The Music of Portsmouth in 1960

On 1 January, Acker Bilk and his Jazz Band were at the Savoy while Expresso Bongo opened in the city and there was rock at Ricky's every week. Caesar's in London Road offered a "Bop Club", the orchestras of Syd Dean and Benny Freedman were at the South Parade Pier and Savoy and Vic Abbott & his Music at Kimbells Freedman celebrating 10 years residency early in 1960.
Friday night was "Radio Band Night" at the Savoy with the Ted Heath Band regular visitors plus Johnny Dankworth and 51-year-old Nat Gonella with his Georgians on a popular comeback. The Platters visited the Guildhall on 19 January and nine days later Sarah Vaughan with the Dankworth Orchestra again, although Count Basie cancelled his show. The Crescent City Jazz Club ran in Fratton Road's Conservative Club and local pubs hosted the Summa Cum Laude Jazz Club in Lake Road and the Pedrian Jazz Club in Arundel Street. On Mondays, Fratton's Railway Hotel offered Bill Cole's modern trio with guests like Ronnie Ross, Bill Le Sage, Kathy Stobart and Don Rendell. These jazz clubs joined together with others to form the Portsmouth Area Jazz Federation and one of their first initiatives was a series of jazz films on a Sunday with a good second house.
The newspaper archives suggest that 1960 was dominated by light entertainment, ballroom dancing to live bands and jazz, traditional and modern. Eurovision stars Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson appeared with Eric Delaney and Lenny the Lion at the King's Theatre and the Evening News reported that the local vocal harmony group the Liddell sisters had changed their name to the Honeys. The 'girls' were due to tour with Adam Faith, including a Portsmouth gig at Fratton Road's Troxy Cinema, which also presented an evening with Cliff Richard & the Shadows plus Kathy Kirby and Norman Vaughan.
The Africano Club offered jazz with the Peter Scott and Colin James Trios. Emile Ford & the Checkmates and Frank Ifield shared a bill at the King's Theatre and the Downbeats appeared at Ricky's, although the club often favoured record sessions. 1950s rock star Vince Eager backed by the Playboys began an attempted comeback at the Savoy with his new manager Mr Peter Sopp, a former post office worker who still lived in Portsmouth. There was a "Top Twenty Hit Parade" show at the Guildhall featuring British stars Craig Douglas, the Avons and Alan Freeman but an all-American show with Conway Twitty, Johnny Preston and Freddy Cannon was poorly received.
The Evening News featured the "strictly Dixieland and Chicago" Summa Cum Laude Jazz Band at Gosport's Downbeat Club.
It was a popular centre for local jazz but attendances at their Portsmouth club declined so they took a new step in March presenting the American folk singer Ramblin' Jack Elliott which was sufficiently successful that the club began changing Elliott-style to a Ballad and Blues club. The original Portsmouth Folk Club had started about a year before, at the Star Inn in Lake Road with the Broadsiders (Barry Walker, John Saunders, Les Windley) and was generally a participants' 'singaround', whereas the new venture might be seen as the start of organised folk clubs in Portsmouth in a decade when folk would have a considerable impact.
The Evening News invited local jazz musicians to discuss whether Acker Bilk's costumes were an unnecessary gimmick. On the whole Spike Palmer, Derek Adye, Don Barker, Jimmy Frost and Doug Whitfield were more concerned with the quality of the playing and were favourably disposed towards Acker. Lonnie Donegan presented Putting on the Style at the King's Theatre in February 1960 with a full West End cast. The Evening News previewed it as "Mr Skiffle visits Southsea" and reported that his followers "turned out in force" as the "skiffle king still reigns supreme". There was lots of noise from "teenage girls in the balcony". The Guildhall had the Everly Brothers plus Jazz at the Philharmonic with Ella Fitzgerald, a charity dance with the Ivy Benson Orchestra, Paul Robeson and Mantovani. Ella's visit was her first to Portsmouth and she "received terrific ovations". Robeson revealed that on his first trip to Britain in 1922 he had flown into Southampton before meeting the actress Mrs Patrick Campbell at the King's Theatre, Southsea. He returned to the city subsequently to appear at South Parade Pier and now starred at the Guildhall.
