The Ritz

The Ritz / Hive, West Cliff, Bournemouth
The original Southcliffe Hotel prior to the demolition of part of the west wing for holiday cottages
The Ritz and apartments on the west cliff, note the Wallen owned Starleys Hotel to the left and rear

On the west cliff, a couple of hundred yards from the pier stood the Southcliffe Hotel. Originally dating back to the late 1800s when it was called South Cliff Villa, the hotel boasted sixty bedrooms, twenty bathrooms, hot and cold running water, central heating, an electric lift and commanding uninterrupted views over the bay, it would have been a desirable place to stay in its heyday. In the fifties a large part of the hotel was demolished to make way for holiday cottages and the remaining rooms were converted into apartments. Adjoining the apartments was a smallish ballroom with two bay windows and a garden area. In the early sixties it was christened The Ritz by the then owner, Mr. Starley, who hosted local jazz bands and small combos for dancing such as Tony Alton and his Music, The Malcolm John Five, Ronnie Horler and His Music and The Kordet Combo from Dorchester. Behind the Ritz and over the South Cliff Road, was another hotel originally called the Beechcliffe Hall, which he also owned and renamed Starleys Hotel. It was this package of properties that a Mr. Wallen bought in late 1965.

Before The Ritz became a rock club, it was a popular jazz hangout: The Tubby Hayes Quartet in 1966
Left to Right: Pip Wallen, local socialite Ken Baily & Len Wallen in the entrance to the Ritz

Len Wallen was born in Portsmouth in 1926 but moved to Oxford with his family when he was in his teens. He initially worked for Pearl Insurance, becoming their most successful salesman for which he won an award. He then changed tack and started up his own business selling tyres, eventually opening six shops around the Oxfordshire and Berkshire area. In 1965, he tired of tyres, sold his business and moved to Bournemouth where the family had holidayed in the past. At a loose end and bored with retirement, Len moved into the hospitality industry and bought the Starleys Hotel, which included the apartments across the road and the Ritz ballroom. From the very beginning the family pitched in, working at the hotel during the day and helping out at the club at night. Len’s wife Pip managed the cloakroom with assistance from Jean Beaumont, a woman called Patsy took care of the ticket office and the bar was managed by a guy called Brian with support from Len’s niece Kathleen, who moved down from York to help out. In case of trouble, two gentle giants, Eddie and Ray, were on hand to break up any altercations and throw out the troublemakers, and the whole operation was managed by Paul Clarke. Len’s teenage daughters, Hilary and Jackie, collected classes and would fill in when needed. 

It’s not until you see the club devoid of people, that it becomes apparent how small it actually was
The band take a break allowing the crowd to spill out into the garden for a breath of fresh sea air

Before re-opening on 19th February 1966 with The Trackmarks, Len oversaw a make-over, laying new carpets, erecting a new stage and stone cladding the front façade. Initially he booked local groups such as The South Coast 5ive, The Bossmen and The Nite People but soon brought in bigger groups starting with Adam Faith’s former backing band The Roulettes followed by The Paramounts and The Fourmost. As he settled into his new line of work, Len expanded his empire by procuring the Romantica Hotel at Cemetery Junction (now the Dean Court Inn) and the Marine Theatre in Lyme Regis. In tandem with a young local promoter finding his feet in the murky world of the music business, Mel Bush, and input from his daughter Hilary who had her finger on the musical pulse, he brought the cream of the London rock, soul and blues scene to the south coast. With two venues just over fifty miles apart and a couple of hotels in Bournemouth where the groups could bed down for the night instead of driving back to London in the early hours of the morning, it was an easy sell to entice bands to the Ritz.    

A typical busy night in the smoky Ritz, packed in like sardines but the crowd are loving it

On a good night it was almost impossible for the musicians to battle their way through the tightly packed crowd from the dressing room sited behind the bar, to the stage at the far end of the club. In the days before the smoking ban, the air would be thick with the fug of acrid smoke from cheap fags, making your eyes sting and stream with tears, while the heat generated by the proximity of numerous tightly packed bodies ensured a very sticky experience. It would be a blessed relief when the doors to the beer garden were thrown open in the interval to ease the pressure and allow a much-needed blast of fresh sea air. In those pre-Health and Safety days, The Ritz could legally hold up to a thousand patrons. In the event of a fire, the fire brigade deemed it safe for people to exit through the two doors either side of the stage into the small garden and jump over the fence onto the path leading down the cliffs. In hindsight, that would have been a recipe for disaster, as the fence was a lot higher than most people could jump. That advice certainly wouldn’t hold today.

From Top to Bottom: The Trackmarks, The South Coast 5ive & The Dictators, three local bands pull in the punters before Len and Mel Bush brought down the big guns from London

In the golden age of nascent progressive rock and the blues boom, Jethro Tull, John Mayall, Taste, Colosseum, Yes, Chicken Shack, The Nice, The Groundhogs, Ten Years After, Spooky Tooth plus the bluesmen Otis Spann, John Lee Hooker and Freddie King all plied their trade to an appreciative, if somewhat cramped audience. On one memorable evening in October 1968, Fleetwood Mac honoured a long-standing booking and gave an electrifying performance to a sell-out crowd while their single “Albatross” sat on top of the charts. In February 1969 they were back with brand-new Orange amplifiers. Usually, they turned up with a hodgepodge of battered and mismatched gear, but now they looked positively posh. Obviously the dough from a number one single had reaped dividends. However, it made no difference to the Mac as they were the same down-to-earth, blistering blues band as before and the hottest ticket in town.

