I was born in Bootle in 1957 at Wolfenden Ave around the corner from the Odva club, (my mum’s family were very musical as well as my dads – My mum Joan sang and had a great voice still does for that matter, my Uncle Jimmy McCready was a piano/vocalist in the clubs around Liverpool and my Uncle Frank McCready also sang in his early years, my great uncle was in the Joe Loss Orchestra, the Bolland family in the Italian Quarter had an Accordion trio called just simply the ‘Bollands’ one of whom taught Hank Walters to play the accordion) I moved to Croxteth when I was 8 months old and lived there until I was 15 before moving to Beversbrook Road Norris Green. It was during my time in Croxteth where I seen the Gene Krupa movie and pestered my dad for a drum kit when I was 11years old, he eventually gave in and bought me a Gigster/Broadway kit for £25. My older brother John had all the Beatles records and it was John who introduced me and influenced me with his musical tastes. My dad and mum then paid for music lessons by post from Bell & Cranes and I had my first gig on the Gillmoss Labour Club in 1968 when I was eleven & half with a seven piece band – we were all given half a crown each! The songs we played over and over again for 30 minutes were ‘If I had a hammer’ and ‘Little Children’. After that short lived musical career I put the kit on top of the wardrobe until I was asked to join a band just before I left school aged 15, the band was called ‘Charter’. I left school and went to St Helens Art College – I had to grow my hair as I was right out of place with all the hippies! I had been to a very strict school where short back and sides, polished shoes and neat uniform were obligatory. I left as my idea of art was shattered by pot smoking, paint splashing hippies who were happy using their feet rather than the traditional digits!! I got a job straight after dropping out of college at Buchanan Signs as a Sign writer apprentice (toast maker) this is where I met Frank Baker an ex ABA boxing champion who’s brother was a musician (Tony Baker). I told him I was looking for another job as I took the job with Buchanan signs expecting to do some sign writing and not to make the toast and tea.
When I went to the local Labour Exchange I came out with three possible jobs in musical instrument shops…one in Rushworth & Dreaper, one in Hessys and the third in a little shop in Wavertree called Plug Inn (this was Jan 1974). I asked Frank Baker’s advice and he said don’t go to Rushworths as they are too formal, Hessys is far too big and you won’t be able to climb the ladder very quickly, the little shop sounds a better bet and you never know you might end up running the place (he didn’t know how right he was). I was still in a band with school friends Dave Newton and Peter Staunton after Alec Murphy had left the band. I went for the interview with John Ryan at Plug Inn and within days I received a letter from John (which I still have) offering me the job, I was jumping for joy. After six months I found out it wasn’t John Ryan’s shop and it was owned by Frank Hessy after George Beddows (one of hessys van drivers) turned up outside of Plug Inn in a hessys van, I asked John about this and he then told me that it was best the customers didn’t know it was owned by hessys (I kept the secret for many years until during my time as Department Manager at hessys I had to go back to Plug Inn and run the shop while John was on the Shirley Bassey tour with Champagne). John Ryan influenced in many ways (all good) musically: He introduced me to many different genre including David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Manfred Mann, the Eagles and Dusty Springfield. Business: John had been to business school, he taught me a lot and I watched and learned, very soon I had the keys and was opening up the shop. At the age of 17 I was running Plug Inn on John’s wage while he toured the American Military bases in Europe. I also copied John’s handwriting, which I thought was really cool I even put a circle over the letter (i) for many years. He influenced me or rather introduced me to his friends from bands such as Nutz, Colonel Bagshot and Teak and soon I was chasing women and drinking beer to all hours then later on to the Mumtaz for a curry. I asked the band (the Mess) down to the shop and we practised on the equipment that was on hand (Plug Inn opened at 12 and closed at 8pm). The only problem was when John returned my wages went back down to my original salary by now I was used to being on £60 a week and my wage around £14! I soon negotiated a wage rise after asking John why I got the job before everyone else he answered because you were the cheapest! (I thought I was taken on because I was a fellow drummer). While at Plug Inn my now wife’s (soon to be girlfriend- later wife) father John Marshall came in and asked me to stand in with the band Red Silhouettes a Country Rock outfit from Croxteth as the drummer Ray Lloyd was going away for a couple of weeks. Ray was already singing quite a few of the songs and decided to keep me on along with the rest of the band and go up front himself as the second lead vocalist with Collette Marshall. The Red Silhouettes later changed their act and name to Impact, playing chart music as well as classics on the corporate circuit. At the same time I was asked by Brian Cockayne to join Original Rock Band Angel as they were short of a drummer for their up and coming heat of the ‘Battle of the bands’ at Gulliver’s in Frazer Street. I was practising with three bands at the time. The battle of the bands competition was a competition put on by the club and George Blott with the winner, winning a recording session and cash. In the final we were up against ‘Buster’ later years they became Alternative Radio with Alan & Rob Fennah. During this time I also played with a Soul/Funk band called ‘Superstride’ with Robbie Pollard. Playing on the Star & Garter and the Sportsman where all my heroes had played this was one of the highlights of my career as a musician that and playing with Roadrunner while JR was playing with Liverpool Express.
