One of the earliest jazz clubs in the UK was run by the clarinetist Cy Laurie. Born in London in 1926, Cy was an admirer of New Orleans clarinet player Johnny Dodds and would claim to be the reincarnation of Dodds, even though Dodds was alive while Cy was a teenager.
Cy had previously run a small weekly club at the Seven Stars in Bow, but in the early 1950s he started up the club for which he would become so well known. Cy Laurie's Jazz Club became a focal point for live traditional jazz for most of the decade and was renowned particularly for its all-night raves.
The club was in the basement of 41 Great Windmill Street opposite the Windmill Theatre in London's West End. During the day the space was used as Mac’s Rehearsal Rooms. Many jazz musicians used the rehearsal rooms at that time - if you were living in a flat or a bed-sit, you needed somewhere to practise or rehearse to avoid disturbing the neighbours. There was a nightclub on the ground floor and a boxing gymnasium on the first floor. An obituary for Cy Laurie in the Daily Telegraph newspaper describes the setting as: ‘Dark and intimate, with a dance floor surrounded by dilapidated sofas, these premises held an irresistible bohemian appeal for the young people from the suburbs who flocked to the club’s “all-nite raves"’.
LES COUSINS at 49 Greek Street was one of the most important and influential venues of the folk music boom of the 1960s.
DIANA MATHEOU remembers listening to Donovan and chatting with Cat Stevens.
WHEN LOUKAS and Margaret Matheou took out a lease on the ground and basement floors of 49, Greek Street they were unaware that an iconic club would be born under their care.
The Soho Grill opened in 1960, offering classic French cuisine, and in 1964 a manager was employed to start Les Cousins in the basement. The intention was to follow the trend of other French discotheques springing up in Soho.
The club opened on 30 October 1959 in a basement at 39 Gerrard Street in London's Soho district. It was managed by musicians Ronnie Scott and Pete King. In 1965 it moved to a larger venue nearby at 47 Frith Street. The original venue continued in operation as the "Old Place" until the lease ran out in 1967, and was used for performances by the up-and-coming generation of musicians.