The Music of Portsmouth in 1961

Kenny Ball played the year's first Friday night at the Savoy followed by Johnny Dankworth, while Ricky's maintained weekly rock & roll record sessions and 'trad' was on offer in the city at the Wiltshire Lamb on Tuesdays and the Rendezvous Club in Ashburton Road on Saturdays. The Tropicana Club in Castle Road complained that it was banned to naval ratings for being "undesirable". In January, Emile Ford & the Checkmates, Shirley Bassey and Acker Bilk all headlined at the Guildhall.
The record reviews by Spinner (Evening News) were varied but now without classical releases. Elvis Presley's new single "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" led him to suggest that rock & roll had been "intended to lead youngsters to better things". The Shadows came back to the Guildhall, this time with Cliff and support including Chas McDevitt & Shirley Douglas and compere Norman Vaughan. The venue also offered Frankie Vaughan, and a "musical treat" with Mantovani, then Ella Fitzgerald with Oscar Peterson in March. The Savoy broke with dance and jazz bands on Fridays to offer a "Teenage Beat Night" with the return of the Flee-rekkers, the Overlanders and Mick Glover Quartet and then Tony Holland and the Pack-a-Beats. There were events at the Rendezvous ("jazz and jive") and the Africano Club (Danny Raven & the Renegades), Humphrey Lyttleton returned to the Savoy and the Chris Barber Band were at the Guildhall, followed in March by Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson Trio.
In March, Johnny Dankworth returned to the Savoy, the Dave Llewellyn Trio also brought a modern feel to the city on Fridays but there was plenty to entertain the traditional fans including the Mulligan/Melly band, Terry Lighfoot and the Clyde Valley Stompers. Le Vieux Carre re-formed and drew 300+ to the Rendezvous. There was also 'beat' every Monday at Southsea's Co-op Hall with guests like Frank Kelly & the Crestas, Johnny Rocco and the Paramounts and similar fare at the Savoy on a Tuesday with Robb Storme & the Whispers. The Rebel Rousers visited the Savoy for the first time. Perdido noted that six Portsmouth area jazz clubs one year ago had now doubled "in keeping with the ever increasing popularity of jazz". Perdido's column then disappeared, although Spinner gave more coverage to jazz.
The social events advertisements on 10 March 1961 indicated the fairly conventional nature of much of the city's entertainment. There were 11 advertisements for old time/traditional/modern dancing, five for jumble sales, one for bingo, one for rock and two for traditional jazz with the Rendezvous urging, "Traddies unite!" Local beat groups were generally playing smaller, local venues that did not warrant this publicity. As the summer approached there were fewer popular music events at the Guildhall.
Eurovision runners-up the Allisons headlined a Guildhall show with Ronnie Carroll, Mike Preston and the Hunters. Fratton's Railway Hotel filled weekends with Dave Watson & his Broadcasting Group while Ted Heath and Acker Bilk were back at the Savoy on Friday nights. In mid-April Britain was looking backwards with a brief craze for 'period' jazz from the Temperance Seven and Dick Charlesworth's City Gents who both visited the Savoy. By late spring, local rock and beat gigs were more frequent. On Saturdays, Hillside Youth Club offered Danny Storm, Ricky & the Hi Lites, the Cadillacs and the Renegades.
Johnny Rocco & the Paramounts were at the Co-op Hall and Ricky's still concentrated on rock records sessions. 'Trad' flourished with the Rendezvous offering two nights over Whitsun, while the Clyde Valley Stompers were at the Downbeat, Kenny Ball at the Savoy and Nat Gonella & his Georgians at the South Parade Pier. Portsmouth's 'girl' trio the Honeys (Vilma, Pearl and Anita) came home to Portsmouth prior to another tour with Adam Faith. Bill Cole was working on their arrangements with writer Johnny Worth and they hoped the "gimmicky sound" of their new single "I Didn't Wait" would propel them to Top Twenty success in a male-dominated hit parade. Sadly it was not to be. Another Portsmouth singer Johnny Vance took part in a British rock & roll show in Paris but the locals were "apathetic".
