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Five questions with Terry Sylvester of The Hollies

Jan 19, 2016 | Entertainment

By Steve Reszka

Terry Sylvester is one of five people from Liverpool, England inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He grew up with the other four … John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Terry started his rock & roll career as a teenager with his group The Escorts. The band had quite a reputation throughout England and were specifically asked to open for The Beatles at their final performance at the legendary Cavern Club.

Terry’s notoriety grew. He joined The Swinging Blue Jeans and had a huge hit with Hippy Hippy Shake. After touring across Europe for several year, The Hollies called Terry in 1968 and asked him to join the group, replacing Graham Nash. While with The Hollies, Terry was part of many Top 10 hits including Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress), He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother), Sorry Suzanne and The Air That I Breathe.

Terry left the group in 1981 to start a successful solo career. He and The Hollies were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. 

Terry currently tours North America and the United Kingdom performing the many great songs of his career. He will be performing at the Bromley Family Theatre in Bradford, Pennsylvania on Saturday, Jan. 30

Steve Reszka: Tell us about growing up in Liverpool and how you first met John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Terry Sylvester: Liverpool was still recovering from WW2 when I was growing up.  Because it was an important sea port, there were bomb sites everywhere.  The only thing I liked at school was sports and I left school at age 14. I worked in a garage as a panel beater; my boss was Peter Harrison, George’s older brother. I started to play the guitar and George would pop in and give me advice. 

Paul McCartney lived 200 yards from me on the next road so I’d known him for years and when we formed my first group, The Escorts, our drummer was Ringo’s cousin. In fact, Ringo got us our residency at the ‘Blue Angel Club’ in Liverpool. I was only 16 at the time.

SR: The Escorts were asked to open for the Beatles when they played their last gig at the legendary Cavern Club. What do you remember about that night?

TS: On August 3, 1963, the Beatles played at the Cavern Club for the final time, playing 292 times in all. The Escorts were now an established group but still waiting for a hit record. The Beatles, however, were now very famous in the UK and had just recorded She Loves You. The owner of the Cavern Club, Ray McFall, remembered he let the Beatles cancel a performance once so they could do a TV show. Even though they were far too big for the Cavern now, they fulfilled their obligation. 

People had been in line outside for days; it was a crazy night. We, The Escorts, opened the show. All of us, including the Beatles, were in the tiny dressing room by the side of the stage since very early in the day. There was no back door so we came through the front entrance, the only entrance.

SR: In 1968, you were touring Czechoslovakia with the Swinging Blue Jeans. Why did you have to leave so quickly in the middle of the night?

TS: Sadly, The Escorts couldn’t get the hit record that would have let us do more shows around the UK. But a bit of luck came my way when I was asked to join the Swinging Blue Jeans in January of 1966. They played almost every night all over the UK and Europe. 

In 1968 we were on a three-week tour of the then Czechoslovakia. We noticed that there were tanks in the main streets everywhere we went. The day after we flew back to the UK, the Russians invaded the country. That was a close call for us.

SR: How did you come to join The Hollies?

TS: The Escorts did play Europe a couple of times. In 1965, we had a one-month residency at a club in Munich, Germany, called the Hit House. In the middle of the month the Hollies were booked for the weekend, so we opened for them. 

We knew them as we’d done shows with them before, but we got really friendly with them and we all hung around together while they were there. Fast forward three years and the news that Graham Nash was leaving The Hollies hit the papers. I called their manager and said if they needed me, contact me. They did, and the rest is history. 

I later found out that my name came up in a meeting after Graham had left, so I guess it was meant to be. Joining them was the happiest day of my life. I’d made the big time at last!

SR: One of The Hollies biggest hits is Carrie Anne.  Is Carrie Ann a real person and did you ever meet her?

TS: When I was living in London, England I played in a charity cricket match with Chris Jagger, Mick’s younger brother. At the game in Hertfordshire, Chris introduced me to his wife, Carrie Anne.  I said to her, “Did your parents name you after the Hollies hit?” She said, “They wrote the song after me.” It’s true, she was a model back in the day and they all met at a party. Graham Nash and Tony Hicks started writing the song and Allan Clarke later added the middle verse.   

Steve Reszka is a partner in Booking Connections, supplying entertainers and speakers for a variety of events. For more information, contact him at www.bookingconnection.com.

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