Author's Interview with Keith Raison

Author's Interview with Keith Raison

I was a good friend of Dick Morrissey for many years. I first heard Phil playing with him and his Quartet in the mid-sixties at the Bulls Head in Barnes. The music room was in a stable block at the side in those days. It was quite a large room. Next to the Bull on a corner was another traditional pub called the Watermans Arms. Between sets, that’s where the musicians used to go. I used to go as well and chat with Dick and Phil, who always remembered my name. He was a very pleasant guy. Obviously, he had a drug problem, and he liked a drink. I got the impression that because I wasn’t a musician and didn’t want to talk about music, he enjoyed it. We’d talk about the news, cricket, the history of Barnes and old pubs and buildings that there used to be in London. He was a very intelligent guy and very amenable to talk to.

On the counter at the Watermans, they had a big flagon of Merrydown cider on a cradle. Because it was so strong, the landlady Bet Hennesy, who we called ‘Ma’, and her son ‘Nailer’ said we could only buy a pony glass, which is a third of a pint. But Phil was allowed to drink a pint and he'd also have a shot glass full of whisky. He’d have a big swig of the cider and then drop the shot glass with the whisky, into the pint. I said to him: “Why do you do that, why don’t you just pour it in?” He said: “I might spill it.”

The Bulls Head was run by a guy called Albert Tolley who was a typical Eastender. The rumour was he was given the pub by a gangster, for unknown services. Albert liked jazz and particularly Dick, so he used to get quiet a few gigs. It was always standing room only especially when Phil was with him and a brilliant atmosphere. I think it was 5/- to listen to the jazz at the Bull, it wasn’t expensive. When Dick started there, I think he only got 10/- a gig.

Jimmy Witherspoon used to sing there quite a bit. I was there when he did the recording session with Dick’s Quartet. Jimmy and Phil had a really brilliant rapport, they got on well. During the interval, they’d disappear and used to have a walk up the towpath. When they came back, they were always a lot happier than when they started out. You can guess what they were doing! I think that was one of the last gigs that Phil did with Dick at the Bull.

We also used to go to the Palm Court at Richmond that was run by a bass player called Ed Faultless who organised the gigs. He had Martin Joseph who was a good pianist and Ken Hall on drums, who played with Tubby Hayes and Tommy Whittle. They were the resident trio. Dick used to go there once a month as the visiting guest. It always attracted a good crowd.

Copyright – Peter Dawn

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