories of Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Jimmy Skidmore, Benny Green, Joe Harriot, Dizzy Reece, Alan Ganley,
    Tony Kinsey, Bill LeSage and all compered by the cool and smooth
    Tony Hall. Great times.

  12. Mike Burke says:

    I used to go the Flaming by myself when I was only 15. My mum told me not to accept cigarettes from anyone, and I remember turning dow a cig from a newly opened pack of Players!. The highlight of my Flaming nights was when Billie Holiday sang there. An unforgettable night!

  13. Mike Burke says:

    I used to go the Flaming by myself when I was only 15. My mum told me not to accept cigarettes from anyone, and I remember turning dow a cig from a newly opened pack of Players!. The highlight of my Flamingo nights was when Billie Holiday sang there. An unforgettable night! That was when the Flamingo was in Leicester Square in the basement of the Mapleton Hotel. I think it was run by the Feldman family, Vic Feldman’s parents. Several years before Wardour Street, probably around 1955 or “56. Ronnie Scott, Johnny Dankworth, Tommy Whittle, Harry Klein and Vic Ash all were regular players…

  14. Graham Lentz says:

    Fascinating to read the comments that have been posted.
    I’m currently doing some research for a book and I would like to hear from anyone who went to The Flamingo during it’s 25 year run.
    Very interested in hearing more from Mr Richardson, Mr Chalmers and Meleesa Sullivan.
    Anymore ladies out there who would like to recount their experience of The Flamingo or mod? Please submit a comment if you’re interested.
    Many thanks

  15. Graham Lents says:

    I can tell you things you might not have heard , I was the bass player with the welsh band little tony and the twisters .

  16. Richardson girl says:

    Anyone remember Jamaican (light skin) coloured ‘Miguel Santos’ and Yvonne? Yvonne used to worked as a photographer at that time and took photo’s of Tubby Hayes a view times. It would be interesting to find some old friends of her as she later mved back to the Continent. Miguel (God rest his soul) was a ‘this and that man’. You know what i mean. They’re my parents but very much interested in the stories by others here online. Love the old photo’s and the comments. Wish i could’ve been there! XX

  17. monique campbell says:

    hello, i was wondering if anyone could help me.
    my partner is george gunnell rik and johnny (managers of the flamingo) gunnells nephew/grandson, i am trying to put together a sort of scrap book of his family history and obviously the flamingo is a very interesting part of it, however there is not much in the way of pictures or memorabilia available on line and due to bereavement/family disputes there are not many places to turn to for information. if anyone could help me with pictures or posters etc please email me: m.k.c.90@hotmail.co.uk
    thank you!

  18. CeeJay says:

    I was @ Cambridge ,63/65 & , with like minded mates, used to catch train to London- have a few beers & fall by Flamingo (Graham Bond: Zoot Money: Geno etc etc) . Caught train back @ ungodly hour & climb into college (gates locked @ Midnight). Happy days. Also frequented Stringfellow’s Mojo Club in Sheffield + Esquire. I may be old now but I got to see all the cool bands!

  19. @graham lentz Happy to chat further. Contact me through my blog:
    http://www.colinrichardsonjazz.typepad.com (Hope that’s ok with the site admin)

  20. pete gage says:

    I’m not the Pete Gage from Geno Washington’s Ran Jam Band. But I AM the Pete Gage from the Jet Harris Band and later, Dr Feelgood. Christine Keeler was finished by the time I started going up the West End in December 1963. (I was brought up in Chelsea). I used to attend the “all-nighters at the Flamingo in 1964 and 65, specifically to sit in front of the stage in the 3 or 4 rows of seats and watch and listen to Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds, Zoot Money and the Big Roll Band, and Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames, and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. I was totally absorbed by the atmosphere (I was 18/19 years old), and the unique sound that these bands created. I was also round the Scene Club every weekend, and I would flit between the 2 clubs all through the night. I also used to go to a cellar club, a few yards up Gerrard Street (from Wardour Street) on the left, about 5 or 6 in the morning for more music. It was always packed out. Can’t remember the name of this last place. Needless to say totally blocked on purple hearts. Those days etched in my memory. Moved on to the likes of Blaises, Scotch of St James by 66, then joined Jet Harris in ’67.

  21. frank says:

    To ALAN KEMP I know where your friend is. Please contact me thankyou.

  22. Barb Lodermeier says:

    Just got finished watching “Scandal” with Joanne Whalley and Bridget Fonda. Although I was 13 in 63 when the whole thing broke loose, I was on the edge of my seat, reading anything I could get my hands on about the scandal. Where are Mandy Rice Davies and Christine Keeler today?

  23. m00k says:

    Nice to see this ‘thread’ rejuvé. @Barb Lodermeier check the Daily Mail for pix. Keep diggin’ y’all ;) x

  24. Going back to earlier posts re the photo outside the Flam. and clarify who’s who. The guy second from left (dark jacket/white trousers) is Clive Burrows (baritone sax in the Big Roll Band) who had just turned pro to join Zoot. The guy right at the back (cig in mouth) is Paul Williams (vocalist with the BRB). They were very popular in the clubs and colleges…especially Klook’s Kleek, in West Hampstead, where they recorded a live album (highly sought after collectable LP now). The Gunnell Brothers also ran a few other clubs around town..the Bag o’ Nails in Kingly St…Fat City (which opened and closed very quickly for some reason) and the Ram Jam in Brixton. They also occasionally put on ‘one-off’ concerts in London. They were great boxing fans and often took a whole table at charity fund-raisers held at the Hilton or Dorchester hotel, with a selection of friends/contacts/emplyees (me included), where copious amounts of food and alcohol were consumed, followed by cigars and a bit of wagering on the fights. The good times certainly rolled back then. Fond memories.

  25. Clinton Bell says:

    Hello everyone.
    My parents used to go to The Flamingo and The 2 Is just before I was born, so they’re a part of my family history.
    I’m now involved in making a film about the Two Puddings in Stratford, which was also big at that time. I’m wondering if any of you also went there and, if so, do you have any memories you’d like to share?

  26. Ken McColm says:

    in the mid fifties my girl friend Jill, now my wife [still] went from Reading to many sessions of the jazz couriers at the Flamingo, little knowing that not too many years later I would be playing there myself on tenor sax for the UK Amboy Dukes, managed by the Gunnel’s

  27. Jonathan Goslan says:

    I met Lucky Gordon in 2010 with my wife and baby in the queue at TK Maxx in Hammersmith. He told us who he was, showed us his passport, admired our baby and went in to some detail about all the stuff that happened. I must say he seemed a jolly nice chap!

  28. H says:

    I had the bar and cloakroom at the The Discotheque and spent my youth there from 1959 to 1963. Went down hill after that. Sonny Boy Williamson etc etc

  29. Bob Cabral says:

    I was in the US Air Force 1962-1965 and stationed in Saffron Walden and then Ipswich (RAF Bentwaters). My buddies and I spent a lot of time in London, especially the Flamingo. I am in the process of gathering information about the “renaissance” of rock in England 1962-1965 for a book. The more I did, the more I see, and the more I am able to relive those moments long ago. If anyone out there is doing something similar, let me know.

  30. @bob I was ‘in the thick of it’ (see earlier posts) from ’64 until late ’70s. Happy to chat about those days if you want.
    Btw Do you remember the Billy Woods Band? They were an R&B outfit that regularly played the US bases. CR

  31. Norman says:

    Saw lucky today still walking living alone with the members of the past.

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