Manager George Turner reported that the Savoy was returning to "strict tempo dancing" although he presented Mick Mulligan's Band with "blues singer" George Melly. Easter entertainment was traditional but the Evening News profiled the promising Gary Hayman Trio who mixed pop and jazz styles "with a commercial bias". Like Vince Eager, Peter Sopp was their manager. Another local man, 29-year-old trumpeter Murray Campbell who had worked with Joe Loss and Frankie Vaughan, released a single "Painters of Paris". Mick Glover's new Combo, including two Southern Grammar schoolboys secured a residency on Hayling Island and The Guildhall hosted the Lord Mayor's Ball for the first time since the war an event of "elegance and colour".
Easter traffic was the "heaviest ever" in the area and Gosport Downbeat Club's Jazz Festival was also packed.
After three years the club was very successful under Chairman Vic Brown.
In Portsmouth, the resident Crescent City Jazz Club band emerged from the Art College and moved to their fifth venue, introducing "blues and boogie" on Saturday nights with the John White Trio.
Vieux Carre Jazzband toured Holland. Two new modern jazz groups emerged in Gosport. Perdido enthused about the Modern Swing Quartet but saw promise too in the MJ4 who included on vibes and piano Mike Hugg, the future 'Manfred'. Their approach was "strictly modern". Portsmouth's Modern Jazz Club, based at the Railway Hotel, celebrated its third birthday although young promoter Jerry Allen felt there was "not a large following for modern jazz in Portsmouth" - a familiar comment through the decade.
Dutch rock & roll band the Flee-Rekkers appeared at the Savoy in May. The Troxy offered The Beatniks a supporting feature about "young rebels, living like there was no tomorrow".
The summer seasons on South Parade Pier began with Irish comedian Dave Allen in Gaytime, followed by Jimmy Edwards, a stage version of Hughie Green's Double Your Money, Shirley Bassey and the Beverley Sisters with comedian Arthur Haynes. There were regular Sunday jazz performances by Chris Barber, Acker Bilk and others and Perdido announced the opening of a new jazz club, the Rendezvous, in a church in Ashburton Road, Southsea in early August 1960. It was the first Portsmouth jazz club to open on a Saturday and enjoyed a "fairly successful start". For five years it would play a key role in the transition from established jazz styles to the new rhythm & blues, which would come to dominate the city's live scene. It opened with the Kenny Robinson Jazz Band, Summa Cum Laude and Le Vieux Carre sadly, unsuccessful personnel changes meant the latter popular jazz band would soon split.
As the summer drew to a close, the King's Theatre presented its Big Holiday Show with ventriloquist Peter Brough and Archie Andrews and 16-year-old Laurie London who had recently enjoyed a Transatlantic hit with the Gospel song "He's Got the Whole World in his Hands". He never had another hit but is enshrined forever in the history of teenage culture in Colin MacInnes' cult novel Absolute Beginners in which his hip protagonist suggests that Laurie London's success was "a sign of decadence. The teenage thing is getting out of hand".
Acker Bilk appeared at South Parade Pier a week after he had been at the centre of a "Jazz Riot" at Beaulieu's annual Festival. The early autumn brought a variety of jazz stars to Portsmouth including Kenny Ball, Johnny Dankworth's new Orchestra, Chris Barber, Humphrey Lyttleton, Dakota Staton, Ray Ellington and Carmen McRae with Ronnie Scott and Art Farmer, whilst the Guildhall booked Miles Davis. The Vat 69 Jazz Club opened in Fratton Road and soon moved to the Railway Hotel. The Court Dancing School in Eastney began featuring live rock & roll groups on Saturday nights, opening with the Hot Rods in mid-August and later the Renegades, while "Britain's Number 1 Jive Group" the Flee-Rekkers visited the Savoy again.
