One of the more notable groups to emerge from the British Invasion of the early 1960s was named for an archetypical American pop singer. The Hollies—named in honor of Buddy Holly—got their start in Manchester, England, and it was in their native country that they were most successful. Indeed, according to Irwin Stambler in the Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul, “the group never achieved the reputation in the U.S. it maintained in England and most other countries in the western world, but their music … certainly affected trends in America.”
The Hollies were founded by two childhood friends in Lancashire, England. Allan Clarke was a singer/guitarist who teamed up with an aspiring singer/songwriter named Graham Nash. As students in the 1950s they worked together in a singing act as the Two Teens and gained acclaim as the youngest performers to appear at the respected Manchester Cabaret Club. Clarke and Nash entered the engineering field together, performing part-time in an act called the Guy-tones, which later expanded into a quartet, the Four Tones. By the early 1960s the two had brought in bass guitarist Don Rathbone and drummer Eric Haydock to perform as the Deltas. A re-formation in 1963 led to the group that was then called the Hollies.
Members include Bernie Calvert (born on September 16, 1942, in Lancashire, England), drums; Allan Clarke (born on April 5, 1942, in Lancashire, England; left group temporarily, 1972), lead vocals;Bobby Elliott (born on December 8, 1942, in Lancashire, England), bass guitar;Eric Haydock, drums;Tony Hicks (born on December 16, 1945, in Lancashire, England), lead guitar;Graham Nash (born on February 2, 1942, in Blackpool, England; left group, 1968), songwriting, guitar;Don Rathbone, bass guitar;Terry Sylvester (born on January 8, 1947, in Liverpool, England), vocals, guitar.
Group formed in Manchester, England, 1962; released debut album Stay with the Hollies, 1964; released numerous recordings, 1964—, disbanded, 1981; reformed for touring fronted by Tony Hicks with Carl Wayne, Ian Parker, Alan Coates, Ray Stiles, 1983.
Addresses: Management —Jimmy Smith, Hill Farm, Hackleton, Northamptonshire NN7 2DH, England, e-mail: [email protected] freeserve.co.uk. Website —The Hollies Official Website: http://www.hollies.co.uk.
Only one thing was missing from the new group, how-ever. “Nash and Clarke felt they needed an exceptional lead guitarist to provide the basis for a top-flight group,” wrote Stambler. They found one in Tony Hicks, one of the most respected guitarists in Manchester. Hicks was reluctant to commit to a full-time band as he was gainfully employed as an electrical apprentice at the time. But he was convinced by Nash and Clarke to take a leave of absence from his job and travel to London with the group to make a test recording. The well-received test made Hicks a member of the Hollies.
Almost before the group was established, changes began appearing in the band. Rathbone left and was replaced by Bobby Elliott, formerly of the group Shane Fenton and the Fentones. Over the years, other departures and replacements would result in a virtually all-new Hollies. But the original band proved a success in England’s clubs, rivaling the early Beatles in popularity.
The band’s first album, Stay with the Hollies, was released in 1964. In those early days they recorded few original songs, instead covering R&B standards like “Memphis,” “Lucille,” and “Candy Man.” Soon after their first release the band became a major success in England, and their second LP, In the Hollies Style, showcased several Nash-Clark-Hicks compositions along with the R&B covers. The LPs sold well in England, though the band would subsequently be known more for its singles than for its albums. The group’s first number-one United Kingdom single, “I’m Alive,” came out of their third album, Hollies. In developing their distinctive three-part harmonies, the Hollies gained commercial success that would translate to American audiences when the band’s singles began appearing in early 1966. At the height of the British Invasion, the Hollies were welcomed by American audiences on the strength of Clarke’s vocals on such rollicking tunes as “Stop Stop Stop,” “Look through Any Window,” “Bus Stop,” and “Carrie Ann.” “Here the Hollies were providing something of a satisfying option for pop-oriented listeners [who] found the increasingly experimental outings of groups like the Beatles and Kinks too difficult to follow,” wrote Richie Unterberger of All Music Guide.
