Kris Ryan and The Questions


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


Kris Ryan and the Strangers

The group formed in 1963 with Ryan on lead vocals (b. Anthony Holgate), Alan Kendall on lead guitar (b. Wednesday, September 6, 1944, Darwen, Lancashire, UK), Peter Shoesmith on rhythm guitar, Trevor Catlow and Pete Hibbert on drums (b. Peter Hibbert). 

Kris Ryan and the Questions

In June 1963 the band became Kris Ryan and the Questions with Ryan on lead vocals, Alan Kendall on lead guitar, Stuart Brown on bass and Geoff Wills on drums (b. Geoffrey Wills). In November 1963 the band was joined by tenor sax player Jimmy Jewell. This line-up lasted until July 1965 when the band split.  

John H. Warbug

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.

Some Kris Ryan and the Questions concerts

Friday, June 5, 1964: The Cavern, 8 - 10 Mathew Street, Liverpool 2, Lancashire, UK, with Mickie and the Gents, Vic and the TT's, The Georgians, The Triumphs 

Saturday, September 12, 1964: The Cavern, 8 - 10 Mathew Street, Liverpool 2, Lancashire, UK

Friday, November 6, 1964: The Cavern, 8 - 10 Mathew Street, Liverpool 2, Lancashire, UK, with The Roadrunners 

Sunday, January 24, 1965: Sunday Night At The Cavern for Radio Luxembourg, The Cavern, 8 - 10 Mathew Street, Liverpool 2, Lancashire, UK, with Victor Bronx Blues Train, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes 

Friday, June 11, 1965: The Cavern, 8 - 10 Mathew Street, Liverpool 2, Lancashire, UK, with The Hideways, The Georgians

Saturday, November 13, 1965: The Oasis Club, 45 - 47 Lloyd Street, of Albert Square, Manchester, Lancashire, UK, with The Mindbenders, this groups first gig without Wayne Fontana

Tuesday, February 15, 1966: The Oasis Club, 45 - 47 Lloyd Street, of Albert Square, Manchester, Lancashire, UK

Saturday, May 14, 1966: The Normal College, Bangor, Gwynedd, North Wales, final gig 

John H. Warburg




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

Catherine Roberts

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


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Comments (8)

Topic: Kris Ryan
John H. Warburg says...
Kris Ryan and the Strangers formed in 1963 with Ryan on lead vocals (b. Anthony Holgate), Alan Kendall on lead guitar (b. Wednesday, September 6, 1944, Darwen, Lancashire, UK), Peter Shoesmith on rhythm guitar, Trevor Catlow and Pete Hibbert on ... Read More
24th March 2014 9:07pm
Geoff Wills says...
Regarding John H. Warburg's comments: Kris Ryan and the Strangers probably formed in 1962, not 1963. Pete Hibbert didn't play drums. He was a vocalist, and may have also played bass. Kris Ryan and the Questions didn't split in July ... Read More
25th May 2014 10:46pm
Paul Webmaster says...
Thanks for the corrections, Geoff. Much appreciated.
25th June 2014 9:12pm
John H. Warburg says...
Added some Kris Ryan and The Questions dates to the page.
25th June 2014 9:11pm
Ray Atkinson says...
I saw The Strangers a few times in the early 60's at the Victoria Hotel in Keighley West Yorks. My abiding memory is of a great group, especially Alan Kendal's lead work on a Hofner Colorama. I don't remember the exact year, but it was ... Read More
22nd April 2015 5:59am
clive phillips says...
Saw them at Rotherham Baths (Twist club) and we were amazed that girls began screaming the second Kris appeared. I think he returned to do one more gig there.
29th April 2016 7:15pm
Steve Ambler says...
I Remember Stuart using Tony's cafe on Standish Street.A really nice guy. I was about 14 when I saw them play at the Burnley Cricket Club. I entered the competition to name the group. I came up with Kris Ryan and the Comancheros! I was very ... Read More
28th January 2017 8:28pm
Jeanne robinson says...
I took over Stuart's job at brubecks 1963 loved it.
11th February 2017 8:11am

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