My memorable Portsmouth Guildhall night with ‘The Genius’

Ray Charles, nicknamed The Genius, whose appearance at the Guildhall, Portsmouth, in 1964 brought back happy memories for Michael Olding
Ray Charles, nicknamed The Genius, whose appearance at the Guildhall, Portsmouth, in 1964 brought back happy memories for Michael Olding
Portsmouth in 1717 (from William Gates History of Portsmouth, 1900)

NOSTALGIA: A seed of learning planted 300 years ago that’s blossomed into Portsmouth Grammar School

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Michael Olding is just one of many of you who have been enjoying our look back at events at or surrounding the Guildhall in Portsmouth.

Michael says that what has struck him about the music acts that have appeared there, is the variety – ‘greats from all musical genres’ – as he puts it.

Penalty shoot-out at Medina Road School, Cosham, in 1976

Penalty shoot-out at Medina Road School, Cosham, in 1976

He reels off a list of some of the greatest names from America who performed on the Guildhall’s stage: Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Burl Ives and Andy Williams. Everyone he reckons, with the exception of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

Michael adds: ‘They were marvellously rich times.

‘I remember seeing in 1964 the fabulous Ray Charles, pictured on the facing page, who was at the peak of his career.

‘On his second sell-out world tour he brought his band to the Guildhall in, I think, the July of that year.

‘I recall The News critic at the time saying that there was no artist in the world who could sing That Lucky Old Sun and In the Evening When the Sun Goes Down as Ray Charles could. With his band and the Raelettes, he was in good form that evening and included his current hit, Take these Chains from my Heart.

Michael adds that Charles was an ‘acknowledged genius’ in the world of jazz, blues and pop.

‘He influenced many British artists who themselves became major performers, such as Van Morrison and Eric Burden to name but two. To see an artist of his stature, was inspirational.’

Back in 1976 teacher Keith Atkins from Medina Road School, Cosham, had to raise funds for the school’s football kit and organised this penalty shoot-out.

Two Pompey players, goalkeeper Phil Figgins and striker-cum-centre-half Steve Foster agreed to help. Apparently both played in goal, but Foster saved far too many.

Keith had a quiet word saying: ‘Steve, this is a sponsored penalty-take. The more goals they score the more money we raise. Get it?’ They all hit the back of the net from then on.