The Music of Portsmouth in 1964

In Portsmouth in the opening months of 1964, jazz struggled to hold its place and the beat boom faded slightly, as a hybrid of the two emerged, amid some controversy. Rhythm & Blues groups sporting the same instruments as the beat groups but drawing far more on black American music of the 1950s began to dominate the British club scene – to the dismay of some older jazz fans and musicians. Alongside this new sound were changes in teenagers' fashions as mods, previously a tiny London elite, appeared in Portsmouth where they dominated much of the local music scene for the next few years.
With the imminent launch of the new Rendezvous, Kimbells also became a regular venue for rhythm & blues. Southampton's Concorde Club promoted some nights there with acts like Graham Bond, Alex Harvey, Jimmy Powell, the Sheffields, the Soul Agents, Chris Farlowe and John Mayall – with John Lee Hooker. There was a new Sunday night season with regular visitors Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames for 4/- plus a joint membership of 2/6d. Manfred Mann still appeared regularly in the city on Thursdays but with their new release "5-4-3-2-1" the group were poised for chart success. The Rendezvous returned to the Oddfellows Hall, Kingston Road as a rhythm & blues club in February with 300 fans for Jimmy Powell & the Five Dimensions. Advertised for the following weeks were Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, the Graham Bond Quartet, the Giants (from Germany), Long John Baldry & the Hoochie Coochie Men, the Downliners and "a group called the Animals".
Jazz was offered a boost of sorts through its links with rhythm & blues but the Jazzmen suggested that it was in a "curious… paradoxical (and) dangerous" position. While it appeared "healthy and prosperous", with a wide range of "enthusiasts", there was the danger of "stagnation". Despite earlier criticism of the jazz avant-garde, they now criticised the lack of experimentation and "new ideas". They also suggested that Portsmouth was "noted for its apathy towards modern music" as Portsmouth 'modernists' often travelled to Southampton, Chichester and London to hear the best acts. Within a month, their column was embroiled in arguments with readers about the authenticity of British rhythm & blues, while warning of "a lean time ahead for Portsmouth jazz lovers".
Alex Campbell appeared again at the Folkways Club at the Cobden Arms in Arundel Street and the Ian Campbell Folk Group were also in Portsmouth. The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra offered an "essay in nostalgia" at the Guildhall with Frank Sinatra Junior. Bill Cole and Ricky Midgely promoted modern jazz at Ricky's Club with performers like Bill Le Sage and Ronnie Ross. Traditional jazz was available with the San Jacinto Jazz Band at the Star Inn and the Back of Town Syncopators at the Railway. The Savoy was now focusing far more on pop singers and beat groups including Brian Poole & the Tremeloes, the Tornadoes, Eden Kane, the Barron Knights and various Liverpudlians including the Undertakers, the Kubas, Lee Curtis and the Chants. Active local groups included the Dynamos, the Strollers, the Diplomats and Chris Ryder & the Southern Sounds. Hillside Youth Club presented the Dowlands from Bournemouth, who enjoyed a minor hit covering the Beatles' "All My Loving".
Sam Donahue saxophonist with the visiting Dorsey Band observed with resignation "the kids are lost to us for ever...Hootenanny...Folk Music...that's all they want". An odd package tour starring pre-Beatles British stars John Leyton and Mike Sarne arrived at the Guildhall with Merseybeat hit group the Swinging Blue Jeans ("Hippy Hippy Shake"), ex-Shadow Jet Harris and in support the Rolling Stones on their second package tour. Valentines Day offered a number of dances and other romantic events but there was less love in a new story that would grow in the popular press over the next couple of years. Leading with "War in the Coffee Bars" it contrasted Elvis-loving 'Miss Rocker' in tight skirts and stilettos with 'Miss Mod' – up-to-date and a fan of French fashion, Steinbeck and R&B. We learned that the Rockers danced the Twist and the Mods the latest Stomp although in early 1964 there were "few real Mods in Portsmouth" - they were in London. The report offered a clear contrast between the two factions, suggesting that while the Rockers "go happily on their way", the Mods "continue to reassess everything".
The changing pop scene was reflected in a package tour at the Guildhall in early March. Headliners Joe Brown and Johnny Kidd & the Pirates were older stars, with new hit-makers the Crystals and Manfred Mann. The Alex Harvey Soul Band and Zoot Money's Big Roll Band visited Kimbells as letters from Pete Boardman of Cosham began to feature in the weekly Evening News jazz column. Boardman defended Jimmy Powell whose performance had been dismissed as "not R&B" by the Jazzmen and warned these fans that their music might suffer as 'trad' had done from over-popularisation, which had killed the latter "as dead as a doornail". Boardman went on to be an active member of the Birdcage Club, which became the home of rhythm & blues in Portsmouth. Ernie Sears, of the Rendezvous argued that his club was not seeking to "satisfy the purists" but catering "for a larger number". Jazz/folk musician Frank Hurlock suggested that British rhythm & blues was "nothing less than a shook up potion of rock 'n' roll", adding the real culprits were not the young musicians but promoters and agents exploiting this new genre financially as they had previously "flaunted traditional jazz".
The Guildhall played safe in the spring with the Drayton Choral Society, Portsmouth Choral Union, Mantovani, "Friday Night is Music Night", Ella Fitzgerald and Cliff Richard. The Savoy had a busy 'beat' weekend with Peter Jay & the Jaywalkers, Tommy Bruce & the Bruisers and Paul Raven with the Twilights. Spinner predicted the forthcoming success of the new "Southern Sound" led by Count Downe and the Zeros from Sussex. It brought reactions from Portsmouth fans of the 'real' Southern Sounds and praise from Spinner for the strong voice of their vocalist Chris Ryder. Spinner was closer with his view that the new Rolling Stones single "Not Fade Away" had "the greatest chance of achieving world-wide fame on the Beatles' scale".
In March 1964, a Radio Luxembourg Show at the Guildhall featured Dave Dee, the Dowlands and TV pop pundit Janice ("Oi'll Give it Foive") Nicholls. The Easter Rendezvous 'special' with the Animals supported by the Midnite Ramblers attracted 600 fans. Ricky's opened the Portsmouth Modern Jazz Club with the Dougie Wheeler Quintet while four "Mods with a message" were the Mercy Beats – a local Salvation Army beat group. Frank Kelly & the Hunters new release was "Some Other Time" – it was well reviewed on the Light programme's "Easy Beat" and Spinner thought (again) it might be a hit but it was not. Frank was at South Parade Pier and the Vigilantes with Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers at the Savoy.
Pop, beat and British rhythm & blues were flourishing around the local venues but there was also a successful local ballroom dancing festival and the Arundel Street Locarno Ballroom opened on Monday 4 May with a "Gala Night" dance. Local beat group the Storms were at the Savoy followed by the Migil Five on Tuesday. The latter enjoyed one hit record with "Mockingbird Hill" and in later years their saxophonist Alan Watson ran the Joker's Club in Southsea. Two nights later the Rolling Stones returned to the same venue with hardly any publicity – perhaps because it sold out in advance. At an Isle of Wight Pianoforte Competition, judge Professor Sidney Harrison allowed 13-year-old Mary Williams to play the Beatles' "All My Loving", attracting press attention.
In the spring of 1964 the Guildhall presented Kid Thomas Valentine and Emmanuel Paul, veteran American jazzmen with a combined age of 128 years backed by Kid Martyn's Ragtime Band and local trumpeter Cuff Billett in what the Jazzmen called "a joyous concert". There was less joy when the first house of a concert with Ella Fitzgerald, and Oscar Peterson was cancelled but the second show sold-out. Perhaps 6.30 pm was just too early? Nonetheless, at the end of April the Guildhall reported a "heavy demand" for tickets for the American Folk Blues and Gospel Caravan. The excellent line up was Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Cousin Joe Pleasants, Rev. Gary Davis, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. However, the local 'experts' struck again. The Jazzmen were complimentary, suggesting that it was "like walking into the New Orleans of 40/50 years ago" despite the fact that only Cousin Joe was really a New Orleans musician and New Orleans was less a blues home than a centre of jazz. The bill was varied but Muddy Waters and Otis Spann represented the popular contemporary style of Chicago blues, which troubled Brian Chalker, a "local expert on folk music". He praised the show overall but was critical of Muddy Waters for being "monotonous" and a "big disappointment". He tried to balance his criticism with the surprising suggestion that Muddy Waters' guitar playing "was extremely pleasant".
