Interview with Dave Andrews of Radio Leicester about iconic music venue “Il Rondo”

This is an interview by Dave Andrews of Radio Leicester with me, Shaun Knapp, and Sue Barton about the iconic music venue Il Rondo that is now a store room for an Italian restaurant! It was amazing to see it and realise it was still there virtually unchanged but rather derelict.

The Il Rondo hosted some of the greats of popular music including The Rolling Stones, The Who, Howlin’ Wolf, Fleetwood Mac and a host of others!


4 thoughts on “Interview with Dave Andrews of Radio Leicester about iconic music venue “Il Rondo”

  1. Hi Kenny,

    You may remember I commented on your Rick Grech blog recently. Since then I’ve read some of your other blogs and came across this one. I told you that I found your blog after googling the Il Rondo and it was good to hear this radio interview, so I hope you won’t mind if I add some comments about various gigs which made such an impression at the time that certain images are forever imprinted in my memory. Most artists pre ’67 when I was still only 16 (Yardbirds, Who, Cream etc.) I never saw as my parents thought I was too young to go out to town at night. As ’72 was coming to an end I was already making plans to leave Leicester for the first time.

    As mentioned in the interview Howlin’ Wolf made a big impression and I think was the spark that inspired me to learn blues harp. A giant of a man who jumped off the stage (not that it was that high) and stood in the middle of the crowd singing, blowing and looking (rather menacing) from side to side at the people standing there. I was stood slightly left of centre about 2 or 3 metres from him and that image has stayed with me.

    Then there was Chicken Shack who I saw more than once. One of my favourite blues bands at the time I’ll never forget Stan Webb, again jumping off the stage, walking among the audience still playing his guitar. I believe he was the first guitarist using such a long guitar lead but, whatever, he sure built up a reputation.

    Still with the blues I saw Freddy King maybe three times, certainly two, and the last time I hung around by the stage while he was clearing up his kit. He was an extremely friendly guy and took the time to sit on the edge of the stage and talk to me. He told me how happy he was that British kids were so interested in his music. He enjoyed playing in the UK but missed his family, he even showed me a photo of his wife and kids. I had one of his LP’s with me (Freddy King is a Blues Master – Atlantic label) which he autographed for me “Best wishies always – Freddy King” – yes, with spelling mistake.

    It wasn’t all blues of course and I remember that the Friday night at the Rondo got to be known as Underground Night. King Crimson fitted right in there of course and although being used to the acid fuelled blues excess of bands like Cream nothing had quite prepared me for their show. They arrived rather unassumingly on the stage, Fripp perching on a high stool at the left of the stage instead of the usual guitar hero stance. It was the first track on the Court of the Crimson King album, 21st Century Schizoid Man, of course that really sticks. It was LOUD and really in your face, I can’t remember the Rondo being that quiet when a band was playing.

    One Friday we arrived to see the notice on the door “Tonight – The Mick Abrahams Blues Band”. It was often like that – sometimes you knew what was on but often it was a surprise as we had no internet or anything and it wasn’t always newsworthy for the music papers. Anyway when the band walked on stage Mick Abrahams announced in a rather gruff London area accent “Evening…. – on the door it say’s we’re The Mick Abrahams Blues Band. Well that’s a load of bollocks for a start – we’re Blodwyn Pig” and off they went. Brilliant gig – I always really loved Jack Lancaster’s sax.

    One night when I knew who was on the Friday was when Wishbone Ash played. I’d heard them on the John Peel radio show and had bought their first album. Then in the week before the gig a friend of mine who was friends with the DJ asked me if he (the DJ – can’t remember his name) could borrow the album on the Friday. Apparently he couldn’t find a copy, everyone was sold out, so I said I’d bring it with me. If my memory serves me correctly the DJ played his music from a space left and behind the stage and I let him have it and said I’d pick it up after the show. Good show of course, loved the dual guitars, and afterwards I walked into stage left, found him sitting with the band, and I said I’d come to pick up the LP. I think it was Ted Turner who said “Oh – is that yours then – we thought it was his” pointing to the DJ, then the story about the shops selling out came out. They thanked me for buying it and bringing it with me and of course autographed it.

