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By Janice Birks

Ritchie Gee is constantly in demand. This pristine, clean-cut Ted is a motorcycle mechanic, roadie, agent, promoter and American car enthusiast extraordinaire. He also manages the popular Tennessee Rock 'n' Roll Club, runs The Edwardian Drape Society and is every journalists mentor when it comes to researching Rock ‘n’ Roll and authentic clothing.

We wanted to know more about this Edwardian-clad gentleman who promotes young bands in North London and who's had one million people log into his Web Site page on the Internet.

Ritchie Gee, manager of The Tennessee Club in Wood Green, North London and founder of The Edwardian Drape Society is immaculately dressed in a £1,000 Teddy boy suit made by an original Saville row tailor based in St Albans. Ritchie was a teenager when rockers were dominating North London and he wistfully recalls the rock 'n' roll scene in North London as a teenager. "I'd go to The Fishmonger's Arms when I was about 13 or 14," remembers Ritchie. "There would be the Wild Wax Show on a Tuesday night presented by Rockin' Stu and Roy Williams", he says. "Around the same era, we were spending a lot of time going around the various Rock 'n' Roll cafe's, the Busy Bee and the Ace Cafe'. Ritchie's brother Stuart was a rocker, and had a motorbike as soon as he left school. Ritchie recalls, where we lived, "it was Mods down one end of the street and Rockers at the other. We went to gigs such as the Northcoat Arms, and ended up in the Ace at about 1.30 a.m. All the local bands like the Wild Angels would turn up at the Ace for a coffee, and they were considered stars then. The bike scene and the Ted scene were very close. A lot of rockers would ride their bikes and put on drapes to go out in the evening. Most of the Teds had motorbikes too, but if you were really well off, you had a Consul. The Teds had British cars such as Humbers, Vauxhall Crestas - it was all quite a working class scene. No one was really well off in those days.

After leaving school, Ritchie became an apprentice motorcycle mechanic for George Gross, a main agent for BSA Triumph and Norton, and later for another dealer in North Finchley. Among the customers at the time were celebrities such as Mickey Most. Situated in London through the Sixties, the company became a major supplier of both motorcycles and riders for the then booming film and television industry. Ritchie recounts numerous occasions where he was called upon to ride in films such as "All The Way Up" with Warren Mitchell and "Dixon of Dock Green." He also spent two weeks filming with the "Doctor Who" crew. His first move into the music business came in the early seventies as a roadie for the band Crazy Cavan, a job that took him throughout Europe and The USA and later, he became the band's agent. By 1986, Ritchie had acquired his first American car, which was a 1976 Cadillac Seville in triple white. He still has it. On a sunny day, Ritchie chooses his 1991 Harley Davidson 1200 cc US spec. Sportster. Although being patriotic, he's not for one minute forsaking British motorcycles. In his garage, still sits a classic 60's Cafe Racer Norbsa - a 650cc BSA Super Rocket engine nestling in a Norton wide-lined Featherbed frame.

"I remember doing a project in school and I did one on motorcycles - the Norton's, BSA Triumph and the AJS. I was really interested in the British bike in junior school. In fact, when I got my first job as a motor mechanic, I remember the governor knocking on my mum's door saying I'd forgotten my wages again - I was so enthusiastic!

The music scene always influenced his love of cars, bikes and clothes. Ritchie has been interested in Rock 'n' Roll music from a very early age. I remember in the late Sixties hearing tracks such as "One Hand Loose", by Charlie Feathers on the King label and Junior Thompson on the Meteor record label singing, "Momma's Little Baby", and I liked that sound. It was distinctive with pounding lead guitar breaks and a lot of bass. It was a very good sound. I still liked the traditional Jerry Lee Lewis, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On", but 1 got into the early Rockabilly music and found out later some of the Teds liked it too. A lot of the Teds preferred the old-fashioned type of music - Little Richard's "Good Golly Miss Molly" stuff, and didn't much care for the Rockabilly scene until 1979/1980. Then a lot of people got into the American scene wearing the jean jacket and even donkey jackets. I was more involved in the Teds - wearing nice trousers and shoes and the traditional Edwardian style has always interested me. The Ted girls wear a single-breasted suit with maybe a brooch, a well-tailored pencil skirt with stockings, and stilettos. Ted girls still dress that way. I'm not sure about these "laddie" girls always featured in popular men's magazines - the ones who swill lager, and go to football matches. When you're taking a girl out, it's nice to see her dressed as a lady, and behaving like one!"

