mardi 2 décembre 2008


Situated at 59 Old Compton Street,in London's Soho district,the 2i’s Coffee Bar was the place where the first british pop stars were discovered from 1956 to 1962:Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard,Vince Eager, Vince Taylor, Terry Dene ect.

The expresso coffee bar, run by two australian ex-wrestlers Paul Lincoln (aka “Dr Death”) and Ray Hunter, opened its doors on April 22nd 1956. It was named after two brothers called Irani who originally owned the café (unless the previous owners were apparently three Iranians and one went home).
The coffee shop had live music in its basement with a small 18 inch stage where Lincoln and Hunter started putting on skiffle groups. The Vipers were the first who held a residency at the "Two I's" and it was during one of their performances that Tommy Steele was spotted then became the first british rock star. Soon after it became a focal point for Rock’n’Roll enthusiasts, the most famous music venue in England. Not only for having been witness of the emerging British Skiffle then Rock scenes but also for having been an essential meeting point between artists and their career-makers. Young aspiring rock musicians came to the “Two Eyes” from all over the country, hoping to find fame and fortune because it was the place to be spotted by impresarios and promoters such as Jack Good, Larry Parnes or Don Arden. It was also a real cradle for some artists such as Cliff Richard and the Shadows or Vince Taylor and his Playboys all met by being regulars there.

By 1960, Tom Littlewood, a Judo instructor by profession, became its new manager. He managed some of the main acts performing there such as Vince Taylor and promoted some road shows throughout the country until the early sixties.

During the mid sixties, at the height of the Beatlemania, the days of the 2 I's as a leading Rock’n’Roll venue were numbered. At that time, the scene had changed to the effect that the succesful groups such as the Beatles or the Rollingstones who would play large halls, or even stadiums, had become far too expensive for club appearances, and when most clubs had been transformed into discoteques, The “Two Eyes” finally closed its doors in 1967.

Later the place was known as the Dome Café Bar then the Boulevard Bar with Dining Room, and the basement is became a lobby area.

On September 18th 2006, a Green Plaque was at last unveiled at 59 Old Compton Street to commemorate the existence of the legendary venue that witnessed the birth and rise of the first wave of British Rock scene. 


The frontage consisted of a large pane of plate glass, to the right of which was a glass door with a chromium handle. Above the window and the door was an oblong sign which read, "Coffee 2 i's Bar," and below that, "Home of the Stars." And there on the right side appeared a large emblem resembling a Pepsi Cola bottle cap.


The coffee shop was a room for about 20 people to stand comfortably. There was an American jukebox near the window. On the walls of the I's were a few photos of musicians who'd once played there.

Behind the serving counter were the espresso coffee machine, orange juice dispenser and sandwich display case on the left. A long formica shelf on which to place your tiny glass espresso coffee cup and saucer to the right.

A door at the back led to the kitchen, the 2 i's manager's office. Besides the sink and gas cooker, there was a large cupboard containing a desk diary, and on the wall a four-pennies-in-the-slot telephone.

The nearest toilets were probably Piccadilly Circus Station.

At the end of the room was the entrance to the narrow stairway that led down to the dismal and dark cellar about the size of a large bedroom, lit by a couple of weak bulbs.

At one end was the small 18 inch stage made of milk crates with planks on top of them. There was just one microphone, left over from the Boer War, and some speakers up on the wall.



Paul Lincoln

Paul Lincoln was a professional wrestler known as “Dr. Death”. His big feature was that he wore a Black leather hood. He also promoted wrestling bouts where he appeared on the bill as Paul Lincoln, had a rest between bouts, and appeared again as Dr. Death.

Tom Littlewood

Tom Littlewood was a Judo instructor. He appeared in the movie - "The Tommy Steele Story " teaching Judo in a short sequence.

He was first the guy who took the money at the door then took over Lincoln as manager in 1960. He was also Vince Taylor's manager for a while.

Beside those young artists who became the pioneers of british rock, some others started out there but working at the coffee bar. Lionel Bart, who penned most of british pop tunes of that era, future Shadows, Hank Marvin and Jet Harris, could often be found in the 2 ¡'s, serving coffees or cleaning up the place after the gigs, sweeping the floor and stuff.

Future succesful producer Mickie Most was the waiter. Peter Grant, who later managed Led Zeppelin, was the bouncer.


