Agent, Disc Jockey,
Author of the Mersey Scene
By Ron Ellis
I was a serious collector of rock ‘n’ roll records from 1957 onwards. In 1961, I worked on Saturdays in record shops in Conway Street, Birkenhead and Stanley Street, Bootle owned by a Mr. Reuben. The day the Beatles’ first album was released he stacked a pile waist high beside the counter. As we rarely sold more than a couple of copies of any one album in a day, I was
skeptical. They had all gone by lunchtime!
I knew then that the Mersey scene was special. I had studied the charts since 1955 and kept scrapbooks of articles cut from British and American music papers. I still have them.
I had a pen friend in the States, Ronnie Kellerman who, oddly enough, was a friend of Jerry Lee Lewis and he sent me photos of Jerry Lee taken at his home with his family. Ronnie also used to send me albums that were not released over here by artists, who’d only had singles released in Britain, such as the Olympics with ‘Western Movies’ and Bobby Blue Bland with Turn Your Lovelight.’ He also sent me record catalogues. I couldn’t afford to buy many so I used to tape them then sell them on to groups who wanted the new material. Among my customers were the Beatles, the Searchers and Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas.
I was the one who approached the groups asking if they wanted to buy the American albums and I chose the Beatles and the others as they were the ones making the most money, so they were more likely to be able to afford them. John Lennon wrote me a list of albums he wanted.
The records that John ordered were ones by the harder-edged R&B artists such as Dr. Feelgood, Inez & Charlie Foxx, Bobby Blue Bland, James Ray and Rufus Thomas. George went for the Coasters and Ben E. King. Ringo wanted everything in the catalogue, particularly the most obscure gospel albums. They all wanted Tamla Motown records which hadn’t been released in this country.
When the records arrived from the States I rang John and he said they that were playing at the Floral Hall, Southport the following week. As I lived across from the Floral Hall they agreed to come to my house after the show and have some supper and collect their records.
However, supper at my house didn’t happen, which disappointed my Mum. That afternoon it had been announced that they would be appearing on the Royal Variety Show, so when I arrived at the theatre the backstage area was crammed with the world’s press. Although I managed to go backstage and deliver the records they then had to be smuggled away in the limo by the police.
Later I was to cut John’s written list up into 48 one inch squares and sold them for two shillings each to schoolgirls from Trinity Hall who came into Birkdale Library where I was working. Think what that sheet of paper would be worth today – the music that influenced the Beatles. Serves me right for being a smart-arse!
When I delivered a consignment of L.P’s at the Beatles Christmas concert at the Odeon, Liverpool in 1963 I was in the Dakotas’ dressing room when Ringo came in begging them to give him his polo necked jumper back – but they were fooling around and made him beg for it!
When the first American rock ‘n’roll tours came over, I blagged my way in at the stage door clutching a Brownie box camera and started writing reviews for the music papers. But I really wanted to sing in a group myself.