I really loved being a small part of the Manchester Music Scene in the 60’s. It was a very exciting time. My entertainment career started in 1962 at my local youthclub in Delph / Saddleworth.
I was helping the then youth club leader Les Mingham, who was a marvellously energetic individual and had great commitment to the youth of the area. We organised various fund raising dances and booked the up and coming pop groups of the day including Ricky and Dane Young and the Hollies, Mike Cadillac and the Playboys and Rev. Black and the Rocking Vicars.
At first, they played in the local church hall, later moving into our own youth club building. I helped in distributing the posters and leaflets to the local shops, building the stage and acting as the MC / DJ.
As I left school and went to work at the Co-op as a grocery boy I still continued my work with the youth club and one of the support bands who played, the Exiles asked me to become their manager / agent. Although at the time I didn’t know what a manager did, I didn’t have an office and wondered how I would ever get them a booking.
At the time, my parents didn’t have a telephone, so the local red phone box...which is still there in 2007, on Denshaw Road became my office.
I spent most evenings in that phone box freezing cold, telephoning club secretaries and pub managers throughout the north of England trying to persuade them to book my pop group.
Right: Stuart is pictured in 2007 outside his old office.
Within a year, I was also managing the Dawnbreakers. The Exiles broke up and the Dawnbreakers went on to become the Breakers ShowBand playing all over the UK including a summer season at Butlins, Skegness.
Part of the act was a comedy sketch where I had to dress up in giant wellies, red shorts and a bald head and perform ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’. Oh Dear!
I remember many occasions in the back of a transit van, driving home from social club gigs in Barnsley, Sheffield, Doncaster, Bradford, Wigan, Liverpool where we earned the princely sums of 12,15 and sometimes 20 pounds between us all.
I remember once we played at the Astoria Ballroom, Rawtenstall as a support to ‘The Honeycombs’ who had just gone to #1 in the UK charts a couple of days before and had been on Top of the Pops that week. It was a really exciting night, the audience went crazy.
On another occasion I hosted a ‘beat-group’ contest at the famous ‘Empire Theatre’ in Oldham. I did the first half and Jimmy Saville hosted the second. I was 17, I wore a red jacket and black trousers and told dodgy jokes that I’d heard on the radio the day before. A sample was ‘Welcome to Oldham, the only town in Britian where you can wake up early in the morning and listen to the birds…coughing!!’ A local band ‘The Missing Links’ won the contest and the theatre closed for good the following day and was subsequently demolished. Various friends have insisted the closure was a direct result of my dodgy jokes!
At that time Oldham was a great town for live bands. Many of the pubs, The Friendship, The Oldham Hotel, The Broadway and clubs including Flinstones’ Cave, The Candlelight Club and Hillstores and the Astoria dancehalls all featuring live bands almost every night of the week. After seeing The Beatles and Tom Jones at The Astoria I was totally hooked.
In 1965 I became a full time agent/manager. As well as the social clubs, I booked my bands into summer seasons in Butlins holiday camps, at venues in the South of France and Germany, working with Ricky Barnes in Hamburg and Garth Cawood in France. I teamed up with Tony Hayes and we operated from his house in Milnrow with me working the day shift and him working the night shift after he had finished a day’s work as a carpenter.
Tony also had some good bands including The Avengers, The Bluenotes and the Fly-By-Nights and together with Steve Pickering we created one of the best bands of the area the ‘Reg James Explosion’. I was also appearing as a DJ at some great locations like Mr Smiths Manchester, the Alma Lodge Stockport, The Clayton Lodge Newcastle-Under-Lyne and the Royal Hotel Crewe. These venues were all operated by the Paddy McKiernan Organisation, another major club owner who we worked with at the time was Dennis Moss who had the ‘Princess and Domino’ clubs and he booked our bands as supports to many of the great stars who appeared there.
We quickly moved offices to Rochdale, and by 1966 we were operating what we considered to be a proper business. We were also promoting gigs at the Rochdale college with social secretary Andrew Greenwood. I was also the DJ at the Rochdale college gigs, calling myself Stuart King (Your DJ SK) and still have some of the posters from that period which you can see on this website.
Great bands like the Bystanders, the Koobas, the Toggery Five (who later became Sad Café) all played at the college.
Rochdale was vibrant in the 60’s for livebands with the Cubi Club, The Pyramid, The Lower Chambers, The Carlton Ballroom, The Firestation, Turners Dance Studio and The Seven Stars all booking live bands every week.
