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April 02, 2022
My home studio is in the leafy London suburb of Ealing in west London.
As I'm an artist who specialises in portraits of performers, particularly musician art, I'm fortunate that I live in a city where the British electric blues movement grew up in the club scene of the early to mid-1960s.
The Who at The Ealing Club 1965 pencil on paper by Stella Tooth NFS
Not only that, I live a mere 20 walk away from where Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies started the Ealing Blues Club, Britain’s first rhythm and blues club dubbed, “the cradle of British rock”, on 17 March, 1962.
Devoted to "electric blues music", it began a musical revolution that would influence other Jazz venues including west London's Twickenham's Eel Pie Island and Richmond's Crawdaddy Club - key in the careers of the Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Who, Cream and those who recreated the sound of American Blues guitarists.
The Pretty Things mixed media on paper by Stella Tooth SOLD
Meanwhile in Hanwell, Jim Marshall 'The Father of Loud' set up Marshall Amplification. And, by the end of 1962, The Beatles from Liverpool launched their Mersey-beat sound to audiences around the country.
The following year south-west London's the Half Moon Putney, where I'm Resident Artist began hosting live music and has continued to do so every night since. It all started for the legendary music venue with folk and blues sessions under the 'Folksville' banner which featured new British and European artists alongside established American blues-men.
Mungo Jerry at the Half Moon Putney pencil on cradled gesso panel NFS
Sadly, back in 1962, when it all kicked off, I was just three years old but I had a sister, Lorna, 12 years older than me for whom the 60s was her heyday.
So I watched her try out all the new dance moves with her dressing gown attached to a hook on the back of her bedroom door. And, from 1963, I lay on the floor at her side, head cupped in hands, every Friday night watching the rock/pop tv show 'Ready Steady Go!', which had line that thrilled millions of music lovers "the weekend starts here".
Albert Lee at the Half Moon Putney mixed media on paper £395
Early shows, my sister tells me, were presented by Dusty Springfield, who went on to rank among the most successful female artists on both sides of the Atlantic. There's a green plaque from The Ealing Civil Society just a five minute walk from my home studio in Northfields, Ealing, which says that Dusty Springfield went to school at St Anne's Convent School on the site of a new academy in the early 1950s!
Ready, Steady, Go! was the highlight of our viewing week with The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Animals, The Yardbirds et al - a veritable who's who of British R&B.
The Animals and friends at the Half Moon Putney mixed media on paper £255
So, it's a joy now that the The Ealing Club Community Interest Company (The Ealing Club C.I.C.), which owns no venue, has set up Rock’s Diamond Year 2022 Festival to celebrate the worldwide music form: rhythm and blues.
Chris Jagger, Mick's brother, mixed media on paper £245
The Ealing Club, which aims to inspire opportunities for new music and define west London's musical contribution, kicked off the festival last month at The Musical Museum in Brentford with a showing of feature-film documentary ‘Suburban Steps to Rockland: the story of The Ealing Club’. To learn more, and to purchase a DVD, click here.
Chris Jagger, Mick's brother, who I caught playing at The Brentham Club in Ealing a few years ago, helped celebrate this special anniversary year with a performance highlighting tracks from his recent 'Mixing Up The Medicine' album.
To keep up with Rock's Diamond Year events, you can sign up here to The Ealing Club's newsletter.
The launch was accompanied by the British Blues Exhibition to which I've donated a digital portrait of Don Craine of British blues groundbreakers Downliners Sect. The exhibition runs until the middle of May. Free entry. For information and opening hours call The Musical Museum.
Don Craine Downliners Sect performing at the Eel Pie Club album cover size digital painting by Stella Tooth £199
It's a fascinating show dedicated to Don, Alan Pearce, the Editor in Chief of Blues Matters! and The Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts who all died recently.
Darren Weale of the British Blues Exhibition currently at The Musical Museum in Brentford.