A few weeks later Brian was in print again, complaining about the "indiscriminate use of the word folk to describe any variety of singers" – and once again he picked on Muddy Waters who he felt did not qualify. He defined folk as "the music of the people for the people by the people - and a folk song has no known author". He suggested there were few "authentic folk singers" but identified Pete and Peggy Seeger, Alan Lomax, Dominic Beehan, the Stanley Brothers, Ewan McColl and others. Interestingly, they were all white, unlike Muddy Waters who had nonetheless released an album Muddy Waters, Folk Singer in the previous September. In December, Brian Chalker would be in print again as Portsmouth's "Country & Western expert". He praised a Portsmouth gig by bluegrass player Bill Clifton and described it as "a sound that only American folk singers can produce with any authenticity" adding, it was "a tragedy that music of this style has so little support here".
The debates continued and in late December of that year, the Jazzmen also devoted half-a-page to defining rhythm & blues. They identified "purists" who insist that it can only be performed by the "Negro American" but pointed out that it was a "combination of several types of 'pure' music". They described Leadbelly as one example of "the originators of this music" and suggested rhythm & blues should have "a little jazz, a little soul, a lot of blues and a dash of folk". On the British scene, they praised Georgie Fame, the Animals, Manfred Mann and the Rolling Stones but ignored other Portsmouth visitors like Alexis Korner, John Mayall and Long John Baldry.
There was more rhythm & blues in the early summer of 1964, as Manfred Mann and the Classics sold out Thorngate and the latter recorded a cover of Bo Diddley's "Pretty Thing" with cult producer Joe Meek. Long John Baldry, Graham Bond, Alexis Korner (with Herbie Goins), Downliners Sect and Portsmouth's Talismen, Shamrocks and J Crow Combo all catered for Portsmouth's growing rhythm & blues audience. The latter two local bands and the Southern Sounds competed in a talent contest at the Savoy. The judges, including Jet Harris and Billie Davis, awarded the prize to the Shamrocks with the Southern Sounds as runners-up. Sherlock & the Saints were the first beat group to perform at a Lord Mayor's Ball and apparently they "frenzied the microphones in the popular style". Sadly there were no photographs of the 'frenzying'.
Around Whitsun, Chris Barber was at South Parade Pier, the Pretty Things with a capacity audience at the Rendezvous and the Kinks and the Escorts at the Savoy. Local groups J Crow Combo and the Shamrocks shared Sunday night's rhythm & blues at Kimbells. Marty Wilde, Big Dee Irwin, Millie, the Fourmost, the Migil Five and the Applejacks were at the Savoy as was Coronation Street star Chris Sandford with his group the Coronets plus the Dowlands and the Diplomats. British rockers Rory Blackwell & the Monsters were there later in the summer, followed by (Buddy Holly's) Crickets, Brian Poole & the Tremeloes, the Hollies and Johnny Dankworth. There was Top Twenty pop at the Guildhall in mid-June with the Dave Clark Five and the Applejacks while the Four Pennies appeared at Kimbells.
In mid-summer 1964, Kimbells, Southsea hosted Chris Farlowe & the Thunderbirds, John Lee Hooker with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and on Thursday 2 July the Yardbirds including Eric Clapton. Mayall was back in the city at the Saturday night Rendezvous Club, as were Downliners Sect, the Soul Agents, Long John Baldry's Hoochie Coochie Men with Rod Stewart. The Graham Bond Organisation attracted 400 fans for what the Jazzmen called their "dynamic R&B with a definite leaning towards modern jazz". The Shamrocks were establishing themselves as a leading local act and other groups like the Classics were performing more rhythm & blues material. Mike Devon & the Diplomats moved in that direction also but some members were not keen. Singer Mike Devon and drummer Terry Wiseman left by the end of the year, with Mike joining Arthur Ward's band and the Diplomats played for the last time in December. Other local venues responded to the popularity of rhythm & blues, with Ricky's booking the Beat Merchants, and South Parade Pier the Pretty Things - advertised accurately as having longer hair than the Rolling Stones.
