Pete Cross is one of the most well-known DJs in Portsmouth and now presents a 1960s’ show on Angel Radio 101FM based at Havant.
Born in St Mary’s Hospital where most Portsmouth legends were born, he had a Buckland boyhood. He left school at 15 and joined WH Smith’s, the newsagents.
At 19 he became a roadie of sorts for local band Wrong Direction and when the band was having a break during gigs Pete would play records for the audience.
Dave Martin, the band’s leader, heard that the Tricorn Club, a newly-opened venue, required a DJ. Pete went for an interview, got the job and for nearly 50 years it has led to a life in the entertainment industry.
The Tricorn Club was originally a cabaret venue with some of the country’s top stars appearing backed by a resident trio and later Pete. The word disco had not then been coined. The audience was about 500 on a busy night.
Some of the bands that appeared were Status Quo, Sweet, Slade, The Searchers, Marc Bolan, Elkie Brooks and Dickie Valentine, who had a fortnight’s engagement at the latter end of his career.
Some the top radio DJs of the time made guest appearances including John Peel, Bob Harris, Emperor Rosko and Noel Edmonds.
Pete recalls the time Peel arrived at his house in Adelaide Street. Pete slept in the smallest bedroom, made smaller because the bed was surrounded by singles and LPs.
On arrival Peel walked through the house to find Pete in a tin bath in the kitchen. ‘Very quaint,’ said Peel.
One group who thought they were going nowhere were the early 1970s’ band Mud. They used to appear at the club and mentioned to Pete they were thinking of giving up. By luck they had an appearance on the television talent show Opportunity Knocks. They were seen by impresario Mickie Most who offered them a deal. The rest, as they say, is history.
A band Pete got on with very well were Slade. Noddy Holder still says the Tricorn was one of his favourite gigs.
By 1973 the Tricorn’s best days were over.
About 1975 entertainment group Pleasurama took over part of the old Savoy buildings on South Parade and opened a disco called Nero’s. It was known for its dance floor that was lit from below, a novelty at the time. Pete left the Tricorn and became resident DJ at the club when it opened, also appearing next door at Joanna’s.
In 1979 another well know DJ in the city, Steve Kingsley, sold his half of an entertainment agency to Pete and with offices in Landport Terrace he and his partner made the business KM Entertainments thrive.
They had contracts to place bands and DJs in every naval establishment in the area. At that time all the different establishments like the RN Barracks, Vernon, Collingwood, Mercury, Excellent, Sultan and Dryad had their own clubs and messes and each had their own functions. There was also entertainment needed on board ships.
Pete told me that all the entertainers in the city could work seven nights a week if they wanted. He recalls he had to bring bands in from across the UK to fill the vacancies.
Such has been the loss of so many establishments and ships in the past 17 years, Pete reckons he has lost 59 naval venues to date – not to mention all the pubs and clubs that have gone over the years like the Co-op Club in Fratton Road and the SEB club at Drayton.
In the 1980s Pete recorded a novelty record March of the Mods and Knees Up Mother Brown which sold 2,000 copies and Pete went back to the Tricorn to appear as a guest DJ from time to time.
He formed his own agency, PCA (Pete Cross Associates), which he still owns and runs, but business was never like it was in the late 1970s and 1980s.