The Jennings Shop - 100 Charing Cross Road

The Jennings Shop, 100 Charing Cross Road

From "Beat Instrumental" magazine, November 1964. One can just see an AC50 or AC100 with tall bass speaker cabinet (immediately right of the tree) in the window. Click as ever for a larger image.

The block that originally encompassed number 100 has now been replaced by a modern brick-built building (currently the home of Blackwell's bookshop). Number 102 was originally at its northern end, at the turn-off from Charing Cross Road into Phoenix Street. Number 100 was one door south of that - see the picture at the foot of this page. Selmer's shop was on the north side of the Phoenix Theatre at numbers 114-116.

The Jennings Shop, 100 Charing Cross Road

Detail from the Ordnance Survey map of 1967. The position of the block is marked in blue: number 102 the northernmost shop, 100 in the middle, and 98 to the south at the junction with New Compton Street.

The Jennings Shop, 100 Charing Cross Road

Photo from the late 1940s showing the block.

100 Charing Cross Road was first set up by Jennings in late 1950 as the "London Accordion Centre", managed initially by Allan Billington (from 1950 - c. 1956) - more on Allan, who was an accomplished accordionist, can be found on the Vox AC30 website. There are some passing mentions of the shop in early days . Repairs of other makers' instruments were undertaken and various electronic keyboard instruments sold, among which the Jennings Univox (from 1952).

Notices in "Melody Maker" magazine, 2nd December and 16th December, 1950.

The Jennings Shop, 100 Charing Cross Road, opening party

"Melody Maker magazine, 16th December, 1950. Allan Billingon, standing centre, was the first manager.

The Jennings Shop, 100 Charing Cross Road, opening party

"The Accordionist and Harmonica Player", December 1950, inset picture taken at the opening party. The prospect of the new shop was signalled in the October/November issue of "The Accordionist".

The Jennings Shop, 100 Charing Cross Road

"The Stage", 11th December, 1952.

The Jennings Shop, 100 Charing Cross Road

"Accordion Times", August 1955. A display in the Jennings shop. Note on the small stand, a Jennings catalogue or brochure.

In 1954 Jennings put the 3rd floor of 100 Charing Cross Road out to rent. It was taken up by the Al Heath Agency (agent for showgirls, dancers, and so on, in the West End) until c. 1965. Ooh la la:

The Jennings Shop, 100 Charing Cross Road

"The Stage", 7th January, 1954.

The Jennings Shop, 100 Charing Cross Road

"The Stage", 27th August, 1964.

From 1955 to 1967 the floors retained by Jennings were given over to exhibiting, selling, and repairing Vox guitars, organs, amplifiers and accessories - also the Fender instruments handled by JMI in the UK until 1965. See the documents . By 1964, the basement had been refitted to accommodate practice rooms. As one can see from the picture at the top of this page, bands and musicians posted notices in one of the windows.

One of the rooms on the first floor was reserved for music lessons. From 1964 the resident tutor was Geoffrey Sisley, a stalwart of "Banjo, Mandolin and Guitar" magazine.

The Accordion Centre - May 1956

In mid 1956, Jennings announced the creation of the "Accordion Centre" (sometimes termed the "London Accordion Centre") in the shop basement. Larry Macari took over from Alan Billington, assisted by Paul Butchard. Shortly after Larry left in 1958, Reg Clark joined the staff of the shop. Reg went on (in late 1963) to be general sales manager of JMI.

The Jennings Shop, 100 Charing Cross Road

Music trade press, June 1956.

The Jennings Shop, 100 Charing Cross Road

Illustration from the Jennings page in "Accordion Times", July 1957.

Accordions remained on JMI's books through to 1966/67. Adverts in the "Accordion Times" increasingly gave glimpses of that other world of "beat" music though.

"Accordion Times", 10th April, 1960.

The basement - late 1959

From 1954 console organs became a large part of the Jennings business under the aegis of the "Jennings Organ Company". Orders were received from around the world - see the material being collected together on the Vox AC30 website. Accordions were therefore bumped upstairs and a new showroom created for the consoles - apart from the colossal three-manual "Model G".

Jennings shop, 100 Charing Cross Road, September 1959

Music trade press, September 1959.

The 1960s

The Jennings Shop, 100 Charing Cross Road

"Beat Instrumental", November 1964, text accompanying the picture at the top of this page.

An anecdote kindly sent in a few years ago: "I went to Ireland in early 1966 with my band 'The Next in Line'. We came over to London for a television broadcast sometime in May and I went to Jennings Musical Instruments in Charing Cross Rd. There was a repair shop upstairs and the technician had a sideline in selling amplification without the rating plates. I purchased an AC 100 head very cheaply ( I cannot remember how much!)

The Jennings Shop, 100 Charing Cross Road

"Melody Maker" magazine, 4th April, 1964 - the new AC50 Foundation Bass demonstrated.

Melody Maker magazine, 27th March 1965

An advert for the Jennings shop placed in Melody Maker magazine, 20th and 27th March 1965. The shop as it was in late 1964 is pictured above.

In early 1967, no. 100 was taken over by Macari's, in some ways a fitting progression, and for Larry, a full circle. As mentioned above, he had left the Jennings shop to join the family business in 1958.

The Jennings Shop, 100 Charing Cross Road

"Beat Instrumental" magazine, February 1967.

"Beat Instrumental" magazine, February 1967.

Bill Doe had been manager of 100 Charing Cross Road since 1964. Dave Roberts was guitar tutor and demonstrator (based on the first floor), having taken over the former role from Geoffrey Sisley in 1965. Charlie Cobbett, JMI Artists' Loan Officer (Group Liaison), divided his time between Dartford Road and the shop. Also based in the shop were Syd Wedeles and Steve (surname unknown at present), repair engineers.

At some point around 1968 / 1969 (certainly by October 1969), Macari's enlarged the shop, taking in number 102 next door. 102 Charing Cross Road became the address (see the pic a little way below).

The later 1960s and 1970s

"Beat Instrumental" magazine, March 1967.

Interesting to see that Wedeles bought a "huge pile of spare parts from Jennings". Later on in the March issue, it's noted that Gary Hurst of Tone Bender fame moved into the shop with the Macaris.

"Beat Instrumental" magazine, March 1967.

"Beat Instrumental" magazine, October 1967. Star Street is off the Edgware Road, not too far from Paddington Station. The premises were still occupied by an electronics shop a few years ago when the Google Street camera car went by (below).

39 Star Street.

A Jennings purchase order (dated 8th February, 1968) made while in the hands of the receivers to Macari's at 100 Charing Cross Road.

"Beat Instrumental" magazine, June 1973, Macaris, Charing Cross Road. Two premises now in one: 100 and 102.

"Beat Instrumental", October 1969. Two shots of the interior of the enlarged shop.

"Beat Instrumental", October 1970: the inside of the Charing Cross Road shop - compare the images above, explicity said to be Charing Cross Road - Vox plentiful.