|Kris Ryan (Tony Holgate)
November 1963 – July 1965
June 1963 – May 1966
Miss Ann/She Told Me Lies Mercury MF 818 1964
Don’t Play That Song/If You Don’t Come Back Mercury MF 832 1964
Marie Marie/I’ve Had Enough Of You Baby Mercury MF 877 1965
Tell Me Who/She Belongs To Me Mercury MF 877 1965
On The Right Track: Get On The Right Track Mercury 10024 MCE 1965
Baby/Help Me/You Can’t Lie To A Liar/Sticks
And Stones/You Are My Sunshine
When the group Kris Ryan and the Strangers broke up following a traumatic gig in Chorley, two founder members, Kris Ryan (Tony Holgate) and Alan Kendall, both art students at Burnley Art College, decided to form a new group. It was the Spring of 1963. They recruited bassist Stuart Brown from The Cartwrights (later to become The Rocking Vicars) and drummer Geoff Wills. The latter was resident at Rawtenstall Jazz Club, having replaced Bobby Elliott when he left to join Shane Fenton and later, The Hollies. Initially the idea was for the group to be part of the resident band at the Imperial Ballroom, Nelson, to form a John Barry-type group, but this did not come to fruition, so they reverted to being a regular group. After a competition in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph to select a name for the group, they became Kris Ryan and the Questions.
With a repertoire culled from the hinterland that lay somewhere between The Shadows and The Beatles, featuring numbers by Johnny Kidd and Nero and the Gladiators, The Questions made their debut at Huddersfield Empress on June 1st 1963, and for the next few months made the trek around Yorkshire playing Mrs. Miller-type gigs at venues like Cleckheaton Town Hall, Dewsbury Town Hall, Wakefield Crown and Anchor and Skipton Clifford Hall. They also developed a following at the Cro-Magnon Club in Leeds. Things started to change in Autumn 1963 when Geoff Wills suggested bringing into the group tenor saxist Jim Jewell, with whom he had previously worked in a group called Eddie Marten and the Sabres. With the inception of Jewell, the group’s sound underwent a subtle change, with a focus on guitar/sax harmonies that produced a deceptively big sound, somewhat redolent of the groups of Georgie Fame and Zoot Money, though generated by a smaller line-up. The repertoire also began to change, with Ray Charles and James Brown numbers starting to introduce a soul/jazz flavour to the music. Kris Ryan and the Questions were an unusual phenomenon: they were fronted by a pretty-boy singer and were able to swing like a jazz group.
As the group sound changed, so did their agent and their gigging territory. Soon, Alan Arnison had them playing around Manchester at venues like the Princess and Domino Clubs, Belle Vue’s Cumberland Suite, The Jungfrau and the Rex Ballroom in Wilmslow. As 1963 gave way to 1964, they continued to extend their gigs around Manchester, while travelling south to the King’s Hall, Stoke on Trent and north to the A Gogo in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, where their jazzy sound gained them new fans.
In Spring 1964 they auditioned for Marie Reidy, who owned a large record and musical instrument shop in Blackburn. Ms. Reidy, a former professional classical harpist whose brother Frank Reidy was an eminent London session musician, had recently launched the career of The Four Pennies by introducing them to her friend, Philips record producer Johnny Franz, who had worked with Dusty Springfield and the Walker Bothers.
The Questions passed their audition, and in May they recorded their first single, a blue beat version of the Little Richard song Miss Ann, with Johnny Franz at Philips records. Marie Reidy became their manager.
Though the record was not a hit they continued to work steadily and in June 1964 performed their first gig at Liverpool’s Cavern. The Questions became popular in Liverpool and played at the Cavern on 33 occasions.
A standout gig at this time was the occasion when they supported P.J. Proby at New Brighton Tower Ballroom. Going down almost as well as Proby, they were mobbed by the crowd.
Bookings now came via the McKiernan agency and during this period, while doing a Scottish tour, the group appeared on the TV show Roundup.
They also made a number of radio broadcasts, including three on the BBC’s Beat Show with the Northern Dance Orchestra, and two on Radio Luxembourg’s Sunday Night at the Cavern.
Throughout 1965 they played regularly as audience warm-up group at the original BBC Top of The Pops studio in Dickenson Road, Manchester.
They had a minor hit record with their version of the Ben E. King number Don’t Play That Song, and might have had a bigger hit, if a Radio Caroline DJ hadn’t kept playing the record and when Kris Ryan sang “Don’t play that song for me” he said, “OK, I won’t” and took it off.
While maintaining a steady gig schedule, both nationwide and at Manchester venues like The Oasis and Mr. Smith’s, they continued to pursue the ever-elusive hit record.
The idea was concocted that Kris Ryan would record, as a solo vocal number with a big orchestral backing, a version of French singer Gilbert Becaud’s song Marie, Marie. Tenorist Jim Jewell feared that this recording would undermine the group’s concept, and, after German gigs in July 1965 at the Storyville Clubs in Cologne and Duisburg, he left.
