Photos and articles about Brighton and Hove in the time of coronavirus. See our collection and add your own!

Brighton in the late 1950s and 1960s

Lively scene

In the late 1950s and early 1960s when I fronted The Barrie Group, the music scene was hopping in Brighton. Nearly all pubs had at least a piano player, especially during the weekends.  Quite a few had a small group of two, three or more musicians. This was an exciting time with live music everywhere. 

Popular music venues

Some of the popular venues were, the Imperial Hotel with the Carter Bros; the Belvedere public house with various musicians but mainly accordion and drums and the Fortune of War, similar to the Belvedere. The Half Moon, West Street was the home of the Cool Jazz Trio playing modern jazz.  At The Hare and Hounds there was the Andy Ansell quartet, and there was a pub at the bottom of West Street where Wally Neat played a lively accordion accompanied by a drummer.

Avoiding trouble

Visiting the above pubs you had to be careful not to look at anyone, or make eye contact, because fights could break out quite easily. I was wary to avoid the Teddy Boys and their fights. Bunny, the Belvedere doorman, had what looked like, a razor scar running down the length of his cheek.

Musician’s Union

The Musicians Union had their club meetings at the Black Lion in Patcham; Sammy Lambert (sax player) ran the club. We had many varied guests of honour including George Chisholm  trombone (Black & White Minstrel Show on BBC TV), and  Harry Secombe (he bought me a beer at the bar when I was introduced to him).  These used to be great fun nights with, as you would expect a plethora of musicians to entertain and dance to many professional players such as Sammy Bryant (drummer with Syd Dean) Frank Ireland (Tenor sax).  The MU catered for both professional and semi-pro players.

If you remember these times, or frequented these wonderful venues, please leave a comment below to share your memories.


Jim Sayer Guitar/Vocals, Len Monk Double Bass, Barrie Searle Piano/Accordion and John Rolf Drums
From the private collection of Barrie Searle

Comments about this page

  • Slightly later than the period Barrie describes here, but there is a fascinating illustrated book – ‘The south coast beat scene of the 1960s’ -by Mike Read and published by Woodfield, Bognor Regis 2001. It is directly in line after Barrie’s time but features many of the venues of the period and is lavishly illustrated with tickets and posters and photos of the groups.

    By Geoffrey Mead (19/03/2011)
  • The above picture was taken during a gig at the Beachy Head Hotel around 1961 therefore would, as Geoffrey says, just pre-date Mike Read’s book. I heard several years later that the Beachy Head Hotel had been destroyed by fire. Has anyone information on this occurence, how and when it happened?

    By Barrie Searle (23/03/2011)
  • Great nights at the Black Lion. Nice to see a mention of the two Sammys and Frankie Ireland in your MU section. My band The Polygon played there on many occasions and also at some of the MU dinner dances. Happy days.

    By Dave Cresdee (24/03/2011)
  • I vaguely remember a group that took over when Syd Dean was taking a break – “Strings in rythm”? Was it this group (above)?

    By David Blackford (30/03/2011)
  • No David, we did used to play for the Polish Naval Association dances and if my my memory is correct, these dances were held in one of the other (smaller) ballrooms at the Regent.

    By Barrie Searle (02/04/2011)
  • For Barrie Searle: The pub at the bottom of West Street to which you were referring is most likely Chatfields. I do have a photo taken of a stage performance from April 1964 and the resident drummer was a guy called Chick (surname not remembered) if that helps your memory at all. Others on stage are Anne Hanrahan on vocals, Gideon Collins (of Chuck and Gideon Duo) and myself on bass guitar. The pianist is totally out of the picture. I have another photo but unfortunately again the pianist is almost cut out of the picture so identification from an ear and shoulder would be remarkable. The Mike Read book mentioned in an earlier post is worth obtaining but does have some errors on band line ups. There are references to pre-60s which may be of use. I obtained my copy some years ago as a 2001 1st publication but I am sure it is still available. The ISBN number is 1-903953-14-6.

    By Bob Catt (04/04/2011)
  • Thanks for the info, Bob. I must try and stir up my grey matter.

    By Barrie Searle (13/05/2011)
  • Hi all. Sammy Lambert was in fact my Grandad! Unfortunately never got to meet him. My Dad is Phil Lambert. Let me know if anyone knows him.

