A history of the Upstairs at the Red Lion Manningtree
The acoustic and roots music nights Upstairs at the Red Lion in Manningtree celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2017. The music nights were established by a group of local music enthusiasts in January 1997 as a forum for top UK and international acoustic based musicians and singers to perform in intimate surroundings supported by the best in local talent.
Barry Carter, one of the founders explains: "The intention wasn't for it to be another folk club as the organisers shared a variety of musical tastes." The first gig took place on 17th Jan.1997 and featured the folk duo Steve Tilston and Maggie Boyle who fused traditional and contemporary music and were already making waves in the UK and across the Atlantic. This trend continued with the club's first major coup when Bert Jansch, the iconic guitarist from the 60's appeared to a packed house in May '97.
By 1998, momentum had begun to gather after a good number of 'folky' gigs under the belt, with many highlights including Lianne Carroll and Pete Kirtley, John Renbourne, Clive Carroll, Kate Rusby and Davy Graham. As its reputation grew, the club begun to draw attention from across the Atlantic and in 2002, and 2003 the first of the Americans arrived with performances by Mary Gautier, Kreg Viesselman and the songsmith and bluesman Chris Smither (archive footage on YouTube can still be seen of Chris singing Desolation Row) at the club. Also, the western swing band Hot Club of Cowtown from Austin made the club their second only gig in the UK after going down a storm at the Cambridge Folk Festival the previous year . After playing Upstairs they then went on to play at the Albert Hall!
In 2002, Ben Waters, the brilliant boogie -woogie pianist made his first visit and still performs regularly at the club, often accompanied by his son Tom on saxophone. 2004 saw the debut appearance of the Spikedrivers a fabulous London based blues band who have also returned nearly every year since. 2009 saw the first appearance of top US singer and songwriter, Brooks Williams. In 2011 the pub was under threat of closure but thankfully found a new owner in Tom West who has since transformed the pub and renovated the music room. As well as the return of local favourites more recent artists have included top US country artist Kim Richey, Awna Teixera, Cara Luft and Brandy Zdan from Canada , the UK's Boo Hewerdine and Clive Gregson as well as emerging British talent such as Megson, Sean Taylor, the Willows and the Black Feathers. Providing a showcase for local talent is also an important part of the Upstairs philosophy with Kevin Pearce, Martin McNeill, Dove and Boweevil, Jazmine Ava and Honey and the Bear all having featured recently.
Artists appearing in 2017 included Ben and Tom Waters, Brooks Williams, the Spikedrivers, Tony James Shevlin, Honey and the Bear and the legendary Texan singer-songwriter Eric Taylor. 2018 will feature some new names to the Red Lion including Guy Tortora, Booga Red, Gilmore & Roberts, Alden Patterson and Dashwood as well as Red Lion regulars Ben Waters, the Spikedrivers and Fran McGillivray and Mike Burke.
The music nights are run by music enthusiasts for music enthusiasts. They are an opportunity to hear top international, national and local artists in intimate surroundings. Hopefully they will continue for many years to come.
Upstairs at the Red Lion, Manningtree - Celebrating 21 years of the best in acoustic and roots music live on stage in 2018.
Information on all events can be found on our Facebook page Ups tairs at the Red Lion Manningtree or on the pub website www.redlionmanningtree.co.uk