The editor of the Evening News despatched Kay Stanhope to evaluate the city's entertainment. She found plenty to do from 7-10 pm although it was "far from sophisticated", but after 10 pm, "oh dear". The pubs closed at 10.30 pm and the only meals outside private clubs were curries.

In late September 1960, Perdido reflected on the earlier success of Rambling Jack Elliott's visit to Portsmouth, regretting that American folk music, which co-exists with jazz "is almost always disregarded in this country at least". This would be rectified soon and Portsmouth contributed to that change with its Ballads and Blues Club. Frank Hurlock, Bob Ferguson, Eric Skinner, Derek Adye, David Marshall and others were trying to build an audience for the music, playing live in a guitar-led group including Ferguson's unusual 12-string guitar and featuring soloists as well as record recitals of artists like Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Champion Jack Dupree, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. By November a new young folk singer would begin a residency at the club Jonathan Isherwood.
Miles Davis arrived with saxophonist Sonny Stitt, Wynton Kelly (piano), Jimmy Cobb (drums) and Paul Chambers (bass). Perdido described how the gig "delighted" the rather small audience, with numbers like "Bye Bye Blackbird", "On Green Dolphin Street" and "Walkin'". But while Perdido enthused, Spinner claimed to represent those who were "disappointed" by Davis, believing the British support, Jazz Five, to have been superior. Perdido warned that Portsmouth was in danger of losing top jazz acts because of poor audiences for Davis, Ball, McCrae and others. Things improved with a show starring Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Cannonball Adderley. Promising West Indian/British modernist Joe Harriott played at the Railway Hotel while the traditionalists were offered Kid Martyn and Gerry Brown at the Rendezvous.
October 1960 welcomed "Big Beat Rock 'n' Roll" to the Kingston Ballroom (Oddfellows Hall) and a youthful pop show at the Guildhall starring Jimmy Jones ("Handyman") with Mark Wynter, Kenny Lynch and the Brook Brothers. The Troxy presented British 1950s stars Terry Dene, Chas McDevitt & Shirley Douglas and Vince Eager plus Screaming Lord Sutch in a single night, two-house show. Eager re-appeared at the Oddfellows with Danny Storm. Promoters ignored the more 'authentic' concerns of the revivalists with evenings like South Parade Pier's "Trad-Jazz + Rock-Rave" including the Cadillacs. 'Trad' was on the rise but Perdido warned that fans screaming at Acker Bilk signified "the beginning of the end" - even if 'trad' might "replace the rock & roll craze".
In November, the Shadows headlined the Guildhall without their usual singer but supported by Frank Ifield, and a week later it was Ricky Valence and Johnny Kidd & the Pirates. Drummer and bandleader Arthur Ward formed Portsmouth's first Latin American band, with Doug Wheeler, Peter Scutt and others. Elvis Presley's GI Blues opened in city cinemas as Christmas approached, while the holiday offered mainly dancing to bands and orchestras, although the Rendezvous had the Keith Smith Climax Band. The Savoy's "Festival of Bands" on 23 December included the Jazzbeats, Danny Raven & the Renegades and the Mike Glover Quartet. The Evening News featured records and record players with advertisements for the Co-op, Weston Hart's Ivan Veck, LDB, Seals and Ernest Wyatt. Perdido observed that jazz, traditional and modern, "has never had it so good" with "so much publicity" - the Guildhall was not generally "in fashion" but clubs were in good health, Spinner was more gloomy about the British pop music scene, noting that Elvis, Cliff and Adam Faith "overshadowed the others" asking "where are all the new stars?" He felt the "general standard of singing and on-stage performance" had deteriorated.

NOTE: This is an edited version of Dave Allen's research. The full version can be found at Mick Cooper's website