Biography  1930-57, 1958-65, 1966-85, 1986-88 Next

 
 

"Resident pianist" at The Queens Pub

 Crouch End 1986-1988 (1 of 3)

On New year 1986 we were introduced to Morgan "Thunderclap" Jones by his friend and fellow musician (Hammond organ player) Fred Gillard (The Bolton Wanderer ). The Queens attracted a variety of different piano players at the time ranging from boogie to jazz and pub style or anyone who just wanted to get up and give it a bash. For some reason there was a lull in performances and Fred said, " You actually have a fine player living upstairs". Morgan rented a flat above the pub having moved on from the rooms above 27 Denmark Street in 1985. Fred told me that Morgan was one of the last to leave "Tin Pan Alley"  and was still working when the bulldozers and developers moved in.

At his debut in the Queens he played his arrangement of "Maple leaf Rag" and had a standing ovation.  From then on he went on to play regular Friday night spots and later also Sunday's.

The Queens was also a chess pub and Morgan had the occasional game. Both him and Fred were good players, the latter is remembered for his deadly Schliemann attack!  (1.e4 - e5, 2.Nf3 - Nc6, 3.Bb5 - f5).

Morgan's usual tipple before playing was a large glass of medium sherry and his frequent opener was "The lady is a Tramp". His repertoire was vast and the Queens' recordings I attach are a good cross section of his popular pub style (film themes, old time, sing alongs, café style, boogies and show stoppers like Zorba the Greek). Unfortunately the piano would not play many of his classical pieces which I have heard him play including "The Rustle of Spring", Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody no.2, and the Fantasy Impromptu. On my recording when asked to play the "Minute Waltz" he replies that the piano won't play it, as some notes won't move.

Generally he allowed his own arrangements to entertain without other props or antics and built up great tension in pieces like "Hava Nagila". An exception is his vocal version of "Great balls of fire" including throwing two red balls up into the air at the climatic point "Goodness gracious great balls of fire�€�.!

n 1986 Morgan was to play at Sam's bar. I went down their with him but he was very unimpressed with the piano, a full sized grand but with a spent action and I don't think anything came of it.

Morgan had worked previously with the fine Welsh/Italian tenor John Evans (Stage name John Cortez) and together they produced an album "John Cortez sings". I remember a copy used to exist in Hornsey library. They did some more work at this time and I attach an example here. John produced 2 shows in this period both with a significant role for Morgan. The first was at the Hackney Empire (See poster) and was reasonably successful. The second was at the London Palladium and most of those who showed up were John's friends and associates and he spoke to them from the stage, more like at a home soiree, than a variety performance. To our disappointment he did not perform his big number Nessun Dorma as he did not feel well enough. He relied on Morgan to play a piano version.

I met  Bill Crompton who he worked with as a songwriting duo in the late 50's and 60'  (See Discography) I joined them both for a Chinese at "Charlie's" (The Happy House) next door to the Queens. A restaurant regularly used by the Queens-goers on Fridays where we had enless rounds of Irish coffees until the cream ran out.  Bill Crompton told me that he had written a show that would be as great as "Oliver" if he could get a backer.

Eventually Morgan moved out of the Queens flat to a flat in Stamford Hill. It was comfortable and the landlady was good to him. He died their shortly afterwards on 24th February 1988.

The cremation was in Henley-on-Thames near where his sister lived and many of his past friends and associates were there. Myself and Salvatore Vitrano attended from the Queens.


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