Ron Ellis


The Mersey FourFor a while I ran dances at the Riverside in Banks and booked groups like the Cryin' Shames and Rhythm ’n’ Blues Inc. Meanwhile, I’d got a day job as a sales rep covering the whole North West so my groups suddenly found themselves playing venues in Barrow and Carlisle. Rory Storm used to work for me quite a lot as a D.J. He was always very popular at Bar Mitzvahs and posh parties.

After ten years on the road, still running the agency but eventually concentrating on discos, I was offered the job as Northern Promotion Manager with WEA Records where I stayed two years before setting up my own company, Northern Disco Promotions’, taking records for DJ’s to play from Birmingham up to Dundee. I also arranged promotion tours for visiting artistes like Viola Wills, Taka Boom and Mary Stavin (Miss World) and took them round the country myself visiting radio stations, chart shops and nightclubs with their latest record.

I still wanted to be a singer. In 1971, I hired Morgan Studios in London and cut a version of Jerry Keller’s ‘Here Comes Summer’, backed by Sue & Sunny and Tony Burrows, which I sold to Warner Bros but Dave Clark Five released their version and mine was withdrawn. I cut ‘Middle of the House’ with Shakin’ Stevens’ Band and PJ Proby recorded a song I wrote called ‘Hot California Nights’ which was also covered by Southport’s Barry Womersley (ex R & B Inc and Inner Sleeve). My biggest success as a singer was a punk song I wrote called ‘Boys on the Dole’ recorded under the name Neville Wanker & The Punters which got to No 7 in the New Wave Charts in 1979. The lead guitar solo was played by American folk-rock legend Tim Rose, of ‘Morning Dew’ fame, who played with Mama Cass in the US group The Big Three.

Ron Ellis todayI did my last disco gig in 2003 at the age of 61 and now I write crime novels based in Liverpool featuring a radio DJ and Private Eye called Johnny Ace (available from all libraries & bookshops!). There are lots of Sixties musical references in the book (one of the main characters is a Police Inspector who once played in the mythical Chocolate Lavatory’!) and I regularly feature many of the groups still playing today like Kingsize Taylor, The Undertakers, Mike Byrne etc. 

I have also set up my own publishing company, Nirvana Books, and have recently published Spencer Leigh’s history of the Mersey Sound and the Beatles entitled ‘Twist and Shout’ full of interviews and previously unseen photos.

Editor’s Note: The Johnny Ace books are engrossing page-turners full of Liverpool atmosphere while mixed in with the fictional characters are real life Mersey musicians and places Beatles fans will be familiar with. ‘The Singing Dead’, in particular is a fascinating mystery concerning the discovery of a tape containing unreleased songs performed by a young John Lennon. Other Ace mysteries include ‘Mean Streets’, ‘Ears of the City’ and ‘Framed.’ Once you’ve read one you’ll want them all!

Ron is a very busy fellow and is running a course for Liverpool University on ‘Pop Music in Britain 1945-80’, in addition to penning reports on Southport FC for local papers, running a property company in London’s Docklands and doing the odd bit of acting, photography, public speaking, broadcasting and D-J’ing.

Some years ago Ron also acted as researcher for the Albert Goldman book ‘The Lives of John Lennon.’ Goldman sent him the names of people he wanted him to trace and interview on his behalf, including friends and relations of Lennon. He also had to find copies of records and books that had an influence on John in his formative years and take photographs of significant people and places. This led to him working on the project for four years, sometimes three or four nights a week, traveling to London, Scotland and Hamburg following up leads and interviewing everyone he could find with a connection to Lennon and a story to tell.

Goldman told Ron that he believed that the key to John’s personality was his abandonment at an early age, not by his father as was generally believed, but by his mother Julia, when he was handed over to Aunt Mimi.

He wrote to Ron: “It wasn’t the 50’s and Elvis Presley and Teddy Boys that counted for John Lennon. That’s just the chaff that his scholars clutch at because they are not philosophers of human character and growth. No. What shaped John was the nightmare of being surrendered by his mother to an uncle he had hardly seen before…and then being surrendered again to an aunt….so with two boots in his balls like those two, what was he to be? Either a great victim….or else a kamikaze rebel.”

Ron was also the first person to interview and photograph John’s ‘hidden’ half-sisters before they ‘went public’ and was to surprise Goldman by the fact that John was as much influenced by George Formby and Lonnie Donegan as by Elvis or Buddy Holly.

Goldman was also surprised when Ron informed him: “I was able to confirm that John Lennon was correct when he repudiated the myth that the Liverpool groups had access to rare American records which were brought over by sailors. All the songs in the repertoire of the Merseyside groups were available in England on labels such as London American, Stateside and Pye International. Many of them never made the hit parade so consequently any follow-ups and L.P.’s didn’t get released here. It was these albums that I used to import from the States for the Beatles, the Searchers, the Dakotas and others including Dave Berry, Screaming Lord Sutch and Johnny Kidd.”

Ron was also to observe, “In 1963, when the first Motown package toured England, only 13 people were in the audience at their Wigan show. Smokey Robinson insisted the other acts sit out in the stalls when they were not on stage to add to the atmosphere. A year later, after the Beatles had popularized the Motown sound, they filled every hall in the country.”

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