    Some bands used to turn up quite regularly which didn’t always please all the punters. As I said we didn’t always know in advance who was on and I remember one night arriving outside with a group of friends to hear one of the guys shout “Oh no – not the f***ing Groundhogs again” when he saw the poster on the door. I must admit they weren’t top of my list either but they usually gave a good show, the typically traditional blues numbers were very much T.S. McPhee as I’d heard him on earlier blues compilation albums but I was never quite sure that the newer prog rock style stuff was quite up what their prog rock contemporaries were producing. Split is a good example of this although I did enjoy the track Cherry Red.

    While we’re talking about Tony McPhee, I had an idea I’d seen The John Dummer Blues Band at some time at the Rondo but it could have been somewhere else. And to be honest I’ve no idea who was in the band at the time. I know that McPhee played with him at some time as did Dave Kelly and his sister Jo Ann Kelly. They were also a band that backed the US blues artists when they came over, as did Steamhammer and the Groundhogs themselves I believe.

    Those Friday nights also turned up some jazz-rock acts and I can certainly remember being impressed with a Colosseum gig. Jon Hiseman always impressed with his two bass drums, I personally found him to be superior to Baker. Dick Heckstall-Smith was phenomenal playing two saxophones at once. Not to a lot of the regular’s taste but I was also into Jazz and you would have found me at the Rod Davis Jazz and Blues Club which, again if I remember correctly was in a back room of the Kings Head on Granby Street. They also had some local blues bands as well.

    Well I’ll leave it there, maybe others can add stuff I’ve long sadly forgotten. Sorry for the length – maybe poached your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, thanks for sharing all of that. We must have come across each other I think and we are the same age. I used to hang out with Mick Pini who is a great blues guitarist. I also remember the Howlin’ Wolf gig. Like you, one of the best concerts I have ever been to. Particular favourites of mine at the Rondo were Fleetwood Mac (saw them many times) and Julie Driscoll and the Brian Augur Trinity. Amazing and exciting band. Savoy Brown and Chicken Shack were also regulars and you have mentioned the impeccable Freddy King who was a big influence on Mick Pini. Did you go to any folk clubs? Town Arms or Kings Head? I spent a lot of time in the Town Arms (under age!) jamming and listening to some of the great local musicians there. Thanks again Martyn.

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  3. As I said I remembered the Kings Head (thought it was – place I remember was on Granby Street) with the Rod Davis Jazz & Blues Club but I don’t remember a folk club there. Town Arms on occasions but I was never so much of a folk fan. Saw Savoy Brown certainly but for some reason seemed to have missed Fleetwood Mac which I can’t explain so I did a search but could not find any definitive information. Various sites have old tour information but don’t always agree with each other – this was all I could find for that period:
    Nov 03, 1967 Fleetwood Mac Leicester, UK
    Apr 15, 1968 John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers / Fleetwood Mac / Jimmy James And The Vagabonds / The Alan Bown / Soft Machine / The Equals / Legay / Fairport Convention / Pesky Gee! / Sons And Lovers / Six Across Thurmaston Leicester, UK
    Nov 14, 1968 Fleetwood Mac Red Lion Hotel Leicester, UK
    Dec 11, 1970 Fleetwood Mac Leicester, UK
    Bit strange, the two unknowns could be the Rondo but I don’t know about the Red Lion, doesn’t seem to fit. Thurmaston with all the other acts rings some bells with me but I have no idea which venue that would have been. To be honest it’s all a bit of a fog except for those spark moments I mentioned in my post.
    When you first mentioned Mick Pini in another post it rang a bell. The name is definitely familiar but I can’t place it with any definitive band or location or if I knew or met him. Different schools certainly. We moved from West Bromwich where I was born when I was 12 and I went to Bushloe High and later Guthlaxton where I did “O” and “A” levels. Same goes for names like Broodly Hoo, Legay, Gypsy, Pesky Gee! (read about on Brian Hemmings blog found through you) and of course Family, seen them all somewhere but no idea where. Living in Wigston we used to be at the County Arms a lot of course but that was always a restless sort of place, Rondo was definitely more laid back.

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