Landmark pier’s ballroom was site of excellent gigs

The old ballroom and gig venue on Clarence Pier
The old ballroom and gig venue on Clarence Pier
jpns-19-08-17 retro Aug 2017

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Dave Allen – the man with the history of popular music in Portsmouth oozing out of every pore – was the first to get in touch with memories of Clarence Pier.

The Southsea landmark has just celebrated its 150th anniversary and Dave responded to my request for your memories despite having played his last gig there more than 30 years ago.

Clarence Pier's resident band in the 1960s led by drummer Art Ward with Bill Cole on the piano and singer Mick Reeve

Clarence Pier's resident band in the 1960s led by drummer Art Ward with Bill Cole on the piano and singer Mick Reeve

The first of his images shows the pier’s long-gone ballroom, the venue for many gigs above the water.

Then comes Dave’s ticket for his first gig on the pier. The support were Southampton’s Soul Agents and an obscure singer called Rod Stewart.

Topping the bill were local favourites, the London R&B band The Downliners Sect. And all for five bob.

Dave added: ‘Despite the ticket billing, Mike Devon did not play that gig with the Diplomats as he’d left by then, but was the singer down there on Saturday nights in the 1960s with the resident band led by drummer Arthur (‘Art’) Ward.’

Dave has also sent pictures of them with blind pianist Bill Cole, a key figure in the Portsmouth area for decades. The singer here is Mick Reeve who still lives locally, said Dave.

His final image is a poster for a student gig in March 1965 – the same month as Rod Stewart’s appearance – with blues singer Jesse Fuller famous for the song San Francisco Bay Blues.

In the late 1970s, Dave remembers a series of punk gigs on the pier featuring bands such as Sham 69 and Wayne County.