After a while I was given the option of going to Hessys as a Department Manager (1977) which I opted for as the wages were a lot higher and I was getting married in March 78. Although I was sad to leave Plug Inn behind I was going to work with Jim Gretty and the clan at the World famous hessys (the Mersybeat connection was a big draw). Many famous people would often call into hessys while I was working there including Sting, Andy Summers, Stuart Copeland (Police), the Darts, Ken Dodd, Georgie Fame, Bad Company and Be Bop Deluxe. Jim Gretty used to tell me about the Beatles and how he got the first gigs – teaching them chords and what he thought about them individually (he was a great character and it was a pleasure to work with him). During my years at hessys I found info in the sub-basement on all the Beatles and many other artists who had bought equipment from hessys over the years on HP/Credit and handed them over to Bernard Michaelson. I only met Frank Hesselburg twice during my time at hessys though I did work with Mrs Hesselberg, Sara and Bernard Michaelson. It was very different to Plug Inn not only in size also the atmosphere was different and I was now handling more staff including help run the Musex 77/78 shows at the Holiday Inn. I left in 1980 to work in London for another musical instrument company.
Impact left to right Tony Bolland, Ray Lloyd, Mike Cooper, Collette Marshall and John Marshall Jnr
I came back in 81 and I got a job as Music Aide in the Crawford Arts Centre where I taught drums and Art to disadvantaged kids in the Wavertree area, I left after a year passing the job on to Joe Musker who had just left Dead or Alive. I joined a band called DA Deluxe (later to be called Animated Classics, a name I thought of while watching the cartoon of the same name in Ladbrokes holiday camp on Anglesey) the band consisted of two Brothers – Paul Renwick & Gerry Renwick and their brother in law George Fogg (Bobby Sox). We changed the act started wearing makeup and masks – the songs performed included ‘Tainted Love’ by Soft cell, ‘Showroom Dummies’/ ‘She’s a model’ by Kraftwerk. We took the club/pub scene by storm playing regularly at Deeside Leisure with bands like the Mixtures, the Dooley’s and ShowWaddy Waddy.