Black Cat Bones, 6th June 1969 (Photograph courtesy of Joss Mullinger of ‘This Way Books Archive’)

Another date of note in May of the same year saw the blues legend Howlin’ Wolf visit the club with the John Dummer Blues Band. Despite the great man being in his mid-sixties and his sidekick of many years Hubert Sumlin not making the trip, the Wolf gave one hundred percent, crawling around on his hands and knees, blowing a mean blues harp and howling like a man possessed. When he finally left the stage running with sweat, he shook hands with mesmerised fans as he made his way back to the dressing room. An unforgettable experience.

Eden Roc, a four piece band from Yorkshire were the support for Freddie King on 20th June 1969

One gig that failed to materialise was the eagerly anticipated homecoming of the original King Crimson. The band were booked to appear on 26th September 1969, but on the night in question, the disappointed punters were told that they had pulled out at the last moment due to illness. An advert appeared in the Bournemouth Echo the following day apologising for the no-show and it was hoped that they would organise a new date, but it wasn’t to be. King Crimson didn’t return to Bournemouth until June 1971 when they played the much larger Winter Gardens, but by then it was a totally different line-up with local boys Greg Lake and Michael Giles long gone and Robert Fripp being the only original member left.

Three months later on Saturday 16th August, The Edgar Broughton Band played the same night as the 1969 ‘Bournemouth Regatta Beat Group Competition’. As The Ritz overlooked the area where the competition took place, Edgar thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of the makeshift stage and decamp to the beach after their show and put on a free gig. The Broughton’s had a reputation for playing rabble-rousing freebies from the back of lorries at festivals and benefits, which sometimes ended in cases of civil disobedience and the odd punch-up. True to form, later that evening the band and Edgar’s mum and dad (they were his roadies) humped the gear down to the beach west of the pier and proceeded to play. This being Bournemouth, they only managed a couple of raucous anthems before the boys in blue turned up and pulled the plug. It was fun while it lasted.  

The exterior of the newly refurbished Hive had a garish black and yellow paint job

At the turn of the decade, Len spent £5,000 on a revamp by adding arches, lowering the ceiling and brightening up the old oak panel walls with a lurid purple, red and yellow striped colour scheme (apparently he was colour-blind). The club re-opened with a new name, The Hive, and a new identity catering for a disco clientele with live music relegated to weekends. By then the up-and-coming bands of the last couple of years had become headliners in their own write, upped their fees accordingly and decamped half a mile down the road to the much larger Winter Gardens.

Now that the emphasis had changed to dancing around handbags and hiring pop groups such as White Plains, Edison’s Lighthouse and Cupid’s Inspiration, the hairy hoards recoiled in horror and took their custom elsewhere. Sure there was the odd blast of Satanic heavyocity from Black Sabbath and Black Widow, memorable gigs from Thin Lizzy and Wishbone Ash, plus a masterclass in guitar wizardry from Gary Moore with the Irish trio Skid Row, but it wasn’t enough to sustain the interest and the regulars from previous years gradually drifted away. In the spring of 1971 Len tried appealing to a biker crowd by introducing rock ‘n’ roll nights every Thursday, but The Wild Angels, The Houseshakers and bands of their ilk failed to pull in enough punters to make it viable.

The newly revamped interior of the Hive, note the lurid purple, red & yellow colour scheme

By the summer of 1974 Len was under pressure to sell Starley’s hotel, now named the Capri, and the Hive, as the site was designated for a brand-new all-purpose concert and conference centre with bars, restaurants and a swimming pool. Before that could take the place, the council slapped a compulsory purchase order on the Court Royal next door which was owned by the National Coal Board and the National Mine Workers Union. Since 1947, the convalescent home had been a respite centre for Welsh miners sent to the coast to recuperate from chest problems caused by coal dust and injuries from mining accidents. As the case rumbled through the courts, the power of the unions proved too strong for the Tory council, and they won. The council appealed the verdict and took their fight to the Labour Secretary of State for the Environment and lost again. The building is still there, but now it’s a hotel run by the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, Arthur Scargill would be proud. While all the wrangling and toing and froing was dragging on, Len leased the Hive back to the council who converted it into the Anchor Bar, an emporium for dispensing warm, overpriced lager to sunburnt holidaymakers. Finally in 1983 the whole area was flattened, condemning the home of many unforgettable nights to a burial under a red brick mausoleum called the Bournemouth International Centre.

As for Len, he bought a further five hotels, including the Bay on the west cliff which also fell foul of the Bournemouth Council and was torn down in 1998 as the BIC supposedly needed another car park, to this day it is still a plot of waste ground. He finally retired in 2006, but sadly died in 2018 at the ripe old age of ninety-two. Unfortunately, there isn’t a building left to fix a blue plaque, just a car park and bin store, but for all the people that were regular Ritz goers, Len’s legacy is a head full of happy memories.

Aerial shot of the Hive circa 1972, note the holiday cottages to the left, the Court Royal miners retreat to the right and the newly named Capri Hotel (formerly Starleys Hotel) at the rear
Summer 1983, the site is cleared to make way for the Bournemouth International Centre
The view today, the Court Royal Hotel partly obscured by the big wheel and dwarfed by the Bournemouth International Centre behind (This photograph and below John Cherry)
Where the Ritz once stood, now a car park for the BIC, the Court Royal Hotel still standing

Special thanks go to Len’s daughter Hilary Goodinge for background information and the majority of the photographs.  

Below is a selective list of gigs at The Ritz and Hive from February 1966 when Len Wallen took over, to March 1973. Were you there? Have I missed out any name bands? Please let me know. For an extensive list refer to the individual gig pages.

