THE RUSS BALLARD BAND
A musician without a band? What works in a studio, remember Russ's first solo record, will never work on stage. That's why Russ is always surrounded by great musicians and ..friends live on stage. Find here short portraits about the members of the Russ Ballard Band.
BOB HENRIT - DRUMS
Russell and I have been playing together since the time when we had just become spotty teenagers; so if you know how old we are now (Wikipedia will probably help) you’ll be able to ascertain how long that is. I make it we’ve made three score years’ worth of journeys around the sun together?
Believe it or not there was a time not long before this when we weren’t together. I was in a skiffle group, coincidentally called The Roulettes, while RGB and his brother Roy were in a rival one called Rick Nichol and The Rebels. Eventually I joined the Ballard Brothers in firstly ‘Norman Eddy and the Imperials’ then ‘Buster Meikle and the Daybreakers’. We auditioned successfully for EMI records but even though Russell and myself were ready for stardom, Buster Meikle wasn’t. I was given the chance of a lifetime to play with Adam Faith’s Roulettes and grabbed it whereupon Russell followed me a few months later. We were together again.
While we got on with learning about the business and how to be ‘all round entertainers’ Buster Meikle had perversely decided perhaps he actually did want to be a star and had become part of a vocal group called ‘Unit 4’. We were asked to play on their second record called ‘Concrete and Clay’ and became the eponymous + 2. Against all odds it became a huge million-selling hit around the world. We all came to the end of our time with Terry Nelhams and all us Roulettes set-off for La belle France with a new boss - Richard Anthony.
We came back to the UK not long after England had won the World Cup and we both joined Unit 4 for a year or so whereupon we bumped into Rod Argent who played us a bunch of great songs before asking us to join his new post-Zombies band - Argent. This was just before the end of what the media dubbed the ‘Swinging Sixties’. A few years later came the time when Russell jokingly claims I abandoned him!
Actually I didn’t, I went on playing with Argent followed by a stint with the band’s scaled-down off shoot - Phoenix. Charlie came next followed by extended touring and recording stints with (amongst others) Ian Mathews and Don McLean. Having played on both of Dave Davies’ two albums I was performing in an occasional 10-piece Blues Band called GB Blues Company with Jimmy Rodford and spotted Raymond Douglas Davies in the audience. We spoke afterwards and he invited me to firstly record with The Kinks, then to throw my lot in with them for good.
Quite some time later, RGB called to ask what I was up to because he needed me to play with him. We’d come full-circle and the rest is history. We sped off to Germany and most days we’d sit on the bus telling stories about our life together to the rest of the guys. Firstly to the two Chrisses and Steve; then Skeaty, then Stewie. All of whom lulled me into a false sense of security making me think there was a possibility to put all these anecdotes into print. ‘Banging On!’' was the result of our bus conversations. I’d like to think everything printable about Russell and my life together is laid out there.
But just in case it’s not, come here there’s more. I haven’t finished yet. ‘On the road again’ is my latest offering - coming to an Amazon near you as soon as I stop finding stories to add to it. Oh and while I’m on the subject I’m working on something which is so top secret if I told you about it I’d have to kill you. Watch this space.
MIKE STEED - BASS
Michael's first taste of the global stage came when he landed the bass job with English cult goth rockers Flesh For Lulu and their extensive US tours in the late 1980s.
When he was back at home he enjoyed pub gigs with Bill Hurley and a selection of high-calibre players including Würzel from Motorhead, Spider from The Pogues, Gypie Mayo and The Big Figure from Doctor Feelgood, and Ian Gibbons from The Kinks.
Michael has also seen a lot of Europe and the Far East with a whole host of national musical treasures such as Love Affair, Chip Hawkes, Marmalade, The Rubettes, and Mike Pender; and artists poles apart stylistically, from Philip Goodhand Tait to the widely-banned Judge Dread and then American blues legend Junior Wells, who gave him the nickname Dusty, after his penchant for tackling the more dusty end of the neck ☺
He also had stints in The Rocky Horror Show, The Blues Brothers, and Into The Shadows.
He's one of the few lucky bassplayers to gig with both drummers from The Kinks (Mick Avory, and of course, Bob Henrit).
The highlight of Michael's musical career, as he is very happy to tell you, is playing in Russ Ballard's band.
ROLY JONES - GUITAR
My musical career has had many twists and turns (mainly turns) and has enabled me to be a band member with some wonderful musicians and performers, including recording artists Carey Duncan, Michael Schenker, Jim Capaldi and Joe Brown. My most recent band was Leader of Down which was formed by my old friend Würzel of Motörhead fame. I contributed lead (shouty) vocals and lead guitar until I contracted pneumonia which put a premature end to my involvement.
However, like Steedy, the highlight of my musical career, is playing in Russ Ballard's band!
Let me elaborate.
My parents had a valve powered radiogram that used to take about half an hour to warm up. On this they played their collection of old 78s music which my eldest brother Roger augmented with his selection of 33rpm classical albums. However it was when my other brother Nigel brought Adam Faith and the Roulettes’ 45s into the house that I was hooked. I remember miming “Soon You’ll Be Leaving Me” over and over, Nigel pretending to play drums whilst I mimed on Meccano bolted together to resemble a Stratocaster shape! Being very perceptive, my wonderful parents realised that I couldn’t get a tune out of my Meccano Strat so they bought me a ukulele one Christmas. I was soon bashing out chords with the help of brother Roger and a “First Step to Playing Ukulele” book which had no Roulettes songs in it, much to my chagrin. In the end I learnt everything by ear. Later Dad bought me my first electric guitar (which was remarkably easy following my ukulele exploits) and my cousin Edgar set me up with an old valve hi-fi amplifier and loudspeaker. Around the same time Mum bought me a brand new cassette recorder, so between them they inadvertently gave me the very basic tools of my future career, as a musician and as a recording engineer/producer. I always wrote my own songs too - well, no one could say “That was a wrong note!” or “It doesn’t go like that!”
