The Marquee Club - A tribute site dedicated to the history of the legendary Marquee club at London's 90 Wardour street.

Harold Pendleton (chairman)

Harold Pendleton

Harold Pendleton is one of the most important figures in the development of the British contemporary music and rock business. A man with a vision and determination, Harold Pendleton helped to create a solid foundation for the development of the early Brittish jazz scene in London through his work at the National Jazz Federation and the Marquee club. Pendleton was clever and open minded enough to appreciate the birth of the new blues scene, providing it with a permanent home where it could grow and became established as the birthplace of some of the most legendary music artists of the modern times.

During the late 60's the Marquee club hosted a whole musical revolution with the coming of new music forms and languages. Apart from his irreplaceable contribution to the history of modern music as the owner, creator and chairman of the Marquee club, Pendleton established the first jazz festival in the UK.The festival developed throughout the years to the first blues festival in the country, and eventually the first massive rock event in the history of Brittish music.

Chris barber Harold Pendleton

Chris Barber, Earl Hines and Harold Pendleton
Photo courtesy of Barber-Purser Archives

Harold Pendleton was a young accountant who had arrived from Mersyside to London in 1948. His passion for jazz music lead him to become a regular in the London jazz circuit during the early 50's, where he eventually started a friendship with the jazz trombonist Chris Barber, who was directing the National Federation of Jazz Organisations of Great Britain (NFJOGB). Pendleton soon decided to quit the security of his accountant job to become the secretary of the NFJOGB, which was formed by a comittee of musicians, critics, journalists and club proprietors who were trying to regulate the quality of the jazz scene in the city. Harold Pendleton entered the scene infusing a breath of fresh air and new ideas. First of all, and with a clear marketing projection, he shortened the name of the federation to NJF, National Jazz Federation. The new NJF, which included Chris Barber as a co-director, became the most important driving force in the UK during the jazz scene of the 50's and 60's, which usually organized quality jazz events and supported a new generation of jazz artists with fresh ideas.

By 1958, the manager of the Marquee Ballroom club, Peter Burman, visited Harold Pendleton at his NJF office in Carlisle Street, Soho, looking for support to get the club out of it's failing situation. The Jazz at the Marquee nights at the Marquee ballroom were doing pretty badly, the managers were loosing money and they couldn't even cover the expensive rent of the venue. Located at the basement of the Academy Cinema in Oxford Street, The Marquee ballroom had been hosting dance orchestras and big bands during the early 50's without much success. By the end of 1957 the ballroom had hosted a series of Saturday and Sunday jazz nights featuring the Welsh pianist Dill Jones and his manager Peter Burman. Harold Pendleton immediately showed his interest in the acquisition of the venue, since he had been looking for a spot to start a new jazz club himself. After a meeting with owner of the venue George Hoellering at the place, he agreed to take over the rental of the club. The new Jazz at the Marquee nights at 165 Oxford Street opened under the management of Harold Pendleton on Saturday 12th of April 1958. Pendleton's management was soon a success and by the end of the year a Friday night was added with new jazz stars such as Johny Dankworth Orchestra and Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated. That same year, Harold Pendleton brought over the legendary blues man Muddy Waters from the USA to play with Chris Barber and legend has it that this was the first time that an audience ever saw an electric guitar in a London club.

In 1962, the Marquee club, re-affirming it's spirit for new music values, had started a series of rhythm and blues nights on Wednesdays and Fridays featuring Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies. Since this moment the Marquee became the most important club for the British rhythm and blues scene of the 60's.

Harold Pendleton

Harold Pendleton's figure is been also associated with the birth of the music festivals in Great Britain. Pendleton, with the irreplaceable support of his wife Barbara, started organizing the National Jazz Festival in 1961, under the wing of the National Jazz Federation. The roll that the NJF played in the development of the jazz, blues, rhythm and blues and rock culture was decisive, bringing the music of new talents to bigger audiences than the small capacity of small clubs like the Marquee. Throughout the years, the National Jazz Festival became the first and most important rock event in the UK, which was later known as the Reading Festival. The first edition of the festival started with a small marquee resembling the decoration of the original Marquee club at Oxford Street and featured artists such as Johnny Dankworth, Chris Barber, Dick Charlesworth & His City Gents and Tubby Hayes. The production of the festival by Marquee Productions lasted until 1988 and included 26 editions after several name and location changes.

In 1964 Harold Pendleton extended the services of the healthy Marquee club by establishing the Marquee recording studios, which were placed right above the club at 90 Wardour Street. Marquee Productions also started offering services for rehearsal rooms, design and printing. The involvement and comitment of Harold Pendleton to provide the best sound quality possible for the Marquee club and the music festivals took him to work with some of the most revolutionary sound system developers at the time, including Charlie Watkins of W.E.M. After their continuous involvement with the latest stage sound techniques, Harold and Barbara Pendleton formed their own lighting and sound equipment company, Entec Sound & Light, in order to service all their events and the Marquee club. Entec Sound & Light broke new ground for what was then a new born industry and with it's sister company, Marquee Audio Ltd, supplied the sound to the Marquee club at Islington in 2002. Barbara Pendleton is today director of Entec Sound & Light.

Harold Pendleton quit the direction of the Marquee club in 1988 and at the same time Marquee Promotions stop being involved in the organization of the Reading festival and passed the production to the organization of Mean Fiddler, managed by Vince Power, which lasted for three years until 1992.