This was the home of the Filby family who came to the town with GCHQ in 1952.
The house had a large, oak-panelled basement which provided space for the two teenaged daughters to invite their friends back to the house after school for evening homework sessions. There was plenty of room and friends invited friends.
Boys from the Grammar School had formed a trad jazz band and brought their instruments for practice. They became The Basement Jazz Men and provided regular Monday evening entertainment from late 1955. Squash was available at fourpence a glass.
Another local group, Bill Nile’s Delta Jazz Band began to play too and, by mid-1956, there were four sessions each week and 250 regular visitors aged between 15 and 25. ‘What’s on at Filby’s Basement tonight?’ was the question asked in the town’s coffee bars and sixth forms.
The coffee bars were part of the scene too. There was the El Flamenco – opposite The Restoration, The Aztec on The Strand and The Bar-B-Q and Waikiki at Queen’s Circus. All hosted jazz and skiffle sessions. From 1958 there was Club 66 at The Wheatsheaf on Old Bath Road.
What had started as a homework club at 38 Priory Street became an idiosyncratic social resource and an important music venue. The regulars were all friends of friends and there was no formal membership list – just a book to sign in by the door.
When nationally known performers were in town, they were invited for post-gig sociability and a jam session. The list of visitors is impressive and includes the top UK jazz bands of the day – Chris Barber, Ken Colyer, Terry Lightfoot, Acker Bilk and Lonnie Donegan, The Temperance Seven and Tommy Steele. Founding members of The Temperance Seven first met at Filby’s.
Future founder of The Rolling Stones, Brian Jones was a regular from the age of 15 and often brought a guitar on his bike so that he could sit in on the jam sessions. (Note the signature on the Club 66 membership card above.) He made contacts here, gained musical experience and developed knowledge of the music business that would be invaluable when he moved to London 1962.