The History of the Flamingo Club

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It might be known as London’s original all-nighter, but there’s much more to The Flamingo Club than its late 6 am weekend close and sophisticated Jazz suppers. Founded by businessman Jeffrey S. Kruger, it first opened in 1952 in the Mapleton Hotel’s basement before switching in 1957 to the now-famous Wardour Street location in Soho. Synonymous with the birth of the Mod movement, the Flamingo Club is steeped in musical and cultural history.

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Flamingo Club culture

The Flamingo Club became the leading venue for British modern jazz in the fifties, followed by blues in the Sixties. It played host to top American musicians like Billie Holiday and Georgie Flame, as well as lauded British jazz musician Tubby Hayes. This was despite a constant battle with the Musicians’ Union, over its ban on foreign jazz musicians playing in the UK which dated from 1932. Its crowd was varied; from American GIs to young mods. A jazz musician would play the early sessions to attract the mods, while proto-soul and jazz-tinged rhythm and blues played from around 11 when the crowd changed into something more diverse.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by DEZO HOFFMANN / Rex Features ( 11194a ) GEORGIE FAME AND THE BLUE FLAMES - 1965 VARIOUS
GEORGIE FAME AND THE BLUE FLAMES – 1965

Swinging 60’s

During the Sixties, the Flamingo dropped their jazz-only policy, and the club soon became home to Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Zoot Money and Chris Farlowe to name a few. Due to the club’s famous 6 am close on a Friday and Saturday, musicians like Alexis Korner could play at the club after playing elsewhere. The late-night hours even meant former model and showgirl Christine Keeler would often finish a performance at 3 am, before visiting The Flamingo for the next three hours.

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As well as the mods, the club also drew London’s less than savoury underworld. In 1963 a notorious fight took place between two of Christine Keeler’s lovers at the club, which ultimately lit the fuse that eventually exposed the vast political scandal now dubbed the ‘Profumo Affair’.

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In 1962, music promoter Rik Gunnell hosted the club’s famous all-nighters which attracted a multiracial crowd. Moving away from its refined jazz roots, the club became a hub of ska and R&B with icons like Jimi Hendrix and several well-known chart-topping acts of the Sixties performing. It was this music scene, as well as the fully-amplified sound system, which became a huge draw for Caribbean community. The mods were also enthused with this Caribbean culture, welcoming singer Jackie Edwards and Jamaican singer-songwriter Princ
e Buster into the mod sub-culture. Once the scene so prevalent in clubs like The Flamingo appeared on TV, a new wave of mods was created.

 

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Club’s mod-subculture

With money to spend, the mods bought slim-fit Italian suits and spent it in jazz clubs like the Flamingo. Box-like jackets, tailor-made narrow trousers, whip-cord slacks and mohair suits became just as synonymous with mods as their signature Vespa or Lambretta scooter. Chelsea boots, Derby shoes and brogues became the footwear of choice. The mod-inspired leather Arbor shoe from our 365 Collection is punctuated with brogue detailing and upgraded with plenty of technical features, while the wingtip accent and piped topline on the Whitman style makes it another mod-worthy option. The movement embraced not only the idea of being a gentleman but also tailoring, creating a signature look that remains as relevant and stylish today as it was in the Sixties.
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