The Whisky a Go Go

The Whisky a Go Go, Queen's Square
Royal Pavilion and Museums Brighton and Hove

In my spare time

A favourite pastime of mine, when I have a little time to spare on my computer – which I have to tell you is not at lot after doing all my editorial duties – is to surf the collection of photographs on the Brighton museum website. The collection is a great resource for the website and I always find something to catch my interest.

Joint looks decidedly grotty

On my last visit I found the image here of the ‘Whisky a Go Go’ in Queen’s Square, photographed in 1961, and it immediately caught my eye. As you can see it was not because it is so attractive, but for exactly the opposite reason. The exterior of the joint looks decidedly grotty – but I longed to know what it was like in its ‘heyday’. So what I want to know now is – do you remember this place? Did you visit and have a coffee or a drink? What sort of people went there? Was there music?

Please satisfy my curiosity and leave a comment below – telling me all!

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Comments about this page

  • Hello Jennifer I found this great video on you tube and a lot of it is filmed in the Whisky a Go Go. Shows the type of people that used it and the music that was being played. It was made in 1960, so not far off your date. Hope you enjoy it. There was also a murder in this building in the early 60s. You can look this up on the web. Regards Andy If the link doesnt work just type in “Living for kicks”

    Wowzer Andy – I am seriously impressed at your find. Have only seen a short part of the video cos I have to go out just now – but will definitely check it out later. Some great shots of the seafront too. Well done that man! Jennifer

    By Andy Mountford (11/12/2012)
  • John Bloom, the washing machine millionaire became involved with the club owners wife. Later she was murdered by her husband, but he only got three years due to her provocation, and general loose behaviour, which the judge took into account. The owner was a chap called Holford, and they had a daughter together who I believe is still alive.

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (12/12/2012)
  • I remember the place well, it was very popular, bit of a dive though but always fairly full all the action took place in the basement. I rember well all the scandal in the Argus at the time with Harvey Holford and John Bloom.

    By Dennis Fielder (12/12/2012)
  • I went to the opening of the Whisky in 1954, before that I attended a party in 1953 at the house, later there was a licenced club in the room above the basement and another upstairs on the first floor. Harvey lived in the flat at the top of the house. He shot his young wife in that flat around about 1962/63. At the time I was in fact a member of the club management committee and had the police call on me as they wanted to know all I knew about the situation between Harvey and his wife. Harvey also had a club in a basement of a house in Regency Square which I helped decorate along with one or two friends. I got to know Harvey through a work colleague at the Brighton General. It was a very sad event as his wife was a really lovely young girl.

    By Ken Ross (13/12/2012)
  • This is just a bit before my time as I went there most nights in 1964/5. I was 15 years old at the time, it was a Rockers coffee bar then. Can’t remember the name of it for the life of me now but, they changed the name probably because of the murder. I used to walk from Preston Circus and back to go there, it was great! Soft drinks and coffee, a juke box and a small dance floor in the basement. As far as I know the upstairs was closed. Had loads of friends there, my step sister used to go there as well, Eileen Needham. There was a couple that ran it, can’t remember their names.Always went there in my Rocker gear, I was nick named jingle as my studs, badges etc would jingle as I came down the basement steps! Moved to Nottm in March of 1965 and 3 or 4 of my friends came up to see me. They were Fred Hall, “Kipper” and a couple of names that escape me now. So if anyone remembers me or my friends please let me know what happened to them, would be nice to get in touch!

    By Anne Newman (15/12/2012)
  • I visited the Whisky a few times in 1955 to 1960but mainly I used the upstairs Drinking Club with my friend Tony who drunk more than I and, probably, as a good customer he was befriended by Harvey and we usually slept at his flat on Saturdays and later at his bungalow at Saltdean or Rottingdean (??) because we lived in South London. I was only 21 and earned little and Tony only 18 but we introduced friends so I think the friendship was genuine. The club manager was Tommy, a very nice man. Clearly there was little discipline by the police on the streets so we sensed that there were problems at the top.There were regular girls there and they seemed decent types but the club had a reputation but was run well and was more popular than others. The coffee bars, Tingey’s etc were well patronised. We used the Long Bar at the ice stadium and Applejohn’s cider bar next to the Chinese restaurant Brighton was a fun place with good restaurants. A few times we slept under the pier or roomed at Mrs Greers in Kemp Town. When younger, Harvey used to travel to Croydon each day on a motor bike to learn to be a hairdresser which was not well known. I emigrated to NZ 7 years ago. Ginger

    By Gordon (Ginger) (03/05/2013)
  • Hi Andy (Mountford). Just seen this posting and thought I’d mention, for my sins (at the time), that I was actually on that TV program ‘Living For Kicks’. It caused quite a storm at the time and was in all of the papers, including of course the now defunct News of the World! Much to the amusement of my family when asked by Dan Farson the interviewer how old I was, in an attempt to appear as grown up as possible, I not only stated I was 16 but falteringly added – and a half!

