Rock Music Wiki

The Hollies are an English rock group formed by Allan Clarke and Graham Nash in the early 1960s. Known for their distinctive vocal harmony style, they became one of the leading British groups of the 1960s and early 1970s. They enjoyed considerable popularity in many countries, although they did not achieve major US chart success until 1966. Nash left the group in 1968, and then formed Crosby, Stills & Nash. The Hollies had 30 charting singles on the UK Singles Chart, and 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, with major hits on both sides of the Atlantic that included "Just One Look", "Look Through Any Window", "Bus Stop", "I Can't Let Go", "On a Carousel", "Stop Stop Stop", "Carrie Anne", "Jennifer Eccles", and later "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother", "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" and "The Air That I Breathe".

They are one of the few British pop groups of the early 1960s that have never officially broken up and continue to record and perform. They formed in Manchester, although the majority of the band members came from towns north of there, in East Lancashire. In recognition of their achievements, the Hollies were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.[1]


 [hide*1 History



The Hollies originated as a duo formed by Allan Clarke and Graham Nash, who were best friends from primary school and began performing together during the skiffle craze of the late 1950s.[2] Eventually Clarke and Nash became a vocal and guitar duo modeled on the Everly Brothers under the names "Ricky and Dane Young."[2] Under this name, they teamed up with a local band, the Fourtones, consisting of Vic Steele on lead guitar, Eric Haydock on bass guitar, and Don Rathbone on drums.[2] They first called themselves the Hollies for a December 1962 gig at the Oasis Club in Manchester.[2]

It has been suggested that Haydock named the group in relation to a Christmas holly garland, though in a 2009 interview, Graham Nash said that the group decided just prior to a performance to call themselves "the Hollies" because of their admiration for Buddy Holly.[3] In 2009, Nash wrote, "We called ourselves the Hollies, after Buddy and Christmas."[4]

In January 1963, the Hollies performed at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, where they were seen by Parlophone assistant producer Ron Richards, who had been involved in producing the first Beatles session.[2] Richards offered them an audition with Parlophone, but Steele did not want to be a "professional musician" and left the band in February 1963.[2] For the audition, they replaced Steele with Tony Hicks, who played in a Nelson band called the Dolphins, which also featured Bobby Elliott on drums and Bernie Calvert on bass.[2] Not only were they signed by Richards, who would continue to produce the band until 1976, and once more in 1979, but a song from the audition, a cover of the Coasters' 1961 single "(Ain't That) Just Like Me", was released as their debut single in May 1963, and hit No.25 on the UK Singles Chart.


Their second single, another cover of the Coasters, this time 1957's "Searchin'", hit No.12. At this point, after recording only eight songs for Parlophone, Rathbone also decided to leave the band, and Hicks was able to arrange for his Dolphins bandmate Bobby Elliott to replace him as the Hollies' new drummer in August 1963.[2] They then scored their first British Top 10 hit in early 1964 with a cover of Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs' "Stay", which reached No.8 in the UK. It was lifted from the band's Parlophone debut album, Stay With The Hollies, released on 1 January 1964, which went to No.2 on the UK album chart. A version of the album was released in the US as Here I Go Again, on the Hollies' US label of the time, Imperial.

The Hollies were known for their bright vocal harmonies. Though initially known for doing cover versions, the band moved towards songs provided to them by such writers as Graham Gouldman. Soon after, the group's in-house songwriting trio of Clarke, Hicks and Nash began providing hits.

They followed up with "Just One Look" (February 1964, UK No.2), a song that had already had some success in the US for Doris Troy, and the hits continued with "Here I Go Again" (May 1964, UK No.4). At this point, there was some North American interest in the group, and versions of Stay With the Hollies; with these two singles added, were issued in both Canada by CaAfter the Fox" (Sep. 1966), which featured Peter Sellers on vocals, Jack Bruce on electric bass and Burt Bacharach himself on keyboards, and was the theme song from the Sellers film of the same name (which failed to chart), and "Bus Stop" (UK No.5, US No.5, June 1966), another Gouldman song, which featured Bernie Calvert, a former bandmate of Hicks and Elliott in the Dolphins, on bass.

