Spending time in the presence of Graham Anderson is to be wrapped up in a flurry of cherished recollections and fascinating stories of a life spent in music, delivered so warmly that you feel like you were there with him.
Graham started Jumpin' Hot Club with his long time friend Adam Collerton 35 years ago this year, and was meant to be programming a series of gig celebrating their anniversary this month; but that is on hold. However, instead of wallowing in a pool of self pity and melancholic cancelling, postponing and rescheduling of a year's worth of gigs, Graham has used this year to reflect, organise and collate decades of a history which has had a profound affect on the North East music scene.
It’s been a great opportunity for me to go in the loft and get all the archives I’ve got. I’ve been archiving for the past 8 months, the last two boxes I have are CD masters of gigs we put on in the early 2000s, it’s been a blessing in disguise especially for the exhibition, we would have had to get someone in otherwise.
The process has been brilliant because it’s really made me appreciate how much work we’ve done. I never thought of it like that, I just thought 'just get it together, do the posters, see if we’ve got the artwork, the leaflets etc'; but it’s been really good for me. It’s been my career, I’m an elder statesman now and I was just a young lad when we started, 23 or something like that. Adam started with me, he’s a year younger, and we’ve spent a whole lifetime doing it. I spent three years in the 80s doing it myself when Adam when to university, but I forgot what we did then; Jumpin Hot Club had a vinyl album out, and to see all the leaflets again it’s been fantastic seeing what we’ve achieved.
That album was live. I wanted to keep a record, because I was the same age as a lot of the bands, and they were all local. So we invited an audience down in January 1989 - it seems like yesterday! - for three nights and we recorded seven or eight local bands over those three nights.
Throughout our time together chatting, Graham's enthusiasm sparks, remembering some of the artists that they've worked with; from country and rockabilly to reggae and calypso...
It’s funny when you’re looking back at all the stuff, the things you remember, tiny little things; we had this guy on called Roaring Lion, who was this old Calypsonian guy, he was 88. We put him on at Riverside with Lord Pretender. Roaring Lion came up on the coach and he was dressed in a full three piece pink suit, a fedora and a cane… and he wanted some brandy so we walked up to Fenwicks with him! This guy had wrote books on calypso and had been invited to meet the Queen in 1940 or something. This all came about because I found the poster, a really good one actually, so that’ll be in the exhibition next year alongside a load of others going back 30 odd years. My wife, Berni, was a graphic artist and worked at the Chronicle and she used to do all the artwork.
Jumpin’ Hot Club have put on for over 2,000 gigs in the North East and around the country since they started. Being a major proponent and champion of Roots music of all kinds. In that time they not only have platformed the best local artists, they've also brought some of the best acts in world music to the region including; Martha Reeves, Buddy Miller, Michelle Shocked, Ron Sexsmith, Doctor Ross, Charlie Mussellwhite, Billy Lee Riley, Toots And Maytals, Byron Lee, Rico, Horace Andy and Dennis Alcapone…the list can go on.
It was quite a healthy scene then, because there was a lot student bands playing roots music, so I started at the right time. We had swing, early R’n’B, a little bit of soul, bit of jazz; that’s how we survived those first few years, it was every week as well!
Originally me and Adam thought we start as an acoustic blues club but after three weeks we got sick and thought “we’ll just put everything on we can”. In the mid to late 80s there was a lot of world music which was a bit hip, after that Cajun music became hip, so we latched on to popular movements in the Roots scene. Up until we moved to Live Theatre, we didn’t give a toss, we just booked anything we wanted!
We got £40 off Bass every week. So what we would do is save the money, then if we could get a national band we’d have a kitty to pay them. Occasionally if we did festivals we’d get some money off the council but it wasn’t until we moved down to Live Theatre that we became a proper company.
But we’d been putting national and international artists on since about 6 months after we started. Because we were putting gigs on every week it meant we could spread it out, so that every month or every couple months we’d have an American act on, or a national act.
We’ve got a history of doing festivals; first off I used to book all the acts for the Fish Quay Festival when it was called Window on the World Festival back in the 90s. Then me, Adam, Jim and Dave did Evolution Festival, so I used to book all the stuff for that. Then Tamsin (Austin, Director of Programming Sage Gateshead) approached me to programme the outdoor stage at Summertyne. I’d been helping The Sage on and off and I thought it was a good opportunity to work with them. It’s been a great thing for the community because the outdoor stage is free and it developed as well. So I’m proud to have worked with Summertyne.
Graham, known as Shippy to those who know him best (after the Shipcote area of Gateshead where he's from), is a musician in his own right, playing gigs and DJ sets under the name Shipcote & Friends. He started off busking in Newcastle, even being paid to play outside ITV studios where they were filming The Tube back in the 80s.
Before Jumpin Hot Club started I was a musician, which helped because I used to do the sound every week for the whole 12 years.
I was lucky. I played in a due called the Hot Lakes Cookies, and we played all over the world. I played in New Orleans twice so I had a lot of contacts for Jumpin Hot Club, so I was mainly a professional musician at that stage. When my first kid came, in ’91, I pretty much packed up touring. I used to go down the Bridge Hotel with Celia, put her in a little chair on the stage and she would watch me set up the PA! Both of my kids have been to loads of stuff down the years, mainly at Live Theatre. In 2005, Newcastle was going for city of culture and we were asked to put gigs on in unusual spaces, so we chose to put a full series on at the All Saints Church, they used to love going to those!
Before moving to their semi-permanent home at Live Theatre in 1997, Graham and Adam mainly operated Jumpin' Hot Club out of The Bridge Hotel's basement venue (it closed and moved upstairs in '95); with the occasional night at Riverside, while they have toured The Cluny and Cluny 2, Gateshead Old Town Hall, Caedman Hall and Middlesbrough Town Hall since 2000. Venues, though, have been important to Graham; sometimes being the difference between a good gig and a great one, as well as being important to their loyal cohort of audiences.
In 2017, Jumpin Hot Club programmed their first gig in Gosforth Civic Theatre, co-promoting Ska Vengers with Gem Arts, before a full JHC gig with Jesse Drayton followed.
I feel so comfortable in Gosforth Civic Theatre. The room’s fantastic, it lends itself to the music; that’s the beauty of the place. It’s a really good space. It reminds me of the Brunell Social Club in Leeds. It invites you in and it’s quite well set up. The sound's been great. You feel welcome at Gosforth, because it’s got that community feel and that it caters for different people.
I think it’s a really strong venue. The size is good as well, you can adapt. We had a rockabilly show on last year and I wasn’t sure, but it was one of the best gigs we had on last year and it sounded great. The band played in front of the stage, and it created a great atmosphere. They kind of made a little jamboree for themselves. That wouldn’t work at any venue.
There’s been loads that I’ve really enjoyed since we started at the Theatre, Otis Gibbs springs to mind, that was a brilliant night. People like Blind Boy Paxton, it’s very rare you’d see them anyway, let alone playing in the North East. So it’s such a scoop to bring them over and play. That type of music is a rarity, it’s from a bygone time. He was absolutely tremendous; I’ve seen a lot of things in my time but Blind Boy Paxton is unbeatable in what he does. He put on a great show, I just kept my hands in my pockets in case he was asking for a whiskey again!
With a year that has left the music industry reeling and made putting on gigs with audiences an almost unknown challenge, what does a seasoned promoter make of it all?
It might be a bit more difficult for people to get over what’ve just had and come to a show. It’s not going to be the music, it’s going to be the fear of coming out, especially people who are older. The future is… I couldn’t forecast it. I don’t want to be negative; people will come out to good music; it’s just going to be harder to survive. We’re in a situation here where we just don’t know what's going to happen, and that’s the biggest worry for me; as I’m sure it is for you, the Theatre and everybody.
With everything that’s going on, I really appreciate that I’ve been lucky enough to do this. There’s not many people done what I’ve done for their whole life. I’m not far off 60 now and most people of my age are close to retiring, but I don’t want to retire. This is my life, what would I do? Nothing! I mean I have wrote an album while in lockdown, but I’ve never looked beyond this as a career.
What happens if music’s gone? Well I’ve never thought of that because I’d be totally knackered! But I don’t think of it like that; it’ll happen again, I’ll put an album out as a hobby, and I’ll put music on as a job and I’ll seek out the best I can.
2021 is hoped by many to be a year of a fresh start with green shoots of recovery but it will be a long journey. However we hope one of those green shoots is having Graham and his team back in the venue, and rightly celebrating everything they've achieved.
It’s been a history of 35 years, you’ll get the breath of it when the exhibition goes up. The bottom line is that we've booked things no one else would for 35 years. That’s 35 years of bringing all of this to the North East, that’s what makes me proud.
For the last two years we’ve been putting things in Middlesbrough Town Hall and we’ve had people from Teeside who’ve been coming to Jumpin Hot Club gig for 20-30 years and they’ve been gobsmacked that we’ve been putting something on in Middlesborough, so we’ve got fans from all around the region.
It’s still specialist music, it’s not pop music or anything. So we’re never going to make a million pound, but that’s not the point. The whole point is that you love what you do, and that’s the difference.
Find out more about Jumpin Hot Club and the work they do at jumpinhot.com.