Clubland legend and former boxer Eddie Fewtrell – the man who banned the Krays from Birmingham – has died.
The 90-year-old boss of a legendary nightclub chain died on Sunday morning February 13 at the farm in Hertfordshire where he spent his retirement
His death draws the curtain on the end of an era for the city’s neon-lit entertainment industry.
READ MORE: Brum’s King of Clubs on fighting, gangsters and building an empire
in the 1960s and 1970s, Eddie, one of eight brothers, was not only the leader of the nightclub scene. He was the nightclub scene, running such well-known establishments as Bermuda, Cedar, Boogies, Abigails and Edwards No7.
The father-of-three brought a steady stream of big names to Birmingham and counted Tom Jones and Jimmy Tarbuck as friends.
The success bred jealousy – and attracted those who wanted a piece of the action.
Infamous villains Ronnie and Reggie Kray, eager to expand their East End empire, were at the front of the queue – and would have paid a heavy price for muscled into Eddie’s mansion.
Eddie later denied folk tales of a bloody mass brawl with the Twins’ foot soldiers.
Yet during an interview with this reporter at his sprawling 40-acre campaign headquarters near Ross-on-Wye – a home shared with his second wife Marleen, the former entrepreneur went into deadpan detail about his violent altercation along with muscle Kray Tony and Chris Lambrianou, who entered the Bermuda club to twist protection money.
Ronnie and Reggie had first staked Eddie’s fledgling empire. Eddie was completely unimpressed and threw them out of Bermuda.
“The Krays were well known in London, but in Birmingham I had never heard of them,” he wrote in his book “King of Clubs”. “So when they told me who they were, it didn’t mean anything. I just said, ‘fuck you’. They were in my territory, so my attitude was, how could they think of taking me to Birmingham?
“A bit later, the Lambrianous came down, throwing their weight everywhere – and I did the same with them. I beat them and threw them out. It’s as simple as that.
Good concealment is endorsed by the Lambrianous themselves in their book, Inside the Firm.
While serving me a buffet and insisting “I’m going to eat it, it’s all homemade,” Eddie put a lot of meat on the bone.
“They kept saying, ‘you don’t understand, you need our help’ and I was like, ‘why do I need your help, I have all my brothers?’ Then the penny dropped.”
One of the Lambrianous was quickly dropped.
He remembered that one of the “insurance salesmen” in the gangland had been hit so badly that he was traveling from one end of the room to the other.
Eddie also recalled that first encounter with the Krays. “They were in a band and someone was talking and I said, ‘What’s up, can’t they speak for themselves? One of them – Ronnie I think – nodded and slapped the guy in the face.
Birmingham folklore has it that the Lambrianous clash spawned the Battle of Snow Hill – a late 1960s collision between the firm of Krays, sent to teach the Brummies respect, and Eddie’s ad hoc army Aston.
Tipped off by Irish contacts in the capital, the Birmingham crowd waited for Cockney’s enforcers to disembark at the station. There was blood on the tracks that night.
Eddie vehemently denied the fight took place. But I’ve spoken to ex-doormen who insist on their presence and ex-detectives have added the devil to the details.
And the battle played a starring role in the best-selling novel about Eddie’s Amazing Life, The Accidental Gangster, written by his son-in-law David Keogh. The book is, of course, an amalgam of fact and fiction.
In 2015, David, who now lives with Eddie’s daughter, Abi, and their children in Portugal, told me: “I spoke to 50 guys who said they were there and 50 who said that had not happened.
“I have spoken to doormen who are adamant about their presence. The brothers I spoke to refuse to say anything.
“I think the Krays didn’t want Birmingham,” David said.
“I don’t think they wanted the clubs, but they wanted revenge.
“I think they came because they wanted to open a drug center in Birmingham to distribute the drugs that the Americans had asked them to sell in Birmingham.”
Eddie bristled at any suggestion he had mob ties – and got the hair-dryer treatment when we met, the last interview he conducted with a reporter.
After delivering a verbal assault on what he perceived to be veiled references to mob involvement, he pointed to the dinner table and ordered, “Eat the cheese, I’m not throwing it away.”
I ate cheese.
“A lot of people, because I was such a powerful man in the nightclub scene, with a lot of people under my control, thought I was a gangster or a bad guy. I wasn’t,” he said. he wrote in King of Clubs “I was just a normal person who believed in fairness. It’s out of the question for me to take a liberty with anyone.
But he was a man who refused to be intimidated. And Eddie was fiercely protective of the company he had created.
“Being saddled with all of these responsibilities from an early age had a profound effect on me, so when I finally got somewhere my attitude was, ‘Nobody’s going to take that away from me,'” he said. admitted.
“I have always run my businesses like good businesses. I always paid my debts, I owed nothing to anyone.
“All the tough guys in the world were going after me. At first I had no reputation. All my brothers were younger than me – there were two older ones but they were in the army – so I had to handle everything on my own.
“When people came to the club demanding various things – people coming out of pubs drunk, especially Cockneys – as soon as they opened their mouths, you could tell they were country yokels.
“They used to demand that I let them into the club, but there was no way I would put up with them if I didn’t want to.
“I learned from my very first club that you have to show them who’s boss. If you do that, people will want to come to your club. They know there won’t be any problems there.
“That’s why I was successful, plus the fact that my brothers grew up and I also had a lot of men. I spent the money on the security guys. I was telling my doormen that s “They beat someone, they’d get beat by me. They weren’t supposed to hurt anyone, they just had to escort them through the door.”
“Unless, of course, they are violent and we have to fight back.
“What people often don’t realize is that I didn’t want trouble – I hated trouble, I just wanted an easy life.
“But I’m afraid that when you have a club that has 3,000 people, you always have people who want to fight.”
While piecing together an article about the man known simply as Mr. Clubland, I attempted to gather information from close relatives.
One of them said to me, “I know too much about everything to say anything about anything.
This secret only added to the legend of Fewtrell. And Eddie was one of Birmingham’s last true legends.