    By Victoria Lambert (14/07/2011)
  • Victoria is quite right when she says that it is unfortunate that my father and she never knew each other as they would have got on famously. The MU meetings at the Black Lion were, as I remember, held on the first Sunday of the month and were a high light of the month for me as a young teenager. My mother Doreen always enjoyed the dancing and the great company of the people that attended. Dad and Harry Secombe were life long friends but on the one occassion that my two brothers and I were due to meet him and his wife Moira he had to cancel but he sent me a hand drawn picture he had produced of dad on the back of a Black Lion menu. Thanks to all of you that read this that knew Mum and Dad as I know that they regarded you all as good friends. Happy days.

    By Phil Lambert (21/07/2011)
  • Very nice to see some musical history on this site. I had the pleasure of playing with Lenny Monk( Bass ) for 24 years with the late Ernie Took in the Tony Grey band until 2001. By this time Len had switched to bass guitar and is still a good friend of mine- a versatile and reliable musician too.

    By Roger Hunter (08/11/2012)
  • I came out of the RAF Music Services No 4 regional Band in Jan ’65 and got a job playing string bass for P&O on the Iberia. Later when living in Patcham, I played with The Modernaires led by a drummer Doug Boniface. Gigged all over Brighton & Hove until I got married and went back in the mob. I have a picture of the band playing in The Ship Hotel about ’66. Does anyone remember the band?

    By John Snelling (23/11/2012)
  • To John Snelling. I have a vague memory of undertaking a gig with Doug Boniface (way back). If I remember correctly his drum kit contained a kettle, or pedal tuned drum?

    By Barrie Searle (23/11/2012)
  • Hi Barrie, you were quite correct about Doug’s kit. It all fitted onto a casting and was easy to assemble. These were called “pit-kits” for obvious reasons. The beater came up underneath the bass drum.

    By John Snelling (24/11/2012)
  • Hi everyone. I was in a band in the early 60s until 67 called The Need, based in Portslade. Members of the band were Terry Aiken, Neil Moore, Brian Grant and myself, Tom Winstanley.We played all the major venues including Worthing Assembly Rooms supporting the top groups of the time. We have recently re-formed to record only at Black Wookie Studios, Lancing. Does any body remember the band?

    By Tom Winstanley (10/03/2013)
  • I recall playing in the ‘Modernaires’ in the music room of the Royal Pavilion for a New Year’s Eve dance just before the big fire. It wasn’t me – honest!

    By John Snelling (01/06/2013)
  • Wow. I was born in Hastings in 1957 (I’m now 56), and I was actually searching for Sammy Bryant. I was fortunate enough to have him as my drum teacher for a few years in the early 70s. I was lucky enough to attend Worth Abbey, where he was a teacher – he was meant to be teaching me classical percussion but gave me a good grounding in jazz technique. I had a passion to play professionally, and I had some moments, but I had another career – and I am still gigging. I loved that man. He was the only one who gave me good reports! I had always intended to get in touch again. Last time I saw him he was gigging on Brighton seafront somewhere.

    By Jon Franks (27/03/2014)
  • Hi John. Reading about my late father-in-law, Doug Boniface, and the Modernaires we were wondering if you would let us have a copy of the photo you have of him, we are willing to buy it. As a family we haven’t any of him playing the drums. Both my husband John and his mum Doris (now 91) often talk about him and the different musicians out on a Saturday night. Hoping you can help us.

    By Maureen Boniface (11/10/2014)
  • Hi there, the Modernaires played at my mum and dad’s wedding 50 years ago this September. If anyone has got a recording of them playing, I would love to be able to play it at their ruby wedding anniversary this September. Please mail me if you can help.

    By Matt Stratton (29/06/2017)
  • Hi Maureen Boniface, I’ve searched high and low for that picture which, I think. was at the Ship hotel on the seafront.

    If it comes to light I will try and contact you via this column.

    Didn’t Doug live in Old Shoreham Road?

    John Snelling.

    By John Snelling (27/08/2020)
  • Have discovered the picture of Doug Boniface and the Band possibly taken at the Ship hotel app 1966.

    Yours faithfully

    John Snelling

    By John Snelling (29/08/2020)
  • I’m friends with his daughter Maureen. She would love a copy of this!

    By Maureen Beech (30/08/2020)
  • Sad news folks. Lenny Monk has passed away in December 2020 aged 90.
    As shown in the above reports, Len was a well known bass player and was a kind and loyal friend to many.
    Roger Hunter.2021

    By Roger Hunter (09/02/2021)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *