The Music of Portsmouth in 1966

The Action led the Birdcage New Year's Eve celebrations, which were livelier than Christmas Eve with the Loose Ends (described as "the new Action"). On 6 January 1966, Spinner announced the results of his first local groups poll, won by Gosport's Brothers Scarlett with Gary and Lee with a massive 2,391 votes. The Tea-Pots were second with 1,030 and Force Four third (862). Then came: 4-Sons of Man, 5-Talismen, 6-Klimaks, 7-Remains, 8-Soul Society, 9-St Louis Checks and in tenth spot with one vote, Chris Cody and the 'Rave Ons'. The result topped and tailed a fine year for the Brothers Scarlett an experienced and entertaining group who had started 1965 with victory in the Savoy's "Five Counties" competition. They appeared regularly in the southern region for decades but never appeared again in the annual local poll. There was a growing enthusiasm locally for a lively British 'soul' style over the more 'all-round' pop/beat groups that dominated the first half of the 1960s.
Zac's Shack offered coach trips to Boarhunt for their weekly fare, following the Soul Agents with Bryan Hug Fraternity, the Sons of Man, Simon Dupree & the Big Sound and the Soul Society plus a "Trad Revival" on Sunday nights with the Tia Juana Band. Kay Stanhope ran a feature on Dorreen Parsons, whose role as manager of the local Tea-Pots brought success in a "masculine world". Dorreen and her group opened yet another club with a new name at the Hampshire Terrace venue - the Indigo Vat and attracted a good crowd. The Tea-Pots appeared at St Mark's Hall in Angerstein Road while Dorreen was featured on Southern TV. Locally, the Remains were increasingly influenced by the Action. The Locarno offered an 18-20 dance night on Thursdays. Southsea's In Place opened with the Shakedown and the Bipeds, promising Op Art nights, pyjama raves, Roman fancy dress balls and jazz films. Los Cincos released "La Jenca" which became a Radio London "climber" and began a major residency in top London hotels.
The Spencer Davis Group, enjoying chart success, visited the Birdcage at the "expensive" price of 10/- but withdrew from the Walker Brothers tour at the Guildhall in mid-February, which included Crispian St Peters. A week later the same venue offered an Anglo-American Folk Concert with 'Anglos' the Ian Campbell Group and Trevor Lucas (future Fotheringay) and Canadians Gordon Lighfoot and Ian & Sylvia. Ticket holders could take advantage of the special offer of guaranteed Albert Hall tickets to see Bob Dylan. Local folk clubs continued to attract audiences and Tom Paxton was a special guest at the Oasis Folk Club, North End on 17 January. Spinner suddenly suggested 'trad' jazz was "on the way back" and also cited Dave Dee and Manfred Mann as evidence of "Pop Culture Shifting to the South". Kay Stanhope ran a feature on Pompee Folk a group of 15/16-year-old girls from Hilsea Modern School led by Kathleen Pearn and Elaine Turness "who were budding Joan Baezes".
When drummer Peter Masterton completed his apprenticeship, the Bipeds were free to take up engagements on the continent. Before leaving, they sent a letter to Spinner highly critical of the Portsmouth scene. It elicited equally critical responses including one from Pete Stroller & the Drifters who suggested that the limited number of local venues ensured competition and therefore quality. Dorreen Parsons wondered why if the Bipeds felt that way they had not got out earlier. Lynn Aston was another woman manager - with the Soul Society - while Simon Dupree & the Big Sound were making a big impression in the London clubs.
