Web Page 1110
5th January 2013
Top Picture: Verrechia’s in the Guildhall Square
Bottom Picture: 1950’sWoolworths window (that’s over 60 years ago!!!!)
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Panto Time and The Spinners
About this time of year when we were kids it was off to the pantomime (Oh! Yes it was!) to see modern stars and some of the Music Hall stars who were still performing. I do not remember being taken to the Kings or the Theatre Royal very often but my father and mother took me to the Dockyard Pantomime every year which featured the HMS Vernon Band.
Back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s all sorts of people appeared in Portsmouth, no soap stars then! Way back in 1957 two up and coming performers appeared in Puss in Boots at the Kings Theatre, these two were Charlie Drake, who had relations in Southampton and had his own television show at the time and Bruce Forsyth who had just started presenting ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’.
The following year the same theatre put on Babes in the Wood and featured two other very popular comedians, Mike and Bernie Winters whose agent was Joe Collins the father of Joan and Jackie Collins. Also on the bill was the Morton Fraser Harmonica Gang a very popular musical act at the time.
When it came to the starring role in the 1959 pantomime, Cinderella, the management turned to the musical world for its headliner and John Hansen appeared as the top of the bill.
From here until about 1964 pantomime in the Kings Theatre died. But the other side of the coin was the summer shows and these were the showcase for all sorts of talent. Who do you remember from this list?
Cyril Fletcher, Monswer Eddie Grey, Arthur English, Peter Sellers, the Three Monarchs, Audrey Jeans and Joan Regan. Tommy Trinder, Flanagan and Allan,Norman Vaughan and George Melly. Even Davy Kaye appeared in the theatre on South Parade Pier! Portsmouth in the 1950’s was a good place to be to see the stars of the day. And I do actually remember waving to Billy Cotton as he crossed the road outside the Kings Theatre back in 1958.
The Spinners were a very popular 1960’s folk group from Liverpool. They formed in September 1958 and originally consisted of Hughie Jones, Cliff Hall who was born in Cuba, Mick Groves, Tony Davis, Joan Davis, Beryl Davis; although as they progressed in the musical world the group became a quartet dropping the two girls.
Cliff Hall was born in Cuba, brought up in Jamaica, and came to the UK to serve in the Royal Air Force. The group was unusual for its time in having a multiracial membership. John McCormick was the group's bassist and musical director for the final seventeen years.
The band actually began as a skiffle group with a mainly American repertoire until they were prompted to include sea shanties and other old English folk songs. They started out as The Gin Mill Skiffle Group, which included guitarist Tony Davis and washboard player Mick Groves. The group played the Cavern Club, Liverpool for the first time on Friday 18 January 1957, with The Muskrat Jazz Band and The Liverpool University Jazz Band. They played there subsequently on several occassions. They became The Spinners in September 1958 and founded a folk club in Liverpool, the 'Triton Club', but soon were performing in London at places such as 'The Troubadour'. Their first album, Songs Spun in Liverpool, was recorded by Bill Leader from live performances. In 1962 Peter Kennedy of the English Folk Dance & Song Society recorded an album called Quayside Songs Old & New. In 1963 Philips Records signed them, and they recorded eight more albums over the next eight years. They signed for EMI Records in the early 1970s.
They became popular by reviving some of the greatest folk music and singing new songs in the same vein. Although sounding like traditional English folk songs, some of their material was in fact composed by Hughie Jones, such as "The Ellan Vannin Tragedy" and "The Marco Polo". One of their best known songs, particularly in their native Liverpool, was "In My Liverpool Home", written by Peter McGovern in 1962. Cliff Hall also introduced traditional Jamaican songs to their repertoire.
They produced over forty albums, and made numerous concerts and TV appearances. In 1970, they were given their own television show on BBC One that ran for seven years. They also had their own show on BBC Radio 2. They retired in 1988, after thirty years together, although they led the community singing at the 1989 FA Cup Final and played some Christmas shows in the early 1990s. Some members of the group still perform, although Cliff Hall retired to Australia, where he died in 2008.
Their version of the Ewan MacColl song, "Dirty Old Town", was included in the Terence Davies' 2008 documentary of Liverpool, Of Time and the City.
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