The Crawdaddy Club, a historic music venue nestled in Richmond, Surrey, England, opened its doors to music enthusiasts in 1963. During its early days, it had the privilege of hosting legendary acts like The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds, along with several other notable British blues and rhythm and blues performers.

The Origins of the Crawdaddy Club

The fascinating story of the Crawdaddy Club began with Giorgio Gomelsky, a Georgian émigré who, by day, worked as an assistant film editor and, by night, donned the hat of a music promoter. Gomelsky’s journey in the music scene started in jazz before he established the Piccadilly Club, a blues haven in central London. However, when the Piccadilly Club closed its doors in early 1963, Gomelsky found himself in need of a new venue. Fortunately, he had a connection with the landlord of the Station Hotel in suburban Richmond. He took over the seldom-used back room, which had seen its jazz sessions dwindle.

The club drew its name from the 1960 Bo Diddley song “Doing the Craw-Daddy,” a track that The Rolling Stones frequently included in their sets. In an interesting twist of fate, the club would later inspire the name of the renowned American music magazine “Crawdaddy!”

Gomelsky’s inaugural house band was the Dave Hunt Rhythm & Blues Band, known from the Piccadilly. On occasion, they featured a young drummer named Charlie Watts, and for a brief six-week period in January–February 1963, their guitarist was none other than Ray Davies, who would go on to form The Kinks.

The Rolling Stones’ Connection

The Rolling Stones’ journey at the Crawdaddy Club commenced in February 1963. This came about because the Dave Hunt band was snowed in during the exceptionally cold winter of 1962. Although the Stones had performed their first gig the previous summer, Bill Wyman didn’t officially join the band until December 7, 1962, and Charlie Watts came aboard in January 1963. Therefore, the Crawdaddy Club witnessed the first public performance with the Stones as a complete unit. Interestingly, this debut wasn’t a commercial triumph; Gomelsky had to entice patrons from the main hotel by offering two entries for the price of one ticket.

Within a mere three weeks, word had spread, and the Stones had taken over the residency. By April, they were performing at the Crawdaddy twice a week and also held a weekly slot at Eel Pie Island, just 2 miles (3.2 km) away in Twickenham. Even The Beatles made an appearance on April 14, 1963, before heading to Mick Jagger’s Chelsea flat. The Crawdaddy’s audiences spilled onto the streets, necessitating a move to a larger venue, the Richmond Athletic Ground. During this period, the Stones celebrated their first chart hit, a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On.”

The Legacy Continues

As the Rolling Stones outgrew smaller local venues and embarked on tours, the Crawdaddy Club passed the torch to another prominent R&B group, The Yardbirds, featuring the exceptional Eric Clapton. The club also welcomed other iconic artists, including Led Zeppelin, Long John Baldry, Elton John, and Rod Stewart.

The Crawdaddy Club’s influence extended to The Star public house in Broad Green, Croydon, where they hosted events. The Yardbirds remained the main attraction, while bands from the Richmond Crawdaddy would occasionally join in for jam sessions. American R&B artists, including Sonny Boy Williamson, frequented the club to participate in these memorable jam sessions. Notably, Julie Driscoll embarked on her singing career there and dared to take the stage.

In March 2011, the Crawdaddy Club was resurrected at the Athletic Ground by Mike Rivers and his wife Sylvie. Monthly gigs featured top R&B bands, including The Others, who were the third house band at the original club after The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds.

The Station Hotel has undergone several transformations, including its stints as the Bull & Bush pub and Edwards. Presently, it stands as One Kew Road bar & restaurant. In 2015, Music Heritage London initiated regular live 60s music events at the venue, promoting cover bands from the era. More recently, The Crawdaddy Showcase emerged, providing contemporary singer/songwriters a platform to perform—a fitting tribute to the legacy of the Crawdaddy Club.