"Bus Stop" gave the Hollies their first US top ten single. As a result, a US/Canadian Bus Stop album made of the single mixed with unreleased songs from earlier in the band's career climbed to No. 75, the group's first US album to enter the Top 100. Although Haydock ultimately proved to be correct about the fee dispute, he was sacked in favour of Calvert after "Bus Stop" became a huge hit.

At the time of Haydock's departure, Clarke, Hicks and Nash participated (along with session guitarist Jimmy Page) in the recording of the Everly Brothers' 1966 album 'Two Yanks in England', which consisted largely of covers of "L. Ransford" compositions. After the Everly Brothers album, the Hollies stopped publishing original songs under a pseudonym, and from this point until Nash's last single with The Hollies in 1968, all of their single A-sides were original compositions, besides the final Nash era single 'Listen To Me' (1968) which was written by Tony Hazzard.

In October 1966, the group's fifth album, For Certain Because (UK No.23, 1966), became their first album consisting entirely of original compositions by Clarke, Hicks and Nash. Released in the US as Stop! Stop! Stop! it reached No.91 there and spawned a US release-only single, "Pay You Back with Interest", which was a modest hit, peaking at No.28. Another track, "Tell Me to My Face", was a moderate hit by Mercury artist Keith, and would also be covered a decade later by Dan Fogelberg and Tim Weisberg on their Twin Sons of Different Mothers album.

Meanwhile, the Hollies continued to release a steady stream of international hit singles: "Stop Stop Stop" (Oct. 1966, UK No.2, US No.7) from For Certain Because, known for its distinctive banjo arrangement; "On a Carousel" (Feb. 1967; UK No.4, 1967, US No.11, Australia No.14)[5]); "Carrie Anne" (May 1967, UK No.3, US No.9, Australia No.7[6]). Their next album Evolution was released on 1 June 1967, the same day as the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was also their first album for their new US label Epic. It reached UK No.13 and US No.43. The US version included the single "Carrie Anne". In addition, The Searchers and Paul and Barry Ryan each had a minor UK Chart hit covering the Evolution song "Have You Ever Loved Somebody" in 1967.

However, Nash's attempt to expand the band's range with a more ambitious composition, "King Midas in Reverse", only reached No.18 in the UK charts. The Hollies then released the ambitious, psychedelic album Butterfly, retitled for the US market as King Midas in Reverse/Dear Eloise, but it failed to chart. In response, Clarke and Nash wrote an almost "bubblegum" song "Jennifer Eccles" (named after their wives) (Mar. 1968, UK No.7, US No.40, Australia No.13[7]), which was a hit. The Hollies donated a Clarke-Nash song, "Wings", to No One's Gonna Change Our World, a charity album in aid of the World Wildlife Fund, in 1969.

Terry Sylvester replaces Graham Nash[edit][]

In addition to his Hollies work, in 1967 Graham Nash co-wrote John Walker's first solo hit "Annabella" – and later in 1968, Nash sang on the Scaffold's UK Chart topper, "Lily the Pink" (which referenced "Jennifer Eccles"). The failure of "King Midas in Reverse" had increased tension within the band, with Clarke and Hicks wanting to record more "pop" material than Nash did. Matters reached a head when the band rejected a Nash composition entitled "Marrakesh Express" and then decided to record an album made up entirely of Bob Dylan covers. Nash did take part in one Dylan cover, "Blowin' in the Wind", but made no secret of his disdain for the idea and repeatedly clashed with producer Ron Richards.

In August 1968, the Hollies recorded their first "cover" single since 'Bus Stop", "Listen to Me" (written by Tony Hazzard) (Sept. 1968, UK No.11), which featured Nicky Hopkins on piano. That proved to be Nash's last recording session with the Hollies, and he officially left the group shortly thereafter to move to Los Angeles, where he tentatively planned to become primarily a songwriter. Nash told Disc magazine, "I can't take touring any more. I just want to sit at home and write songs. I don't really care what the rest of the group think."[8] After relocating to Los Angeles, he joined with former Buffalo Springfield guitarist Stephen Stills and ex-Byrds singer David Crosby to form one of the firstsupergroupsCrosby, Stills & Nash.

