Portsmouth music scene

The Folk Scene in Portsmouth



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Folk & Jazz Clubs - Pub Locations
Air Balloon Buckland,
Black Dog Arundel Street,
Black Dog Havant,
Cambridge Hotel Southsea,
Cobden Arms Arundel Street,
Crystal Palace Fratton Bridge,
George & Dragon Cosham,
Oyster House Milton,
Portland Hotel Southsea,
Pure Drop Middle Street,
Railway Hotel Fratton,
Salutation New Road,
Star Lake Road,
Sunshine Inn Farlington,
Talbot Hotel Goldsmith Avenue,

Also,....some of the other folk groups
Cumberland Echoes,
Loft Folk Four/Three,
Weaver's Green,

From the NEWS Supplement "Portsmoputh in the 60's June 1993
The folkies clubs at the Star in Lake Road and The Railway, behind Fratton Station, where many will remember the nights spent being entertained by the irrepressible John Isherwood or Pat Nelson and sometimes by both. The Talbot in Goldsmith Avenue, also hosted a club, where it is rumoured that Paul Simon once played.

Paul Simon in Portsmouth. He made threee appearances in Portsmouth on his own and once with Art, but aslso in 1965 with The Lost City Ramblers with Mike, another of the Seeger family, came from the USA to play the next Oddfellows concert with fellow countryman Paul Simon and the Country Strings.

1965-00-00 Portsmouth, UK, Star Inn, Polytech Folk Club (with Art Garfunkel)
1965-00-00 Portsmouth, Star Inn / Polytechnic Folk Club
1965-00-00 Portsmouth Talbot Hotel / John Isherwood s Folk Club, was paid just 15.

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50 years ago on 13th May 1972 the Centre Folk Club opened its doors for the first time at the then Centre Hotel in Southsea (now Holiday Inn). The brainchild of two local guys David Keast and Paul Hawkins, they were inspired by Pipers Club in Penzance, and set out to open not only the best, but also the biggest Folk Club in the UK. David recounts how they negotiated with the hotel for the use of the banqueting suite in return for the hotel running the bars. It was a win/win situation for everyone. The Folk Club got a venue free of charge, and the hotel got between 300 and 700 drinking customers in on a quiet night each Sunday. The club paid for the advertising and the artistes.
The opening night saw around 400 people turn up and join the club. Appearing were Albion Country Band with an all-star line-up that included folk legends such as John & Sue Kirkpatrick, Ashley Hutchings, Martin Carthy, Simon Nicol and Roger Swallow. There was a strong supporting cast of local artistes including Sailmakers, Steve May and Lesley Hutchings and it became the clubs policy to promote local artists each week supporting the star act. Julia Fordham was just one such act that went on to future musical success.

The club really caught the imagination, and over the first few weeks artistes such as Jake Thackray, Al Stewart, Magna Carta, Mike Chapman, Tir Na Nog, and Jasper Carrot all helped to enhance the clubs growing reputation. There is an interesting background to Jasper Carrot s booking. Jasper s manager John Starkey offered one of two deals. The first was a straight 100 to book Jasper. The second was 75 against 60% of the door takings. David wanted the 100 deal whilst Paul favoured the more cautious second option. In the end Paul won but on the night the percentage deal earnt Jasper 286 when he could have only been paid 100. Jaspers record Funky Moped was riding high in the charts by the time the booking came round and the club was packed.
The club had been going just 8 months when they booked the J S D Band. The club normally opened its doors at 7pm. On arriving at the club at 5pm a queue was already forming and that night over 700 people jigged and rocked the night away. There followed acts such as Gallagher & Lyle, Bert Jansch, Adge Cutler & the Wurzels, Stefan Grossman, John Martyn, Fairport, Judy Collins, Tom Paxton, Loudon Wainright lll, and Jack the Lad.

Jack the Lad was formed by some of the former members of Lindisfarne and they became the most popular act to appear at the club with House Full notices posted on each appearance.
In 1975 Eric Winter, the New Musical Express journalist, nominated the Centre Folk Club as his Club of the Year. The club also attracted its share of stars among the audience. Alan (Fluff) Freeman and Tony Blackburn were both spotted in the club, as were Portsmouth s Schulman brothers from Gentle Giant. Around this time the BBC approached the Club with a view to recording a pilot programme featuring Jake Thackray and Jeremy Taylor. It was perhaps an acknowledgement that the Centre Folk Club had really arrived.

