Country Music at
The Rock Gardens Pavilion and at Hilsea Lido Blue Lagoon
Portsmouth has never been a hot bed for country music but even today there are still local venues where country music can be heard.
Fred and Nora Smith started running country music nights at the Rock Garden Pavilion in 1976 and Cliff Basson, Paddy Keoghan, Fred Smith and Roy Radford were also involved, but soon Derek Harper took on the organising of these nights. This lasted until 1987 and the Pavilion was demolished and the Pyramids built in it's place. So Derek moved to the Hilsea Lido Blue Lagoon. This ran until 1997. Derek was ably assisted at times by Robin West who was host to a country music two hour programme on the late lamented Radio Victory. Derek also helped out there when Robin was away.
Derek also played guitar and sang in one group called Harper's Ferry, and another called Midnight Rodeo.
Boxcar Willie, Gene Watson, Red Stovine, Billy Walker, Marvin Rainwater, Judy Rose, Jimmy Lawton, Dick Damron, J R Williams,
George Moody, Tony Austin, Tony Galigo, Trampus, Les Mitchell, Patsy Frost, Poacher, Norman Mourant, Linda Venus and Pete Henry, Ellie Scott, Pete Palmer, Dodie Carson, Young Country, Gary Blackmoor, Bandit, Hank Dalton.
Listed above are some of the names that have appeared over the years.
If you have any further information, memories or even photographs or news cuttings,
I'd be pleased to hear from you.
The traditional homes of country music in Portsmouth, The Rock Gardens Pavillion and the Blue Lagoon at Hilsea Lido.
The missing venues are the Pondarosa at Boar Hunt run by Tom Butler, landlord of the Boars Head,
and the Coral Reef Bar on South Parade Pier.
L to R Roy Radford, George Brown, Don Williams, Robin West
L to R Derek Harper, Fernand Morrillas, Sylvie Ann Hughes, Danny Hughes, Tony Payton
Derek on stage with Robin at the Rock Gardens
Derek at Radio Victory
Patsy Frost from Cornbread Moon later in the 1970's sang with Kansas Kountry.
Their first line up was
Trevor Fry Lead Guitar and vocals,
Alan Dawson Steel and Rhytmn guitar,
Charlie Dawson rhythm guitar,
Monty Hibberd drums,
Jonathan Kirton was on bass,
Mike Hampton lead vocals.
Alan and Charlie left in ‘72 . They were replaced by Mandy Field and Roy King . Mandy and Roy left about 1973 and they were replaced by Bob Bennett. Richard Croft joined in about 1972. Monty left in 1974 to be replaced by John Lines . Then Mike Hampton left in 1975 and was replaced by Hank Dalton who left in 1976.
Kansas Kountry around 1977/78 at the Pondarosa.
left to right
Bobby Bennett guitar(before he learnt the pedal steel guitar), Richard Croft bass, Patsy Frost vocals and tambourine, Ken Hughes drums, Trevor Fry guitar.
Patsy later was on Stars in theor eyes and sang DIVORCE as Tammy Wynette.
Ian, Alan, Paul Trevor
Top Row: Trevor Fry and Paul Ellis. Bottom Row: Ian Harner, Alan Slack.
Trevor started just with guitar, later played guitar and steel guitar.
Kansas Kountry was formed by bandleader Trevor in 1972.
This particular 4-piece line-up picture was taken in 1984 and lasted until 2000. The band still exists and plays the occasional gig.
The pic was taken at Olan Mills in Fareham.
Hazzard County at Drakefest 2014
Al: Vocals and guitar, Rocker Dave: Vocals and guitar,
Ricky Backer: Throbbin' Bass & stern looks, George Tubbs: Massive drummage and backing vocals.
Bobby Howard Band plus Peter Beard, Chas Smither,
bass player Clarry Moore and on drums Phil Tilbury.!
Jean Lesley and Ken Morley. Their life in Country Music
Ken started out in country music with WINCHESTER 73 playing bass and taking lead vocals, other members of the band were Rob Smith rhythm guitar,Steve Farrow Lead guitar and Chris Horne on drums. They played the local circuit i.e. The Ponderosa at Boarhunt also doing a lot of work for Reg Lodge in the Southampton area.
Winchester 73, with on the right is Ken Morley, who later played with Jean Lesley and Country Gold . Steve Farrow has his arms folded.