The B-side of "Listen to Me" was "Do the Best You Can", the last original recording of a Clarke-Hicks-Nash song to appear on a Hollies record (although "Survival of the Fittest", written by Clarke-Hicks-Nash, was re-cut with Terry Sylvester and issued as a US single in 1970).

Graham Nash was replaced in the Hollies by guitarist-singer Terry Sylvester, formerly of both the Escorts, a second generation Merseybeat group who had a minor UK chart hit in 1964 with "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" and the Swinging Blue Jeans from 1966–1968. Sylvester also substituted for Nash as part of the group's songwriting team.

As planned before Nash's departure, the group's next album was Hollies Sing Dylan, which reached the No.3 position on the UK chart while the US version, Words And Music by Bob Dylan, was ignored. The next album Hollies Sing Hollies did not chart in the UK.

Nash's departure saw the Hollies again turn to outside writers for their single A-sides, but the group's British chart fortunes rallied during 1969 and 1970 and they scored four consecutive UK Top 20 hits (including two consecutive Top 5 placings) in this period, beginning with the Geoff Stephens/Tony Macaulay song, "Sorry Suzanne" (Feb. 1969), which reached No.3 in the UK, followed by the emotional civil rights–themed ballad "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother", which featured the piano playing of Elton John, and which reached No.3 in October 1969. The US version of Hollies Sing Hollies added this song and was retitled He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother, reaching No.32 on the US album charts.


The Hollies' next single, "I Can't Tell the Bottom from the Top", again featured the young Elton John on piano and reached UK No.7 in April 1970, charting in twelve countries. The UK hits continued with "Gasoline Alley Bred" (Sep. 1970, UK No.14, Australia No.20[9]), while the Tony Hicks' song, "Too Young to Be Married" — merely an album track in the UK and the US – became a No.1 single in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, also reaching No.9 in Singapore. Allan Clarke's hard edged rocker, "Hey Willy", made No.22 in the UK in 1971, and charted in eight other countries.

Like Graham Nash before him, frontman Allan Clarke by 1971 was growing frustrated, and he too began clashing with producer Ron Richards over material; after seeing Nash's success since departing, he was eager to leave the group and cut a solo album. After the 1971 album Distant Light, which concluded the band's EMI/Parlophone contract in the U.K. (and reached No.21 on the American Billboard chart), Clarke departed from the Hollies in December, a move which surprised both the band's fans and the public in general.

The Hollies signed with Polydor for the UK/Europe in 1972, although their US contract with Epic still had three more albums to run. Swedish singer Mikael Rickfors, formerly of the group Bamboo (who had supported the Hollies in Sweden in 1967), was quickly recruited by the rest of the band and sang lead on the group's first Polydor single "The Baby" (UK No.26, 1972). When Mikael first auditioned for them, he tried to sing in Allan Clarke's range and the results were terrible.[10] The rest of the group decided it might be better to record songs with him, starting from scratch. Terry Sylvester and Tony Hicks blended with Mikael's voice instead of forcing him to blend with their original harmonies[10]There were rumours Mikael couldn't speak a word of English and had to learn the words of "The Baby" phonetically.[10] The rumour about him not knowing English was false; however, he did struggle understanding English words that he himself had not put together.[10]

Meanwhile, in a counter-programming move, Parlophone lifted a Clarke-composed track from the previously-unsuccessful album Distant Light that also featured Clarke on lead vocal and lead guitar, the Creedence Clearwater Revival-inspired "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress". Parlophone released this as a rival single to "The Baby" in February 1972, although it fared relatively poorly in the UK (No.32). In the US, Epic, which owned the rights to Distant Light but had not released it, finally released the album in April 1972 and the single in May 1972. Surprisingly, the song became a smash hit outside of Europe, peaking at No.2 in the US (The Hollies' highest-charting single in the US ever) and No.1 in Australia.[11]

"Long Dark Road", another track from Distant Light with vocals by Clarke, distinctive three-part harmonies, and a harmonica throughout, was then also released as a US single, reaching No.26. As a result, Epic pressured Clarke and The Hollies to reform, despite the fact that they had split over a year previously, placing Rickfors in an awkward position.