1966

Saturday 19th February: The Trackmarks 

Friday 25th February: The Just Men + The Committee

Saturday 5th March: South Coast 5ive

Wednesday 9th March: The Roulettes + The Trackmarks

Friday 18th March: The Paramounts + The Trackmarks 

Wednesday 23rd March: The Fourmost + The Trackmarks 

Saturday 26th March: Tony Martyn + The Trackmarks 

Saturday 2nd April: Pentad

Saturday 9th April: The Bunch

Saturday 16th April: The Palmer James Group

Friday 22nd April: The Tubby Hayes Quartet + The Oscar Rand Quartet

Saturday 23rd April: The Conquerors

Saturday 30th April: Simon Dupree and the Big Sound

Friday 6th May: The Impacts

Saturday 9th May: The Vic Allen Showband 

Friday 13th May: Denise Scott and the Soundsmen 

Thursday 19th May: The Dick Morrissey Quartet with Phil Seamen 

Friday 20th May: Zuider Zee

Saturday 21st May: Wanted 

Wednesday 25th May: Tony, Howard and the Dictators + Four Shades of Blue 

Friday 27th May: Our Kind 

Sunday 29th May: The Meantimers 

Wednesday 8th June: The Gordon Riots 

Friday 10th June: The Outcasts

Tuesday 14th June: The Voids 

Wednesday 15th June: The Zags 

Thursday 16th June: The Dyaks 

Friday 17th June: Lavina and the Lavelles

Saturday 18th June: Beaux Oddlot

Tuesday 21st June: Wynder K. Frog 

Thursday 23rd June: Steve Darbishire and his Yum Yum Band

Friday 24th June: The Klick 

Saturday 25th June: George Bean and the Loopy Lot

Tuesday 6th September: People’s People

Wednesday 7th September: The Emotions 

Friday 9th September: High Tension

Wednesday 14th September: Ricky Vernon and the Pathfinders 

 Friday 16th September: The Gates of Eden

Saturday 24th September: The Peeps 

Friday 30th September: 1st Lites 

Friday 7th October: The Unchained 

Sunday 9th October: Staceys Circle

Friday 14th October: The Reasons 

Friday 21st October: The Breed 

Saturday 22nd October: The Move

Thursday 27th October: The Nite People

Friday 28th October: The Uniform 

Saturday 29th October: The Beat Six 

Tuesday 1st November: The Living Trust

Saturday 5th November: The Variations

Friday 11th November: The Hush

Saturday 12th November: The Gas Company 

Saturday 19th November: Steampacket + The Nite Shift

Friday 25th November: Sounds Like Us

Saturday 26th November: The Utopians

Friday 2nd December: The Inspiration

Friday 9th December: Johnny Carr and the Cadillacs

Saturday 10th December: Peter Budd and the Rebels 

Friday 16th December: The Frame 

Saturday 17th December: The Force West

Monday 26th December: The Addix

Tuesday 27th December: The Hunters 

Friday 30th December: Mod Hammed Soule 

Saturday 31st December: The Rage

1967

Monday 2nd January: The Big Time Operators

Thursday 5th January: Johnny Carr and the Cadillacs

Monday 9th January: The Alan Bown Set + Soul Foundation

Friday 13th January: The Next Move

Friday 14th January: The Breed

Wednesday 18th January: St Louis Union + Soul Foundation + The Caxton

Friday 20th January: The Inspiration

Saturday 21st January: The Franklin Big Six

Tuesday 24th January: Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band + The Bossmen

Friday 27th January: The Soundsmen

Wednesday 1st February: The Riot Squad + Mozzletoff 

Friday 10th February: The Gas Company

Saturday 11th February: The Hunters

Tuesday 14th February: Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band + The Living Trust 

Friday 17th February: Systems Go

Friday 18th February: Cole Train Union

Tuesday 21st February: Simon Dupree and the Big Sound + The Shame

Friday 24th February: Abject Blues

Saturday 25th February: Staceys Circle 

Tuesday 28th February: The Action + The Bossmen

Friday 3rd March: Mood Indigo

Saturday 4th March: The Chasers

Thursday 9th March: Nite People + Nelson’s Column 

Saturday 11th March: The Iveys 

Tuesday 14th March: The Alan Bown Set + The Bossmen

Friday 17th March: Soul Foundation 

Saturday 18th March: The Cheating Hearts 

Thursday 23rd March: The Bunch 

Saturday 25th March: Thursday’s Child

Monday 27th March: The Rage

Tuesday 28th March: Jimmy James and the Vagabonds + The Bossmen

Tuesday 4th April: The Gas

Friday 7th April: Dave Anthony and the Plague

Saturday 8th April: The Klick

Tuesday 11th April: The Meantimers 

Friday 14th April: The Shame 

Saturday 15th April: The Minor Portion Roll Band + The J. J. Preston Sound 

Tuesday 18th April: Herbie Goins and the Night-Timers + The Bossmen 

Saturday 22nd April: Traffic + The Bossmen 

Friday 28th April: The Tea Pots

Saturday 29th April: Monday’s Children

Tuesday 2nd May: Family

Friday 5th May: Maggregor Engine 

Saturday 6th May: Mud

Tuesday 9th May: Jimmy James and the Vagabonds 

Saturday 13th May: The Wages of Sin

Tuesday 16th May: The Alan Bown Set 

Friday 19th May: The Variations 

Saturday 20th May: The Hush 

Thursday 25th May: Simon Dupree and the Big Sound

Friday 26th May: Just Us 

Saturday 27th May: The Anzacs

Monday 29th May: The Coloured Raisons

Tuesday 31st  May: Dianne Ferraz and the Ferris Wheel + J. J. Preston Sound

Friday 2nd June: The Roy King Soul Band 

Saturday 3rd June: One in a Million 

Monday 12th June: The Reasons

Tuesday 13th June: Whistling Jack Smith and the Quiet Five

Tuesday 20th June: The Freddy Mack Show

Wednesday 28th June: Wynder K. Frog + The Nashville Teens

Saturday 1st July: Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band + Minor Portion Roll Band 