    By John Perriss (16/05/2013)
  • I seem to remember that the Whiskey-a-Go-Go was called The Mogambo when I was first drawn to its seedy charms. It soon became my regular haunt from ’56 till my buddies and I decided to go around the world and got as far as Jersey in ’58! Our alternative hang-out was the Little Chef at the bottom of North Road and later, the White Pigeons (or was it Three Pigeons?) in Waterloo Street.

    By Ian Tracy (18/08/2013)
  • Great fun reading through this page.  At 75 unfortunately I am not quite a rocker but this page shows that we don’t all have  a loss of memory. Many years after my “whisky days” about 1999, I, through business, bought a vehicle from Tom Williams who with his then wife Ann ran the club and we spoke often about those days. I was always being scolded for “wasting your time in that seedy place” but memories, they are gold.

    By Ivor Boofty (27/09/2014)
  • My Mum, Joyce Godden, used to go to the club around 1960 and when the juke box records were finished with she would bring them home to play on our newly acquired radiogram. I still have one of those 45s, complete with it’s Whiskey-a-Go-Go coffee bar label on it: Dance To The Bop by Gene Vincent And His Blue Caps on Capitol 1957.

    By Richard Godden (05/11/2014)
  • Yes, I too have memories of the Whiskey-a-Go Go. I used to go to get a coffee and listen to the jukebox music. I also remember the murder. I used to know the girl he was going with at the time. In the paper at the time, he called her hazel-eyed Pam. I used to work with her. I also remember the big American car and the boat, it would often be parked outside of the Imperial Theatre in North Street. I think I’m right in saying that Harvey Holford committed suicide while in Lewes prison, throwing himself off of the balcony.

    Just like to add that I left England in 1974 and now live in South Australia.

    By Rodney Lawrence (08/02/2015)
  • I think you are wrong about Harvey committing suicide as after his very short prison sentence he returned to Brighton and was running an estate agents down by the level; I think it was Beaumonts.

    By Marilynjones (09/02/2015)
  • Hi Rodney / Marilyn, Holford Harvey had tried to commit suicide after shooting his wife by taking an overdose of tablets, which was how the police found him. However, he did not commit suicide in Lewes jail, as he was paroled on 2nd October 1964, changing his name to Beaumont after his release. He died in 2006. Regards, Andy

    By Andy Grant (11/02/2015)
  • I was 15 when I used to go with four girlfriends, to the Whisky a Go Go. The man at the door always asked our ages, we lied..he let us in. Christine Pierce, (red hair) another two Christines, and cannot recall other girls’ name, we had nicknames for us all. The girls worked at Kayser Bonder. One of our friends was a regular girlfriend of some at that time pop star, he would drive the red Cadillac with her, so pretty, beside him.  Somewhere I have a photo. It was always packed in the club, we went after Thursday evening at the Regent ballroom. We never drank alcohol down there, just went to dance, and meet up with some guys, who liked to take us out for a drive in their big black car. My mother would have banned me for life if she had known. It was all good fun, I don’t know about the murder etc.

    By Bonny Cother (11/02/2015)
  • Just to put the record straight. You can find all the details of his trial in the Argus archives. Several years after he come out of prison he changed his name and in fact stood for parliament. 

    By Ken Ross (11/02/2015)
  • Thanks Andy and Marilyn for putting the record straight. Cheers

    By Rodney Lawrence (17/02/2015)
  • We had a group “Peter and the Wolves”  who played at the The Whisky a Go Go in the 1960s.  The doorman who was running the place as Harvey Holford was “otherwise engaged”.  There was a fight there one night and we stood there protecting our guitars etc as chairs were thrown about.  The police stayed outside until it was all over!  I always love to visit Brighton when we are over there.  We have lived in Ohio, USA since 1981.

    By Peter Harrison (16/04/2015)
  • The golden years of the Whisky was around late 50s / early 60s. I went there a lot. It was a great place to meet girls, dance (when it was not too crowded) and generally have a good time. There was a lot of adult worry those days about the apparent loose morals of youth – somebody in the Whisky was interviewed on radio or TV and decided to make the statement that he did not wish to marry a virgin. This was met with horror from the adult establishment. This occurred at the same time as the TV movie “Living for Kicks”. I saw this but it has now been withdrawn by the BBC for copyright reasons. Anyway all this was great publicity for the coffee bar and several visitors from London came to visit one Sunday. Some locals decided to defend against this incursion and a fight ensued which the locals (kind of) won. However, the London boys returned in much greater force the following Sunday and the place took a bit of a beating. That might have been just before the picture at the top of this group. The coffee bar kept going, but custom tailed off and I remember going to the Starlight Rooms with most of my buddies from that point on.

    By Robert Ducharme (21/05/2015)
  • Also like Anne Newman, the Whisky a Go Go was just a bit before my time. But I went there a few times around 1965 I think when as I recall at the time it was called The Grotto. Yes it was a Rocker’s coffee bar at the time and a ‘dive’. I don’t recall too many names from there but there was Chris Evans and my mate at the time Manfred. I am sure there were several others that subsequently frequented the Connemara, the Hi Low, the Little Chef and then the Dago. Yes it was just the basement when I went there. I remember that there was also a very good football table. The old robust kind that worked far better than the later plasticy kind. Let’s face it, the more flimsy kind wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes down there! I recognise the name ‘Kipper’. Anne, if it’s the same Kipper I know, he is still around but sadly worse for wear after a motor bike accident a few years back.

    By Howard Longman (Longs) (05/09/2015)
  • Does anyone remember The Montpelier Rooms which used to be a disco long ago?

    By Cathy Cullen (22/12/2015)
  • If I may offer a mild criticism of the website it is that subjects are dispersed over many different locations. There are many comments about the Whisky for example in other sections – if there was any possibility of bringing them together, or cross-referencing, then it would be a great help to researchers.

    By Geoff Stoner (23/12/2015)
  • Hi Geoff.

    Why not use the existing search facility already provided at the top right of this page. Entering “Whiskey a go go” and clicking on “Go” brings up a list of all references to it, in one list!

    Regards, Alan

    By Alan Hobden (23/12/2015)
  • @Geoff Stoner: I use the search facility sometimes (top of page). It’s very useful. And the “More about…” column on the right-hand side is like a cross-reference.

    By Janet Beal (23/12/2015)
  • Hi Geoff,

    That would be great thing to do but it will almost certainly not happen. The site does not have the resources or staffing to commit to such an undertaking. You can also enter keywords into the searchbox to give a list of instances where the subject appears on the site, then go through each entry. Regards, Andy

    By Andy Grant (24/12/2015)
  • Similar thought on cross-referencing as I just posted an item under ‘Packed in like sardines’ (whether the red American car was a Cadillac or ’59 Oldsmobile etc). I’ve now spotted this much longer Whisky site. All good stuff tho.

    By Barry Walsh (24/07/2016)
  • Practically lived at the whiskey from mid ’50s until I left the area in the early ’60s. Was there before the jukebox Tom had put in. Music was from a record player! First of two juke boxes installed probably early ’57 and replaced not too long after by a larger Stereo machine. Tables in front of the benches around the walls at first, but these disapperaed as it got more popular. Wild West themed paintings on the walls. Tom ran the coffee bar with Ann for a while. Rumour was that Tom was an ex professional wrestler, which probably accounted for the lack of trouble in the early days. I remember Zack, whose role was never quite clear, sometime doorman, sometime Assistant Manager, sometime Security. I remember the Dan Farson farago. The bloke he asked about we teenagers had never been seen in there before and I don’t believe was ever seen there again. Smells a bit off. Not expected of Auntie Beeb. Much school time spent there helping Tom offload the Coke lorry on, I think Thursday mornings, for which me and my pal got either a free coke or free plays on the juke box. In particular I remember a hot sweaty Saturday night, about ’59 when it was absolutely packed and there as a Bill Haley disc called “Skinny Minny” on the box and we all joined in the chorus with our own version and sang our hearts out. That evening has stuck in my memory ever since. I had never seen so many people so happy at one time. I always tell people that I was so lucky to be a teenager in Brighton in the late ’50s. It was probably the best place to be in the UK at the time. I was also know as Bid or Biddy. Happy Days!

    By Brian Littlechild (18/06/2017)
  • Brian – actually Tom was a male nurse who had worked at the Brighton General in and about 1954-55, I know this because I was involved with the club.

    By Ken Ross (19/06/2017)
  • Spot on Brian. Another to which all joined in lustily was Fats Domino’s ‘Sick and Tired’, but Tom considered the amended words to be too ribald (very tame by today’s standards) and took the record off the juke-box.

    By Geoff Stoner (20/06/2017)
  • Sad news for those lucky enough to have met Tom. He passed away last November 7th at the age of 87 years. He certainly left a lot of memories of good times at the Whisky A Go Go. Have enjoyed this site very much. I’ve recognized a few names and have “gone back in time”. Thank you all for the memories.

    By Ann Littleton (27/08/2017)
  • Message for Geoff Stoner; did you have a brother Steve who went to Patcham Fawcett?

    By John Tulloch (15/02/2020)

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