Meanwhile, the Rickfors-led Hollies released their first album Romany (which reached No.84 in the US) in October 1972. A second Rickfors-sung single, "Magic Woman Touch" (1972), failed to chart in the UK, becoming the band's first official single to miss the UK charts since 1963, although it did chart in seven other countries, reaching the Top Ten in Holland, New Zealand and Hong Kong. A second Rickfors/Hollies album, Out On the Road (1973), was recorded and issued in Germany. However, with the US success of Distant Light and its singles, Clarke decided to rejoin the band the summer of 1973, and Rickfors then left. Accordingly, no UK or US release was made of Out On the Road, giving this "lost" Hollies album legendary status among the band's fans – and high prices on the original German release.

After Clarke's return, the Hollies returned to the UK Top 30 with another swamp rock-style song penned by Clarke, "The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee" (UK No.24, 1973). In 1974 they scored what was to be their last major new US and UK hit single with the Albert Hammond/Mike Hazlewood-composed love song, "The Air That I Breathe" (previously recorded by Hammond and by Phil Everly on his 1973 solo album, Star Spangled Springer), which reached No.2 in the UK and Australia[12] and made the Top 10 in the US.

After the US failure of the Hollies' single "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)", written by Bruce Springsteen, Epic gave up on the Hollies in the US, combining their two 1975 albums into their last US release of the decade, Clarke, Hicks, Sylvester, Calvert, Elliott (again including the Springsteen song to give it one last chance at success). The Hollies continued to have singles chart hits during the rest of the seventies, but mostly in Europe and New Zealand.

1980s–2000s and beyond[edit][]

In 1980, the Hollies returned to the UK charts with the single Soldier's Song, written and produced by Mike Batt, which was a minor hit in 1980 reaching No.58 in the UK. They also released an album of Buddy Holly covers named "Buddy Holly". In 1981, Calvert and Sylvester left the group. The Hollies issued their last Polydor single "Take My Love and Run" in November 1981 but this failed to chart. Just before that in August 1981 they released "Holliedaze" on EMI, a medley edited together by Tony Hicks from their hit records, which returned them to the UK Top 30. At the request of the BBC, Nash and Haydock briefly rejoined to promote the record on Top of the Pops.

They continued to record and tour throughout the mid-1980s. Graham Nash joined them for the recording of an Alan Tarney song "Somethin' Ain't Right" on 10 September 1981 which led to a proper reunion album What Goes Around...issued on WEA Records in July 1983. The Hollies last hit the US Top 40 with a remake of The Supremes' "Stop in the Name of Love", which reached No.29 in 1983, taken from the album What Goes Around... (released July 1983 and charted in the US on Billboard 200 albums). A live album featuring the Clarke-Hicks-Elliott-Nash re-grouping, Reunion, was recorded at Kings Island Amusement Park in Ohio, during a US tour that followed that same year, finally being issued first in 1997 as "Archive Alive", then retitled "Reunion" (with two extra tracks) in 2004.

After its use in a TV beer commercial (for Miller Lite lager) in the summer of 1988, "He Ain't Heavy" was reissued in the UK and reached No.1, thus establishing a new record for the length of time between chart-topping singles for one artist of 23 years (The Hollies' only previous UK No.1 having been 1965's I'm Alive). By this time bassist Ray Stiles, formerly a member of 1970s chart-topping glam rock group Mud, had joined the permanent line-up.

Also in 1988 saw the release of compilation album "All the Hits & More: The Definitive Collection" which charted in the UK.

1993 was a bright year for the Hollies and their 30th anniversary as a band. A compilation album, "The Air That I Breathe: The Very Best of The Hollies", charted No. 15 in the UK. A new single, "The Woman I Love" charted at No. 42 in the UK.

