1960’s West London Rhythm & Blues Band – ‘The Fingernail 5’

The following article appeared in the Press on 28th February 1964:

‘Two Kensington men are forming a Rhythm & Blues Club in the Portobello Road this Saturday. They are John Scott, of Lancaster Square, and Robert Freedman of Kensington Park Road.

The Club, in St. Peter’s Hall, has been named the “Gate Blues Club” and will be open each Saturday evening.

“We want to make it a centre for Rhythm & Blues. On our opening night this Saturday there will be a local group, ‘The Fingernail 5’ playing,” said Mr Scott.

Details on the members of the band and how they were formed later appeared in the Kensington & West London Times the following week on 6th March:

‘When Bob Freedman decided to form his own Rhythm & Blues group, he looked all over London for young musicians to team up with his own guitar work and vocals…and found the lads he was looking for within a stone’s throw of his own home in Kensington Park Road!

Now the boys, with the intriguing name of ‘Fingernail 5’, are the resident group at the newly opened Gate Blues Club in the Portobello Road. The Club’s opening night, last Saturday, was house full.

And not surprisingly as this Club in a Church Hall (although they don’t publicise the fact!) provides an evening’s entertainment for 5/- (membership is only 2/6 a year), with soft drinks, coffee and snacks at reasonable prices, all to the background of “pounding Rhythm & Blues.”

John Scott and the boys worked on the premises themselves with the blessing of the church from which they lease the hall.

“We hardly had a wink of sleep on the night before the opening,” he said, and the result is a hall transformed with dim blues lighting, corner tables and the expected atmosphere.

‘The Fingernail 5’ consists of Bob Freedman, 20-years old, lead guitar and vocals who formed the group six months ago, Dave Ambrose, aged 18, of Calcott Street, Holland Park, an Art student, who plays bass guitar and piano.

And Rod Coombes, aged 17, of Powis Square, Notting Hill, another Art student (drums and vocals) and nicknamed “Ringo”, Jamie de Bruin, aged 21, of Leinster Square, Bayswater, of Dutch ancestry, educated in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and now working for a Spanish banking firm, (bongos and vocals) and Steve Nicholas, aged 18, of Sheffield Terrace, Holland Park, studying music, particularly piano and clarinet, but playing sax and harmonica with the group.’

More information on the band appeared the same day in the Marylebone Mercury:

“It’s great. Just the sort of thing we need in this area,” Club manager John Scott told me as we were watching teenagers twisting and jiving to the group’s pulsating beat.

Bob Freedman was quoted as saying: “We wanted somewhere to practice and we found this old church hall. It was in a terrible state at first, but we cleaned it up a bit.”

“Then we had the idea that it would be a good place for a Saturday night dance and now it has been opened as a club.”

Their debut attracted youngsters from over London. “They’re more handsome than the Beatles,” said one fan.

The Middlesex County Times reported in 1967 that Tony Allen (real name John Hodkinson but later recorded as ‘John Gunn’). John was living in Grange Park, Ealing, at the time. He was also known as ‘Johnny Goode’ and he was quoted as saying|: “I must decide what name to stick to?”

After leaving school in Manchester, John worked on the railways and then in the coal mines.

He went on to meet Georgie Fame and they both decided to move to London, Then, he appeared in cabaret in various Northern clubs before joining ‘The Fingernail 5’ at some point.

John was signed by a film company following his recording of one of the songs for the film, “Triple Cross”. Later, a single was released, this time under the name of ‘John Gunn’.

I wonder what happened to him and the other members of the band?

Steve Russell

(Thanks to Colin Woodley for his assistance)

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