For those unable to visit, here's a look behind the scenes at some of the other great exhibits like Chris Barber's trombone...
Chris Barber was an English jazz musician, bandleader and trombonist who, according to Wikipedia, helped the careers of many musicians including Lonnie Donegan whose appearances with Barber sparked the mid-50s skiffle craze. He provided an audience for Donegan and, later, Alexis Korner, sponsoring African-American blues musicians to visit Britain, inspiration for 60s R&B.
Chris Barber's trombone at the British Blues Exhibition at The Musician Museum in Brentford
One of my favourite exhibits, donated by Robert Hokum, co director of The Ealing Club and founder of The Ealing Blues Festival, is his 1964 Futurama Bass De-Luxe - an aspirational guitar - like that famously played by a young George Harrison.
Robert Hokum's Futurama guitar.
Robert Hokum mixed media on paper playing the Red Lion Brentford. £230
The exhibition also features 'King of Skiffle' Lonnie Donegan memorabilia.
Lonnie Donegan exhibits at the British Blues Exhibition.
Donegan, who lived in Brentford Dock at one time, synthesised American Southern Blues with simple acoustic instruments like the acoustic guitar, washtub bass and washboard rhythm in 'Skiffle', a reference to music from people with little money for instruments. The new style captivated a generation of post-war youth and fellow musicians in England.
I caught his son, Peter, at the Half Moon Putney a while back. His voice is reminiscent of his dad's but his chosen music form is country, which has themes comment to the blues of love and loss, betrayal and vindication.
Peter Donegan playing at the Half Moon Putney mixed media on paper. £195
Last year I reported for Ealing Nub News on the reopening of the Eel Pie Island Museum. To read the article and discover more about those heady times for British blues, click here.
Geno Washington performing at the Half Moon Putney, mixed media on paper a regular too at the Eel Pie Club. £230
In addition to portraying blues greats, I also have the joy of being able to capture the next generation of bluesmen at the Half Moon Putney like Aynsley Lister. My aim is always to try to look behind the performing mask so have pictured him here both tuning up on stage and lost in the music.
Aynsley Lister at the Half Moon Putney mixed media on paper £295
Many musicians sadly lost their income during lockdown, yet they continued to entertain us. This is an oil painting of bluesman Marky Dawson who performed on Social Media Fest took a turn on the Wurlitzer at The Musicial Museum for the festival launch.
Marky Dawson in lockdown oil on canvas £310
I also have respect for those who play tribute to the blues. They have not only to convincingly reproduce the sound, but often the look and the gesture. One of most fun tributes I've caught is The Rawhides at The Hideaway in Streatham.
The Rawhides at The Hideaway Streatham. Mixed media on paper £320.
And, although British electric blues has a special place in my heart, I love all types of blues from bluegrass as played by Police Dog Hogan with its acoustic strings instruments emphasising the off-beat, rather than laid back blues where the notes are behind the beat...
Police Dog Hogan's Shahen Galichian mixed media on paper. £450
...to Americana as played by Los Pacaminos with Paul Young who play a hybrid music of Texan blues and R&B with the musical heritage of the Mexican immigrants coming into play.
Los Pacaminos with Paul Young at the Half Moon Putney acrylic on canvas £420
To discover other Skylark Galleries artists whose art - on occasion - encompasses music, read on:
Paulie X currently has a mixed media portrait of blues musician Prince for sale. £750.
Linda Samson (see link) sometimes portrays musicians like this flute player (now sold).
Smita Sonthalia has painted this stunning portrait of The Divine Charmer Krishna £400
Helen Trevisiol Duff has created portraits of high profile musicians in the past on commission.
Zsuzsanna Pataki has created a number of beautiful portrait commissions of children pictured with the instruments they play. Click here to visit her commissions page.
April 10, 2022
Loved reading this article and seeing these musician artworks. What a fantastic and fascinating tribute to the scene, thank you!
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