How Rock and Roll Came to The Isle of Wightby Tim Marshall
A Saturday night out in the late fifties and early sixties would have typically been an evening of ballroom dancing. If you lived in the Sandown or Shanklin area it would have been an evening with the Metronomes (a trio - double bass, piano and drums) in the Trouville Hotel ballroom. The evening's entertainment being supervised by an MC (Master of Ceremonies). You would have danced the quickstep, foxtrot and waltz and perhaps the odd novelty dance, the Hokey Cokey or Lambeth Walk. There were bigger bands of course with saxophones, trumpets, trombones and even, in some cases, a singer or two (crooners). Nationally, Ted Heath, Billy Cotton etc. were popular and locally The Cyril Daish Band. The dress code in those days would have been smart, (men in suits, collar and tie).
This had been the norm for decades. Musical trends did not vary much. The nation's broadcaster, the BBC had three services the "Home Service" for news and the spoken word, the "Third Programme" for classical music and the "Light Programme" for trivialities, like "popular music". The playing of records was somewhat frowned on, "needle time" was restricted so programmes like "Workers' Playtime", "Housewives' Choice" and "Music While You Work" would have consisted mainly of live orchestras and dance bands such as the NDO (Northern Dance Orchestra), Joe Loss and Ivy Benson. But change was on its way.
Music from America was seeping onto the airwaves and a new generation, the baby boomers, now had disposable income. Before long it became apparent that you didn't have to listen to the same music of your parents. Rock and Roll had arrived and the youngsters couldn't get enough - certainly not from the BBC. The answer seemed to be live music and many groups were formed. Sometimes taking advantage of the simplicity of "skiffle" where a group of friends could perform with the very basic of guitar chords, a tea-chest bass and a washboard (failing that a cardboard box and a hand brush). The more skilful formed rock and roll bands. Venues were hard to find so the early groups found themselves in WI halls and youth clubs.
Above is a photograph of "The Explosive Tornados" playing in Gurnard Village Hall.
Eventually, some established venues decided to experiment. One of the first was the Trouville Hotel who somewhat bravely allowed a group to play this new form of music (a passing fad, perhaps) during the proper band's interval.
But it wasn't a passing fad. Rock and Roll was here to stay. Jiving was the dance. Dress code: bootlace ties and petticoats (and that was just the men). Venues began to crop up and as Rock and Roll evolved into pop and new kind of band became the norm for a Saturday night. Radio Luxemburg now provided an alternative the BBC and, with no restricted "needle time", could play as much pop music as they wanted. The pirate radio stations came along later and the BBC had to capitulate. Hello Radio One!