Resident Artists

  • The Vipers Skiffle Group

(July - September 1956)

  • Tommy Steele

(July - September 1956)

  • The Soho's skiffle group

(Late 1956)

  • Les Hobeaux Skiffle Group

(Summer - Late 1957)

  • Terry Dene & The Dene Aces

(Late 1957 - Early 1959)

  • The Worried Men

(Late 1957 - Early 1959)

  • Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys

(Early 1958 - Early 1959)

  • The Vagabonds

(Early - April 1958)

  • Cliff Richard & The Drifters

(Early - Summer 1958)

  • Wally Whyton & The Vipers

(May 1958 - Early 1959)

  • Vince Eager

(Summer 1958)

  • Vince Taylor & the Playboys

(Early 1959 - Summer 1960)

  • The Jury

(1961 - Summer 1962)

Tommy Steele

Thomas Hicks aka “Tommy Steele”, the first british rock star, was discovered by his soon-to-be Manager John Kennedy in September 1956 during a 2i’s session with the Vipers.

Paul Lincoln, the owner of the Two I's, had invited John Kennedy to listen to "The Vipers skiffle group".

Kennedy wasn’t very impressed by the Vipers but his attention was captured by the performance of Hicks who took to the stage during a break in the Vipers performance and started shouting "alright kids...lets go..." then singing Elvis Presley’s number "Heartbreak Hotel", an huge hit in the states in early 1956.

After a repeat performance in the Two I's, Hugh Mendl, the A&R man for Decca Records, asked Kennedy to bring Hicks with him to do a Decca sound test was planned for the following day. The following month “Rock With The Cavemen” was released…

Terry Dene

In early, Terry Dene, who worked as a packer at HMV’s Oxford Street record shop, was spotted by rock and roll impresario Jack Good while singing at the 2 I's where he tried to emulate Elvis Presley and Gene Vincent. This made his friend bass player Brian Gregg all the more determined to make it himself.

He obtained an opportunity to record with Decca and to find a weekly spot on TV's "Six-Five Special".

Paul Lincoln rated his chances high enough to become "the next Tommy Steele".

Later Dene was backed on stage by his own backing band, the Dene Aces, evolving out of the Terry Kennedy Rock’n’Rollers and featuring great drummer Clem Cattini. Paul Lincoln booked them after he saw them in the movie “The Golden Disc”.

Adam Faith

Terry Nelhams began playing skiffle with The Worried Men and managed to get a regular booking at the Two I's coffee bar. From there he also managed to secure an appearance on Jack Good's 'Oh Boy!' rock and roll TV show.

Guitarist Rick Hardy aka Rick Richards took over him, leading The Worried Men until early 1959.

Cliff Richard

John Foster managed to get the Drifters a slot at the 2 I's in early 1958.

As Rick Richards had an amplified guitar and the 'Drifters' didn't, he was roped in to play with the group there.

A few weeks later, their lead vocalist, Harry Webb came back to the 2.I's with a new name obviously pinched from Rick’s stage name: “Cliff Richard”. Rick Hardy was finally replaced by Ian Samwell, who volunteered his services as a guitarist during a gig at the 2 I’s, then penned the first Cliff’s hit, “Move It”.

Vince Eager

Following their appearance in the televised skiffle final in late 1957, the Vagabonds from Grantham were invited to play at the 2 I's Coffee Bar. The response from the audience to their show prompted the owners of the 2 I's to offer them a residency.

They decided to take up the residency offer at the 2 I's Coffee Bar and soon after they were offered a Sunday Night concert in Coventry by Larry Parnes who offered Roy Taylor, the lead vocalist, a deal. It involved Roy became Vince Eager.

During summer 1958, Vince Eager would be back by a band that became Marty Wilde’s Wildcats.

Vince Taylor

After a two month tour in Yorkshire, Marty Wilde finally split the Wildcats and some of them ended up coing back to the fold: playing at the 2 I's. They teamed up there with Tony Sheridan who turned down the offer to be the lead guitarist for the Drifters.Vince Taylor came in looking for a band to back him on a few shows and they became his Playboys. In late 1959, Sheridan left and was replaced by another guitar hero Joe Moretti of “Shakin’ All Over” fame (Johnny Kidd & The Pirates).

Joe Moretti

“Vince decided on the uniforms: black shirt,black pants,black & white shoes with white tie black & white check cap. We looked a million dollars. And we didn't just wear them on stage. We wore them all the time !! And when we walked into the 2 I's everyone went crazy. So, very quickly we became identifiable. Vince Taylor & the Playboys. And soon we were the main attraction at the 2 I's. Now, the Room where we played at the 2 I's was below ground level, a basement under the main cafe. I think it was meant to hold about 40 people but it was always packed with people standing shoulder to shoulder. The heat & the sweat !!”

Other great musicians had their first big break at the 2 I's such as pianist Wee Willie Harris with his pink hair, drummer Rory Blackwell and his fabulous long drums solos.