SLR (Sex, Lies and Religion) left to right Martin Ball, Tony Bolland and Barry Keys
In 1983 I left Animated Classics and joined Rockabilly outfit the Outer Limits playing the Lark in the Park with Frankie Goes to Hollywood and OMD. After the Outer Limits split I left the drums and fronted my own original band Next Issue (later SLR Sex Lies & Religion, members include…Brian Cockayne of Angel, Keith Andrews Engineer at Parr Street and Martin Ball of MA studios) who was hunted by publishing companies and record companies. We played the Warehouse, Venue and the Pyramid showcases for Chappell Music, DJM and Virgin. I then got a job at Curly Music (right next door the store I once managed) I was now working for the firm that moved in on Hessys in 1979, which was a shock for all who worked there at the time. After two years at Curly music I took over as manager and worked there until it closed in 1993 (they re-opened later the same year before moving to Ranelagh Street). I often used to talk to Jim Gretty outside hessys when I was working in curlys, one year we had a great snowball fight with the staff of hessys and we won! During my time at Curlys I signed a contract with DJM in 1984 and I was shelved, throughout the 80’s I pursued a record deal as did many of the staff, one in particular accomplished this Chris Layhe bass player with the Icicle Works’. I met many stars while at Curlys including, Joe Walsh, Europe, Nuno Bettencourt, Richard Marks, Madness and Bryan Adams. When I worked at Curly Music OMD had a studio above the shop which they dismantled, moved out and we turned it in to a workshop. In Curlys I met Salubi Aroture a Black rapper from Liverpool 8 who worked on some of 90’s tracks with another member of staff Carl Phythian, I later asked Salubi to form a duo Soul/Motown duo ‘Soul of Life’ playing many classics as well as our own material one of which was called ‘Soul of Life’ written by Salubi. Salubi left Soul of Life and went on to join signed band Sons of Rhythm,
Soul of Life left to right Tony Bolland and Salubi
I then formed TLK a Tamla Motown/Soul trio with Lisa-Marie and Kevin Anthony we very quickly gained a reputation as one the best soul bands around Merseyside at the time playing Plummers, Sullivan’s and the Brooklyn Bar on a regular basis eventually going on to the Corporate circuit playing at Night Spots all over the UK. TLK: ‘Tender Loving Kisses’. This was 1993 when I opened my own musical instrument shop in Seel Street: River City Sounds named after one of my favourite Liverpool bands River City People this where I started writing my first book ‘Plug Inn’ (the forgotten years). Until my wife had two heart attacks aged 36 (1994) and I was mostly caring for her, I then left the band, also the book alone and left the shop in the hands of Kevin Anthony & Anthony Fletcher (now working for BMG and with Simon Cowell). By Christmas 1995 I reformed Soul of Life with Kevin Anthony and continued to work with TLK again until 2004 when I became ill with COPD and I had to retire from gigging,
I then picked up the pen again after finding my diaries and photos of all the bands in the loft. While in my sick bed I started looking through the diaries and many of the musicians I was writing about visited me giving me interviews and photos of the careers in the 1970’s, plus their memories of Plug Inn. 2006 was very significant for me I started at the University of Liverpool studying for an MA in Popular Music and released my first book with a launch at the Cavern where nine bands from the 70’s reformed to celebrate that era including Rocking Horse, Gaz & the Groovers, 29th & Dearborn, Nutz, Colonel Bagshot, Splinter, Fantasy, Last Train and Joker. I was a contributor to the World Museum ‘Beat goes on’ exhibition of Liverpool music throughout the decades – also In 2009 I released my second book in the Plug Inn series and in 2010 while working on volume three, a book about Frank Hessys and a comedian’s book due for release in 2013 – I had the opportunity to write as a freelance journalist for a new fantastic online magazine called ‘Merseymag’ which has been a lifeline through all the usual turmoil of caring for a sick wife as well as my own ill health so much so that it has kept me sane! Recently in January 2012 my collection of band photo’s and other paraphernalia was archived by Dr Mike Brocken of Hope University and then later exhibited in the foyer of the University at the Shaw Street Campus – the exhibition was called ‘Tony Bolland’s Plug In Archive – not the Beatles’.
I want to thank all the muso’s and Plug Inn fans plus the facebooker’s that have supported me through the many years of research that has taken up so much of my time, sometimes exhaustive and sometimes at detriment to my own family who I also wish to thank especially my wife Kathy, my daughter Lisa-Marie and her partner Kevin for all their help with my ‘labour of love’ projects in which I painstakingly put over 2000 pages of social history together as a legacy to my grandchildren Ethan, Amelie & Penelope and for all the unsung heroes of the Merseyside music scenes throughout the past forty years. My next book ‘Hessys’ the shop that launched a thousand bands and the Beatles is due out very soon and it is filled with stories and anecdotes from customers and staff of the Iconic shop including ‘Beatle’ connections.