As it name suggests the Railway Hotel was a pub next to a railway station, Harrow and Wealstone, situated in run down part the borough of Harrow, North West London. This very unglamourous setting had been providing a home for blues bands for a couple of years; Cyril Davies (see Roots) had been a regular there at the Tuesday night sessions.
Before this next episode in the Bo Street Runners story the group experienced an identity crisis when it became evident that there was another band operating under the 'Road Runners' name. This Liverpool band seemed to be much further up the road of 'fame' than the London boys; they had already recorded, done a stint in Hamburg and supported the Beatles. So, before it became pistols at dawn, the Road Runner name was dropped and the band was born again as the 'Bo Street Runners'; keeping the 'Runners', and adding a 'Bo', as in Bo Diddley.
In November 1963 the band began their first weekly residency, at the Railway Hotel, on Friday nights in the enigmaticaly named 'Boom Room' ('Boom, Boom' - John Lee Hooker?) Though well supported by friends and a few fans the group had gathered the club was not a great financial success and the promotor pulled the plug on it before the Christmas. However this fairly short period enabled the band to tighten up both musically and in terms lifting up their level as performers.
This short residency proved to be just a trial run for it wasn't long before the return of Bo Street Runners to the smoke filled basement room of the Railway Hotel.
But before this the boys were to experience their first personnel change when bassist, Dick Connor, decided to leave London to live in Denmark. He was quickly replaced by someone who was to remain in the band until its final demise, the Dave 'Gentle Giant' Cameron.
During the Christmas period of 1963 the Band had been booked to play at an end of year celebration for the Wembley branch of the Young Communists League, the Wembley YCL. The event had been a great success for both parties so much so that in the New Year the boys were approached by two of the YCL organisers, Gus Braine and Paul McCloughlan, with the idea of setting up a weekly RnB club. It seemed a sound idea as the YCL, a kind of Marxist youth club, had a core of RnB fans to provide a ready made audience. A deal was agreed that the proceeds would be split evenly, half the door takings for the band and half to swell the coffers of the YCL. The venue was to be The Railway Hotel.
The club was up and running by February 1964 and from the word go the venture was a great success ; the core audience of the party faithfull soon became outnumbered by the scores of suburban 'Mods' for whom R n B had become the music to dig. Sunday evenings saw line upon line of Vespas and Lambrettas jammed into the pub's car park. The sessions, 'the Rhythmn and Blues Club', were run as a membership only club, probably to get around some legal nicety, with a membership card costing 6 old pence and entry 3 shillings and 6 pence.
Within a month the numbers turning up had reached the 200 mark creating an incredibley exciting atmosphere, described here in a piece published in 'Challenge', the YCL monthly
'' ….soon the group announces its arrival with a vigourous tuning-up session, with amplifiers booming, humming and screeching and the electric organ erupting with cascades of chords that vibrate around one's head……………a hypnotised crowd fills the floor in an incredibly short time; Skip-dance, floog and good old fashioned shake are demonstrated to the full……….. ''. Boy, you can really feel the ambience from this piece of period journalism! But what exactly was the 'floog'?
So Winter turned into Spring and following increasing demands from their fans the band's thoughts turned towards recording. As funds were limited, and as they were only playing one original song the disk format decided upon was an EP (Extended Player) with two tracks on each side. See the Bo Street Runners EP page for more about this.
At the beginning of the Summer of 1964 events at the Railway Hotel were to take an unexpected turn when the producers of the influential, trend setting, TV rock show 'Ready Steady Go' launched a competition to find 'the next Beatles'; Ready Steady Win'
Before moving on it's worth noting that during 1964 the Runners were sharing the Railway Hotel with another group of young hopefuls known as the High Numbers who had a mid week residency at the venue. This band, similarly very popular with the Mods was soon to metamorphasise into the megabig rockers, The Who. Legend has it the Pete Townshend's guitar wrecking antics began at the Railway Hotel when he accidetally smashed the head of his instrument on the basement's low ceiling! .
Postscript. By the 1990's the Railway Hotel had fallen into disuse and stood, as a forlorn relic to the past, between the railway line and a busy main road. In 2002 it was burned down by arsonists to be replaced by a block of flats.
Go to the next chapter, Bo Street Runners EP
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hflF6YCsqbs High Numbers/Who performing at the Railway Hotel