In 1968 Tony and I decided to merge our business with the Ian Hamilton Organisation and move lock, stock and barrel into Manchester. At last I had a proper office ‘in town’ - although we were a bit cramped for space and I ended up sharing the same desk as Chris Wright (ex social secretary, Manchester University) and later of Chrysalis records and multi-millionaire owner of many radio stations.
Ian Hamilton, Brian Durkin, Tony Hayes, John Dixon, Myself, Don Read and Chris Wright all representing and booking dates throughout the UK and across Europe for some great bands including The Measles, The Powerhouse 6, The Reg James Explosion, Tens Years After, The Family, John Evans Smash (who became Jethro Tull), Cock-a-hoop, Hedgehoppers Anonymous, The Ivy League, St. Louis Union, Manchester Playboys, Technique, Cresters with Malcolm Clarke / Richard Harding, Factotums, Victor Brox Blues Band and many more.
In 1970 the IHO Organisation started to break up with the departure of Chris Wright to London and Ian Hamilton to Australia. I had a spell in Warrington where I was based at the Lion Hotel working with Derek Mack and my new company SLA, which was an abbreviation for Stuart Littlewood Associates, moving into the suburbs of Manchester when I bought a building in Reddish Lane where we spent 5 years building a business between 1971 and 1976.
Things had changed on the Manchester scene and although we were still representing and booking bands like Mud, Sweet, The Dooleys, Cy Tucker and the Friars, Duggie James and the Soul Train, Reg Coates Combo and Sweet Sensation, the live scene was much more cabaret clubs and my office was responsible for booking ‘Wookey Hollow’ in Liverpool, ‘Blightys Club’ in Farnworth, ‘The Broadway Club’ and ‘The Embassy Club’ in Manchester and many others. We were buying the biggest names in the entertainment world at the time including Cliff Richard, Freddie Starr, Neil Sedaka, The Drifters, Shawaddywaddy, The Nolans, The Three Degrees and a couple of truly dynamic acts who never became TV names but were huge attractions in the clubs - Ronnie Dukes and Ricky Lee and Lovelace Watkins.
As a buyer for the clubs I worked with some of the UK’s leading managers / agents / promoters, some of whom have sadly passed away Dick Katz, Joe Collins, Billy Marsh and many of whom are still friends today including Danny Betesh, Derek Block, Mel Bush, Barry Clayman, Barry Dickins and Barry Marshall.
Along with the bands, I started to represent comedians including Bernard Manning, The Harper Brothers (who became Cannon and Ball), Mike Harding, Stu Francis, Max Boyce and Roy ‘Kinnell’ Jay. It was also during this period that I promoted my first major indoor concert at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester with the Count Basie Orchestra where my wife and I had the most expensive seats when I lost a massive (at the time) £1500. I also arranged an outdoor summer concert at Maine Road, Manchester featuring US recording star ‘David Cassidy’ working with promoter Adrian Hopkins.
In 1976 I decided to merge my business with Kennedy Street Enterprises after a conversation with Rick Dixon. For four years I worked with Danny Betesh, Harvey Lisberg, Anthony Addis, Rick and the late great Tony Fletcher. Danny is of course still presenting concerts at KSE, Harvey lives in Florida, Rick now runs a garden centre and of course our financial wizard Anthony Addis is now the manager of super group Muse. Again, an exciting period when we represented great bands including 10cc and Barclay James Harvest, but we also promoted UK concert tours with Dr Hook, Hawkwind, Southerland Bros and Quiver, Demis Roussos, Nana Mouskouri and the Manchester date of the only UK tour ever undertaken by Abba.
I remember going to Glasgow one night with 10cc and the local radio DJ / Compere did not turn up. I had to take the stage and introduce the band to 3000 screaming Glaswegians all shouting f…off Jimmy....scary!!
It was a mixed time for me personally as my clients Max Boyce, Mike Harding and Cannon and Ball became huge stars but unfortunately my relationship with Kennedy Street didn’t work out and I left to resume my own business Stuart Littlewood Associates. I also started two other companies Handshake Ltd and Magnum Concerts.
SLA was managing and representing artistes including Max who was filling every concert hall in England and Australia including The Royal Albert Hall, London and The Opera House, Sydney. His BBC television series was regularly attracting 15 million viewers and his comedy albums had topped the UK album charts. Cannon and Ball were the hottest thing on ITV in the early 80’s with their Saturday night series voted as the best entertainment programme on TV several years running. They were breaking box office records on their live dates including The London Palladium and The Dominion Theatre, where they sold out a six week season in advance.
Handshake Ltd was presenting pantomimes and Christmas shows in London, Coventry, Bradford, Glasgow, Edinburgh etc and Summer Season show in Blackpool, Bournemouth, Torquay, Great Yarmouth and Scarborough. Although I had had hit records with bands in the 1970’s one of the biggest hits I was involved with came in 1982 when a record ‘Save Your Love’ by Renee and Ronato went to #1 in 6 countries, selling in excess of 3 million copies. It continues to be one of the top selling ‘novelty’ records of all time.
Magnum Concerts were promoting one night concerts/tours with Tina Turner, The Four Tops, Hot Chocolate and many more. Over the next ten years I was working more and more with Laurie Mansfield and Phyllis Rounce at IAR London who at the time represented Rolf Harris, Charlie Drake, Peters and Lee, Michael Ball and many other performers / actors. Eventually we merged our business into InternaItonal Artistes Ltd. We had a very successful partnership for more than fifteen years and together with colleague Bob Voice represented many of Britain’s best known TV and stage comedy stars including Jim Davidson, Cannon and Ball, Paul Merton, Max Boyce, Hale and Pace, Julian Clary, Brian Conley, Bill Bailey, Alan Davies and Shane Ritche.
Into the 1990’s Handshake was still presenting Summer shows and Christmas shows and working with many other major stars including David Essex, Paul Nicholas, Russ Abbott and Lily Savage. In 1989 partner Laurie created and our company co-produced the hugely successful rock and roll musical ‘Buddy’ which ran in London’s West End for 13 years with other productions of the musical touring Europe, Australia and USA. Along with John Kaye-Cooper we also created our own television company; Talent Television. During the 90’s we also produced/co-produced various other stage musicals with varying degrees of success including ‘Jolson’, ‘Great Balls of Fire’, ‘Forever Plaid’ and in 1997 ‘Oh! What A Night’ was born, based on a disco show represented by my son Todd, ‘Brutus Gold and The Love Train’.
We operated for this period with offices based in London and Manchester it was an exciting time for us as individuals and for the company with TV series, Live Shows, West End and Broadway success with musicals, but of course there’s always another side, ‘the ones that got away’. In 1996 I was asked to see a young Manchester singer ‘Russ Watson’ who was appearing at the Styal Womens Prison Officers Club near Manchester. It was a cold wet February night and some of the audience were well built and pretty scary! Inside I found a very special voice. I immediately booked him for a summer season that year in Blackpool. 16 weeks with Lilly Savage and the following year in Blackpool again with Jane McDonald. His version of ‘Nessam Dorma’ stopped the show and for a couple of years I enjoyed helping him to develop as a performer but unfortunately I could not get him a record deal. He eventually joined up with David Bryce at Cliff Richards’ office, became Russell Watson and as they say…the rest is history.
In 2003 Laurie and I decided to sell the company and go our separate ways. I stayed on in Manchester as Handshake Ltd with my clients’ shows and the existing office team was enhanced when my daughters Nicola and Carla decided to follow their brother’s lead and join the company. Alongside Craig, Bob, David and Nick, Handshake Ltd are representing and promoting Max Boyce, Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown, Darren Day, ‘Oh! What A Night’, ‘One Night of Queen’, ‘Abba Mania’ and ‘The Love Train’.
Max has been with me for 32 years and is still performing concerts in the UK, Middle/Far East and Australia and is currently writing and recording a new series of TV shows for the BBC.
Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown is one of the most controversial comedians in the UK and is hugely popular. His one man shows and DVD’s sell in their hundreds of thousands every year.
‘One Night of Queen’ is the most successful Queen tribute show touring Europe playing 200 shows per year and regularly selling out major theatres and concert halls.
‘Abba Mania’ – the original West End production and a tribute to Abba’s music. We have been touring this show for the past seven years in the UK, Germany, France, Holland, Scandinavia, South America and in November 07 it opens for a four week season in the Star Theatre Sydney, Australia.
'Oh! What a Night' has toured internationally for the past 10 years starring US recording artist Kid Creole and a new UK tour will commence in January 2008.
