On 17th March, the Hare and Hounds in Worthing will celebrate 20 years of putting on weekly live jazz, with a concert featuring saxophonist Bobby Wellins, who first performed there 20 years ago when the Tuesday night sessions first started.
Bassist Godfrey Sheppard is a regular, both on and off the bandstand and recalls the beginning of the Tuesday night sessions: “Jeff Daley and John Greenwood were the ones who set it up. We did a couple of pilot gigs in 1994 just to see what it was like. That was with Jeff Daley, John Greenwood, myself and Jed Armstrong. Eventually it started up full-time in March 1995. Jeff Daley knew some people from London, pianists and bass players that he brought down. Then John Greenwood took over and did it for a few years up until about 2000. He did a very good job.”
“I took over the booking in 2000 and did it until about 2005. And then Mike Andrews took over, then another chap from Eastbourne did it for a while, then I did it again for a while but I asked Alex Eberhard to help out. Alex and myself do the bookings between us and John Gander organises it and does the publicity.”
Organiser John Gander is often seen resplendent in waistcoat and bow tie selling raffle tickets and making announcements.
Godfrey Sheppard believes that the secret to its enduring appeal is down to the variety: “It’s kept going and I think that’s mainly due to varying the personnel. When I did it the Musicians Union used to sponsor it as well and they did put quite a lot of money into it. But now they’re not interested. But Tony Hills, who started it, put a lot of money into it. He often used to pay bands with his own money. He was very, very generous. And that’s how we got some of the ‘name players’ to come down.”
“Bobby Wellins was one of the first chaps to be involved. He did the first gig here with John Greenwood. There was no pianist but the drummer, I believe, was Chris Dagley There were lots of other great players who played here, such as bassist Paul Morgan, Don Weller, vocalist Lee Gibson, Don Rendell and many others.”
“I’ve only been involved here for about 6 years now, since this landlord took over. The guy who organised it, Mike Andrews, decided that he didn’t want to do it anymore. This landlord got me involved and asked if I would help with it so I said ‘why not?’. I don’t book the musicians, as it happens. That’s done between Alex Eberhard and Godfrey Shepherd. Godfrey, like me, grew up in the 1960s. That’s where I got my first interest in jazz. I was in the RAF stationed at Tangmere. There was a big jazz club every Tuesday night at the Bull’s Head in Fishbourne, the other side of Chichester. They had a big old barn at the side of the pub. You used to get the likes of Tubby Hayes and those kinds of wonderful guys come in. And I was only 19 years of age then, when I first came across Tubby and he was always stoned or smashed or both. And some of the things he used to come out with! It was the first time that I’d ever heard the word ‘motherfucker’ – he said it on stage one night.”
“But that’s where I got my interest in jazz from, originally, and then I lost interest for a while over the years and then came back to Worthing after I’d been roving around the world, and I started getting involved in the jazz here. I’ve managed to keep it going so far. I act as MC on the night, do all the programmes myself and let everyone know about it.”
“Over the years we’ve had some fantastic musicians come in through these doors, from all over the world. Musicians from Australia, even. Danny Moss Jr. comes in occasionally, he used to live in Worthing. We’ve had various people from Europe and from the States, especially. We always get an email from people saying that they’re on tour and can they come and play here. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. A small place like this is very reliant on bar takings, although we do have a raffle at half-time which helps to raise a bit more and goes towards the costs. But you've got to take quite a bit of money on the night, across the bar to be able to pay a substantial amount of money to the musicians. It’s a bit of a shame really. The future of jazz, as far as the musicians is concerned is secure – there are lots of very, very talented, very young musicians coming along. There’s a young kid in Brighton who is only about 18 or 19 years of age – Dave Drake – a phenomenal player. And there are a couple of other youngsters about as well. So the future of jazz, from a musicians point of view, is safe; it’s from the audience’s point of view that’s the problem. You’ve got to find a way of enticing youngsters to come along and listen to the music.”
“Jazz has evolved over the years into different things, so maybe that’s the secret – it needs to evolve again and do something to introduce youngsters. Maybe it needs to fuse with something else in order to introduce new audiences. Of course, the other problem is that once you get them in, you’ve got to get them to spend, which is a different matter altogether. Jazz audiences are notoriously hard.”
“In the 6 years that I’ve been doing it we get people like Andy Urquhart tonight, Ian Price when he was alive, was just amazing. I was a great fan of his. I tried to persuade him to move up to London and work up there because I thought he was so talented that it would be worth it. He could have made his name up there quite easily but he chose not to, for whatever reason.”
“We try and use a few local musicians and intersperse it with a few from outside the area. Simon Spillett is a regular visitor down here, so is Bobby Wellins and Alan Barnes. We get visitors from all over. I do find that vocalists aren’t that well received, generally. I don’t know what it is but you don’t quite get the audience, you don’t quite get the takings over the bar if there is a vocalist. There are only two that only ever pay their way when they come here. Dave Brown and Heather Cairncross. She always packs this place when she’s here but she doesn’t like doing pubs, I don’t think. But most of the other singers are not really that popular. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because they all tend to do the same American Songbook sort of stuff. It’s a shame because there are some very talented singers around. We get Jo Kimber, Sarah McEwan from Chichester way, Sarah Pritchard from Hayling Island. Of course the one that I really love is from Brighton, Sara Oschlag. She’s a terrific singer.”
“I think we’re very lucky, along this South Coast area and Sussex, with some of the talent we have. I think, though, unfortunately you get clubs like this…and the audience kind of get used to having the same musicians around. And they don’t appreciate how good and how talented they are, which is a shame. I think they need reminding every now and again, just how good some of these people really are. And how lucky we are to have such talent around. Because without it we’d have to sit at home on our own on a Tuesday night!”
The Hare and Hounds in Worthing has live jazz every Tuesday evening, from 8:30pm.
Photo by Rachel Zhang.
Interview conducted by Charlie Anderson. This article first appeared in the March 2015 issue of The Sussex Jazz Magazine, available here.