This page is dedicated to life of Roger Courtney and gives a brief insight into the character of the man behind the guitar, and his two main passions in life, his music and his photography. 'Mr Entertainment' is a name that was often given to Roger and one which sums him up perfectly! Whether on stage with his guitar, behind a lens or clowning around at a family party, Roger was always the musician, always the comedian and always the entertainer.  However, Roger was modest,  particularly when it came to his music, and didn't rate his own talents highly enough. But for Roger, it was not about being the best musician, but about performing, having fun and entertaining. He had the X factor, the charisma and the magnetism to capture people's attention and make them listen and whatever the circumstance he always had the most important tool of all - humour!

   Roger Courtney was born in Portsmouth on 24th March, 1932. He was the eldest of four children, three boys and a girl. World War II began when Roger was only seven and the family remained in Portsmouth throughout. The city suffered heavily during the Blitz and although these times were obviously frightening for a young child they were also a time of excitement and adventure. From the bomb blast that blew the hairpins out of his aunt's hair to the time he was 'chased' through Guildhall Square by a German plane - Roger's war stories were always told with great humor!

The Cub Scout

Roger Age One

   In his late teens Roger and his family moved to Bridport, Dorset. It was during this period of his life that his passion for music flourished. Skiffle was the music of the early 50's and along with a group of friends Roger formed the Hemp City Skiffle Group.

Roger on guitar, 1957

  Playing bizarre instruments like the tea chest bass, washboard and electric fire, The Skiffle Group Boys  became well renowned locally and throughout Dorset and the surrounding area. In 1954 they were even spotted by a representative from EMI who put them forward for an audition with Norri Parrimore, head of Columbia Records. A newspaper article from 1954 quotes, "Courtney and Co. are capable of scuttling with the likes of Liberace, the Bell Boys, Bill Haley, and Elvis Presley. They are hoping to set America a whirl with a record, the way is open to fame and fortune, champagne instead of coffee." Unfortunately however, on the way to London the car broke down and the boys missed their audition and their chance of fame and fortune!

   Another 'claim to fame' of Rogers' was his connection to the Rolling Stones. Brian Jones placed an advert for musicians to join his band. Roger and his friend Ian Stewart decided to audition, however Roger thought he wasn't good enough so Ian went alone. Ian got the job, but not comfortable with the limelight he always played backstage. Through this connection, the Stones would often venture down to Dorset and stay at Rogers flat to listen to his rare collection of Jazz records.

Roger during 50's

1958 after first marriage.

   In 1958, Roger married Patricia and after having two children, Tracy and Nick they moved back to the Portsmouth area. Here they ran a 60's style coffee shop complete with a juke box and the whiff of wacky-backy! At the back was a music club (the first of many) called the 'Cresta Club' where Roger pursued his love of music and entertaining.     

  It was about this time in his life, during the late 60's, that Roger's second passion photography began to develop. So putting his new found talents to good use the family moved to Portsmouth and Roger opened a photography shop in Southsea called 'Courtney Photographic'.

   Here Roger flourished as a photographer. He became an excellent Wedding Photographer and snapped many beautiful women (a particular favourite of Roger's) and famous people including Princess Anne, Tony Blackburn, Sir Alec Rose, Faith Brown and Jimmy Young. One of Roger's photos of HMS Victory still used today in many publications.

   This then led to Roger's longest profession as a medical photographer at Queen Alexandra Hospital which he did for 25 years until his health forced him into early retirement Although not the most glamorous photographic job, Roger enjoyed the challenge and was very successful. His sense of humour, light hearted nature and his eye for detail were invaluable tools. It was whilst training as a photographer that Roger compiled 'The Bedsit Tapes' - a collection of amusing songs recorded whilst larking around with his fellow students and his guitar, entertaining as usual! 

Roger loved fishing and won several awards

As Tommy Cooper -
tap dancing!

Roger, the medical

   Rogers music was always a part of his life, however following the amicable split from his wife in the late 70's and now fairly young, free and single, Roger plunged himself into his music and the social scene of the local folk and music clubs. Over the following twenty years and more, Roger became one of the best known names in Hampshire's folk and music circles. As well as performing regularly at all the clubs Roger became one of the most popular and best loved MC's. He compared and co-organised many a club in the south including 'The Jug O Punch', Havant; 'Willows', Arundel, 'The Titchfield Village Folk Club'; 'The Railway' and 'The Broadside', Portsmouth, to name but a few. Roger even carried on his photography taking pictures of fellow artists for local publications etc.

   A quote from one of many articles which sums up Rogers performances  perfectly was when he dueted with the late Ron Miles; "Roger and Ron burst on stage, wisecracked, boobed, got some things wrong, but still put on an unforgettable, thoroughly enjoyable spot. The audience loved them, joining in on the choruses and laughing along with them as they extracted themselves from situations that would have paled lesser performers".

   Roger's most successful music venture was in the six last years of his life when he ran the Rhythm Roots and Blues Roadshow in Portsmouth. This was not meant to be just a folk club but a music venue where anyone of any talent and any age could just get up and perform. It was never about egos or being an incredible musician, but a place for music lovers to get together and have some fun. Since Roger's death many people have come forward and told a similar story of how they were either new to the area, feeling low or in a rut and Roger would invite them to his club, take them under his wing, introducing them to new friends and encouraging them back into music. This was Roger, he had the ability to make a huge difference in someone's life by just being himself. Roger was a warm, genuine man, hilariously funny, very talented with a larger than life personality. He will be sadly missed by all his friends and family, and through The Open Mike Music Club, we hope to carry on, in his memory, what Roger started - a music and entertainment venue for all to enjoy.