I used to have a very good mate called Dave Kelly.
Dave was English, but being the clever lad he was he opened up an Irish bar and called it, “Kellys”, which went on to be a winner.
Kellys was, for me at that time, just what I needed. A mate with his own pub is something guys like myself appreciate in a big way. Ladies, if you could imagine having a BFF with her own shoe shop, well it was like that with Dave and his pub; though not quite as gossipy and touchy-feely.
Dave was a real mate. He’d phone on a slow day, usually in the week, and innocently ask if I was up for a bit of a drink? I worked shifts then; I still do actually, and consequently my weekends would often fall in the working week. So Dave’s offer of a little drink, a quiet chat, maybe a jam, (my drums were set up there permanently, as I wasn’t in a band at the time), was just the jobby for a guy who regularly worked Saturday nights while the world was partying.
We’d sit at the bar and drink till the cleaning ladies kicked us out, playing along to songs, singing our heads off… like I say, a mate with a pub… well, it’s just PERFECT!
Anyway, it was in Kellys that I first met Horst and Norbert Krups. Horst helped Dave out behind the bar occasionally, (actually, we ALL helped Dave behind the bar occasionally, but that’s another thing entirely) and was as mad about good music, Guinness and whiskey as Dave was; so obviously they got on like a house on fire.
Dave wanted Kellys to be a music pub, as he loved the Blues and Irish music scene. So he set about finding Blues, Folk and Celtic bands to play live. It’s a given that Horst and Norbert helped, and slowly but surely the foundations of what would be Bluenote were set.
The problem was that Kellys, though successful, wasn’t taking in the money needed to finance the bands they wanted. Dave had some good names coming in, but good bands demand their tribute, so the Krups brothers had a brainwave. Why not start a club dedicated to promoting and presenting live music? Then the people who join could help finance the acts, work the door, maybe help set up instruments etc etc etc. In return, they’d have the chance to see the great Blues/Folk/Celtic bands they all enjoyed but were proving too costly for Dave to book.
I think it’s clear to anyone reading this now that the Bluenote guys and gals were, and still are true music lovers. The club’s entire income, after outgoings, went into sorting more bands out to play at the pub, which grew in stature with every gig. It was a symbiosis tailor-made for Dave, with Horst and Norbert sorting the music out, and Kellys providing the venue and beer. Gradually the name Bluenote became synonymous with the pub as bands turned up to play from all over Europe. It was a great time, and I can’t count how many drunken nights I had there, singing my head off and quaffing pints of Guinness, (when I wasn’t working shift, of course).
Alas, the match made in heaven was cut short. Dave asked the landlord if, as they’d agreed, he’d cut the rent to a reasonable price. At the time he was paying an exorbitant amount of money for the pub, but he’d been assured that after two years it would be reduced. However, now the landlord decided it was too good a cow not to milk, and he mentioned to Dave he was thinking about upping the lease.
So, after a mild tantrum and a lot of thought, he dropped my drums off, (and gave me his old set), and left for Britain never to return.
Suddenly the good people of Bluenote were set adrift with nowhere to go.
Well, that’s not exactly true, as Wolfenbüttel is full of great venues, you just have to find them, and Bluenote weren’t going to let a minor problem like lack of location stop their march. They used the castle in Wolfenbüttel for a while, and an old Italian restaurant for a couple of gigs as well, (which had excellent acoustics as there’s a lot of wood in the building to soak up the echo). They carried on booking acts, and sold the “refreshments” themselves, making a lot of friends in the process.
Like a phoenix from the ashes of Kellys, Bluenote rose out of the shadow of the Irish bar it had spent its formative years in, and was suddenly a power in its own right.
After surviving Dave’s departure so well, the next black mark was just over the horizon to test them. A very influential Blues guitarist, by the name of Chris Jones, passed away in 2005. Chris had made a big impression on the Blues scene in Germany before then. With his easy going nature and excellent musical ability, the man was naturally charismatic, and his time with Bluenote made its mark on the club.
To mark his passing, they decided to honour his name with a music festival. Every year, since 2005, Bluenote have invited artists from all over the globe to perform on their stage and endorse the charity Chris Jones supported when he was alive. The celebration itself has moved from strength to strength, with no sign of stopping, and is now a regular “sold out” institution on the Wolfenbüttel calendar. I can say from personal experience, if ever a party managed to capture those old days in Kellys, it’s this one, despite the poignant history behind the occasion.
Another annual highlight is the “Celtic Christmas”. Guinness and whiskey, a liberal splattering of Celtic music and dance, and a whole wad of Christmas cheer go to make this one of THE events of the year in Wolfenbüttel. I was able to find the time off work to go to one, and the atmosphere was electric.
I’m a Welshman, and have nothing really Irish or Scottish within me, but even I couldn’t fail to be moved by the stirring Scottish songs and mournful Irish ballads, especially as the Guinness and whiskey seemed to go down so well…
Anyway, that’s my condensed version of Bluenote’s history. I’m happy and proud to say I was there when my friends called the press to Kellys and told the local rag their plans all those years ago, (in November 2001 actually! I went to the pub to pick my jacket up after a hard night and there they were). I’m also glad to be able to say that the club is now a major mover in the music scene in and around the Wolfenbüttel area.
So here’s to you, my friends in Bluenote!
May your success march on, yet your heart stay where it is!