David and Paul had achieved their aim to have the biggest and best club in the country. David gives credit to Terry Pearson, who at the time was the Social Secretary at the old Portsmouth Polytechnic. Terry gave us lots of publicity amongst the students and contributed in no small measure to the clubs success. Things went well until a change of hotel management around 1979 saw the venue being booked out on Sundays and folk club nights being cancelled. David says that continuity was important. People would turn up on Sundays to find something else going on. Sadly we closed the doors in early 1980 but we had proved that there was a place in Portsmouth for such a club. It is interesting to note at least three copy-cat clubs would open and then close in Cardiff, Hull and West London. Only Portsmouth made it
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"Reet Petite and Gone," and the final performance at Milton Community Centre, 5th July 2014.

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Colin and Bryan Pearce, the Pearce Brothers

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The Folk Club at the Railway Hotel Fratton
The bearded man with dark jacket near the door is club organiser Sooty Broughton and the dark haired lady sat in front of him is Pam Wilkins


Barry Roberts playing guitar at Fratton s Railway Folk Club in the early 1960s. Ted Wenham who ran the club is singing, and that night s guest artist Redd Sullivan is in the background, waiting his turn. Barry really was a very fine all-round guitar player.



Portsmouth Shantymen

Pete Luscombe, Nick Gough, Pete Wilkinson and John Lansley

Squinty McGinty

Chris Lowe, Angela Clancy-Martin and Chris Bousher
They usually play as a four piece band with a caller. Here are names of the excellent players who work with the band,
Stu Reed - Fiddle / Vocals, Max Lanchbury - Accordion, Susan Penny - Vocals, Gill Tolliday - Fiddle / Accordion, Mandy Westwood - Accordion, Nigel Barrel - Caller / Drummer, Pete Atkinson - Caller, Charles Haskell - Caller, Gill Tolliday - Fiddle / Accordion, Janet Beale- Accordion, Chris Mulvey - Caller, Ludwig - Drummer.


Barebones Acoustic Nights

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For more information;-
- http://barebonesacoustic.wordpress.com -


1974/5 Moon Mist at the Centre Hotel Southsea Sunday night folk club (supporting Ralph McTell)
left to tight Pete Bugg guitar/mandolin/vocals, Colin Simpson guitar/ bongos, Pat Collins bass & flute, Ray King woodwind/ sax,
Colin Simpson guitar/ bongos, but Wilbur West guitar is out of the photo.


The Polite Mechanicals

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June Samson (Smith) vocals, Graham Cooper guitar, Les Samson guitar, John Chorley bass (later addition).

click here for Jon Isherwood

more about 'Barebones' accoustic nights

Further thoughts and comments on the Folk Scene

Jason Hill
I received a copy of Dave Allen's book Autumn of Love , the other day: it is about the music scene in Portsmouth in the "swinging sixties". As my older friends will know, I was a stalwart of the folk scene in Portsmouth in the 1960s. I first performed with Graham Plater and Paul Brewer at Ted Wenham s club in the Cobden Arms in Arundel Street (I'm the one playing the autoharp in the picture), and later became a regular compere at the Railway Folk Club.
I'm mentioned in the book, but not by name! Donna Parker (who lived just round the corner from me and who I knew from early childhood) recalls how three young men doorstepped her and asked her to join their band, Country Strings. I was one of those three. Pete Gurd is mentioned several times in the book. At one point, I formed a duo with him. I still have a reel-to-reel tape recording of the two of us performing San Francisco Bay Blues, with Pete on acoustic guitar and me playing a 5-string banjo I had recently bought for a fiver from Frank Hurlock. I was gutted by Pete s premature death shortly after we split up as a duo.
Those Portsmouth days seem a lifetime ago. However, I m still playing at the age of 73, with the Stoke-on-Trent based ceilidh band Alf Alfa & the Wild Oats - and also as a musician for the Leek Morris Dancers.