The local group scene was increasingly active through the spring and early summer, supported by a number of new clubs. The Indigo Vat soon moved to three nights attracting many musicians, as it became the local "in place". Regular performers included the Bryan Hug Fraternity, the Tea-Pots, Simon Dupree & the Big Sound, the Klimaks, the Gaudy Doyle Set and St Louis Checks with new drummer Alan Williams. The St Paul's Square venue was now known as the In Place and featured the Shakedown, Meteors UK, Shades of Blue, and the In-Sex (formerly the Latins). Zack's Shack continued to attract audiences and the Soul Society were regulars at North End's Soul Parlour, which also featured many of the same local groups. One of Portsmouth earliest rock groups the Southern Sounds reformed with original guitarist Colin Quaintance taking over vocals. The Klimaks secured a summer season in Bognor and the St Louis Checks progressed to the final of the Melody Maker contest and auditioned for EMI.
There was little of note at the Savoy Ballroom or the South Parade Pier and jazz seemed almost non-existent except for Woody Herman at the Guildhall. The Evening News introduced a new weekly jazz feature but "Jazz Notes" by Downbeat suggested that Portsmouth was "in danger of slipping off the jazz map altogether". Jon Isherwood appeared at Fratton's Froddington Arms, "the south's most ethnic folk club". The Folkhouse moved to larger premises in the Crystal Palace on Fratton Bridge and presented American Rick Norcross, who "delighted a large crowd". A folk club called the Jernsey opened in North End with "singers outnumbering the audience".
The Birdcage continued to open on Sunday afternoons. The autumn and winter had been successful at the Birdcage but from March 1966, despite a return from the Who, the acts were generally less impressive. There were only nine live groups through the whole month including the surfing sounds of Summer Set (twice), the Cat, Green Onions, the Shevelles, the Nocturnal, the In Crowd and Alan Price - who had been filmed by Southern TV in January 1966 for a TV documentary about the club. Portsmouth Community Centre (the In Place?) presented the Informers, while Hillside Youth Club offered the Beat Merchants and the Talismen on successive weekend nights. In March 1966, the Blackouts who would become one of Portsmouth's more prominent local groups in various incarnations began to appear at venues like Zack's Shack where the Sons of Man were regular visitors. Simon Dupree & the Big Sound were featured in a Light Programme radio documentary about semi-professional groups. Ernie Sears' Zack's Shack expanded its programme with folk and modern and traditional jazz.
Jack Hawkins' Orchestra broadcast live from the Locarno on the Light Programme and Spinner suggested Jack had "done as much as any to bring back dancing as entertainment". In early April, the Small Faces and the Kinks were at the Guildhall with American pop success Lou Christie. Spinner hinted that a "second discotheque" in Southsea might rival the Pomme D'Or off Osborne Road. New Portsmouth group the Third Dimension were a "sensation" in the early gigs and the Moments formed from members of the Challengers, Drifters, Rivals and Moonrakers. The Easter weather was terrific and the Birdcage fans will have enjoyed the return of the Vagabonds on the Saturday while other Birdcage visitors included Georgie Fame, Cliff Bennett, the Paramounts and the Cat. American soul singer Arthur Alexander appeared on Sunday 17 April and the club ran its first two all-nighters with the Vagabonds and Graham Bond plus the Clique. New Birdcage acts in April 1966 were John L Watson and future favourites the Alan Bown Set.
Mantovani and his Orchestra opened May at the Guildhall. Local favourites the St Louis Checks, the Soul Society, the Bryan Hug Fraternity, the Moments, the Sons of Man and the Third Dimension appeared regularly at clubs such as Thorngate Hall's New Spot, the Indigo Vat, Zack's Shack and the Soul Parlour. The Blackouts began appearing regularly and young fans caused "pandemonium" at the Walker Brothers' Guildhall concert. Surfers Tony Rivers & the Castaways were regular as summer approached. The Tea-Pots called a halt to performing but planned to return with a new name and a new sound, while the Five Americans' "I See the Light" was a live "showstopper" for Simon Dupree & the Big Sound. At the Birdcage, the first weekend in May had featured the In Crowd on Friday and then an all-nighter with Gary Farr & the T-Bones and the Deep Feeling. The all-nighters continued each Saturday with Chris Farlowe & the Thunderbirds, Summer Set and the Action but the club remained closed on the other six nights every week, and after 28 May it closed for 'redecoration' until Saturday 2 July.
Local students held a "Resurrection" event at the generally low profile Clarence Pier with the Art Woods, Clayton Squares and Third Dimension while the Bipeds returned rather quietly to Portsmouth. The Rampant were at the New Spot and the Meteors UK at the Indigo Vat. Jazz had been fairly quiet but Dave Rogers was presenting New Orleans-style every Friday at the Railway Hotel north of Fratton Station. Terry Masterson brought traditional Irish songs to the Ballads and Blues Club followed by the 'American' Friends of Old Timey. Nelson and Isherwood were still performing regularly. In Portsmouth, the Sound of Music soundtrack was dominating the album charts and going strong in the cinema where fans could also catch a double bill of Elvis in Frankie and Johnny and the Dave Clark Five, the Animals and Nancy Sinatra in The Swing Set.
The South Parade Pier ran a modest summer season of assorted events, the Savoy too was far quieter than a few years earlier and the Guildhall offered very few pop or jazz shows through the summer. There was a boost for local jazz fans however when Jerry Allen returned to promoting with the Jazz Appreciation Society (JAS) mixing modern and traditional at Southsea's Cambridge Hotel. The opening night (6 June) featuring Joe Harriott was a great success rewarding Allen with his "biggest crowd ... in eight years of presenting jazz" and Downbeat suggested that Portsmouth was "back on the jazz map" as Allen planned something every week. The Club Quartet were now regulars at Club Las Vegas in Fratton Road and the Railway ran a "jazz rave" as well as weekly sessions where Dave Rogers welcomed 150 fans of the Solent City Jazzmen. The College of Technology students ran an end-of-year jazz "Steamboat Shuffle" and a "Final Fling" at the Savoy with the Mojos, Bryan Hug Fraternity and the Third Dimension. Downbeat's Jazz Notes in the Evening News recommended the Ray Hart Trio as "the most swinging little group in town".
Meanwhile Spinner appeared on ITV's Pop the Question with Cathy McGowan and Kenny Everett. While the Birdcage was quiet, Kimbells, Southsea opened as the Blue Lagoon with the In Crowd on Saturday 4 June. Kid Martyn's Ragtime Band were at JAS.
Established local bands like the Dynamos, Barry & the Strollers and the Talismen were playing mainly out of town as the new generation came through, including the Moments, Academy, Rivals and Moonrakers. Kimbells ran a selective local group contest won by the Moments with the Gaudy Doyle Set second and Mood Five third, but popular local groups like Simon Dupree, St Louis Checks and the Klimaks were not invited.
Spinner began presenting records alongside local DJs the Saint and Mike Eagle. By contrast, the Rock Gardens offered old time and modern dancing and Anne Shelton was singing on South Parade Pier. There were changes elsewhere as Paul Jones left the increasingly pop-oriented Manfred Mann. The Bryan Hug Fraternity were busy in London, Force Four split in their fourth year, Ernie Sears closed Zack's Shack and the Klimaks disbanded. Pete Stroller & the Drifters became the Mark Barry Four and Jon Isherwood departed for Tripoli to pursue his work as an architect - leaving others to maintain the Folkhouse where he was given a fine send-off. In addition, the Railway Hotel introduced folk on Mondays - it gradually became the main folk club in the city in the late 1960s. The Blue Lagoon, filling a Southsea club gap, began opening six nights each week although there was a disappointing attendance for the excellent American visitors the Orlons (including Rosetta Hightower). Other acts to appear included the Birds, Raisins, St Louis Checks, Tony Rivers & the Castaways, Downliners Sect, Mojos, Truth, Peter Jay & the Jaywalkers and Simon Dupree & the Big Sound who were also at the Indigo Vat, which Spinner described as the "centre of the Portsmouth scene".
The Savoy reintroduced pop on 24 June 1966 with the Quotations and the Moments. When the Birdcage re-opened with the Action and then the Vagabonds it might have seemed that everything was back to normal but they were followed by a number of records nights with a new DJ, "King Jerry", and the visiting acts were no longer all performing soul and R&B. They included the Summer Set, the In Crowd, the Habits and latest 'pop art' group the Move, who appeared regularly. Original DJ Pete Brady had to give way to 'Mad King' Jerry, less cool and resembling a pirate radio DJ. Jerry did seven more nights in July and there was also an American Disc Night - oddly titled since most Birdcage records were American. There was a Radio London Show and other live acts included the Small Faces, the Vagabonds, the Habits, the In Crowd and Wynder K Frogg. The Small Faces' visit clashed with Georgie Fame at the Blue Lagoon and Spinner suggested it would soon be a question of "who serves the best coffee". The Hollies were another pop act at the new Birdcage - Spinner reported that they arrived with a £2,000 public address (PA) system that "astonished" everyone.
The Birdcage featured the Lovin' Kind on the day that England won the World Cup. The Eastney club was a couple of miles away from the city's centres but the Southsea coffee bar scene that had been so important a few years earlier was also reviving. At the top end of Palmerston Road/Grove Road, the rockers favoured Delmonico's while in what is now Palmerston Road Precinct, the Manhattan (approximately opposite WH Smith's) attracted the mods and less aligned teenagers. The attractions included a jukebox, cheap coffee and a place to sit for the evening.
Kimbells offered Ken Colyer on a Wednesday night in a brief but unsuccessful attempt to attract local jazz fans. Jerry Allen's return to jazz promoting in Southsea had begun successfully but attendances were inconsistent. Southampton and Chichester remained the main centres for jazz. Locarno bandleader Chris Allen teamed up with the Talismen in a local version of the collaborations between the Animals or Georgie Fame and big bands, but while these experiments met with some success, they were expensive. In early July, the St Louis Checks launched the first of the very successful Solent Beat Cruises. Vocalist Ernest Yelf left the Sons of Man who reverted to a four piece with Rod Taylor singing until Chris Ryder joined later in the year. Drummer John Pratt and Doug Chalmers left the Soul Society to start a short-lived new group the Plague and Spinner forecast "big things" for Simon Dupree & the Big Sound who played a Beat Cruise with the Rampant as the floating audience grew "to ridiculous proportions".
Summer on South Parade Pier offered the "Fols de Rols" song and laughter show and Acker Bilk in late July with "standing room only". However, while Jerry Allen presented Max Collie's Rhythm Aces, Mark Murphy and Ronnie Ross at the Cambridge Hotel, attendances were shrinking and Champion Jack Dupree failed to arrive. Allen decided to drop traditional jazz, hoping to attract sufficient mainstream and modern fans. In late July, Downbeat's Jazz Notes recorded that "jazz at Kimbells is finished ... killed by poor support". There was more optimism as he announced a series of jazz bookings at the Guildhall for the autumn (Wingy Manone, Ed Hall, Bud Freemen) but these too would struggle to attract audiences even though they had reverted to one house at 7.30 pm. In August, Jerry Allen's solution was to move his Jazz Appreciation Society from Southsea to the Las Vegas Club in Fratton Road to cut costs. The new venue started well with British star Tubby Hayes while Kenny Ball attracted more fans to South Parade Pier than chart-toppers the Troggs drew to two houses at the Guildhall on the same night.
In August 1966, The Tea-Pots returned as the Wrong Direction with "eye catching stage outfits" and Rikki Cripps on bass guitar, allowing Phil Jones to move to organ. St Louis Checks experienced disappointment in their talent contest despite a "good show" mixing original songs with dance 'classics' like "Heatwave" although Spinner suggested that the Inspiration were now the only local "Tamla Motown group". Simon Dupree were certainly a pop/soul outfit and they played to an audience of thousands supporting the Walker Brothers in Blackpool with a set including Don Covay's "Sookie Sookie" and Sam & Dave's "You Don't Know Like I Know". The Blackouts were at the Soul Parlour and Hillside Youth Club, Paulsgrove held a "Tramps Barbecue" with the Courtelles.
