The Portsmouth Music Scene
The Four Jacks, as the name suggests, were several sailors from HMS Albion. Prior to their formation, one of the group Fred Illingworth belonged to another on board group called The Albinos (named after the ship). The members were:- Fred Illingworth, Henry Jones, Brian Loton, Thorleigh Bekkervold, Allen Gitterns. On May 25th 1953, The Albinos played for the Queen, on board HMS Albion in the Coronation year. They wanted to leave the navy and turn pro, but Allen Gitterns was not allowed to. Soon after that group broke up.
Also on HMS Albion were Vic Hill, Bob Bostock, and Gordon Smith, and together with Jack Coulter who was at Lee on the Solent Naval Base, were in a group called The Moonrackers. The fourth member, Bob Bostock was drafted to another ship which left a space, then Fred Illingworth joined the group. In 1957/58 – Vic Hill and Gordon Smith went to London to see the agent Hyman Zahl (FOSTERS AGENCY).
Mr Dickie Rowe who was a director at DECCA, had asked them to write and submit 5 songs. They did submit to Decca, who then recorded ALL five. These titles were:- HEY BABY, A MILLION TEARS, THE PRAYER OF LOVE, IT’S A LIE, and RAINBOW ROAD. The Moonrackers were then asked to change their name to The Four Jacks .
Dickey Rowe took THE FOUR JACKS to Decca Recording Studio in London, in West Hampstead) they recorded through the night and then they were taken back by car to the ship.
DECCA and the Agent asked them all to put in a request to be released from the navy by purchase, which they did. The navy said OK to 3 of them but the fourth Gordon Smith who had recorded Hey Baby and the other songs was sent on a world cruise a month later. The Navy said that he had not done enough time in the Navy.
Vic was from London, Gordon from Leeds, Fred from Bradford, and Jack was from Manchester.
A Million Tears Lead was: Vic, Rainbow Road: Lead was: Vic, My Prayer Lead was Fred, It's A Lie: Lead was Vic. Hey Baby Lead was: Gordon.
Hey Baby also reached the Top 40 back in the day......
One of the four, Bradford born Fred Illingworth, stayed and lived in Portsmouth after his navy service, worked as a carpenter, married a local girl, and played in several local bands, and in the Honky Tonk Bar on South Parade in the late 1970's.
Gordon Smith was born in Leeds in Yorkshire, but after the Navy he moved and remained in the South.
The Four Jacks Jigsaw, is pictured above, the jig saw is still available!
The Four Jacks Decca record from 1957 Hey Baby/Prayer of love.
The Four Jaks - Hey Baby - Prayer of love
The Four Jacks - at the Empire Theatre Portsmouth and at the Savoy Ballroom Southsea in 1958
Here's Fred Illingworth far left in the late 1970's in the Honky Tonk Bar with,