By 1967 the Hollies’ success as a “bubblegum” group was established. The band’s pop stardom was becoming a thorn in the side of founding member Graham Nash, who wished to open the band up to more experimentation. “The real drama lies in the LPs, which chart the widening rift between Alan Clarke and Tony Hicks’ crass commercialism and Nash’s growing independence,” noted a contributor to the website Wilson & Alroy’s Record Reviews. Nash decided to leave the Hollies in 1968 to explore his artistic options. He went on to great fame as part of the seminal folk-rock combo Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
The post-Nash Hollies were characterized by slightly more mature numbers including “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.” The band tried to jump on the folk band-wagon by recording an album of what Unterberger called “Hollieized [Bob] Dylan songs,” which fared poorly in the United States but sold briskly in England. By 1969 the group had peaked commercially and artistically, according to Unterberger: “They’d managed a remarkably long run at the top considering that they hadn’t changed their formula much since the mid-’60s, adding enough sophistication to the lyrics and arrangements to avoid sounding markedly dated.” The group—now consisting of Clarke, Hicks, Elliott, Nash replacement Terry Sylvester, and Bernie Calvert (who took the place of Eric Haydock)—made a comeback of sorts in 1972 with the hit “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress,” a nod to the growing influence of the country-flavored rock stylings popularized by Creedence Clearwater Revival. But the uptick for the Hollies proved only temporary, with their declining fortunes worsened by lead singer Hicks’s resignation from the group in November of 1972. He was replaced by Sweden’s Mikael Rikfors. Hicks returned in 1973 to provide the vocals for the group’s final original hit, “The Air That I Breathe,” which rose to number six on the American pop charts in 1974.
After releasing several albums of live performances, greatest hits, cover songs, and new compositions throughout the 1970s, the Hollies temporarily disbanded in 1981. But in the wake of the disco era, a dance mix of Hollies tunes became popular, so the band re-formed to cut the album What Goes Around. A 1983 single from that collection, a cover of “Stop! In the Name of Love,” would reach into the American top 40. The thirtieth anniversary of the Hollies was marked by the release of a three-disc CD box set. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly found that this comprehensive collection was valuable primarily for the restored versions of the band’s best-known songs, which he said “have never sounded better.” The rest—the R&B covers, remakes, and new releases—“should please only collectors and diehards.”
With the retirement of Clarke, the group known as the Hollies was no more, though, according to Wilson & Alroy’s Record Reviews, Hicks “continues to lead a band under the Hollies name.” In January of 2001, in a radio interview that appears on the official Hollies web-site, Hicks said that a new generation had tuned into the sounds of the 1960s and 1970s. But he added that the current Hollies incarnation transcends nostalgia. “You can’t bring yourself back to where you were,” he noted. “You have to go beyond that. The reaction is clear that we’ve done that. It is a rebirth. It’s fabulous and we’re really enjoying it.”
Stay with the Hollies, Parlophone, 1964.
In the Hollies Style, Parlophone, 1964.
Hollies, Parlophone, 1965.
Would You Believe, Parlophone, 1965.
For Certain Because, Parlophone, 1966.
Evolution, Parlophone, 1967.
Butterfly, Parlophone, 1967.
The Hollies Sing Dylan, Parlophone, 1969.
Hollies Sing Hollies, Parlophone, 1969.
Confessions of the Mind, Parlophone, 1970.
The Hollies’ Greatest, Parlophone, 1970.
Romany, Polydor, 1972.
Hollies, Polydor, 1974.
Another Night, Polydor, 1975.
Hollies Live Hits, Polydor, 1977.
A Crazy Steal, Polydor, 1978.
53117704, Polydor, 1979.
What Goes Around, WEA, 1983.
30th Anniversary Collection 1965-1993, EMI/ERG, 1993.
Hardy, Phil, and Dave Laing, editors, Encyclopedia of Rock, Schirmer Books, 1988.
Stambler, Irwin, Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock& Soul, St. Martin’s Press, 1977.
Entertainment Weekly, July 23, 1993, p. 58.
“The Hollies,” All Music Guide, http://allmusic.com (September 4, 2002).
“The Hollies,” MSN Music, http://music.msn.com/Artist/7artist=108367 (June 20, 2002).
“The Hollies,” Wilson & Alroy’s Record Reviews, http://www.warr.org/hollies.html (June 20, 2002).
The Hollies Official Website, http://www.hollies.co.uk (July 10, 2002).