Alan Links Music Legends
A Norfolk writer is proving to be the link between two music legends.
Alan Mann, who lives in Little Melton just outside Norwich, has been interested in early rock n roll and pop music for decades and the result has been a series of books that stand as a tribute to some of the greatest artists ever.
An A to Z on Buddy Holly, a book contrasting the careers of Holly and Elvis Presley and now a new biography of former Beatle Tony Sheridan have all flowed from the pen of the unassuming Mann who admits that his twin obsessions for music and writing have led him down a new career path since retiring as a bank manager in 1993.
"I had spent a lifetime as a banker and realised when I retired that I wanted to be a writer. I found that I could channel my artistic desire through the music that I loved," he said.
Alan is the son of well known Norfolk artist John Mann from whom he believes he has inherited an artistic outlook on life. He was captivated by Holly's music from the time he first heard it in 1957. Ironically despite spending so much time writing about Holly, Alan never saw him perform.
"When he appeared on television in the programme Off the Record I was at night school. I missed his appearance on Sunday Night at the London Palladium as we didn't have ITV and then I didn't get to Ipswich when he played a concert there," Alan said, pointing out that in those far off days video recorders didn't exist.
Eventually Alan decided to channel his efforts into writing about the artist:
"There was always something in Buddy's voice that was special, a kind of timeless quality that has survived even 50 years after his death. You just have to listen to classics like "It Doesn't Matter Anymore," "Everyday" and "True Love Ways" to hear that timeless quality that has influenced so many artists over the years. Some of the early rock n roll like Bill Haley has aged but Holly's music has endured. It has had a lot to do with the fact that he wrote his own songs. He was creating music and in many ways was the antitheses of a rock star - even making it fashionable to wear glasses.
"There have been some remarkable artists from Texas but to me Holly was the best. Had he have lived I believe he would have kept up with the times and maybe have become a top producer. I was 19 when he died and I remember the sadness I felt."
So Alan's lasting memorial to a man he never met began to take shape many years later. The first edition of his book "Buddy Holly A to Z" was self published in 1994 and was subsequently picked up by Aurum Press and a fully updated edition published in 1996. Two years ago a third, and once again completely revised and updated edition, was published.
"When the first book was published in 1994 there weren't many biographies of Buddy Holly on the market. I had all the information and knew so much about this guy that I decided to publish the book. When I wanted to update it I had numerous rejection letters from publishers until Aurum stepped in. It is often felt that Buddy Holly has a bigger fan base in the UK than in America but his popularity soared with the film The Buddy Holly Story, the stage musical Buddy and Don McLean who referred to Holly's death as 'the day the music died' in his song American Pie."
During his research and meetings with members of Buddy's family and his backing band The Crickets, Alan found out a lot more about Buddy the person:
"He was very charismatic on stage. Offstage he was quite quiet but there was always plenty of humour about him. For me his musical legacy can be summed up in the words of the Abba song 'Thank you for the music'. If he had lived I think he would have become a great humanitarian."
With the biography of Holly behind him Alan then set about his next project looking at the linked lives of Buddy and Elvis Presley despite the fact that Presley went on record as saying the two had never met, although they did share the bill on one occasion in Holly's home town of Lubbock, Texas.
Alan found that there were plenty of parallels between the two legends. "Elvis and Buddy - Linked Lives" was published by Music Mentor books in 2002 and took a detailed look at the artists' early years, comparing their backgrounds and influences and chronicling the parallels of their lives, careers and tragic deaths.
With the Holly and Presley published, Alan turned to an artist much closer to home for his next and current biography. He remembered a pal from his schooldays at the CNS in Norwich with the exotic name of Anthony Esmond Sheridan McGinnity.
"This guy just couldn't keep still. You would certainly say that he had the music in him. We lived close to each other for a while. When skiffle music came out it just blew him away. I can remember seeing him perform at the Blue Room in Prince of Wales Road, Norwich" Alan said.
Anthony McGinnity was destined to have his own place in rock music history. The boy from Norwich changed his name to Tony Sheridan and played an important part in the developing history of a little known Liverpudlian band by the name of the Beatles.
Alan has spent the last four years piecing together a biography on "Norwich's Beatle" with the full co-operation of Tony Sheridan himself. Today Alan's study is awash with notes written by Sheridan as part of an aborted autobiography.
"Over the years we kept in touch and Tony came back for CNS re-unions. Four years ago he came back to one re-union and picked up a guitar and started to play. I realised that he has written a wealth of songs and there was a lot more to the guy than met the eye. There never has been a biography of Tony Sheridan and I was keen to put that omission right.
"I am delighted to say that Tony co-operated fully and the biography has been written with his blessing and is currently with the publishers and due for release later this year."
"Today Tony is something of a maverick. He refers to himself as a troubadour and hates the commercial aspect of the music business. He has lived a fascinating life and there are so many stories to tell from his early days with the Beatles and their first recordings, through the time when he entertained American forces in Vietnam and was reported missing believed killed to the present day," Alan added
Alan even has the original painting which will be used for the cover of a book that at the present time has the working title "The Teacher" a reference to Tony's ability with the guitar, something that greatly influenced George Harrison and the other Beatles. The painting was commissioned from Norwich based artist Simon Pritchard who also supplied the artwork for Alan's previous books. Pritchard has exhibited widely at the famous Liverpool Academy of Arts and is renowned for his rock music artwork. For the Tony Sheridan biography Pritchard, has come up with a highly original painting featuring the Beatles and their early days in Hamburg - an entirely appropriate theme for a book about the man who moved North from his native Norwich and met and appeared with the Beatles in various combinations in Hamburg and who still lives just a few miles outside the German city. The painting evokes a time long passed and manages to capture the passion of the Hamburg days along with the rather seamier aspect of life - all of course done as Kenny Everett would say in the best possible taste.
Alan Mann is hoping that the Sheridan biography will attract interest from Beatles fans throughout the world and in particular those who remember Tony Sheridan in Norwich, Liverpool and maybe even Germany.
Notes: Buddy Holly was born Charles Hardin Holley in Lubbock, Texas, on September 7th, 1936 and died in a plane crash on February 3rd, 1959 at the age of 22. Ritchie Valens and J.P "The Big Bopper" Richardson were also killed in the same crash. In 2004 Rolling Stone magazine rated Holly 13th in the 50 greatest artists of all time.
Tony Sheridan was born Anthony Esmond Sheridan McGinnity on 21st May, 1940, in Norwich Norfolk. For further details of his career visit his Wikepedia page by clicking here or his official web site by clicking here.
Music Mentor Books' web site can be accessed by clicking here