How Isle of Wight headliner Rod Stewart began his career in Southsea

Rod 'Banjo' Stewart relaxing with friends on Southsea Common in front of the Queen's Hotel

Rod 'Banjo' Stewart relaxing with friends on Southsea Common in front of the Queen's Hotel

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SITTING on Southsea Common more than 50 years ago, Rod ‘Banjo’ Stewart, probably never dared dream that he would one day be a megstar playing across the water as a headliner at The Isle of Wight Festival.

Rod has today been announced as the Sunday night headliner at the 2017 festival, which takes place on June 8-11 next year.

But the singer known for hits such as Maggie May, Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? and Sailing actually began his career here in the city, playing at various venues, including Clarence Pier and The Birdcage in Eastney.

But in October 1964 Stewart had been recruited to the Hoochie Coochie Men by Long John Baldry.

Baldry had hired him after he heard Stewart busking a Muddy Waters’s song at Twickenham railway station.

He was employed as ‘second singer’ for £33 a week and went on tour. Stewart lived in Portsmouth for a year during the mid-1960s so when the band was booked for the Rendezvous it marked a return to his old stomping ground.

However, that night Baldry turned up 90 minutes late, Stewart gave him some abuse and was sacked by the end of the night. Stewart later recalled: ‘I actually cried when he sacked me.’

The Rendezvous was based in Oddfellows Hall in Kingston Road.

In 2012 John Newbery, of South Road, Hayling Island, told The News: ‘I was there that night and saw Rod – all back-combed hair and impossibly tight trousers – do his first set.

‘He looked drained as he came off the stage and wandered through the audience, who mostly ignored him.

‘I was at the bar and as he came past I asked him whether he would like a drink. He had a light ale and we had a short chat before he headed back for the second set.

‘All very different from the interaction between performers and bands today.’

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