DJs and records continued to feature at the Birdcage as King Jerry returned in September (although not thereafter) plus Wednesday ska and bluebeat record nights. The Gass and Sands were two newcomers while regular visitors included Graham Bond, the Action, the In Crowd, the Shevells, the Move, the Vagabonds and the Alan Bown Set. The latter two recorded a live album at London's Marquee Club with an invited audience including a coach party from the Birdcage, with the club's 'logo' featured on the album's cover and a sound indicative of the mid-1960s live British soul scene. Both the Action and the Vagabonds broke mid-week attendance records as the club seemed to have stabilised after mid-summer uncertainty. The In Place re-opened with the Gaudy Doyle Set followed by the Shakedown Sounds while the Mike Stuart Sound drove from Sussex to play at the Soul Parlour in North End. Modern jazz fans enjoyed a September Guildhall appearance by the Modern Jazz Quartet. In October, the jazz was more 'traditional' with Bud Freeman, backed by Alex Welsh Band. Ernie Sears tried promoting in the city again with jazz at the Oasis (Parlour). Clarence Pier launched its first new cabaret season called "The Continental Palace".
Drummer John Pratt formed Morgan's Camel Train with John Clark (guitar) and Mick Murphy (bass). Another Mick - Legg - soon replaced Murphy while Ken Cornish joined as vocalist. Meteors UK renamed themselves the Frenzy. The Vagabonds used a Birdcage gig to shoot images for the cover of their new studio album while Chris Farlowe, Herbie Goins, the Action, the Move, the Alan Bown Set, the Jimmy Brown Sound and Erroll Dixon & the Honeydrippers appeared at the club in October. The most memorable occasion was the visit of the Ike & Tina Turner Show on the afternoon of Sunday 16 October when they gave a terrific live show although the audience was not huge. Autumn and early winter saw a revival in the club's fortunes and various interesting acts included John Mayall, the Vagabonds, Zoot Money and the impressive Little Richard backed by Johnny B Great & the Quotations. At 12/6d it was probably the most expensive Birdcage night to date. Some pop acts were booked although the Merseys failed to show but Gary Farr, the Birds, the Sands, the Art Woods and Embers West did appear.
Jerry Allen had two daytime jobs to keep the Jazz Appreciation Society open and switched to a local trio with former Fraternity pianist Roger Frampton (19, from Paulsgrove), Sammy Seal bass and Mike Hutton drums. Eight people arrived and Jerry withdrew "disgusted", cancelling future bookings while Roger Frampton departed for Australia with his family. The Savoy increased pop bookings with the Koobas, Roulettes, Fortunes and Birds. Thorngate were the first local venue to present the new 'Super Group' Cream on Monday 7 November. The Academy appeared at the Parlour with an impressive stereo PA system.
Steve Farrow and Bob Rose of the Remains formed Travis Raymar with Terry Threadingham and Brian Grice plus Colin Middleton (vocals) from Green Onions. Klimaks' lead guitarist Mick Rowe joined the Wrong Direction with Dave Martin switching to vocals. Despite this local activity, Spinner suggested that Portsmouth was "rapidly fading from a position of prominence on the pop map of England". One problem at the Guildhall was the number of long-term non-musical bookings, which inhibited quick decisions when gigs were offered. There was an unusual bill there in late November with Tom Jones, Eddie Calvert, Laurie London and Chapter Five. Billy Fury and Pinkerton's Assorted Colours were at the Savoy. In early November, Spinner was even more bewildered by the first releases from the Mothers of Invention than by "Tomorrow Never Knows". He described "It Can't Happen Here" as "mumbo jumbo" suggesting Portsmouth audiences were unlikely to be "receptive" to this west coast "psychedelic offering". He revealed that the Mothers and "other 'freak' groups" like Velvet Underground and Blues Project were unable to get airplay "from discerning dee-jays".
