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Upcoming Events Values of ’60s Ricky Tick Concert Posters Poised to Rise

Michael Bloomfield says house-produced posters with iconic cultural imagery a hot collectible.

Whilst the Cavern Club & various haunts in & around Liverpool gave birth to The Beatles & ignited the British Beat boom that was to take the world by storm, the lesser known Ricky Tick circuit of clubs was arguably just as important in taking the market forward. The Ricky Tick circuit was crucial to the development of British R&B, both hosting visiting U.S. artists & also providing venues for newly inspired bands—like the Rolling Stones—to hone their craft. The Ricky Tick Clubs in London & Southern England hosted hundreds of bands in the 1960s. Posters for these concerts were created in-house & their highly distinctive designs have made them very collectable & worthy of consideration in this Article.

The Ricky Tick Club was formed in 1962 by John Mansfield & Philip Hayward. Initially, the Club was based at the Star & Garter Hotel in Windsor but two further venues in Windsor were later used. From its humble beginnings, the club expanded by holding regular gigs at venues in and around London and the South, including Guilford, Hounslow, Reading, Aylesbury, Newbury, Southampton, etc. In addition to promoting concerts, the Ricky Tick clubs also held nights when punters could attend to listen to DJs playing a mix of British R&B & American soul records. Such was the status and influence of the Ricky Tick that when Antonioni came to London to film his iconic take on “Swinging London,” a Ricky Tick performance by the Yardbirds was filmed (albeit in an Elstree Studios mocked-up version of the Ricky Tick Clewer Mead, Windsor club). Ricky Tick Promotions were wound down 1968-69 but in the intervening period, they played a seminal role in developing the British Beat market & in popularising “modern” music in 1960s Britain.

A John Mayall & his Blues Breakers poster.

Another poster promoting Mayall.

Distinctive Poster Designs
Ricky Tick posters were silk-screened prints boasting curiously primitive designs. They were produced “in-house” by Hogsnort Rupert (a.k.a. Bob McGrath) & thus maintain a consistency of design across the period 1962-69 and irrespective of particular venue. The crude designs were often embellished with borrowed “iconic” images; i.e., James Bond, LBJ, Batman, Harold Wilson and characters from “MAD” Magazine. Posters were designed for gigs, record playing nights and to promote record releases by artists who played the Ricky Tick network. Co-owner John Mansfield retained a small archive of such posters and began selling these through auctions in the 1990s. At this point, a wave of interest was re-ignited. One Jimi Hendrix Hounslow gig poster now graces the EMP Museum (Seattle) and others are can now be found in quality collections in the U.K., Europe & the U.S.A.

Some bands form the U.S., such as Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band, stayed in the U.K. and played hundreds of gigs. These posters should not be too hard to find.

Sponsorship of British R&B
Once Beatlemania took hold, hundreds of fledgling bands were inspired to chance their luck in the newly emerging market for home-grown British music. Venues were required & clearly most bands had to generate a following before they were able to join the package tours that played cinemas and theatres across the U.K. Into the vacuum stepped the Ricky Tick. Offering cheap entrance, regular gigs and a network of clubs in the Southeast England, Ricky Tick Promotions injected lifeblood into the scene. A prime example of the bands that benefited from the Ricky Tick were the Rolling Stones, who played their first Ricky Tick gig on 14th Dec. 1962. It is a staggering statistic but the Stones played the Ricky Tick circuit over 39 times during 1962-64.

Though the Crawdaddy Club, Richmond is perhaps more famous as being the venue which gave the Stones one of their first breaks, it is thanks to the Ricky Tick that the Stones gained a wider audience and began to build a nationwide following in the U.K. Many other bands that were later to become stadium fillers (The Who, Cream, Pink Floyd, etc.) also started playing on the Ricky Tick circuit. In addition, a plethora of other groups that were to become mainstays of both the British & international music scene (The Pretty Things, The Zombies, The Animals, Georgie Fame, The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers etc.) all received the oxygen of publicity & and exposure, through their Ricky Tick gigs.

American R&B and soul artists also played at Ricki Tick clubs. Values depend on the popularity of artist, such as this one featuring Little Stevie Wonder.

The Role of US Soul/Blues Artists
Whilst the Ricky Tick provided incalculable help in nurturing the British Beat scene, this was by no means a parochial phenomenon. From its early days, the Ricky Tick embraced and sponsored visiting American artists, most African-Americans such as John Lee Hooker, Ben E King, Bo Diddley, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, etc. Sometimes, British groups were used to provide backing for these acts (i.e., The Yardbirds backed John Lee Hooker). Some artists, such as Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band, and Jimmy James became virtually U.K. residents & played hundreds of gigs on the circuit. Their contribution to the scene also provided an apt reminder to the ultimate heritage of the newly dominant force of British R&B.

The History of the Ricky Tick club, its supreme roster of musical talent and the idiosyncratic nature of the posters used there all combines to make Ricky Tick posters among the most collectable of concert posters. Obviously, the stature of the artists involved is a key determinant in value. A Hendrix or Stones Ricky Tick poster is likely to cost upwards of £5,000. However, the sheer number of gigs played, the work rate of particular bands (i.e., Geno Washington) and the fact that an archive was preserved, means that one can still find an entry level of £50-£70 for some Ricky Tick titles. A book about the Ricky Tick club has long been in the pipeline. Should this see the light of day, it is very likely that Ricky Tick prices will be given a further boost.

By Michael Bloomfield

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  1. I have seen some of these posters from the 60s fetch a lot of money in the larger antique sales but there are still a few that get unnoticed in the smaller sales so there are still a few bargains to be found if you know where to look.

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