Former Portsmouth Grammar School pupils Alan Zeffert and Tony Day signed with publishers in Denmark Street who placed their songs with Billy Cotton and young singers Bobby Angelo ("Skinny Lizzie") and Scott Peters ("Bobbie Allen"). The Grammar School also had a young instrumental group the Dark Angels who were profiled by Spinner. In mid-June 1961 the Shadows were again at the Guildhall. The Beverley Sisters appeared for a week on South Parade Pier, followed by Max Bygraves. Local rock gigs included Saturday nights at the Court Dancing School with the Renegades who then departed for the Continent, the "mostest" Teenbeats and the Phantoms while Danny & the Raiders played the Civil Service Club in Copnor Road. Terry Lightfoot's Jazz Band were at South Parade Pier, Acker Bilk at the Savoy again, while the Downbeat welcomed Bjorn Stokstad's Norweigan Jazz Band and encouraged "jeans and eccentric dress". Ricky's offered modern jazz with Bill Cole and guests, including Kenny Baker and Ronnie Ross.
Jazz remained popular locally through August with Mulligan/Melly, Bob Wallis & his Storyville Jazzmen, a Saturday night "Jazzboat Shuffle" and the Theatre Royal reopened briefly with Clinton Ford and the Downtown Syncopators. Humphrey Lyttleton and Acker Bilk were at the South Parade Pier as was the Billy Cotton Band plus Mark Wynter in a show called "Pickin' Cotton". The Railway Hotel reintroduced traditional jazz in late August while a month later, Acker Bilk crossed the road to the Savoy and Kid Martyn appeared next evening at the Rendezvous. Modernists were promised the Modern Jazz Quartet in October. When they appeared, Spinner wondered whether the "pseudo chamber music" was a hoax, suggesting, "all four are jazz musicians even though they try to hide the fact". In a fairly fallow year for pop at the Guildhall, Adam Faith and the John Barry Seven were due on 12 October 1961 and Shirley Bassey one month later. A dispute between the city council and the Musicians' Union threatened many Portsmouth events but was resolved in favour of the musicians. Autumn rock gigs at Hillside Youth Club included The Cadillacs "with their new Fender guitars", the Renegades and the Fleetwoods. Terry Preston & the Nightriders were at Ricky's and there was "Guy Fawkes Rock" at the Court with Chris Ryder & the Tennessee Studs and the Phantoms. Russ Conway followed Shirley Bassey at the Guildhall, then Billy Fury, Eden Kane and Karl Denver. British-based American rocker, Gene Vincent appeared at the Savoy with Sounds Incorporated.
Spinner did not enjoy the changes of the early 1960s, suggesting three guitars had replaced the big bands and "sound technicians hide any deficiencies in musicianship" - all the new stars needed to do was "take a simple tune, learn two chords and you are hit parade bound". He believed the "heyday" of competent musicians had been a decade earlier and many were now "jobbing" players. Nonetheless there was a growing local group scene and from December 1961 to May 1962 the Evening News carried profiles of some new Portsmouth beat groups including the Cadillacs, Confidentials, Crestas, Crusaders, Diplomats, Escorts, Federals, For-Tunes, Hustlers, Jaguars, Johnnie & the Cutters, Limelites, Paramounts, Phantoms, Ramblers, Renegades, Resonnettes, Rivals, Sapphires, Stormriders, Teenbeats, Tennessee Studs, and the Tremors.
The Rivals were a five-piece rock & roll group with 17-year-old guitarist Rod Watts who would become an important keyboard player in the city. They appeared in a Southern Television programme called Home Grown with home made amplifiers that were so 'ugly' that the producer hid them behind the studio sets! Their singer was Ricky Dene who would be replaced by Mick Wallis before the group split, although a second Rivals emerged in the mid 1960s and kept playing for decades.
Towards Christmas, the Guildhall offered the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Max Jaffa Trio, Kenny Ball, Carol Concerts and Mitch Mitchell. The "fabulous" Flinstones were at the Savoy with the Sabers (3/6d). Acker Bilk was at the Savoy again in Christmas week and there was an Arts Ball on Boxing Day at Clarence Pier. For Spinner, 1961 British pop belonged to 15-year-old Helen Shapiro who "burst like a tornado" enjoying a series of hits and he confirmed the "startling" success of traditional jazz. Otherwise, he repeated his pessimism of twelve months earlier, noting a year of "declining standards" with increasingly "childish" lyrics and "simple tunes", although Danny Williams' "Moon River" and Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" gave him some hope.

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