George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney performing at the Ritz Ballroom on 15 February 1963 with Ringo Starr out of shot! Photograph courtesy of Jane Chapman.
Delving into the History of the Ritz Ballroom, a Famed Music Venue that Nurtured Rock and Roll Legends
Located on the south side of Birmingham, the Ritz Ballroom in Kings Heath was an epicentre of musical innovation and raw talent throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Known for hosting bands that went on to reshape the music landscape, this venue, operated by the visionary Ma and Pa Regan, served as an influential launching pad for many iconic bands. This post takes a chronological walk through the notable performances at the Ritz Ballroom, showcasing its impactful legacy in the music world.
Timeline of Notable Performances
15 February 1963: The Beatles Fresh from the release of their second single "Please Please Me," The Beatles made their Birmingham debut when they graced the stage of the Ritz driving their screaming fans crazy with their groundbreaking sound. They returned again in a hurriedly re-arranged gig on 5 July 1963.
18 April 1962, 4 July 1962 and 21 June 1963: Gene Vincent This great American rock and roll artist rocked the venue with his electrifying performances, leaving a lasting impression on the Birmingham audience.
14 September 1963: The Rolling Stones The Ritz had the privilege of hosting the charismatic Rolling Stones at their Birmingham debut, providing a glimpse into the future of rock and roll.
11 January 1964: The Ronettes Be My Baby resonated round The Ritz
11 October 1964: Bill Haley & The Comets The Ritz rocked around the clock to the great American group
6 December 1964: Jerry Lee Lewis Great Balls Of Fire resonated round the Ritz
26 February 1965: The Moody Blues Initially a rhythm 'n' blues band before becoming a progressive rock band they took to the stage at the Ritz, further solidifying the venue's reputation for attracting cutting-edge talent.
28 February 1965: Them featuring Van Morrison performed their first single Gloria as part of their set at The Ritz
14 November 1965: Small Faces and Wilson Picket The up and coming mod band and the great American soul singer were a Double Star Attraction
15 December 1965: Jimmy Cliff Brought over to this country by the founder of Island Records, he made his UK debut at the Ritz and his Birmingham backing band The New Generation included Dave Pegg later of Fairport Convention
9 January 1966 Dusty Springfield Later frequently voted Britain's best female singer Dusty attracted a packed venue
24 April 1966 Robert Plant as a member of Listen. The future Led Zeppelin frontman showcased his powerful vocals at the Ritz, giving fans a taste of the legend he would become.
23 April 1966 The Move and The Steam Packet Show featuring Long John Baldry were a fantatic double bill
11 June 1966: The Kinks With their distinctive British sound, The Kinks brought a unique flavour to the Ritz, enhancing its eclectic repertoire of musical performances.
15 February 1967: Family
16 December 1967: Pink Floyd Fronted by the charismatic Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd went to become a cornerstone of psychedelic rock, rounded off the Ritz's phenomenal roster of later to become famous acts marking one of the high points in the venue's illustrious history.
Other artists who performed at the Ritz Ballroom
Brian Augur Trinity with Julie Driscoll
John Barry Seven
Chicken Shack with Christine Perfect
Joe Brown and The Bruvvers
Spencer Davis Group
Gerry Dorsey (later to be known as Engelbert Humperdinck)
Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders
The 4 Seasons
Freddie and The Dreamers
Johnny Kidd and The Pirates
Jerry Lee Lewis
Brian Poole and The tremeloes
The Righteous Brothers
The Rockin' Berries
The Swinging Blue Jeans
The Walker Brothers
Please let us know the exact dates if you know them!
The Unforgotten Legacy of the Ritz Ballroom, Kings Heath
Unfortunately, the Ritz Ballroom's rich musical history came to an abrupt end on 27 March 2013 when an electrical fire destroyed the building. Yet, its influence continues to reverberate through the music world, highlighting the integral role it played in shaping the careers of many iconic bands.
By celebrating these performances, we hope to keep the spirit of the Ritz Ballroom alive and acknowledge its unique contribution to music history.
Your Visit to King's Heath
Today, visitors to Kings Heath can explore the area's vibrant music scene, nurtured by the legacy of the Ritz Ballroom. Check out the various music venues like the Hare & Hounds and Kitchen Garden Cafe on York Road, The Station pub on the High Street and festivals like the Pairc Festival at the New Irish Centre on Wheelers Lane that continue to honour the Ritz's musical heritage and foster a new generation of talent.
In this King's Heath Walk of Fame blog post, we've revisited the rich timeline of the Ritz Ballroom, Kings Heath, shining a spotlight on the musical giants it helped nurture. As we remember its glorious past, we also look forward to the future, excited by the promise of new music that honours its storied legacy.