Founder Robin Beste left the Birdcage as Ronnie Jones opened December, while the following night was another major event with the Wrong Direction, the In Crowd and star 'supergroup' Cream featured in an all-nighter. There were a number of records nights, including two "Gerba Soul Disc" shows - 'Gerba' was slang for cannabis, another indication of the shift from mainstream mod culture to the early stages of what would become the 'summer of love'. The students presented an early Christmas Dance at the Savoy with 'modern' Tubby Hayes and 'trad' Bob Wallis Storyville Jazzmen.
Jack Hawkins took his 13-piece Locarno band to Botley's Dolphin Hotel to perform to the jazz club, including the premiere of Terry Porter's "Southern Suite" which was well received - the Downbeat column described it as "technically accomplished" and "very entertaining". Simon Dupree & the Big Sound appeared at Thorngate in early December and in front of their fans signed a contract with the Arthur Howes Agency reported to be worth £250,000 over the next five years. The group also released their first single "I See the Light" c/w "It Is Finished" and Spinner predicted a number one hit record. They would begin a residency at the Flamingo in Wardour Street, London in January. Barry & the Strollers made their Indigo Vat debut while the Shamrocks toured Germany with the Troggs and Los Bravos - often playing two gigs a day in different towns. The Herd appeared at the Savoy on the same night as the New Tia Juana Jazz Band (with Cuff Billett) were at the Oasis. Local advertisements urged people to "join the Marina Club now!" Formerly Ricky's, it was now mainly a record venue.
Spinner expressed concern about live gigs in the city as "promoters survey near empty premises". He reported that Indigo Vat cut groups from Wednesdays and the Birdcage followed suit with more records nights. Their Fridays were "dropping to a subsistence level and often lower". The Locarno led the way with regular records shows. Spinner noted that only local groups playing mainstream pop were working more than two nights each week and he regretted the demise of television shows Ready Steady Go!, Countdown and the "excellent" Whole Scene Going.
Copnor's Red Door Club presented Mario & St Jo's and Brothers Blue, the St Louis Checks played the Soul Parlour and the Academy and Simon Dupree were at the Vat on successive nights. The Blackouts were at the Savoy and in the local charts only Tom Jones kept Simon Dupree from the top spot. The Guildhall offered just three Carol Concerts through December, while Tommy Trinder and Craig Douglas were preparing for Cinderella at the King's Theatre.
The Action made their last appearance with the original five-piece line-up at the Birdcage on Saturday 10 December 1966. The Vagabonds played Christmas Eve, John L Watson returned, as did Alan Bown, the Shevells, and the In Crowd who closed 1966 with Graham Bond and Portsmouth's Wrong Direction. Isherwood returned for his Christmas reunion concert at Oddfellows and announced he was leaving Libya and architecture for showbiz. In his absence, the Folkhouse closed but he reopened it in the New Year. The Gass played at the New Spot on Christmas Eve and the Birdcage on Boxing Day. The Raisins and the Southern Sounds were at the Savoy on 23 December but Kimbells and the Savoy were then traditionally festive with the orchestras of Bob Lambie and Peter Madsen.
In December 1966 Spinner ran the second annual pop poll in the Evening News. Despite pessimism about local attendances, the results suggested support for a range of acts with hundreds of votes cast. Simon Dupree were the top local group followed by: 2-Inspiration, 3-St Louis Checks, 4-Talismen, 5-Wrong Direction, 6-Academy, 7-Morgan's Camel Train, 8-Combine, 9-Frenzy, 10-Soul Society. Soul and pop acts were strongly represented in that list as they were in the first poll of top visiting groups, which clearly reflected the impact of the Birdcage Club over the previous 18 months, although things were about to change. The top visitors were the Vagabonds, followed by: 2-Action, 3-Alan Bown Set, 4-Walker Bros, 5-Cream

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