The Guildhall offered Shirley Bassey, Matt Monro and John Barry in May and the Ray Charles Orchestra and Raelets on 21 July 1964. Two weeks earlier Woody Herman's Orchestra swung "like a dream". Herman played new material but also "made concessions to older members of the audience (and they were many)". Jazz pianist Ray Hart and his Trio impressed at Southsea's Mermaid bars. The Original For-Tunes were busy at local venues including Clarence Pier, while the Southern Sounds played regularly at Hampshire Terrace. Local musicians could shop for equipment at Minns in Palmerston Road where a Premier Drum Kit cost around £100, Ludwig Super £276, a Vox AC 30 amplifier £110 and a Hofner Verithin Guitar 70 guineas. There was no sign of Gibson or Fender guitars but a Gretsch Country Gent was most expensive at 252 guineas. Other instrument stores included Bennett's in Fratton and New Roads and Courtney & Walker's in Commercial Road. In March, the Hampshire magazine ran a photo-feature on the Classics who were paying monthly instalments of £35 on their equipment. Paul Spooner "the cheapest member" was paying 11/9d for his harmonicas - all paid for from fees between £15-£25 per night. The article confirmed that "rockers like rock...mods like rhythm & blues" and despite the fact that both genres were based on black American 12-bar songs there seemed to be no possible overlap.
Local group Dale Morris & the Furies won a beat contest at Fleet Carnival while the first Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night offered four shows each day at the city's two Odeons and the Gaumont, and ran for extra weeks. Cliff's new movie Wonderful Life also opened at the Essoldos and ABC. John Hanson starred in the musical comedy The Maid of the Mountains at the King's Theatre but the audience was disappointing.
Cliff Bennett was at the Savoy as Spinner suggested low fees were encouraging local groups to play out of the city. He quoted Les Tuddenham, whose son Marc played guitar with the Dynamos, who claimed they were paid fees of around £5 in the city and £25 in Southampton and London. George Turner, the manager at the Savoy, suggested that not all local groups were "at the standard required" although he praised the Shamrocks from the Isle of Wight. He also pointed out that in the Savoy the payment would be at MU rates. The Dynamos entered the national televised talent contest "Ready Steady Win" as did the Shamrocks. A local talent contest at the Savoy included two local bands, the J Crow Combo and the Hellstones. The Condors from Aldershot were the winners but the J Crow Combo were invited to audition for BBC-2.
Bank Holiday weekend was at the beginning of August 1964 and the Savoy featured Mike Daniels' 14-Piece Showband on Saturday, the Mouquettes on Sunday and three bands including the Vibratones on Monday. Arthur Ward, Club Cabana and a beat group were still playing Saturdays at Clarence Pier. The Locarno introduced a kids' event on Saturday mornings while parents went shopping, and afternoon dancing to "Big Beat" records for teenagers. On Saturday evenings they preferred traditional dance bands. At Cowes Week, the Strollers attracted media attention playing to the Duke of Edinburgh. They described their sound as "not strict rhythm & blues". The Beat Merchants and the J Crow Combo played at Kimbells, and there was a coach trip (22/-) to London's Marquee Club to see Manfred Mann. Clarence Pier (the Infernos) and the Savoy (the Shakeouts, the Tremors and the Agebeaters) featured beat groups over the second weekend in August as Kimbells reported an attendance of 400 for the Dynamos. Other local acts included Pye recording band the Sheffields at the Rendezvous (5/-) which was also promising Graham Bond, Long John Baldry, the Pretty Things, Animals and Downliners Sect and Chicago harmonica star Little Walter as future visitors. The Rendezvous "established in 1960" was offering the "best in rhythm & blues".
Manfred Mann had begun the year with a weekly residency in the city but on Tuesday 11 August 1964 the Evening News reported that they had reached the top of the singles charts with "Do Wah Diddy". On the following night, the St Louis Checks played the South Parade Pier. On Friday 14 August, the Kinks were at the Savoy with Portsmouth's Sherlock & the Saints (5/-), and the Challengers were at the Bottle in the Wall (the Hampshire Terrace club). There were fewer jazz clubs operating but the Magnet pub in Greetham Street advertised jazz every Tuesday. The Guildhall presented a star from an earlier era, Gracie Fields. Her performance was well received but a number of correspondents complained that the National Anthem was not played at the end of the evening. In a similar patriotic mood, the Savoy and Kimbells ran special events to welcome the Home Fleet's return to port.
As the summer drew towards a close, the Savoy continued to feature mainstream beat and pop groups including the Swinging Blue Jeans, the Nashville Teens, Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders, Sounds Incorporated, the Honeycombs, the Seekers, the Roulettes, the Cherokees and all-girl group the Beatchicks, while local support acts included the Residents and the Strollers. The Southern Sounds and the Back O' Town Syncopators were at the Bottle in the Wall. Hillside Youth Club presented the Strangers who on the following night were in Commercial Road at the Star Club. Kimbells and the Rendezvous continued to present British rhythm & blues, including Steve Marriot's Moments, the Beat Merchants, the Alex Harvey Band, Jimmy Powell & the Five Dimensions, the Sheffields, and Manfred Mann. Their fans complained that The Portmuthian, termly journal of Portsmouth Grammar School, had failed to praise the success of their old boy Paul Pond (now Paul Jones). In late September, the Roadrunners appeared as a support act at Kimbells – one of the earliest mentions for the local group that would become Simon Dupree & the Big Sound.
September 1964 saw major names on the R&B circuit visiting Portsmouth more frequently, including a frustrating clash on Saturday 19 September when Graham Bond brought his future stars Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker to Kimbells while a couple of miles up-the-road, the great Chicago harmonica star Little Walter was at the Rendezvous backed by John Lee's Groundhogs (with Tony McPhee). Billy Mannings' Clarence Pier Pavilion had a major facelift and re-opened with a Gala Night dance, still featuring Arthur Ward's Orchestra plus Ritchie Peters & the Original For-Tunes. Tickets were 5/- for an evening from 7.30-11.45 pm with late transport.
The Dynamos spent time in the recording studio with Mickie Most. By early October, Manfred Mann were at the Guildhall as a chart-topping act and part of a package that included current acts the Rockin' Berries and the Nashville Teens plus the original rock & roll star Bill Haley & his Comets. The Evening News suggested Manfred Mann's version of Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightnin'" was the "most memorable number" of the night. Sadly while Bill Haley was now part of "history ...the magic has gone".
On Saturday 3 October, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers were at the Rendezvous which again booked Downliners Sect, the Soul Agents and Long John Baldry & the Hoochie Coochie Men. The Jazzmen described Mayall's "excellent reception" and praised his "fairly authentic" material and "refusal to pander to the commercial element in rhythm & blues". Tony Colton & the Crawdaddies were at Kimbells Southsea as were Steve Marriott's Moments.
On Saturday 17 October 1964 local acts the Challengers and the Strangers were at Hillside Youth Club. Herman's Hermits came to the Savoy and the Mojos to South Parade Pier. November opened at the Guildhall with two examples of this varied period in British popular music. First came the Searchers, Dionne Warwick, the Isley Brothers and the Zombies and then Sun Records rocker Carl Perkins, with British R&B stars the Animals, American rhythm & blues singer Tommy Tucker ("Hi Heel Sneakers") and pop acts Elkie Brooks and the Nashville Teens. These mixed bills perhaps reflected uncertainty among an older breed of promoters, while clubs were often more precise in what they offered. Isle of Wight pop star Craig Douglas no longer enjoying chart success pursued a career as an all-round entertainer starring at the King's Theatre in the musical No No Nanette, Terry Lightfoot's Jazzmen appeared at the Cellar Club, Hampshire Terrace, which also featured the Alan Cave Quintet in a weekly residency playing "swing, mainstream and modern". Local promoter Ernie Sears observed that in the rhythm & blues field there were "a great many poor local groups", under-rehearsed and badly presented.
On 4 November 1964 the Savoy hosted a charity night Old Time Music Hall hosted by local businessman GA Day and attended by the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and many of the city's great and good – all in appropriate costumes. Gonks were a newly fashionable cuddly toy and a group of the same name played the Savoy. Newcastle's Shorty & Them and Portsmouth's Sons of Man formed the first double bill at the new Rendezvous and from now the Sons of Man, the Roadrunners, the Soul Society and the Challengers would share support at the club on a regular basis.
