Ron Ellis


Ron Ellis on his 30th birthdayAn old lady neighbour of mine in Southport heard I did photography and asked me to take photos of a group called The Rave-Ons whose drummer was her grandson. I went along to St. Stephens Church Hall, Hightown where they were practicing, duly took the photos and asked them if they wanted a singer. As they listened to my version of ‘Johnny B Goode’ they cringed and suggested I could perhaps be their manager instead as I had a suit and a big mouth.

I had no car at the time so the next Saturday night, I got the train from Southport to Liverpool and walked round all the clubs I could find, before the last train home departed, handing out business cards and asking for bookings for The Rave-Ons. The first one I got was for £5. I got to keep ten shillings of that which, as I was only on £8 a week working in the Library, I thought was tremendous.

I was lucky in that The Rave-Ons (who later became The Smokestacks) turned out to be a really good group; so good that the club managers asked if I had any more groups. I approached other groups playing in the clubs I visited and asked if they would take bookings from me. Suddenly I was an agent and went on to manage groups like The Kruzads, The Beechwoods, The Pattern People, The Pride and Joy (who became Bernie & The Buzz Band) and The Norfolks. I booked into the Chequers, the Four Winds, the Nigeria Club in Upper Parliament Street, the Cavern, the Establishment, the Yankee Clipper, the Norseman, the Mardi Gras, the Downbeat, the Blue Angel, etc. etc.

In Southport where I live, there was the Klic Klic, the Glenpark, the Floral Hall, The El Rio, etc Ex-Mersey Boys drummer Alex Paton is currently writing a history of the Southport music scene.

I worked with agents like Jim Turner, Doug Martin, Brian Kelly, Ralph Webster and club owners and managers such as Bob Wooler, Allan Williams, Terry and Sonny Phillips, Tommy Evans, Tommy Barton and Roy Adams. I booked multi racial bands from Gladdy Maras who lived in Granby Street. Ralph Webster was a genial chap while Brian Kelly was the tightest of all promoters – but he always gave me lots of bookings. Doug was a canny Scot who lived in Ormskirk while William Leyland of Wigan put a lot of groups out on Merseyside

Ron Ellis in 1976There were occasional bust-ups at the venues. The worse fight was at the Riverside where a police dog had an eye put out, an off-duty policemen was knocked unconscious and the Lancashire police told us to ring the Merseyside police and vice versa. One guy took nine policemen to get him into the van when the law finally arrived.

At Blair Hall the police rushed up the steps to find everyone in the place fighting. They blew a whistle then waded in with their truncheons. A fleet of nine ambulances carted off the injured, who had been laid out along the side aisle, to nearby Walton Hospital.

I recall that girls in those days had beehive hairstyles and bob cuts and wore pinafore dresses and cardigans which gave way to mini-skirts and boots.

I booked into the old Palace Hotel, Birkdale. They paid £5 for the last spot on a Saturday night. I had Rory on there and the Big Three among many others. Mark Peters should have made it. He had much more stage presence than any of the other front line singers. If only he’d been given the songs Billy J. Kramer got.

Around 1966 when groups were starting to feature totally undanceable ‘progressive’ music into their acts, I noticed that clubs that played records between groups had fuller dance floors. At the time, I had the contract with Wallasey Corporation for the Saturday night dances on the Royal Iris. I suggested that, instead of the usual two groups, they might try one group with a disco. I offered the season’s booking to a band called Angel Pavement on condition I could use their gear during the break. They agreed so I brought along my Bush record player, plugged it into their amp and became a DJ. As they got £12.10/- between five of them, less my 10% as their agent, and I kept the other £12.10/- for myself, I realized disc jockeying was more lucrative than agency work. I promptly bought a set of decks, amp and speakers from SAI in Standish and went on the road as a mobile D.J., one of the very first in the North, and, as I was the agent, I got all the best venues.

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