In 1976 Ken and Jean formed the band Country Gold, Jean played rhythm guitar singing lead and backup vocals Ken played lead guitar and also sang lead and backup vocals, Brian Deluchi played bass and Johnny Coates played drums. They performed at various venues around Hampshire including The Rock Gardens and The Ponderosa.
They were joined by Barry Fowler on pedal steel guitar, when Barry left the band (due to moving to Wales) Brian then went on to playing pedal steel guitar thus leaving aspace for another bass player, this is where Nigel Baker joined playing bass. Due to ill health the band disbanded.
Jean and Ken reformed another band Contrast Country (they could not use the name Country Gold as another band had started using it Dave Lord and Country Gold)
This band was made up with Roy Parkhurst on bass and Phil Webb playing drums
They then changed the band name to Stetson Because of the jibes of being like a box of chocolates!!.
Stetson was made up with Roy Parkhurst on bass Harry(Dolly)Grey on drums and Aubrey Evans playing pedal steel. It was during this time That Bob (Maverick) Thomas who ran Waterlooville Country Music Club sponsored them to record an album unfortunately Bob passed away on the eve of having the album released.
In 1984 due to Ken being made redundant they moved to Hemyock in Devon, it wasn’t long before they formed another band Country Connection with Kelvin Brinicombe on bass and backup vocals and Mike Herniman on drums and backup vocals. Steve (peter pan) Rogers replacing Mike on drums
They performed at the country clubs around Somerset and Devon and making recordings for Devon Radio. They were joined by Richard Harris playing pedal steel ,dobro and backup vocals.
In 1991 Jean and Ken went professional (due to being made redundant again).
AUTUMN DUO was formed, Jean was then playing keyboard singing lead and backup vocals, Ken was playing lead/rhythm and pedal steel guitar singing lead and backup vocals.
During the next 16 years they toured the length and breadth of England, during this time they moved back to Portsmouth. They have toured with Raymond Froggat and supported George Hamilton1V.
Autumn made appearances on West Country television.
During the 16 years ‘on the road’ they received many awards for best COUNTRY MUSIC duo.
Albums made: 1 Jean and Ken Sing Country-2 Autumn in Winter-3 Something Old-4 Something New -5 Christmas Choice-6 Reflections(all songs and music by Jean Lesley)-7 Looking Back-8 Sands of Time.
In early 2000 they were joined by Maurie Newman playing pedal steel guitar. Change of name to AUTUMN COUNTRY
Over the years it has been good playing at the likes of the Rock Gardens The Blue Lagoon The Kings Theatre Chichester Country Music Club Midhurst Waterlooville Froxfield etc. etc. . . .
We have made many good friends along the way i.e. Hoppy Horton Steve Knight
Working with the likes of Kenny Byng, Dave Nash Eddie Butcher to name but a few.
In all the years of performing, they have NEVER used pre-recorded backing tracks.
With the influx of so many solos, duos, trios and even bands using pre-recorded backing tracks we have decided to hang up our instruments.
l to r; Pete Downton bass/vocals, Derek Ray drums,
Phil Roberts rhythm guitar/vocals, Andy Scarisbrick guitar/vocals,
Panama Red, May 1974 to July 1975
l to r Eddie Rolfe lead guitar/vocals, Phil Roberts rhythm guitar/vocals,
Derek Ray bass, Rob Smith pedal steel, Pete Jeffkins drums.
Panama Red, May 1987 to July 1990
Phil Roberts guitar/vocals, Derek Ray bass, Eddie Rolfe lead guitar/vocals,
Rob Smith pedal steel, Pete Jeffkins drums.
This is the story of Portsmouth’s only known country-rock band.
In 1972 as a result of an advert for a drummer for a band 'playing original material', I met drummer Derek Ray and over the next year that was indeed what we did, but work was thin on the ground so we started playing covers and joined the more lucrative working men’s club circuit, along the way we were joined by Pete Downton from Gosport on bass guitar and in 1974 we formed Panama Red, which consisted of myself (Phil Roberts) on Vocals/ Rhythm Guitar, Derek Ray Drums, Pete Downton Vocals/Bass Guitar and ex Heaven member Andy Scarisbrick on Lead Guitar/Vocals.