The Hollies charted in the UK in 2003 and again in 2010 with compilation albums, "Greatest Hits" and "Midas Touch: The Very Best of The Hollies", both from EMI and in CD format. (EMI has released most of the Hollies EMI music on CD over the past 25 years)

The Hollies were awarded an Ivor Novello Award in 1995 for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. They were inducted into the 'Vocal Group Hall of Fame' in the US in 2006.

After Clarke announced his retirement in February 2000, he was replaced by Carl Wayne, former lead singer of The Move. A New Zealand "Hollies Greatest Hits" compilation made number 1 in that country in 2001, dislodging the Beatles' "One" Collection from the top spot. While re-establishing the band as a touring attraction over 2000 to mid-2004, Carl Wayne, however, only recorded one song with them, "How Do I Survive?", the last (and only new) track on the 2003 Greatest Hits (which reached No.21 in the UK Album chart). After Wayne's shocking death from cancer in August 2004, he was replaced by Peter Howarth. The Hollies' first new studio album since 1983, Staying Power, was released in 2006.

The group released their new studio album Then, Now, Always, in late March 2009, featuring Peter Howarth on lead vocals.

In recognition of their achievements, the Hollies were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.[1]

The Hollies released, "HOLLIES LIVE HITS! We Got The Tunes!" a live Double CD featuring The Hollies' live performances recorded during the band's 2012 UK Tour.

2013, the Hollies 50th year, was packed with a world wide 50th Anniversary Concert Tour.

The Hollies still tour with two original members, guitarist Tony Hicks and drummer Bobby Elliott, both whom have contributed to continuing the Hollies' legacy by their enduring talents.

The Hollies in the US[edit][]

The Hollies were one of the last of the major British Invasion groups to have significant chart success in the United States. Their first single was not issued in the US and, although they had a minor US hit in 1964 with Just One Look", it was not until "Look Through Any Window" that the band reached the US Top 40. Many of their early singles that had been major hits in the UK, including "Here I Go Again", "I'm Alive", "Yes I Will" and "We're Through", failed to even reach the Top 100 in the US.

However, from 1966 until after they signed to Epic in 1967, the band had their most concentrated success in the US, including four Top 10 songs ("Bus Stop", "Stop Stop Stop",[13] "On a Carousel", and "Carrie Anne". However, the move to Epic followed by Graham Nash's departure ended this streak; after that, the Hollies had a few more huge hits: "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother" (No.7, 1969), "Long Cool Woman" (No.2, 1972), and "The Air That I Breathe" (No.6, 1974). They did, however, have additional US chart hits with the non-UK singles "Pay You Back With Interest" (No.28 in 1966), "Dear Eloise" (No.50 in 1967), "Long Dark Road" (No.26 in 1972), and "Stop! In the Name of Love" (No. 29 in 1983).

Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame[edit][]

In 2010, the Hollies were included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[14] The band members inducted were Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks, Graham Nash, Eric Haydock, Bobby Elliott, Bernie Calvert and Terry Sylvester.

It was announced that the band would be reuniting with Graham Nash and Allan Clarke for a live performance at the induction ceremony. However, the current incarnation of the band (with HOF inductees Hicks and Elliott) was unable to reschedule a performance in London to attend. The Hollies were represented at the RRHOF ceremony by Clarke, Nash, Sylvester, Haydock and Calvert. Sixty years after first singing together, Allan Clarke and Graham Nash gave a reunion performance consisting of "Bus Stop", "Carrie Anne" (accompanied by Adam Levine and Jesse Carmichael from Maroon 5), and "Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress)" (accompanied by Steve Van Zandt on guitar and Pat Monahan from Train. Terry Sylvester made a surprise and controversial cameo appearance on vocals during this song).

Band members[edit][]

See List of The Hollies members

Current members[edit][]

  • Tony Hicks — guitarsbacking vocalsbanjomandolin, bass, sitar, keyboards (1963 to present)
  • Bobby Elliott — drums (1963 to present)
  • Ray Stiles — bass, backing vocals (1986 to present)
  • Ian Parker — keyboardswoodwinds, backing vocals (1991 to present)
  • Peter Howarth — lead vocals, guitar (2004 to present)
  • Steve Lauri — guitar, backing vocals (2004 to present)


See The Hollies discography