Richard Hattrell - interviewed by Trevor Hobley
I first met Richard Hattrell in the Spring of 2003. I was invited to his small but comfortable South London flat, in a leafy suburban avenue adjacent to Clapham Common by Pat Andrews. Pat wanted me to meet Richard due to the fact that he was a very close friend of Brian Jones throughout the 1960's. Richard, Pat and Brian shared many good times, some bad times and very often tough times in each others company - and in the short period of time that I've known Richard, I have come to respect his knowledge and recall. Having had the good fortune to share a bottle of wine or two while chatting to Richard, sometimes for hours on end about his favourite pet subjects, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues and Brian Jones, I feel that I have found a true aficionado of these three closely related subjects.
Richard Hattrell was born on the 8th December 1936 in Hertfordshire. Richard's father was a serving officer in the British Army and retired to civilian life in 1948. Upon his retirement, the family moved to Tewkesbury, an historic rural town nestled amongst the beautiful Cotswold and Malvern Hills in Gloucestershire. Richard's middle class parents, Alex and Pamela, led a quiet and uneventful life raising their two sons, Richard and Adrian, this, after the traumas of the war years when their only daughter sadly died during a German doodlebug raid. Alex Hattrell was a lawyer by profession and Pamela, as well as taking care of the home and ensuring that her boys were well looked after and cared for, was an extremely active member of The National Trust.
Rural England of this period was very predictable and children invariably followed their parents professions, although Adrian did eventually become a lawyer, Richard developed an interest totally alien to his parents, he found jazz.
Richard explained: "My father enjoyed the classics, he also had a love of Gilbert and Sullivan, that was his idea of ‘good music', and so my fascination with jazz and blues music caused a lot of friction between us. Around the age of fourteen I was not only playing the piano, but I'd also started taking double bass lessons, I lived for my kind of music and I was particularly devoted to the big band sound of Ted Heath, who incidentally modelled his music on the Stan Kenton Band, another great favourite of mine. If Ted Heath's Band was playing anywhere within fifty miles of Tewkesbury, I'd think nothing of hitchhiking to the venue and then back again after the performance. I also became obsessively interested in pure New Orleans jazz, music that would drive my father up the wall!"
Richard continued: "Many times a couple of friends and I would hitchhike up to London for Saturday-all-night jazz sessions, often featuring the great Ken Colyer Band. Again, we thought nothing of hitchhiking 100 miles, in all weathers, to hear Ken's band perform, and after enjoying the all night session we would all traipse round to Lyons tearoom for breakfast before hitching the return journey to Tewkesbury. Once home, the remainder of Sunday was usually spent in bed recovering from the all night marathon, this would particularly rile my father, whose strict upbringing and being a Baptist minister by the way, led him to believe that I was sleeping off my all-night jazz orgy when I should have been in church".
It came to a head one Sunday evening in 1960, when Richard was called into the parlour by his father: "Richard, you're a dear lad, your Mother and I have nothing against you but we're living in a small town. We have values and traditions, people here can be very narrow minded and tend to gossip and in all fairness to both your Mother and I, if you want to carry on this lifestyle that your leading, I think you'd better go and live somewhere else"
"Well what was I to think", mused Richard: "It was a choice, my choice, I either had to give up my musical interests or leave home – and without giving it a second thought, I left home".
Richard explained to me that he left home soon after this conversation with his father and moved to Cheltenham, a larger town with a thriving music scene some ten miles south of Tewkesbury. Through his love of jazz he'd previously met Jane Filby, another jazz lover who ran a small club in the basement of her family home. Richard continued: "While I was still living in Tewkesbury I often caught the bus to Cheltenham where I knew a woman called Mrs Filby whose daughter Jane, ran a small jazz club in the cellar of their house, at 38 Priory Street. When I suddenly found myself homeless, my first thought was of Mrs Filby, I knew she took in lodgers and so this is where I headed after being given this ultimatum by my Father. Mrs Filby was very kind when I asked if she could put me up for a while".
"Of course you can stay here Dick" she said: "I've got room, there's four or five others in there but I'm sure we can squeeze another bed in for you".
"So this was how I came to be living in Cheltenham" Richard sentimentally recalled: "And, how I started down the path leading me into Brian's life".
I remember taking a break here. The one thing that I've noticed with Richard is that when his mind starts drifting back to those early days, early days which he remembers with such fondness, his emotions come to the fore, he can become extremely sentimental and detached. But, whenever the conversation turned to Brian's death, Richard's demeanour changes and the sentiment changes to anger and despair. Richard was so devastated by the news of his friends tragic and untimely death he unbelievably destroyed everything he owned associated with Brian, a lot of those irreplaceable memento's came from those early days and his grief is recognisable to this day.
I resumed by asking Richard how he first met Brian and he answered: "After leaving home, and ending up squashed in with five other lads in Mrs Filbys' spare room, I had every opportunity to pursue my love of jazz. The other guys were in a similar position to me, they were all from middle class backgrounds and a couple of them even had private school education but we all gave our our comfortable lifestyles for our pursuit of jazz and our developing interest in the Blues, the new sound to us that was creeping in from the States. The scene was getting really vibrant and to express our talents we all played in groups and bands that were forming in the neighbourhoods, it was at this time that I first met Brian Jones".
My earliest recollection of Brian was when I visited a jazz venue known locally as Club 66 at The Wheatsheaf pub on the Bath Road, Brian was on the door collecting entrance fees and checking membership cards. He had this heady responsibility which included issuing membership cards as well and I guess this was his first tentative step on the ladder to fame and fortune. I remember we chatted very briefly about the music on offer that evening but a few weeks later he sought me out at the Rotunder in Montpellier, a music venue quite near to the town centre. He had heard through the grapevine that I had a collection of Muddy Waters records and wanted to borrow a couple to get to know the lyrics as well as the music. He was totally absorbed with Muddys' unique version of Rhythm and Blues and after mentally absorbing everything from those few discs, he gradually went through the rest of my collection, which included the music of Elmore James, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Howlin Wolf.
I was extremely impressed with Brian's retention and his almost obsessive interest in these artists, and their kind of music. Our common interests, at this very early stage, really cemented our friendship which was to last right up until his sad death in 1969".
Read further news of Richard's recollections of life with Brian Jones, in future editions of AfterMath.
Richard Hattrell is now 66 years old, he stays active walking on average two or three miles a day around the streets and parks of his South London home. He is well known on the local jazz scene and single handily runs his own Management Company, Red Hot Jazz Management, which provides bands for venues in and around the London area. Richard often writes articles for The Spirit magazine bringing the latest jazz and blues news to our members.
As you can see, I have included details of the last, extremely successful event organised by Red Hot Jazz Management and will include, with plenty of notice, upcoming events in our fan club magazine, AfterMath.
Richard has wonderful stories and anecdotes. Why not try to get along to one of Richard's gigs in the future and take the opportunity to chat with him, I know you'll find his conversation fascinating.