Derek and I had long harboured the idea of forming a country rock band and with Panama Red we introduced alongside the usual covers material by such acts as the Flying Burritto Brothers and New Riders of the Purple Sage. We managed to work this material into the act without losing work and by working for four different agencies maintained a healthy gig sheet.
Trouble was it was never going to be enough to satisfy Derek and I became determined to complete our mission by bringing proper country rock -not the 'poppy' Eagles stuff -to a wider audience. Unfortunately this meant learning a completely new act and a period of no work, this was no good for Andy as he was essentially a professional musician and he ended up joining the Overlanders, who'd had chart success in the 60's and he relocated to Bristol which was a shame as he had been a great asset. After a short period of indecision and a holiday in the USA Pete Downton stayed on board so we had a nucleus of a band. However we couldn't find anyone in the area who could play country guitar and a pedal steel guitarist was just dream land stuff. Then Lady Luck intervened. We knew Colin Dowsett, best known locally as a blues guitarist with Chicago’s Insolence and Riverside, and he expressed an interest in playing steel but couldn't afford to buy one (Lady Luck didn't come with cash!), so we bought a steel for £500 which was lot of money then and got us considerably in debt but we did it and as we anticipated Colin picked up the basics very quickly. We were complete enough as a 4 piece to gig and thus Stampede was born playing material by the Burrittos, New Riders as before to which we added songs by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Pure Prairie League, Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark, Ray Wylie Hubbard and others, all associated with the cosmic cowboy movement that was having a major impact on the country scene across the Atlantic. British audiences were another matter and we faced a prejudice of being too rock for the country circuit and too country for rock audiences. Still when you’re on a mission you don't let things like that stop you and we managed to get some gigs together.
However as we managed to work at a variety of venues- pubs, barn dances working men’s clubs and anywhere else that would have us, but Colin's studies -he was doing a doctorate in Russian!- were suffering and once again we faced a dilemma. Amazingly Pete was able to offer a solution when he advised us his brother in law who lived in Portchester- Barry Fowler- was keen to play steel and had been trying to build one, we said play ours !! Which is indeed what he did and he proved an absolute natural and so we were able to carry on. Over the next year we played our Pot Pori of gigs, amongst them Poole Regatta and the Royal Military College Shrivenham and really enjoyed ourselves but our real target of mainstream Country Music Clubs remained too conservative to accept what we were doing. Finally in September 1976 with fatherhood beckoning Pete called it a day, Barry left (with the steel which he bought from us) and joined the country mainstream as a member of Bob Howard and Southern Roots and we retreated back to the safety of covers and working men’s clubs.
It remained that way for 11 years when we decided for a final time to complete our mission! and take country rock to a proper country audience. By 1987 the country circuit although still conservative had left the door ajar enough to give us a proper chance...and with a reversion to the name Panama Red and with a new line up we tried again. By now Derek had switched to play bass so we were joined initially by John Stephens on guitar (John ran Honest Johns Music Shop in Chichester) and Roger Yardley (ex Diamonds - a Bognor band) on drums. The line-up though eventually changed to a definitive one of Phil Roberts vocals/guitar, Eddie Rolfe lead guitar/ vocals, Derek Ray bass guitar, Rob Smith pedal steel guitar and Pete Jeffkins drums. By mixing our country rock with more acceptable Nashville country we got to play all over the South and South West England including London and East Anglia, and played all the big local clubs such as Portsmouth CMC, Wildwood South Southampton, the Ponderosa Boarhunt, Andover Rebels and Swindon Silver Dollar. With a full diary ahead of us the band finally ended in July 1990 when for non-musical reasons Eddie had to leave- a great guitar player (we always say we played with some of the best guitarists Pompey produced with Eddie, Andy Scarisbrick and Colin Dowsett all being associated with these bands) and at the same time Pete Jeffkins our drummer decided he wanted a normal social life.. It was a shame as we'd some giant leaps in our mission but that’s bands for you but hey we'd do it all again.
Simon Little guitar/banjo and Matt Little guitar/bass in 1978
Photo courtesy of Maurice J. Bowers, Photographer, Paragon Press Associates. (retired)
12th August 1980
AUGUST 8th to 10th 1980 Country Music Festival, at Portsmouth Airport, Hants.. Johnny Cash. Glen Campbell. Billie Joe Spears.
Does anyone remember it? Please let me have any recollections you might have of this event.
Johnny Cash's song list
1 Folsom Prison Blues
2 Sunday Morning Coming Down
3 Ring of Fire
4 I'm just an Old Chunk of Coal
5 A Boy Named Sue
6 The Last Time
7 Without Love
8 Bull Rider
9 Shifting Whispering Sands
10 I Ride an Old Paint
11 Streets of Laredo
12 (Ghost) Riders in the Sky
13 I Walk the Line
14 Give My Love to Rose
15 I got Stripes
16 I Still Miss Someone
17 Big River
18 One Piece at a Time
19 If I were a Carpenter (w/June Carter Cash)
20 Far Side Banks of Jordan (w/June Carter Cash)
21 San Antonio Rose (June Carter Cash)
22 Gold Watch and Chain (June Carter Cash)
23 Oh Come, Angel Band (June Carter Cash)
24 Casey Jones
25 Orange Blossom Special
The Country Music Fesival at Portsmouth Airport 8th/9th/10th August 1980
Portsmouth's ambitious three day open-air Country and Western music festival looked to have ended on a financially sour note today
For only about 20,000 of the expected 150,000 fans turned up over the weekend, to see the lavish event on the city's former airport.
Promoters Fullmore Festivals spent an estimated, £500 000 on staging the shows with stars Glen Campbell, the Nashville Superplckers,
But ticket sales are estimated to have netted only £170,000.
British Rail which ran scores of special trains for the hoped-for influx of fans, admitted today it had had "caught a cold" financially
And traders on the 120 acre site were also counting the cost of the poor attendance.
Said, Gerry Coates whose Basingstoke travel firm spent about £25,000 building a mini Texas town on the airport, “I stand to lose about £12 000. I do not think there was enough national publicity."
A series of zany competitions planned by Mr. Coates was cancelled because of lack of entrants and to cut losses.
One competition offered a holiday in Texas as top prize,
Said Mr, Coates: 'I called it off because that would have cost me another £500 "
Mr. Robin West , a director of Fullmore Festivals, told The News today: "Personally I will be happy to try and have another festival next year. We will be looking very closely at what happened this year to see what lessons we can learn."
Mr. West said he was unable to comment on the financial side of the festival.
Today City Council Leisure Committee chairman Mr, Charles Moss who pressed for the festival to be given the go-ahead by the corporation said: "Whatever the final implications for the promoters, they can be proud to have presented such a marvellous show.
Everything was right The sound was superb, the weather, perfect, and the level of performance was first class,
It was an outstanding success in every way but people just did not turn up," he said.
The city council will not lose any money over the festival,
It was paid £20,000 before the event to cover costs of police, marquees, fencing, and other services,
It also took three percent, of the gate money,
'Said Mr, Mos; "We have made a profit although we will have to give some money back to the promoters because we did not have to tag
on all the services that we expected."
He said he would support the promoters if they wished to attempt another Country and Western event next year. ,
A spokesman for Southern Region of British Rail said today: "We caught a cold, Normal services would have been adequate to have catered for the numbers using trains to get to and from the festival,"
Southern Region managed to cancel some of Its planned 80 special trains but many still ran to ensure they were in the right places for normal services today, he said.
A Portsmouth police spokesman sold today: "It was like a holiday for us, The whole atmosphere was like a carnival everyone enjoyed themselves and the problems for the police were so small that they can be forgotten about." Traffic control arrangements around the festival site worked smoothly and there were no delays, he said.
If any performer could be relied upon to give Portsmouth's Country Music Festival the finale it deserved, it was Johnny Cash.
For his shortage of hit numbers in recent years Cash still stands like a
great oak tree at the heart of the country music business.
He is to C. & W. what John Wayne was to the western movie. Solid and
reliable, the guardian of old values and the rock against which the tide of new trends and performers beat, and then fall back.
The fans who flocked in their thousands to Portsmouth Airport last night ----groups of them came from, Europe and American as well as all over retain ----
were the same people who had recognized his immense talent in the fifties
and were now looking to salute him in the autumn of his career.
Cash commands loyalty because he has remained his own man. Throughout the lean years, and the fat, the music and the message have been truw to their roots. There is integrity about some of his songs which owes much to the darker days of his private life ---- an integrity which , even as the cheques got fatter and the houses bigger --- has protected that special relationship he enjoys with his followers.