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Poor Valley String Band, Jason Hill, Graham Plater and Paul Brewer.

Mick Cooper
Did "Graham Plater and Paul Brewer" and you have a 'name?'

Jason Hill
Mick Cooper Poor Valley String Band

George Malcolmson
I still see Paul Brewer at the occasional Bluegrass festival. He fronted a great group called The New Essex Bluegrass Band.

Ruth Plater
My dad is Graham plater. I remember everyone coming round ours to practice I was very small and thought it was very noisy..

Wendy Abbott
I wonder if my father has any recordings? He was a regular attendee at The Railway Club.. Everything is in storage right now as he passed away last year and I live abroad, but will be back soon and will have to start sorting everything. There is an old reel to reel machine and a load of tapes. (He also had an auto harp similar to the one in your photo Jason.) He was a 12 string guitar player, but also 6 acoustic.. but he was not a professional musician. Will let you know if I find anything on those tapes this summer! (Oddly very few/no photos, yet he was a keen amatuer photographer as well.)

Dave Allen
It's an odd thing that in a number of publications about the Portsmouth music scene I always had a particularly difficult time getting information, photos etc about the folk scene. I had 'occasional' performing encounters with it in the 1960s through my (school) friendship with Pete Gurd - not least when his older sister Ann had a chap called Isherwood as a boyfriend! From the 1970s I played much more on the folk scene but I wish I'd known you earlier when writing the book!

Jason Hill
Dave Allen I have very few photos from that period, sadly. The News did publish a photo of me performing at an open-air concert on Southsea Common, organised by the ubiquitous Jon Isherwood. I had a copy of the photo, but have mislaid it over the year s, but I imagine it's still in The News archives.

Dave Allen
Jason Hill The only archives you can access these days are on microfilm in the Library. The News always insists they lost their photo archives in the moves from Stanhope Road although they publish plenty on pages about the past.

Jason Hill
Dave Allen Here's another photo, taken just a few years later. The Tony Curtis hairstyle has gone, I've grown a beard and I've started playing a new instrument.


Jason Hill
People I performed with in Pompey folk clubs in the 1960s include Paul Brewer, Graham Plater, Pete Dunn, Donna Parker, Pete Gurd and several others whose names I can't remember now.

Helen Leppard
Dave Allen the Sunshine pub used to have a thriving folk music scene going on.

Dave Allen
Helen Leppard And jazz which I've written about more recently in this year's book (which I intend to be my last) subtitled 'Jazz, Blues, Soul & Ska in Post-War Portsmouth'. I do have some folk photos from the Railway's early days courtesy the family of Ted Wenham. Other names: Barry Roberts, Barry Gordon, Frank Hurlock, the Cumberland Echoes, Pete Quinn

Jason Hill
Dave Allen Of course I know all those names. I once bought a banjo from Frank Hurlock. I bumped into Barry Gordon a few years ago when visiting Portsmouth. I also bumped into Pete Quin a few years ago in Birmingham: he's lost a lot of weight since his Pompey days!

John Roberts
Jason Hill - last time I saw Pete Quin was in 2005 - he was living in Bristol - I got him a spot as support to The Country Joe Band at Bath Festival, in the Spiegeltent.

Mick Reilly
Graham Plater... did he join the RN as a chef? There was an ex navy chef by that name who had the restaurant on the corner of Chelsea Rd and Albert Rd in the 80s

Ruth Plater
Mick Reilly no he was an engineer..he's my dad doesn't play anymore which is a shame but he still listens to bluegrass and banjo.

Jason Hill
Ruth Plater Do give your dad my regards.

Julie Nash
Dave Allen hello this is Julie Nash, Ted Wenham s daughter. We have met before a few years ago, I was able to loan you some of Teds memorabilia for another publication if your. Can you tell me where I can purchase your latest book Summer of Love.

Julie Nash
Dave Allen sorry Autumn of Love

Dave Allen
Julie Nash Send me an email Julie to dave.allen@port.ac.uk and we'll sort that out. I remember you and very grateful I was.

Marilyn Jeffrey
Lovely photo.

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