When Otis played Forest Gate

Wednesday 29 May 2013

This coming Friday (31 May) will be a significant one in the diaries of fans of sixties Soul music.  BBC 4 will be running a series of programmes on Otis Redding, and his impact on British popular music.  The advanced programme publicity promises "unseen home movies from his 1967 tour of Britain".

Whether this includes footage of his time in Forest Gate remains to be seen.

Otis Redding, Uppercut Club, Woodgrange Road March 1967

He appeared at the Uppercut club in Woodgrange Road as part of that year's Stax /Volt Studios package tour of Europe that year. The photo above was a publicity shot promoting his appearance locally in March 1967. 

He had recently had chart success on both sides of the Atlantic with his rendition of Try a Little Tenderness, recently named by Rolling Stone magazine as the 204th greatest song of all time. The link, above, will take you to a You Tube clip him singing the single version.

We will be featuring the history of the club, which is now commemorated by a local historical plaque, on the gate next to Percy Ingles, over the coming weeks.  The Uppercut only lasted a year and was owned by then British heavy-weight boxer, Billy Walker (known as the Blond Bomber) and his manager -brother, George - hence the boxing-related name, in 1966. A useless bit of Walker-related trivia is that Simon and Garfunkel's track The Boxer was written about Billy.

Original Uppercut sign, rescued from demolition

The Stax tour featured other Soul greats, such as Sam and Dave, Eddie Floyd, Arthur Conley and Booker T and the MGs, all of whom accompanied Otis on his date in Forest Gate. One attendee at the gig recalls, on a website dedicated to Soul music, that "Otis was brilliant, but from memory, Sam and Dave got the best response on the night."

Another fan remembered the performance - 40 years on: 
Truthfully, I have long forgotten what everyone else on the show was like that night - I only had eyes and ears for Otis, despite the fact that I had records by everyone else on the bill. It will always be up there with the very best nights of my life, even if I live to see another million of them.
Redding died in  a plane crash nine months after the Woodgrange Road gig, but not before a starring appearance at the Monterey Pop festival of that year and cutting his critically acclaimed hit Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay, the first posthumously published number one hit.

For further details of Otis' career, see his Wikki entry and www.soul-source.co.uk, from where the quotes from his gig attendees have been taken.

Back catalogue

This site has published a number of articles on the history of the Upper Cut club: the first detailing the time when Otis visited it, in March 1967. This post was followed by two, recording the first six months and the final six months of the club's existence.

These posts were followed by almost monthly updates on who played at the club, that month, 47 years previously. The final blog is a record of a recent meeting with former boxer, Billy Walker, the name under whom the club existed, on his memories of it and Forest Gate almost half a century ago.

Below is a list of those blogs: the hyper links are the titles of the articles, and when hit upon should give access to them. The dates (in italics) are the time covered by the blog and the date in bold are the months the blogs were posted.

Although the content, and some of the comments on the individual posts, is pretty definitive, we'd love to hear any memories readers may have of the gigs, or corrections they could make to the copy. 

Just post in the Comments box, below:

When Otis played Forest Gate (March 1967) May 2013

Upper Cut (1) - a summary of the emergence of the first six months of the club (December 1966 - July 1967) July 2013

Upper Cut (2) - a brief survey of the second, and final half year of the club's existence (August 1967 - December 1967) July 2013

Georgie Fame, The Tremeloes and Unit 4 + 2 - (September 1967 at the Upper Cut) October 2013

When Stevie Wonder played Forest Gate - (October 1967) November 2013

Mouthwatering musical fayre on Woodgrange Road - (November 1967) December 2013

Club bills for the Upper Cut's two Decembers - (Decembers 1966 and 1967) January 2014

The Upper Cut beds down - (January 1967) February 2014

Essex comes to Forest Gate - (February 1967) March 2014Stax comes to town - (March 1967) April 2014

A mixed bunch at the Upper Cut in April (April 1967) May 2014

Upper Cut - May 1967 (June 1967) June 2014

Summer of Love in Forest Gate (Summer 1967) August 2014

Golden Boy, Billy Walker's Forest Gate memories September 2014


  1. I was there that night. Sam & Dave were electric and the singers wore pastel coloured suits that soon showed huge sweat stains. I was 18 and nobody could eclipse Sam & Dave that night...............

    Until this big black guy came on and barely moving, with that gentle sway and gracefulness that some big guys manage, started to sing. Otis, a true giant of music.


    Ron Galer


  2. I travelled from Dublin on my own,without a ticket for this Gig.This was St.Patrick's weekend.What an innocent time.No problem I just paid on the door about 7-30 p.m.and walked into the venue.Could you or would you ever try to do that today.Incredible Gig that I still recall todayThey all played for about 15/20 mins and when Otis came on he was amazing
    Then it was over ! My concern was to get back into Euston to my B&B.
    It's one of my most memorable Gigs ever.The others were The Beatles in Dublin 1963 @ The Adelphi and The Isle of Wight Festival 1970 What a very luck person born at the right time.Pat Morrissey,Dublin,Ireland

  3. I saw the Stax show having traveled up to London from Southampton... We saw it at Hammersmith Odeon then 2 shows at the Upper Cut...Asked if they could get my newly bought copy of a Booket T album signed and to my amazement was invited in to meet Booker T.....they all signed the album label

  4. I mentioned the time I saw Otis Redding at Forest Gate to someone recently. I then had to check to make sure I hadn’t dreamed it as it was so long ago! It’s brought back a lot of good memories of being seventeen. When I see that people traveled from quite far away, I feel lucky that I could walk to the venue!


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