On a balmy evening --- warm enough to remind him of his beloved South --- Cash grabbed his audience with the song which has become his anthem "Folsom Prison," and held it, with help from wife June Carter and very fine musicians, for the next 90 minutes.
He still sings the Kris Kristofferson classic, "Sunday Morning Coming Dawn," better than any other artist, and the roars - as well as the gunfire - which greeted the songs in his cowboy medley showed the western element among his followers to be as strong as ever.
We were treated to the hauntingly beautiful "Streets of
Laredo' and what Cash himself describes as the greatest Cow-boy song of all, "Ghost Riders in the Sky."
He reminded us that it was 24 years since he wrote "I Walk The Line," but his delivery last night enhanced by the finest sound system any performer
could ask for gave it a verve and freshness which rolled back the years.
June Carter, whose spirit had helped to deliver Cash from the pills and the depression, rolled back the years still further with some of the early Carter family numbers.
The audience called for, and got, a rousing rendition of Jackson, culminating in Mr. Cash giving Mrs. Cash the sort of kiss which must have done much to fortify the over forties:
The Portsmouth air certainly seemed to agree with the man in black. After a somewhat tepid concert in Brighton last year, the old growler was in a joyous mood and his encore rounded off by the ever-popular "Orange Blossom Special” had him cavorting around the stage like some youngster in a rock band. Nice one J.C.
Billie Jo Spears, a' top of the bill star in her own right,
preceded Cash. She struck up an immediate rapport with her audience and it is easy to see why with her wit and warmth she is in such heavy demand -- -
a hundred personal appearances a year.
She was at her best when giving the country treatment of the disco number '"I Will survive," but the biggest cheers from an adoring audience were reserved for the song which took her to the top, of the U.S. and British hit parades in 1975, "Lay Your Blanket on the Ground:"
Saturday night was a night without stars - real big Nashville stars at any rate. But the gloom which had fallen over the Festival programme since Dolly Parton's withdrawal' was not completely unrelieved.
A brave attempt was made to produce a new Tennessee super-novum by assembling the Nashville Superpickers, seven of the cream of Music City's session men, to top the bill.
With tireless good humour and much mutual backscratching, the galloped through an unadventurous set ranging from a messy opening "Orange Blossom Special" to an harmonica version of "Amazing Grace."
But, when all's said, and done, it must be admitted that the their did not live up to their massive build-up and the fault lay in the sheer quality of their individual musicianship.
As they are all virtuosi - and no one could fault the guitar laying of Phil Baugh, the fiddling of Buddy Spicher or the strident hasp of Terry McMillan - to name but three - no single member of the band exerts a controlling
influence so the lead was passed back and forth four or five times in a number and, as a result no consistent sound emerged!
The band failed to function as a unit and the music often sagged between high spots of individual brilliance.
Earlier Merle Haggard's wife, Leona Williams, treated us to the feminist version of hubby's anthem, "Working Man's Blues." Producing a sound as pure and as easily digested as country butter, she sang, played fiddle and acoustic guitar (rather pointless without a microphone) but overestimated-her vocal talents in tackling "How Great Thou Art."
Hank Williams Junior, guitar slung-casually over one shoulder, produced good raunchy music right from the stars and knocked some life into What had been a rather subdued audience. Soon the six-guns were blazing as Hank, secure in the mane of his legendary father, tackled the record for the greatest number of country singers named in one song.
Tom T. Hall confine his references to predecessors to rather indulgent ad-libs between songs, but country fans like their music put in context and responded well to Hall's homely patter.
Musically, he proved a slick, all-round entertainer, switching easily from piano to bongo to harmonica. His low-key mix of gospel, bluegrass and unpolluted country sentiment marked him as the most accomplished middle-of-the-road performer of the night.
Finally, a word of praise for the engineers who managed the difficult task of producing a clear, well-balanced sound at an outdoor event - even the upper register rang through loud and clear. Technical brilliance at least made the most of what was, musically, a fairly undistinguished evening. PT
left to right, Ken Galvin, Monica Rose, Denis Cremin, Mick Boyle, Linda Duggen, John Roche,Tony Randle, Mick Deffitt
Kinda Country winning the Tennessee trophy, 1975 ish
Top Country Band from around the eighties 'ish. left to right, Kevin, Phil, Daryl, Pete and Dennis
Ron and Hilary Hughes