Journalist and manager who helped make the Marquee Club in Soho the epicentre of British rock in the 1960s
Saturday 26 July 2014
Many of the rock musicians who came out of the British Isles in the mid-1960s to conquer the world first achieved notoriety at the Marquee Club, which was then located at 90 Wardour Street in Soho. With its striped canopy, transferred from its original premises in Oxford Street, where the jazz-loving accountant Harold Pendleton had established the club in 1958, the Marquee helped launch the careers of groups like the Moody Blues, The Who and Free as well as performers such as Al Stewart, Elton John and David Bowie.
Club secretary-turned-manager, John Gee was a pivotal part of the team who made the Marquee “the most important venue in the history of pop music,” according to Melody Maker. Like Pendleton, Gee was a jazz buff, but was able to tap into the blues boom and progressive rock genres that dominated the late 1960s.
In particular, he championed groups like Ten Years After, writing the liner notes for their eponymous 1967 debut – “bloody marvellous” – and Jethro Tull, who named the jazz-flavoured instrumental B-side of their second single, “A Song For Jeffrey”, “One For John Gee”.
Born in East London, he was an only child who spent his early teenage years in Berkhamsted, near the RAF base where his father was stationed. He did his National Service in the RAF and retained an officer-like demeanour apparent in his approach to introducing the acts at the Marquee. He worked for the dance bands led by Ambrose and Ted Heath, tour-managing and handling their publicity, and began writing for various publications including Jazz News – which was owned by Harold Pendleton, who brought him to the Marquee. He booked acts and wrote the club’s newsletter as well as the programmes for the National Jazz and Blues Festival, the forerunner of the Reading Festival.
“John Gee loved Frank Sinatra, especially the Sinatra At The Sands album he recorded with the Count Basie Orchestra,” recalled Chris Wright, co-founder of Chrysalis Records. In 1967 he was managing Ten Years After: “He was blown away by their version of ‘Woodchopper’s Ball’, a Woody Herman number. The group went down a storm at the Marquee and soon after John was on the phone offering us a weekly residency, quite an accolade at the time.”
A rather strict and staid figure with a dry sense of humour, Gee insisted that bands should be in their dressing room 15 minutes before they were due on stage, not an easy task since the Marquee didn’t have an alcohol licence until 1970, and musicians tended to linger at La Chasse, the nearby drinking club run by Jack Barrie, who replaced him as manager that year. He took on a new role in the London offices of Radio Luxembourg, staying until the station stopped its English-language transmission in 1992. He spent the last two decades in quiet retirement.
John Gee, club manager, journalist and publicist: born London 27 October 1927; died London 14 June 2014.
- 1 Labour rallies behind Flint as deputy leader to offset a Corbyn win
- 2 Katie Hopkins reveals fear she will die during brain surgery to cure epilepsy
- 3 The difference between a psychopath and a sociopath
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 5 'Cool kids' can go on to become losers in later life, study finds
Katie Hopkins reveals fear she will die during brain surgery to cure epilepsy
Labour rallies behind Flint as deputy leader to offset a Corbyn win
Kim Jong-un is awarded global statesmanship prize by Indonesia
Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
Calais crisis: Migrants that have made it to the UK reveal how Britain has matched their expectations
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality
Calais crisis: For desperate migrants it is 'England or death' as they brave dogs, riot police and speeding trains
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...
£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...