It was Dixie, Ritchie's girlfriend, who first thought about getting together all the Teds. She had noticed that there were a lot of them about, interested in wearing the clothes, and their first meeting was in a pub in Islington. "About 25 turned up", accounts Ritchie, "now we have 1200 members Worldwide, and there will be more because we're on the Internet now and a million people have already logged into the net to find out more about The Tennessee Club. The Edwardian Drape Society meet there once every three months, and Ritchie puts on a Teddy Boy band for them. The rest of the time, The Tennessee Club caters for anyone into Rock "n" Roll! The Club has been attracting big names. Artists who have recorded on The Sun Label - the same as Elvis. Ritchie has had Sonny Burgess playing at his club, Narvel Felts and Jack Scott. Also Charlie Gracie, and Bill Haley's Comets. In fact, the Comets have played there four times and were so impressed with the way The Tennessee Club was set up, they made Ritchie their tour manager. "I've arranged all their flights over", he explains, "where they're going to stay, taking them on tour. We recently did a tour with Chris Hodges and Frank Lacey, and did some great gigs. It was fun going on tour with them, and also doing the Johnny Burnette show. (Johnny's son Rocky and the lead guitarist Paul Burlinson - I got them a few dates, and it was packed out). Recently, we had Ray Campi play here, and had a lot of people at the club."

The Tennessee Club is known Worldwide. It's on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame Web Site.

There are good acts and a good sound system, and there's always a top act on monthly. It's not strict dress code but Ritchie doesn't encourage trainers! "They'll probably get the piss taken out of them", he muses. You get people coming here in jeans, shirts and casual leather jackets, or drapes and waistcoats. Girls phone me asking me what they should wear for the club. I find myself dressing them over the phone and telling them what I would like them to wear! Then I have to say, "I've got to go -I'm getting a bit hot here!" Girls can be as scantily clad as they like. They can feel safe at The Tennessee Club - no one will pester them. "We do get football supporters wanting to come in or those wanting to drink later on into the evening, but unless they're friends, they won't be allowed in.

Ritchie does everything from his home, and he's greatly appreciated by young bands trying to make a name for themselves because he puts so much into the publicity and introduces them well. He arranges the backdrop, the DJs, the sound system and designs and writes the flyers for the club. One guy grateful for Ritchie's enthusiasm is Darrel Higham who was presented with "Best Achiever" award at the club. "He's the best guitarist this country's had since the Fifties", enthuses Ritchie, and he's got his own style. He'll be playing the Gene Vincent/Eddie Cochran show again, and he's fantastic.

It's both business and pleasure as far as I'm concerned. I enjoy talking to people at the door, and doing the publicity, and arranging a sound system. If I didn't enjoy all that, I wouldn't bother".

If there’s two things that are going to ruffle the immaculately starched collar of this well dressed Ted. One is people confusing the Ted image for the likes of that crass band Showaddywaddy. "The Press usually get it wrong!" says Ritchie, "I never got into that brightly-coloured drape business.

Fashion designers such as Katherine Hamnet started bringing out designs in lurex drapes, and people wore quiffs, and it took a lot away from the original Teds. I saw all that stuff - tartan, yellow and orange fluorescent drapes and hated it. No Ted or Rockabilly I know wears that stuff. Bands such as Mud, and Showaddywaddy in the Seventies had a bad influence on Teds. Actually a lot of Teds stopped going out to regular clubs because there were so many people dressed in those gaudy colours. Only the odd person if they had a wild personality can get away with it. It's totally miles away from what we're all about. 1 mean, you wouldn't get Hell's Angels wearing pink leather jackets, you wouldn't get Skinheads wearing bright green cronbies so why do they get it confused? I am barefacedly trying to set the record straight. The history of music in England should be re-written because they've got it wrong about the Teds - their style of dress etc. A magazine in 1982 called, "Fashion In The Fifties" got it wrong too. They wrote, "Teddy Boys in their skin-tight drainpipe trousers and winkle-picker shoes". Well, when they first came out, winkle-pickers were more of an Italian look. They also got it wrong in Dennis Potter's. "Lipstick On Your Collar," because although it was good and nicely produced, they had a bloke in an orange drape on a scooter! We've done films. We've been filmed with Del Amitri and there are a few coming out which I've provided information for. Bruce Webber came down the club and was very interested in the authentic look and he made a short film. From that we got into a magazine called "Interview In New York," which contained two pages on Teds and it had one with pink hair and yellow drapes!"

The second thing to make Ritchie's finely chiselled features wince is being called "Elvis" in the street. "What are you supposed to shout back at them?" snorts Ritchie, "Elton John!" Every time I turn round and see who's calling me Elvis, I only ever see a person who is bland and empty-headed, and they don't remind me of anyone, so I suppose it's a compliment.

The Teds take their image very, very seriously indeed and why not? Seldom do you see such finely dressed men with such good manners. "All the Teds 1 know are polite", concludes Ritchie, "If 1 bump into someone, it doesn't matter if they're as big as Giant Haystacks, or as small as Ronnie Corbett, I'll always say, "I'm sorry about that. Can I buy you another drink? Teds wants to be treated in the same way they want to treat others... with respect!"

Taken from THE WEEKLY POST - Friday 7th August 1998

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