Although I enjoy working with comedians, music is still my first love, and it is a great feeling when you can find and develop new young music talent. A couple of years ago I spotted a fantastic 17 year old, with the best voice that I’ve heard in years ‘Peter Grant’. I persuaded friend / record producer Don Reedman to create a special album which went to number 8 in the album charts gaining him a gold disc and hopefully setting Peter’s career on a course for huge success.
Since 2000 I have been privileged to be the Chairman of the Concert Promoters Association. In 2005, along with 500 other luminaries, I was invited to Buckingham Palace to meet Her Majesty The Queen at a Royal Reception to recognise the music industries contribution to the UK Economy. I have also been chairman of the English Chapter of the WPO and I was recently invited to become a fellow of the RSA.
Over the past 40 years I have been very fortunate to work in an industry that I love, travel extensively and work with wonderfully talented people. I happy to say that I wouldn’t change a thing, the ups or the downs. We have now moved offices to a super location in Uppermill, Saddleworth, where I still live with wife Sheila and not far from where it all started, I am enjoying working with my son and daughters and a team of young professionals producing and promoting approximately 500 live shows a year.
As I approach my 60th birthday, I am as enthusiastic/ energeyc as ever and looking forward to many more years in a career that began in a phone box!
WOW, what great memories that brought back reading about the Stuart Littlewood empire. I was the drummer in the group Stuart talked about (The Exiles), and I was on the show to find Oldhams best group. I feel sure he's got the name of the winners wrong, I recollect it was a band called Ven Tracey and The Diablos.
Also when he put the show on at the Free Trade Hall (Count Basie) he was with me, we were really good friends but I can't remember marrying him LOL. What a thrill that was for me going backstage and actually shaking hands with the great Count Basie.
If you read this Stuart it would be great to chat after all these years.
Keith Morello (formerly Bullock)
Great to read Stuart's story here. I was drummer with Toby Twirl and Stuart used to book us throughout the UK as our agent. I remember when we played the clubs in Manchester, we stayed at the legendary Stevenson's Hotel in Whalley Range.
If my memory serves me well, Stuart used to rent a room on the ground floor which he also used as an office and slept there. Stuart ended up marrying Sheila who worked for our management in South Shields, the Bailey Organisation. They were very happy days and Stuart was a real gent. Always smiling and he helped us a lot in our career.
Toby Twirl recently all met up for a reunion in the North East and it was great to see the boys again.I also managed to trace our roadie, Colin Hart, who is now living in Florida.
Wow the memories flood back. Whalley Range, boiled chicken, beds with bricks to keep them up, changing rooms in the clubs,so small. Pies and peas everyone paid for to keep the clubs open longer. Stu - you were a star. I have been running a pub with my lovely wife Ann in Blyth, not far from North Shields. Remember Latino?. SAS management? Mirna Malinski (probably spelt wrong), John Smith, Stan Henry.Viv's bar in the toon.
Dave Holland (Holly) 19/6/09
I remember meeting and working for Stuart in the late '60s and early 70's, He was and I am sure, still is a lovely man, he was kind to me, I spent a lot of time in Manchester in the '60s & early 70's and remember the 'digs' well, great times, working for Bill Benny, Billy Kerfoot and his many clubs, Mr Moss and his clubs, Les Lawrence at the College.
Oh God, memories, I am in my late 70's now, made a few quid, bought property, now live in Lincoln at Burton Waters and have a home on Fort Myers Beach in Florida, where I am right now writing this.
To anyone that remembers me it would be nice to hear from you. To you Stuart, long may you reign, be happy and be healthy and 2010 brings you whatever you desire.
Tony Dowling 31/12/09
WOW great memories indeed Keith, I was the guitarist with The Exiles and Dave was the bass player, yea you're right, it was Ven Tracy and the Diabalos playing Pretty Woman who won the competition.
After The Exiles went their own seperate ways I got with a Band called the Klue, there was John Foxcroft the singer (who has since sadly died), Sid Davis the bass player, Steve Collins on drums and Mick Ashton on keyboards who went on to play with Steve Pick (Reg James Explosion) but as usual we all went our seperate ways again and my wife Joan and I started doing all the northern clubs as a duo Simon and Rebecca St John for virtually all the 70's. One of our favourite gigs was the Embassy with Bernard Manning.