Monday 3rd July: Abject Blues

Friday 14th July: The Gods 

Tuesday 18th July: The Variations

Friday 28th July: The Sweet and Sour + The Bossmen

Tuesday 22nd August: Heart and Soul 

Saturday 26th August: The Fireballs 

Tuesday 29th August: The Freddy Mack Band

Thursday 31st August: The Voyd Soul Band

Tuesday 5th September: Amen Corner 

Wednesday 6th September: The Peddlers 

Friday 8th September: The Skyliners + The Dictators

Saturday 9th September: The Gods 

Monday 11th September: Herbie Goins and the Night Timers 

Friday 15th September: The Bee Gees

Saturday 16th September: The Outer Limits 

Monday 18th September: Wynder K. Frog

Wednesday 20th September: Dantalion’s Chariot

Monday 25th September: The King Ossy Show + Coloured Raisons

Thursday 28th September: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown 

Saturday 30th September: Soul Trinity 

Monday 2nd October: Amen Corner

Saturday 6th October: Brother Bung 

Sunday 7th October: The Worrying Kind

Monday 8th October: The Alan Bown

Thursday 12th October: The Move

Saturday 14th October: The Dyaks

Monday 16th October: Jimmy James and the Vagabonds 

Saturday 21st October: The Lloyd Alexander Blues Band 

Saturday 4th November: The Riot Squad

Tuesday 7th November: Marmalade + The Shame 

Saturday 11th November: The Gates of Eden

Saturday 18th November: Sugar Simone + The Programme 

Saturday 25th November: The New Jump Band

Monday 27th November: Oliver Norman and the Majestic Head 

 Tuesday 28th November: Simon K. and the Meantimers 

Friday 8th December: Heman Clan

Saturday 9th December: The Syn 

Tuesday 12th December: Band of Joy 

Friday 15th December: The Power

Saturday 16th December: The Knack 

Tuesday 19th December: The Alan Bown

Saturday 23rd December: The Riot Squad + The Lotion 

Friday 29th December: The Fireballs 

Sunday 31st December: The Gods

1968

Saturday 6th January: Lloyd Alexander’s Blues Band + The Breakthru 

Friday 12th January: The Healers

Saturday 13th January: Jon, James and the Swamp

Tuesday 16th January: The Herd

Friday 19th January: The Delroy Williams Show 

Saturday 20th January: The Loot 

Tuesday 23rd January: Simon Dupree and the Big Sound

Friday 26th January: Adge Cutler and the Wurzles + The Cavaliers 

Wednesday 31st January: The Love Affair 

Saturday 3rd February: Sugar Simone + The Programme

Tuesday 6th February: Amen Corner 

Wednesday 14th February: Max Bear and the Chicago Backs Set 

Friday 23rd February: The Age

Saturday 24th February: Si’s Reaction 

Wednesday 28th February: Marmalade

Friday 1st March: Pete Kelly’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Solution 

 Saturday 2nd March: The Rick ‘n’ Beckers

Wednesday 6th March: The Plastic Penny 

Friday 8th March: Fire

Tuesday 12th March: Status Quo

Friday 15th March: The Gods

Saturday 16th March: The Stuart James Inspiration

Tuesday 19th March: The Alan Bown 

Friday 22nd March: The Emotions

Wednesday 27th March: The Gas 

Saturday 30th March: The Mojo’s + The Dereck James Show 

Tuesday 9th April: The Ray King Soul Band 

Thursday 11th April: The Cavaliers

Saturday 13th April: The Breakthru + Lloyd Alexander Real Estate

Tuesday 23rd April: Jimmy Cliff + Wynder K. Frogg

Saturday 27th April: Keith Purdie and the Heavenly Bodies

Tuesday 30th April: The Joyce Bond Revue

Friday 3rd May: Simon K. and the Meantimers 

Tuesday 7th May: The Alan Bown 

Thursday 9th May: Pete Kelly’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Solution

