The Club A’Gogo didn’t start its life as a venue for blues and rock bands.
Although it opened up in the early sixties when Rock and Roll was becoming popular in the UK, the first music played there was a rollover from the previous decade – jazz.
The audience it attracted was younger than that of the New Orleans with a mixture of students and non-students.
Although there were several large dance halls in the town such as the Oxford Galleries and the Majestic (where the Beatles had their first live appearance in the city), there were only a handful of small, more intimate venues around at that time.
Around the same time, he introduced Saturday afternoon record sessions for teenagers at the club.
The Downbeat eventually succumbed to rock and blues music featuring local bands such as the Alan Price Combo (originally the Pagans), the Kylastrons and a Whitley Bay band called the Invaders, the first ‘non-Jazz’ band to play there.
Outside of Newcastle, he is probably best known as being the man who managed both the Animals and Jimi Hendrix in the sixties and early seventies.
Over the years Mike Jeffery’s reputation has become tarnished by allegations that he fleeced the artists he was managing and more recently by an unproven accusation that he murdered Jimi Hendrix.
By day it served Italian food and snacks but between 8 and 12 on a night time it became a private membership club with jazz being served up by some of the best musicians around such as the Emcee 4, Tommy Henderson’s Latin American Group and the Bernie Thorpe Trio.
In spite of dwindling audiences at the New Orleans and at the Downbeat on jazz nights, there were still plenty of traditional (trad) jazz bands and modern jazz combos doing the rounds in the north east. For instance, in 1961 there were three jazz performers in the top 20 all at the same time – (Dave Brubeck, Kenny Ball and Acker Bilk).
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ During the period that Mike Jeffery was running the Marimba Coffee House and the Downbeat club he formed a partnership with another Newcastle businessman named Ray Grehan, who at the time was the sales manager for a ticket machine company called Automaticket.
However, had it not been for Mike Jeffery, there would have been no Club A’Gogo and the careers of many well known musicians may not have turned out the way they did.
His 1957 venture, the University Jazz Club did well as a music venue.
The Club A’Gogo has become an important part of Newcastle’s musical heritage.