Anyway time goes on and as I approached my 65th birthday, Sid, Mick, Steve and I decided it would be a good idea to do a set at my party which we did and what good fun it was too...take care you guys
Stuart Whitworth 15/1/11
Great to read some of the comments. I ran into Ven Tracey the other day at a mutual friends funeral. He reminded me that it was the great Ven Tracey and the Diabalos who won the beat group contest described in my story (sorry Keith you were correct ). I would also be happy to meet up anytime give me a ring on 01457 819350.
Also a big hello to the Toby Twirl boys, great band.
Happy to report that Sheila and I are still together and about to become Grandparents,!!! I was with your old singer last night Steve ( aka Dudley Doolittle } still a good performer, although some of his gags have got whiskers on .!!!! Another sad funeral last Friday the lovely Trish Mozley, wife of agent and club owner Roy Mozley. A sad day for a very nice family, rest in peace Trish.
Stuart Littlewood 15/2/11
Stuart, great to read your story, and you were a great role model for me in those early years and it was you that led me into sports management which I continue to do today keeping the tradition of the old company name International Artistes. Be good to meet sometime.
Mike Rowland 12/6/11
I remember Stuart from his Ian Hamilton days - real regular guy as I remember. I played bass witth the Modern Blues Quintet aka MBQ, Amber World & The Milton James Band and have happy memories of Mr Smiths, Twisted Wheel, Princess & Domino, etc.
I'mm still gigging with rock band "Brute Force and Ignorance" featuing Rob Tidd ex Bashfull Alley & The Eyes on guitar and vocals. Thanks for the good times Stuart.
Glen Knowles 26/6/11
Hi Stuart - Great article and happy memories,especially of Paul Stevens and The Emperors Of Rhythm working for you at Delph Town Hall in the early 60s. You always said that we had the best name for a group, and I am sure that Dire Straits (Sultans of Swing) came from it!!
Just back from another successful 4 month Australian tour and was with my good mate Ian Hamilton, who will be over soon. Would love to get together with you for a chat, as it was Easter 1981 when I did the Cannon and Ball Show for you at Southport Theatre that we last met - i have been here ever since! Kindest personal regards.
Paul Stevens 17/5/11
I have fond memories of Stuart and "The Exiles" - we often appeared on the same bill in my days with "The Modrox". Our manager Dave Cunningham (does anyone know what happened to him?) lived in Saddleworth, so we tended to play venues in that area - Civic Hall Uppermill, Greenfield Paper Mill. Some done with two trips in a car and a bus ride, couldnt stretch to a van! Happy days! Best wishes Stuart.
John Richardson (Modrox) 21/2/12
Hi Stuart - I was just reading up on 10cc on Wikepedia, when I suddenly remembered Kennedy Street Enterprises. Back in 1975/76 my mum and dad were massive Max Boyce fans. Me and my sister were soon converted. We went to see Max several times and met him back stage.
Then I remembered my sister dragged me to Kennedy Street to try and get some Max Boyce regailia, we were of course met by yourself and you duly supplied us with posters and badges etc. What a lovely bloke you were.
ps she also dragged me to see the Osmonds at Hammersmith Apollo! I think I was the only lad there! I wanted to see Marie of course ! Take care Stuart, glad you've done so well.
Nigel Davies 23/3/12
Hi, the lads from Toby Twirl had a reunion recently in Gosforth. The banter was brilliant and the humour was still there after many years. Manchester was a topic of conversation, the clubs the digs and the great fans who made us geordies welcome in that area.
Can you remember our great road manager Colin Hart . He moved on to bigger things and ended up being tour manager for Deep Purple, well he has just visited the north east from his home in Florida. Colin has writetn a fantastic book on his experiences as a road manager . It was lovely seeing him after 40 years. He sends his regards.
Dave Holland (holly) Toby Twirl 17/5/12
Hey Stuart , you ain't mentioned 'The Muldoon Brothers' and thanks for the drive of your Bentley at Batley Frontier. We are back doing some live gigs and been offered festivals in Scandinavia next year! Hope you are well!
Graham Pickles 11/9/13
Great to read some of the comments from the former band members and friends on this page.
Sorry for missing The Muldoon Brothers out Graham, they were one of my favourite bands of the !990's and they certainly delivered some great shows. I am delighted to hear that you guys are performing again, please give me a call and I will come along to one of your reunion shows.
Best wishes to all readers of Manchester Beat.
Stuart Littlewood 22/09/2013