There is so much talent in Portsmouth

MUSIC LOVER Nick Courtney, 52, record shop owner and live music promoter at his business Sweet Memorires Vinyl Records (UK) in Fratton Road. Picture: Malcolm Wells (123342-3233)
MUSIC LOVER Nick Courtney, 52, record shop owner and live music promoter at his business Sweet Memorires Vinyl Records (UK) in Fratton Road. Picture: Malcolm Wells (123342-3233)
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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NICK Courtney has worked with scores of musicians over the years – but the highlight of his career came when he snapped up international star Adam Ant for a charity gig in Portsmouth.

He’s given more than 4,000 musicians the chance to perform on a stage in front of crowds.

PASSION Nick's shop in Fratton Road

PASSION Nick's shop in Fratton Road

Now as Nick Courtney reflects on his time as a music promoter in Portsmouth he says he couldn’t have done it without the guidance of the man who ignited his passion for the industry.

Nick was introduced to music at an early age because his dad Roger was a keen musician and the sound of him playing his guitar was often heard in the family home.

‘I’ve always been into music – especially vinyl records,’ Nick says.

‘As soon as I heard Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon on stereo for the first time I knew I was going to be hooked for life.

‘My dad was a guitarist and played most days and I can remember putting on rhythm and blues records on the jukebox inside a coffee shop that used to be in Fareham called The Cresta Run.

‘They were good times.

‘By the time I was 18 I had collected 500 LP records and 3,000 singles.’

In 1992 Nick’s dad set up a weekly event which gave signed and unsigned local and international musicians the chance to perform at The Old House at Home, in Milton, Portsmouth.

Roger ran his ‘Roger Courtney’s Open Mike Club’ until he died in 2002.

Then Nick, who lives with his wife Denise in Baffins, Portsmouth, stepped in and continued to run the club under the same name at The Barn, the music venue for The Milton Arms, Milton.

Two years ago Nick realised it was time to put his dad’s spirit to rest – and set up a new music night called ‘Nick Courtney Presents – PLAY @ The RMA’ at The RMA pub, in Cromwell Road, Eastney.

Each week before the show Nick arranges which artists will play on the night and introduces each one before they perform.

‘I was determined to keep the memory of my dad and his work alive,’ said Nick.

‘But after a while I decided enough was enough.

‘It was time to go it alone.

‘It was getting to the stage where people were coming up to me asking if I was called Roger.

‘I completely rebranded the concept of the night. I wanted to bring in a wider variety of bands and talent.’

The show takes place every Thursday evening and is broadcast live on a website called thursdaymusic.co.uk. It is then posted onto YouTube.

It also includes a ‘rock and roll raffle’ where a band sings the raffle to the audience.

Nick said: ‘I don’t get paid for what I do and it’s free entry every week.

‘I’m one of the luckiest people in the world because I get to choose the music on the night and then I get to listen to it and enjoy it.

‘It brings a smile to my face when someone is good, and it really makes me laugh when they are excellent.

‘Some of the people that play every week are better than the ones on The X Factor this year.

‘There is so much talent in Portsmouth.’

He adds: ‘I often look at friends we have in common on people’s Facebook profiles and am amazed how many people have become connected directly as a result of Roger Courtney’s Open Mike Club and Play @ The RMA, how many friendships that have been made and how people’s lives have actually been changed simply by going there.

‘As dramatic as that sounds, it’s actually true.

‘I can’t imagine how things would be today without it.

‘Some bands would not exist at all and hundreds of people who are really good friends would have never met.

‘I must have promoted more than 4,000 artists which is an incredible number.

‘My dad left me something far more valuable than money.

‘It’s a funny old world.

‘January will mark the 10th year of me being a music promoter.

‘But I can’t ever imagine doing something in the future which is unrelated to music.’

Nick continues to put bands on at The Old House at Home on Fridays and Saturdays as well as at Little Johnny Russell’s, Southsea, on the first Tuesday of every month.

And the 52-year-old juggles his unpaid duties with his full-time job as the owner of Sweet Memories Vinyl Records, in Fratton Road, Fratton, which he has run for 17 years.

Nick, 52, was inspired to make a business out of selling records after he divorced his first wife and ended up living in a bed-sit in Portsmouth with his vast music collection around 20 years ago.

‘One day I was selling some of my records at a market in Southsea when I realised they were going like hotcakes,’ he recalls.

‘I was only offering each of my LPs for £2 and singles for £1 so they must have been worth something.

‘I knew then that I should be making a business out of it.

‘Both jobs that I have now complement each other.’

Nick added that the music industry in Portsmouth and as a whole has never been better.

‘The internet has helped my promoter duties out massively,’ he said.

‘Live music has become more mainstream than ever before. Back in the 70s and 80s people wanted to hang out in discos. Now there’s a demand for bands to play in pubs and other venues.’

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

NICK Courtney has worked with scores of musicians over the years – but the highlight of his career came when he snapped up international star Adam Ant for a charity gig in Portsmouth.

In May 2010 Nick heard that the star – lead singer of post-punk group Adam and the Ants – was staying at The Ship Anson, at The Hard, Portsea.

Nick then went down there and convinced him to play at the Oasis Centre, in Somers Town, for an event to raise money for Mustard Seed Ministries, which provides support for children living on the streets in India.

Unfortunately the gig went sour after Adam, who at the time was battling mental health issues, slurred his way through his set and heckled the crowd.

‘Though it was disappointing, getting Adam Ant to play for that gig was a crowning achievement for me,’ says Nick.

‘Despite the performance he raised a lot of money for the charity.

‘What a lot of people don’t know about is that I managed to get him to play a half an hour set at The Milton Arms a few days beforehand.

‘It was mindblowing to see someone of that status in there.’

Nick has also welcomed the likes of Charlie Dore, whose single Pilot of the Airwaves reached number 13 on the US Billboard Hot 100 music chart, at The Milton Arms.

The keyboard player from Three Blind Mice, who was part of the original Take That line-up, has also performed at the pub during Nick’s evening.

‘The night at The RMA is still a relatively new concept, but I’m looking forward to seeing some big names crop up in the near future,’ Nick said.