Kris Ryan and the Questions were not a success in Germany: their brand of jazzy rhythm and blues was at variance with the requirements of German audiences, who at the time craved a constant diet of Beatles and Stones numbers.
Now a four-piece, the group decided to aim for a contemporary, commercial, mod-style sound and image, and began to play numbers by Junior Walker, Lee Dorsey, Wilson Pickett and Bob Dylan. They recorded a new single, an updated version of the Buddy Holly song Tell Me Who, backed with their version of Bob Dylan’s She Belongs To Me, and continued to gig steadily, mainly in the Northwest, while building up a following in the North Staffordshire area through an association with agent Terry Blood. But by the Spring of 1966, with a lack of greater commercial success, Kris Ryan and Stuart Brown were becoming tired of the endless succession of gigs, and at that moment, quiet domesticity seemed a better option.
Kris Ryan and the Questions played their final gig at Normal College, Bangor on May 14th 1966.
AFTER KRIS RYAN & THE QUESTIONS
Kris Ryan reverted to being Tony Holgate, left the music business and became a trainee manager at Burnley Bowling Bowl. He then went into computing and formed a successful computer company.
Stuart Brown became a car salesman, but the call of music was too strong and he became a bandleader for Mecca Ballrooms. In the 1970s he led the resident pop groups at the Ritz and at Tiffany’s in Manchester. He later went into hotel management.
I am almost certain Stuart Brown owned a hairdressers shop in Burnley. It was on Standish St. I think his mum Dolores ran it. Remember Stu from the Cartwrights. WOW all these memories
Alan Kendall teamed up with Nelson bass player John (Megs) Medley and joined the backing group of The Truth (singers Frank Aiello and Steve Gold) who had reached number 27 in the charts in 1966 with the Beatles song Girl. He then briefly formed a Hendrix-style trio with Medley and drummer Bill Atkinson (from Burnley band The Raging Storms) called The Sisters Of Idle Dreams.
In Autumn of 1967 progressive rock group Glass Menagerie was formed, comprising Kendall, Medley, Atkinson and two other ex-members of The Raging Storms, Lou Stonebridge (vocals) and Keith O’Connell (organ). They moved to London, made three singles for the Pye label and then recorded with producer Chas Chandler before breaking up in 1970. Kendall then joined Cliff Bennett’s group Toe Fat, with bassist John Glascock and drummer Lee Kerslake, and appeared on the LP Toe Fat Two.
In 1971 guitarist Vince Melouney left the Bee Gees and Alan Kendall replaced him. With Blue Weaver and Dennis Bryon from Amen Corner he was part of the Bee Gees Band that recorded Saturday Night Fever, and received a share of the group’s earnings for this album. He remained with the Bee Gees, on and off, until the death of Maurice Gibb in 2003.
Jimmy Jewell moved to London and joined soul band The Freddie Mack Sound. He then toured Germany with The Paramounts, backing Chris Andrews, after which he joined Berlin band The Magics. Returning to London, he gigged briefly with Screaming Lord Sutch before working with soul band The Stuart James Inspiration until 1968.
1969 saw him playing blues-rock with The Keef Hartley Band, touring the USA and appearing at the Woodstock Festival, and recording the album The Battle Of North West Six with them. In 1971 he appeared on the McGuinness-Flint album Happy Birthday Ruthie Baby and then joined Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance, gigging and appearing on the album Anymore For Anymore. From 1975 to 1977 he was with Gallagher and Lyle, and appeared on their albums Breakaway and Love On The Airwaves.
In the 1970s Jewell was a busy session musician, appearing on albums by Andy Fairweather Low, Maggie Bell, Fairport Convention, Roger Daltrey and The Hollies. His alto sax solo on Love and Affection on the Joan Armatrading album remains an influential classic. He also recorded two solo albums, I’m Amazed and From The First Time I Met You. After a period living in Chicago between 1978 and 1984, he returned to England to live in Kent.
Geoff Wills gigged with The Raging Storms and The Truth before moving to London and forming a songwriting partnership with keyboardist and vocalist Keith O’Connell (ex-Raging Storms, Glass Menagerie and Geno Washington). They had deals with Larry Page and the Stigwood Organization, and formed a recording band called Sockeye Red. Wills then decided to change direction and, entering university, gained the degrees of BA Hons, MSc and PhD and became a clinical psychologist and author. He may be the only person to have published articles in both International Musician Magazine and The British Journal of Psychiatry.
At the Liverpool Cavern 1964
I knew Tony Holgate and Alan Kendal very well in the 60s, I remember going to many of their gigs and spending time in coffee bars and at college with them.
I lost touch when Tony married and the band split up. They were happy days will always remember them with great affection.
Ann Standing Morgan nee Green