Marilyn Recalls the Rontons

By Marilyn (aka Mal or Mandy) Dease  

Mandy Dease thenThe Rontons were simply a group of 'wild' girls from a private school who could actually sing and really did practice in the 'loo' of Skerry's Grammar School. Regardless of the weather and frequently the time, we would also practice while walking into town several nights a week, singing all the way!

We sang three or five part harmony along the dark, often cruel, crime ridden streets of Liverpool unbeknownst to our parents as we smoked our Senior Service en route to 'The Rumblin' Tum' or the 'Jacaranda.' My Dad had a financial interest in 'The Gaslight' so that was off limits. We were minor league but we did perform in Youth clubs, at school Dances and the kind of thing that wasn't taken very seriously.

My parents although both Tailors and designers with a successful business in Bootle were also musicians, as were my grandparents. Our home was full of music. My Mother is a trained classical pianist (now 93 and still plays) with a penchant for blues and jazz, while my Dad, a big Ray Charles and Nat King Cole fan played drums.

We performed constantly, for our pleasure as well as for charity or social events. But I was an accomplished singer and did not play an instrument well enough to perform.

My parents knew and frequently played with Julia Lennon, a distant relative, whom I understand was named after my Great Aunt Julia Crook.

John was a frequent visitor to my Aunt Maisie's home in Childwall. Contrary to popular belief, John was not an uneducated, working class yobbo as he was so frequently portrayed, neither was Paul or George. Ritchie did not have the same advantages growing up, but my recollection of him was as the true gentleman of the bunch.

Despite my 'dear Mama' telling him he was too old to hang around with young girls and asking if he needed an estimate at the barbers when she ran into him outside our house one day. As the famous Ringo he was particularly kind to his fans, specially to those like me who were too young to be an 'item' and I remember he was very much attached to his long time girlfriend Maureen. He was always polite, charming and took the time to talk and play the 'big brother' even when he was very, very famous.

Skerry's was a sociological contradiction. It was unlike my former private school 'Blairgowrie' and very, very tough. With a hard curriculum and strict teachers with a few Grammar School exemptions (Derek Nimmo, Miss Abelwhite and Headmaster Mr Beresford). I always felt that the place had quite a Dickensian quality (specificaly Oliver Twist's workhouse). But one of the teachers from the Commercial side - Mr Eccles, was a Youth Leader and very supportive of our attempts at fame.

The ChantsJohn Lennon was another supporter along with the Ankrah Brothers. The Rontons were named by member Susan McKevitt. We were big fans of the Ronettes, the Miracles, the Shirelles, Patti la Belle & the Blue Bells, the Cookies, the Drifters, Ruby & the Romantics and on a more local level, the Chants - perhaps the most underrated group of the Mersey Sound. To quote John Lennon, "Powerful, La."

I also sang with Joey and Eddie Ankrah's cousins Lily and Beryl Williams, who lived near Susan McKevitt not far from Ringo's house. The Williams sisters had great voices, were great dancers and I learned a lot from them. Their Dad was a seaman and I believe an American who used to bring back R&B records from the USA. Truly amazing stuff and not available in Liverpool. Their mother Mrs Williams kept our energy going with constant supplies of Sweet and Sour Pork and chicken and pounds of blackberries while we rehearsed.

I remember when the Beatles released 'Love Me Do' and how my entire class could not understand how this didn't fly to No. 1 in the national charts immediately. We monitoried the rise of 'Please Please Me' because we saw Cynthia around town regularly. She was the girl we all wanted to look like. Very Brigitte Bardot! We celebrated with Pepsi and Senior Service in the loo after the news had been announced in the back bench of our Algebra class.

Of course, on the way home from school, we always made sure we flashed 'Mersey Beat' at the 86 and 87 Bus Stop opposite Lewis's to get Liverpool Institute's boys, particularly Bill Kenwright's (in his infamous white mac) attention on the way home. 'Mersey Beat' was the security blanket needed to engage in casual conversation with progressive males in those days. Part of the Liverpool Girl's hunting equipment and all that!

The Cavern was off limits to students from Skerry's. We risked expulsion if we entered this 'Den of Iniquity and Vice' as it was described to my dear old Mum by the Principal after the twentieth ansence note for my alleged asthmatic attacks forcing me to visit our family specialist shortly before lunch break three days a week. This time would, of course, be used changing ito my brother's baggy sweater, over a standard black turtle neck and black bells, with 'Esso Men' on the zip, grabbing a bottle of school milk and my lunch to be eaten while legging down to 10 Mathew Street.

At the Cavern I would stand in line with friends holding the birth certificate of Penny Swatton, God Bless Her wherever she is, who was seventeen and could actually become a member. The birth certificate would be passed back and forth after it had been examined by their bouncers. Penny Swatton must have had fifty membership cards in her name. Worst of all she probably didn't know anything about it! I rented the certificate from her brother who is probably a stockbroker now.

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