Local history author and tour guide with SeeSouthampton Martin Brisland looks at just a few of the city’s many connections with the world of music.

Niccolo Paganini

In 1832 extrovert violinist Niccolo Paganini held two concerts at the Long Rooms.

They were near to today’s The Quays Swimming & Diving Complex. His showmanship and playing style gained him many adoring, often female, fans.

Some claimed he had sold his soul to the devil and he was called “The Devil’s Violinist”.

Nicolo Paganini by Richard James Lane in 1831

Nicolo Paganini by Richard James Lane in 1831

He was known for his hard to play caprices or variations for solo violin.

The theme tune for the South Bank Show was based on his 24th caprice. Paganini was to the violin what Jimi Hendrix was later to the guitar and it is said that in 1967 Hendrix visited the former Bay Tree pub in New Road. He was in Southampton to play at Southampton Guildhall.

Billy Reid

Billy Reid was born in St Mary Street in 1902.

Together with his brother George he began earning extra money as a musician with Billy playing piano and George on saxophone.

In the 1920s the brothers turned professional and left Southampton.

Billy Reid photo.

Billy Reid photo.

Billy took up the accordion, the instrument for which he is best remembered, and formed an accordion band which performed until the Second World War.

In the 1940s he wrote a number of successful chart hits for his partner Dorothy Squires.

He also wrote songs for, amongst others, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Eddie Fisher and Frank Sinatra.

Billy Reid plaque in Ogle Road.

Billy Reid plaque in Ogle Road.

His song Gypsy recorded by the Ink Spots became a US number one in 1945.

Unfortunately, he invested his money poorly and by 1958 was bankrupt. He later moved to the Isle of Wight, where he died aged 71.

There is a blue plaque to him in Ogle Road.

Gil Hume and Bert Osborne

Dancing was a popular pastime in the 1930’s and 1940’s and two of the main local dance band leaders were Gil Hume and Bert Osborne.

Gil Hume in later years.

Gil Hume in later years.

They regularly played in the area, often at the Guildhall and the Royal Pier.

In fact, the Bert Osborne band played at the very first dinner dance at the then-new Guildhall on February 5, 1937.

Bert Osborne band - he was a pianist.

Bert Osborne band - he was a pianist.

Nat Gonella

Jazz trumpeter Nat Gonella from Gosport was said to be the British Louis Armstrong.

He sometimes played at the former Royal Court Hotel in Northlands Road.

In 1997, White Town sampled his muted trumpet refrain from a 1932 song on which he played called My Woman by Al Bowly. They included it in their Your Woman which went to number 1 in the UK chart.

Heinz Burt

Heinz Burt’s ashes are buried in Eastleigh Cemetery.

The White Tornado, Heinz Burt in his 1960s heyday.

The White Tornado, Heinz Burt in his 1960s heyday.

Famous for his peroxide blonde hair, in 1962 he was bassist for the Tornados who had a number one hit with the instrumental Telstar. Heinz then had a solo hit with Just Like Eddie, a tribute to early rock and roll star Eddie Cochran.

The Beatles

In 1969 The Beatles released their last number one single The Ballad of John and Yoko. The opening line was:

“Standing in the dock at Southampton

Trying to get to Holland or France

The man in the mac said

‘You’ve got to go back’

You know, they didn’t even give us a chance”

John and Yoko, having been turned away at Southampton, finally got married in Gibraltar.

John and Yoko, having been turned away at Southampton, finally got married in Gibraltar.

One night that March their chauffeur-driven white Rolls Royce had turned up wanting to sail to France.

Sadly they had neither a booking or passports and were turned away.

John and Yoko’s names are on a brick at the Millennium Gardens in Portswood.

Benny Hill

Who could forget the 1971 Christmas number of Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West by Southampton born TV funnyman Benny Hill?

The song recalled his time as an Eastleigh milkman for Hann’s Dairy: “And he galloped into Market Street, his badge upon his chest”.

Benny Hill through the years.

Benny Hill as Ernie.

The song also mentions Sue, the widow he loved, who lived at number 22.

The Southampton house he inherited from his parents was 22, Westrow Gardens.

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut made it to number one in the UK album charts in 1983.

It featured a Roger Waters’ solo track called Southampton Dock about Second World War soldiers passing through Southampton.

In 1968, Pink Floyd played their first gig without founder member Syd Barrett at Southampton University.

Martin Brisland is a tour guide with SeeSouthampton.co.uk .