Friday 17th May: Tuesdays Children + Jon, James and the Swamp

Friday 24th May: The Gods 

Saturday 25th May: La Pella Nera

Wednesday 29th May: Spooky Tooth

Friday 31st May: Simplicity Soul

Monday 3rd June: The Information

Tuesday 4th June: Marmalade

Friday 7th June: The Magic Roundabout 

Tuesday 11th June: Nite People + Hell Hal Shell Shock Show

Friday 14th June: The Army 

Saturday 15th June: Lloyd Alexander Real Estate

Monday 17th June: The Riot Squad 

Tuesday 2nd July: The Blackout

Saturday 6th July: King Size Keen and his Rocking Machine

Tuesday 9th July: Ozzie Lane and the Greatest Show on Earth

Friday 12th July: Spice

Saturday 20th July: Memphis Express

Wednesday 24th July: Fleetwood Mac

Thursday 25th July: The Tremeloes

Wednesday 7th August: The Spencer Davis Group 

Wednesday 21st August: The Nice

Thursday 29th August: Fleetwood Mac

Friday 30th August: The Perishers

Saturday 31st August: The Derek James Show + Soul Package

Tuesday 3rd September: Archimedes Principle + The Promise + Sebastian Lodge

Saturday 14th September: The Epics + The Dereck James Show

Wednesday 18th September: The Nice

Friday 20th September: Ten Years After 

Friday 27th September: The Groovy Kind

Tuesday 1st October: Fleetwood Mac

Friday 4th October: Duster Bennett + Lord Maurice

Saturday 5th October: Granny’s Intentions 

Saturday 12th October: The Rape + Infantes Jubilate

Friday 18th October: Simon Dupree and the Big Sound

Saturday 19th October: Harlem Speakeasy + The Dereck James Show

Friday 25th October: Granny’s Intentions 

Saturday 26th October: The Manchester Playboys

Thursday 31st October: Renaissance Faire 

Wednesday 6th November: Chicken Shack 

Friday 8th November: The Love Affair

Saturday 9th November: Spice 

Monday 11th November: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers

Thursday 14th November: Coconut Mushroom + Heaven 

Friday 15th November: The Alan Bown 

Saturday 16th November: Red Star

Wednesday 20th November: Savoy Brown Blues Band 

Saturday 23rd November: Jimmy Parker Soul Band

Friday 29th November: The Steve Miller Delivery 

Saturday 30th November: Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon 

Friday 6th December: Earth 

Saturday 7th December: The Sweet

Friday 13th December: The Village Blues Band

Saturday 14th December: The Trifle

Tuesday 17th December: Savoy Brown Blues Band + The Nice + Pete Lain

Saturday 21st December: The Rick ‘n’ Beckers 

Tuesday 24th December: Fascination + The Bostons

Thursday 26th December: Ozzie Lane and the Greatest Show on Earth + The Storm

Friday 27th December: Killing Floor

Saturday 28th December: Sebastian Lodge + The Derek James Show

Tuesday 31st December: Spice 

1969

Friday 3rd January: Jethro Tull

Saturday 4th January: Young Blood 

Friday 10th January: The Sound Casters

Saturday 11th January: The Buttonhole Band

Monday 20th January: Ten Years After 

Friday 24th January: Glass Menagerie 

Saturday 1st February: Yes 

Saturday 8th February: Ram Buck Shush

Friday 14th February: The Timebox

Saturday 15th February: Ray Williams and the Grenades 

Friday 21st February: Chicken Shack

Saturday 22nd February: Johnny Carr and the Cadillacs

Tuesday 25th February: Fleetwood Mac

Friday 7th March: The John Dummer Blues Band

Saturday 8th March: The Flares + Dereck James Show

Friday 14th March: Bakerloo Blues Line 

Saturday 15th March: Orange Bicycle 

Thursday 20th March: East of Eden + Inter-State Road Show

Friday 21st March: Blodwyn Pig 

 Saturday 22nd March: Spectrum

Friday 28th March: Taste

Saturday 29th March: The Sweet 

Thursday 3rd April: State Organisation

Saturday 5th April: Babylon

Monday 7th April: The Flares 

Friday 11th April: McKenna Mendelson Mainline

Saturday 12th April: The Nashville Teens + The Rick ‘n’ Beckers

Friday 18th April: Earth

Saturday 19th April: The Fortunes 

Tuesday 22nd April: John Peel + Hard Meat 

Friday 25th April: Room

Saturday 3rd May: Cliff Bennett and his Band

Tuesday 6th May: Mary Wells 

Friday 9th May: Terry Reid

Saturday 10th May: Desmond Dekker and the Aces

Tuesday 13th May: Bob and Earl + The Storm

Saturday 17th May: Girl Talk 

Friday 23rd May: Dr Browns Blues Band

Saturday 24th May: The World of Oz + The Dereck James Show

Monday 26th May: The Sketch 

Saturday 31st May: Marmaduke Maize 

Friday 6th June: Black Cat Bones

Saturday 7th June: Young Blood

Friday 13th June: John Lee Hooker + The John Dummer Blues Band 

Saturday 14th June: Shy Limbs 

Wednesday 18th June: Ian J. Bell and Eden Roc + Emperor Rosko 

Friday 20th June: Freddie King + Killing Floor + Eden Roc

Saturday 21st June: Audience

Monday 23rd June: Mystic Tangent 

Wednesday 25th June: The Easybeats + Room 

 Thursday 26th June: Fleetwood Mac + Room

Friday 27th June: Otis Spann + Steamhammer

Saturday 28th June: The Ritual

Saturday 5th July: Heatwave + Prayer of Hades

Friday 11th July: Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band 

Saturday 12th July: Dusk Soul + The John Gary Group 

Tuesday 15th July: The Equals

Thursday 17th July: Bubbly Hum 

Friday 18th July: Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum 

Saturday 19th July: The Mindbenders 

Friday 25th July: The Nice

Thursday 31st July: The Alan Price Set

Wednesday 6th August: Jimmy James and the Vagabonds

Friday 8th August: Blodwyn Pig 

Thursday 14th August: The Move

Saturday 16th August: The Edgar Broughton Band

Tuesday 19th August: Max Romeo

Wednesday 20th August: Thunderclap Newman

Friday 22nd August: The Groundhogs

Monday 25th August: The Foundations

Thursday 28th August: Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames

Saturday 30th August: The Dandelions 

Monday 1st September: Chris Shakespeare and the Globe Show 

Friday 5th September: Liverpool Scene + Room

Saturday 6th September: The Joyce Bond Revue

Friday 12th September: Clouds + Room

Saturday 13th September: Poet and the One Man Band with Paul Williams

Friday 19th September: Hard Meat + Room 

Saturday 20th September: King Size Keen Show

Friday 26th September: Village + Room

Saturday 27th September: The Ray Williams Band

Thursday 2nd October: Alabama Shoestring

Friday 3rd October: Third Ear Band + Room

Thursday 9th October: Prince Buster

Friday 10th October: Pete Brown and Piblokto + Room

Saturday 11th October: Simon K. and the Meantimers 

Friday 17th October: Gypsy + Room

Saturday 18th October: Stone the Crows 

Friday 24th October: Jody Grind + Room

Saturday 25th October: Sonority

Friday 31st October: Juniors Eyes + Room

Saturday 1st November: Dave Smith and the Pylots 

Friday 7th November: The Strawbs + Room

Saturday 8th November: Cool Combination 

Thursday 13th November: Image + Room 

Friday 14th November: Griffin + Room

Saturday 15th November: The Flares

Friday 21st November: The Edgar Broughton Band + Room

Saturday 22nd November: Orange Rainbow

Friday 28th November: The Greatest Show on Earth + Room

Saturday 29th November: The Crew

Friday 5th December: Van Der Graaf Generator

Saturday 6th December: The Jamaican All Stars 

Wednesday 10th December:Melody Maker Beat Contest‘ Room + The Feet + Coconut Mushroom + Wanted + Concrete Trousers + Long Grey Mare + Esta’s Tom Cat

Friday 12th December: Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum

Friday 19th December: Manfred Mann Chapter Three 

Saturday 20th December: The Pioneers

Friday 26th December: Principal Edwards Magic Theatre

Saturday 27th December: The Mojos

1970

Friday 2nd January: Zoot Money and the Mike Cotton Sound

Friday 9th January: Andromeda 

Saturday 10th January: Chicksagogo 

Friday 16th January: The Spirit of John Morgan 

Friday 23rd January: The Edgar Broughton Band 

Saturday 24th January: The Ray King Soul Band

Friday 30th January: Estas Tom Cat + Room

Saturday 31st January: Newgate Calendar + Crimson Season

Friday 6th February: Plough

Saturday 7th February: Sound City + Ruby Spoon

Friday 13th February: The Graham Bond Initiation

Sunday 15th February: The Honey Bunch + Peace Full

The Ritz closes in February 1970 and reopens as The Hive in May 1970

Saturday 16th May: Springfield Park

Friday 22nd May: The Pebbles

Saturday 23rd May: The Crew 

Friday 29th May: The Sweet

Thursday 4th June: Juicy Lucy + Upstairs Basement 

Thursday 11th June: Black Sabbath

Saturday 13th June: Napoleon 

Thursday 18th June: Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum

Saturday 20th June: The Bagge 

Friday 26th June: Katch 22

Saturday 4th July: Cupid’s Inspiration

Wednesday 8th July: Christie

Saturday 11th July: The Mowhawks

Wednesday 15th July: Edison Lighthouse 

Friday 17th July: Skid Row + Mike Fancy Wilson

Saturday 18th July: The Reformation

Wednesday 22nd July: Mr Bloe

Thursday 23rd July: Principal Edwards Magic Theatre 

Saturday 25th July: Status Quo

Thursday 30th July: Black Widow

Wednesday 5th August: Love Affair

Wednesday 12th August: Picketty Witch 

Wednesday 19th August: White Plains

Wednesday 26th August: Dozy Beaky Mick & Titch 

Saturday 29th August: Madrigal 

Saturday 5th September: Yellow Tricycle Road Show

Saturday 19th September: The Information

Saturday 26th September: Apricot Brandy

Saturday 10th October: Black Love 

Saturday 17th October: Chancery Lane

Saturday 24th October: Windmill 

Saturday 31st October: Orange Hair

Saturday 7th November: Katch 22 

Tuesday 8th December: Room + Taurus 

1971

Saturday 13th March: War Horse

Saturday 20th March: Chicken Shack

Saturday 27th March: Jackson Heights 

Saturday 3rd April: Mick Abrahams Band

Saturday 17th April: Origin

Saturday 24th April: The Groundhogs

Thursday 29th April: The Houseshakers

Saturday 1st May: Black Sabbath 

Thursday 6th May: The Magic Rock Band

Saturday 8th May: May Blitz 

Thursday 13th May: The Wild Angels

Friday 14th May: Chicken Shack

Saturday 15th May: Brinsley Schwartz

Friday 21st May: Uriah Heep 

Friday 28th May: Roy Young Band

Friday 4th June: Thin Lizzy

Friday 18th June: The Pink Fairies

Wednesday 23rd June: Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band

Friday 25th June: Van Der Graaf Generator 

Saturday 26th June: Bethany

Wednesday 30th June: Hot Chocolate

Wednesday 7th July: Middle of the Road

Tuesday 13th July: Desmond Dekker and the Aces

Wednesday 14th July: Heaven

Sunday 18th July: Osibisa

Wednesday 21st July: Medicine Head 

Thursday 22nd July: The Sweet

Wednesday 28th July: The Fantastics 

Friday 30th July: East of Eden

Wednesday 4th August: St Cecelia

Monday 9th August: Slade

Wednesday 11th August: The Foundations

Friday 13th August: Quiver

Wednesday 18th August: Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon

Friday 20th August: Heaven

Monday 23rd August: The Pioneers 

 Wednesday 25th August: Mungo Jerry

Friday 27th August: Tir Na Nog

Friday 3rd September: Freedom

Friday 24th September: Wishbone Ash

Friday 5th November: Assagai

Sunday 14th November: East of Eden

Saturday 4th December: Bruce Ruffin and the Jab Jab Band

1972

Wednesday 26th January: Gary Wright’s Wonderwheel + Jericho

Saturday 1st April: K. J. Band

Tuesday 4th July: Chicken Shack

Wednesday 5th July: The Love Affair 

Wednesday 12th July: The Pioneers 

Tuesday 18th July: Tir Na Nog

Tuesday 25th July: Juicy Lucy

Tuesday 1st August: East of Eden

Tuesday 8th August: Man

Tuesday 15th August: Black Foot Sue 

Tuesday 22nd August: UFO 

Wednesday 23rd August: Chicory Tip

Monday 28th August: Bob & Earl

Tuesday 29th August: The Pink Fairies 

Tuesday 5th September: Wild Turkey

Tuesday 12th September: Renaissance 

Tuesday 26th September: Smith-Perkins and Smith

Tuesday 3rd October: Savoy Brown

Tuesday 10th October: Thin Lizzy + Fusion Orchestra 

Friday 22nd December: Jasper Dodd’s

1973

21st January: Roy C

24th March: Magic Earth

30th March: King Harold

58 thoughts on “The Ritz

  1. A very impressive history of a much-missed venue. I used to visit The Ritz every weeke and was fortunate to see so many of the bands listed, The Nice, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, The Strawbs, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker and many, many more. Thank you for sharing the history but the wonderful images too. It was a special time and The Ritz Ballroom is a special part of the time.

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    1. It was special to a lot of people of a certain age Gray. Sounds like we were at quite a few of the same gigs, the Howlin’ Wolf night will live with me for ever, a true legend. John

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  2. Hi, just discovered this info! My parents met at the Ritz and my Mum also worked there when it was the Hive checking in coats I think, her name was Ann Macklin. I can remember vaguely being sat in a corner where she worked when very young on one occasion. She managed to get me the Tremoloes autographs on a huge circular beer mat like promotional poster and it took pride of place on my bedroom wall when young. I can aldo remember having Emperor Rosko’s autograph (DJ). I wish I had more info butnever really asked my Mum anything else about her youth which is a shame but do know it was an important part of hers and my Dad’s younger courtship.

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    1. Hi Elayne, thank you for your story. The Ritz was an important meeting place back in the day, as well as a fantastic music venue and I’m sure many couples met there and went on to make lives together, just like your mum and dad. John

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  3. First time a young keyboard player from a North Wales Blues band called Raw Blues saw Fleetwood Mac probably 1968 July /August Totally amazed when I saw them unload from TWO transit Van’s and then an unforgettable performance still outstanding in my memory today at a youthfull 72 yrs.Feel privileged to have been on holiday at Bournemouth then.

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    1. Hi Iwan, without fail Fleetwood Mac always put on good show at the Ritz, I’m just glad I was there to see most of them. John

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    2. The amazing thing about that Fleetwood Mac gig was that me and a mate thought we would listen to the band outside the Ritz – we had no money for the entrance fee. The band turned up later than they should and asked us if we would help unload the amps and gear from their vans. And so we got in to see them for free. Brilliant night and one of the best performances I ever saw

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      1. How lucky were you Howard. I remember being crammed against the stage watching the roadies set-up the gear and them waiting for what seemed like an eternity before the band appeared. Peter Green apologised for their lateness then said something like “We’ll make it up to you and play anything you want”. Of course the Mac tore the roof off the place, absolutely brilliant and like you said one of the best performances ever. When it came to the encore someone shouted out “Love That Burns” and Green said “that’s a slow one are you sure ?” and the crowd shouted back “Yeah” in one voice. Peter then poured his heart and soul into the song and brought up the hairs on the back of my neck, amazing. The gig finished late well after the last buses and I had to walk five miles home, but I didn’t care, I was buzzing. John

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  4. Went to The Ritz underage still at school I remember seeing Amen Corner and others I cannot name .I remember the small bar drinking cider and the police raiding it never got caught also a pal from school Maureen worked in the cloakroom used to tell us who would be on at the weekend .Happy memories dancing and meeting boys !

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    1. Brilliant, I was just sixteen when I first went to the Ritz, things were a lot more innocent in those days, John

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  5. Oh , such happy , if somewhat noisy , carefreedays. I’m nearly 74 and still living in my hometown of Bournemouth.

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      1. Thanks for the comment Alexander, Hillary helped with Len’s story and kindly lent me photographs for the blog, John

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  6. Have you any photos of the herd and amen corner when they were playing at the Ritz peter frampton though a banana skin at me I kept it for years

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    1. I’m afraid all the photos I have of the Ritz are on the blog thanks to Hilary, Len’s daughter. If any one out there has any more and would like to share them, please get in touch, John

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  7. I don’t see Elias Holk, backed by Still Glade and Graham Stoker in your list of bands. I sold the poster of this gig at The Ritz on 21st january, I think it was 1970 (I have a photo of it). The guy who bought it has a hotel on the West Cliff dedicated to rock music. I was a student in Bournemouth and saw most of the blues bands in your list, great memories.

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    1. Hi Gary, I never came across this gig in my research so I will be interested to see a photo of the poster, I will drop you an email. The band were Elias Hulk and I suspect the other band were Bram Stoker not Graham Stoker. The guy you mentioned owned the Bourne Beat hotel on the west cliff and you are right, the walls of the bar were covered with old posters and other memorabilia. Unfortunately he sold the hotel a few years back and sadly auctioned the lot off. John

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  8. Simon Dupree came from Portsmouth, not Southampton. Saw them on a snowy night in Portsmouth when only them and headline band Small Faces turned up.

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    1. You are correct Gary, Simon Dupree and the Big Sound came from Portsmouth not Southampton as stated. I shall amend the information accordingly, thanks for getting in touch, John

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      1. I still have Keith Moons drumstick that my Dad got from there,,,, my Dad is Paul Clarke who managed The Ritz approx 1963-68

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      2. Thanks for getting in touch Donna, has your dad seen the site ? I would be interested to hear if he has any stories about the Ritz. John

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  9. I am 80 tomorrow and spent every Saturday night during1950s dancing to Tony Altons band he was a great guitarist .Later moved to London and used to see Zoot Money at Klooks Kleek in Hampstead

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    1. Happy birthday Kay. I heard Tony Alton was one of the best guitarists in town back in the day and he gave Robert Fripp guitar lessons for a short period, John.

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  10. Super article, brings back so many memories. I was a regular in the very early ’60s, just before the boom in “pop” music really took off.

    The Ritz then hosted more jazz oriented groups, as I remember it. I still vividly recall it as the place where I first heard a vibraphone being played.

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  11. Just found this article today. I’m so pleased. I have so many fond memories of The Ritz Ballroom. My first time was to see Jethro Tull on 3rd January 1969. I’d just turned seventeen and they served me in the bar, no questions asked! I used to travel from Sway with two or three mates to see blues musicians who appeared there, Freddy King being my favourite. I remember the Howlin’ Wolf gig very well. He dropped one of his harmonicas and I caught it. I gave it back but he thought it was mine so kept trying to give it back to me.

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    1. Hi Bryan, good to hear from you. I was also at the Jethro Tull gig, I was standing on a chair right of the stage and remember my eyes streaming with all the cigarette smoke, brilliant gig though and one of, if not the first, with Martin Barre on guitar. Howlin’ Wolf was extra special. I shook his hand as he left the stage, it was absolutely massive. Great days and so many incredible bands. John

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  12. I was an apprentice at Edward Webster Ltd at the top of Wallisdown Road in 1967/68 and was a regular visitor to the Ritz with my Welsh mate Joe Gabrys (a Tom Jones lookalike!), My most memorable gig was Zoot Money’s Dantalion’s Chariot, a complete psychedelic freak-out. Also Jimmy James, Geno Washington and The Alan Bown were must sees.
    PS. Have more recently met Zoot Money at a solo performance and he genuinely can’t remember too much about the late sixties!!

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    1. How spooky, I worked at Webster’s from the time I left school in the summer of 1968 until around 1971. I also lived at the Ritz and saw loads of great gigs. Those were the days. John

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  13. What great memories….a couple of the first gigs I ever went to see were at The Hive…Pink Fairies and Wishbone Ash, both in 1971 I think. A broken drumstick from the Pink Fairies was one of my prized possessions for ages afterwards. It seems hard to think that it was half-a-century ago…

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    1. Thank you for the comment Selwyn and be sure to read my article on Russell Hunter if you like The Pink Fairies, I think you’ll find it Interesting. John

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  14. I was one of the lucky few who shook hands with the great Howling Wolf as he left the stage.
    Went to some great gigs at The Ritz – Coliseum, Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac, The Nice etc. etc.
    One gig that stood out was Terry Reid. Very small attendance as Chicken Shack were playing at The Pavilion and had just had their one and only hit (I’d rather go blind). What a great singer Terry was!

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    1. Sounds like you were at all the gigs I was at Derek, brilliant days. I think I was at the Chicken Shack gig that night, but if I had my time again I would go with Terry Reid every time. John

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  15. Freddie King was another great gig. For some strange reason we all seemed to sit on the floor in those days. Being at the front, a roadie warned me that Freddie might get carried away and knock the microphone stand over. Sure enough, half way through his set, it landed on me. Can’t remember who backed him that night. It was often John Dummer’s Blues Band. Might have been Killing Floor.

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    1. Hi Derek, Unfortunately I wasn’t at that one, but I can confirm that the gig was in June 1969 and Freddie’s support band was Killing Floor. John

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  16. Great days, many thanks for posting this account & photos. I was at lots of gigs 1969-1971 both in Ritz days and the Hive. I took photos of some bands, including Jethro Tull with new member Martin barre.

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  17. Great images of The Ritz. Thanks for that… brilliant. I’m Tony Letts of the Trackmarks. Worked on on of the two stages, many time… more rooom on the stage, that the dance floor! One night on the opposite stage was our supplort band: Rod Stewart and the then Faces! Fantastic nights. Just also wanted to mention other band I was asked to join as lead vocalist: Magnum Opus (with drummmer Roy Jacobs s we became a comedy band! together with Roy’s brother, and lead guitarist John Jacobs). Comedy side was brilliant, but Management wearn’t too happy, during the 45 minute comedy sketch… nobody was drinking beer!! Also for a brief while I was lead vocalist of 8-piece band ‘Sounds Unique’, headed by Don Fay (son of Pavilion BIg Band Syd Fay). I know Tim Large was our lead guitarist! Keep up the good work…

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    1. Thanks for your memories Tony. I added Magnum Opus to the group page a couple of month ago, but I didn’t know you were the original vocalist in Sounds Unique. I also didn’t know that your band mate Tim Large from The Trackmarks was a member. I wrote about the band on the page dedicated to The Web and Samurai. The band eventually moved to London and brought in an African / American former airman from Clarksdale, Mississippi called John Watson and became John L. Watson and the Web releasing two albums and a third after Watson had left. John

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    2. I remember the name Trackmarks as my parents were always talking about your group. You were part of the early success of the business…Hilary Goodinge ( daughter of Len Wallen)

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