Downliners Sect played a "great" if "hectic" session there followed by Long John Baldry. Clarence Pier introduced modern jazz sessions on Sunday evenings – starting with Bill Cole's Quintet. Men generally dominated the world of popular music but in mid-November the Guildhall reversed the balance - first up were the Honeycombs, Millie and Lulu with special guest the "amiable rocker" Gene Vincent. Two nights later Brian Poole & the Tremeloes, Herman's Hermits and Dave Berry played support there to the headline act Dusty Springfield.
The Dynamos and St Louis Checks appeared together at South Parade Pier. Former Searcher Tony Jackson brought his new group the Vibrations to the Savoy Ballroom in mid-November, a weekend with various riches on offer to rhythm & blues fans. On Saturday, the Art Woods were at Kimbells – live gigs at the club from now on exclusively at the Southsea venue - and they were competing with Long John Baldry at a packed Rendezvous at the Oddfellows Hall. On Sunday, Kimbells presented the soulful black American airman Ronnie Jones & the Nightimers. On the following Saturday, the Rendezvous had Dick Charlesworth, one of the British 'trad' musicians who was trying to shift to rhythm & blues. The band was about to embark on a tour with jazz singer Jimmy Witherspoon but promoter Ernie Sears described their Portsmouth appearance as a "strange form of R&B". The original Moody Blues appeared for the first time at the Rendezvous in the weekend they were featured on Ready Steady Go! with their new single "Go Now" destined for number one. Their show mixed older rhythm & blues with covers of the newer soul sound – including Bessie Banks and James Brown. The Evening News was intrigued by their electric piano and asked "What next? Electric drums?" The answer was yes of course – allowing for the development of the Mellotron, which Graham Bond used at the Rendezvous, and the synthesiser. Sons of Man were also noted for their innovative use of the flute. On Friday 27 November 1964 the Hollies were at the Savoy.
In early December, bands appearing were Graham Bond (Rendezvous), the Spotnicks (Savoy) and the Clique (Kimbells). By mid-December Downliners Sect warranted a large photo in the newspaper and there was a picture of Ringo who had just had his tonsils removed.
The weeks before Christmas 1964 were fairly low-key around the area. Club Romantica (Ricky's) offered cabaret, dancing and dining and the Locarno ran over-21s "Gay Romantic Evenings". Local bands like the Sonics, J Crow Combo, Condors, G-Boys, Southern Sounds and Furies were playing local clubs but there were no major names until the Rendezvous celebrated its first rhythm & blues Christmas with Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart, and folk blues artist Emmett Hennessy ("from London's famous Roundhouse"). Sadly this would also be the club's last Christmas, with a transformation of the Portsmouth club scene early in the following year. The Folkways Club (Cobden Arms) presented Bob Davenport and Rod Wilmott.
The Savoy ran a "Five Counties" talent contest for regional groups with a prize of £100 and a recording audition. The local bands who won through the heats and semi-finals were the Bipeds, Karl & the Rapiers, Force Four and Gosport's Brothers Scarlett with Gary and Lee. The latter won first prize, with Clive Shane & the Avengers runners-up and Karl & the Rapiers third and the event enjoyed comprehensive coverage in the Evening News, where the Jazzmen's column concluded 1964 by identifying Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Smith and Britain's Tubby Hayes as future jazz stars but worried that their genre was "dominated by ageing jazzmen". John Leyton, Mike Sarne and Freddie & the Dreamers starred in a new British pop movie Every Day's a Holiday with "good clean laughs with a beat" for the festive season. 1964 had been a year of interesting changes in live music in Portsmouth with a strong rhythm & blues scene emerging. Spinner described singles charts dominated by a mixture of ballads and beat music and the important influence of Ready Steady Go! – not least in promoting Tamla Motown artists who were "favourites with the way-out with-its". He mentioned Sandie Shaw, Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick and the "earthy, brutal Stones", predicted Georgie Fame would help to "push guitars back" while his "obvious choice" for a new sensation was PJ Proby.

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