Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Beat Svengali - Larry Parnes

BBC 4 is running a Friday night series called Pop Britannia, there have been two already and both featured the man who became known as 'The Beat Svengali' - Larry Parnes (the picture is Lary on the right with Billy Fury). Larry was an old fashioned manager of pop stars, he was dubbed ‘Mr Parnes, Shillings and Pence’ which gives you some idea of where Larry was coming from. Mr Parnes’ theory of guaranteed stardom was simple; you needed the right sounding name. Unlike Americans, whose real names always sounded right, post war Britain suffered from a plethora of Rons, Toms, Johns and even a few Clives. In fact Larry’s inspiration was Rock Hudson, which probably tells you something about Mr Parnes. Once a young hopeful was signed to Larry’s ‘stable of stars’ he was quickly given a name that would look equally at home on a marquee or a Columbia or Pye 45 rpm single.

John Askew – Johnny Gentle
Dave Nelson – Vince Eager
Ray Howard – Duffy Power
Richard Knellor – Dickie Pride
Thomas Hicks – Tommy Steele
Ronald Wycherley – Billy Fury
Reginald Smith – Marty Wilde
Clive Powell – Georgie Fame

There were a very few that got away with a name change, including Peter Wynne. One young man was told he was going to be called Elmer Twitch; somehow common sense prevailed and he stayed plain old Joe Brown.

1 comment:

Richard Evans said...

Richard, there's a hilarious spoof interview with Larry Parnes done by Peter Sellers on Billy Fury's web site. Click on the second Real Audio link at