Since those Meccano Strat days I have followed the exploits of Russ and Bob and their involvement with Argent, so to actually be part of the next chapter is pretty amazing. It couldn’t be any better if I’d just joined the Beatles.
CLAIRE GORDON - VOCALS
Claire Gordon has been a professional singer from the young age of 19 when she joined the first of many show-bands, touring the UK and abroad as lead and backing vocalist. After many years of travelling the world singing she featured in several of the UK’s leading ABBA tribute shows, finally leaving to provide backing vocals in a touring theatre production of ELVIS PRESLEY, mostly providing the soprano and operatic vocals in the group.
These days Claire runs her own Abba tribute show (VIVA ABBA!) although her main focus is her band ‘THE COUNTRY CHIX’ which is loosely based on (and inspired by) her favourite band ‘The Dixie Chicks.’ Claire also plays acoustic guitar and learnt to play classical as a child which has paid off as she is in her element whilst singing and playing guitar in the Country Chix!
For the last 15 years or so Claire’s voice has featured in many TV and radio advertisements and jingles in the UK and she has provided backing vocals for recordings to great artists as Tony Christie & P.J Proby. She is now thrilled to be providing her ‘high range’ voice in the Russ Ballard Band and couldn’t be happier! Claire says “It’s not just a job but an absolute joy!”
MARC RAPSON - KEYBOARDS
Marc’s work in the music industry is the epitome of a portfolio career. With 25 years’ experience as a gigging musician, performing with artists such as Kim Wilde and Ben Westbeech (Brownswood Recordings), as well as working in high end function bands as a musical director, Marc has a broad range of experience as a live player. His career highlights have included performing on Later… with Jools Holland and playing to stadium crowds across Europe.
Marc is a seasoned writer and producer, having worked with artists including Grace Davies, Kenny Thomas and Janet Devlin. In 2017 Marc released the single 'Heat' on prominent UK House label Defected which hit the number 1 spot on Traxsource and was featured in DJ Mag's Top 10 Hype Chart.
Marc’s remix portfolio includes Marvin Gaye, Sarah Vaughan, Atjazz, Scrimshire (Wah Wah 45s), Bennson (Raw Fusion) and various artists on Friday Fox Recordings.
Steve is a well known session keyboard player and member of the Russ Ballard Band for many years. He toured with Russ in Germany, Portugal, Japan and the United Kingdom!
He is a man with many talents, working in the music business for a very long time as keyboard player, sound engineer, song writer, arranger and producer.
Steve is the owner of the 'Room with a view' recording studio, which opened in 1986.
Chris is a long time friend and co writer, doing vocals/keys/saxophone & guitar in the band.
He has done years of TV music including worldwide ‘The New Professionals” 13 week series. In 2001 Chris co wrote with Russ the song “No Dream impossible” for Lindsay Dracass. After winning the Song for Europe contest Lindsay and the song represented the UK at the Eurovision. “No Dream Impossible” reached nr 32 in the UK charts in May that year.
Chris co wrote/produced with Russ for his album 'The Seer' and and also co wrote 'Hope' (featuring Nelson Mandela) with Russ for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Together they toured Germany/Portugal/Japan/UK.
Chris has had publishing deals with Island/EMI/Universal and BMG and has done numerous albums for Don Reedman/Jeff Jarratt. In 2017 he has written and produced 2 albums with Joe McKelderry for Bill Kenwright.
Bob Skeat is best known as bass-department in the British Rock band Wishbone Ash. From the 60s to the 80s he was one of the top session musicians in the UK.
He toured Germany and Portugal with Russ.
Chris Childs is a well known British bass player who played with artists like Paul Young, Andy Summers, Colin Blunstone and of course Russ Ballard. Since 1996 he is member of the hard rock band Thunder and plays also the bass in Tyketto and Ultimate Eagles.
He toured with Russ several times in Germany.
Stuart played the Tokyo-shows in 2014 and Russ's 2016 UK-Tour.
Bill featured as guitarist in the band that Russ assembled in 1976 after leaving Argent. He had previously played in Curly alongside drummer Alan Wickett. The 1976 line-up played two dates in the UK as well as several in America including the Bottom Line in New York. Bill was later worked with Russ again, this time as a member of the Barnet Dogs, contributing guitar to their albums, Barnet Dogs and Into the Fire.
Over the years, Bill, has worked with a number of high-profile artists including Jimmy James and the Vagabonds and Cliff Richard. He now lives in Ireland, where he continues to write, record and tour.
Photo-credit: Unfortunately, we don't know, who took the picture. Bill remembers it was somebody in the crowd. If it was you - let us know.
Bass guitarist Tony Lester joined Russ Ballard in 1975 for his band’s appearance on BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test and remained with him into 1976 when Bill Roberts and Wally Wilson took over from Jeff Skates and Roy Ballard on guitar and keyboards respectively.
After working with Russ, Tony hooked up with Bandit, replacing Cliff Williams who left for AC/DC. When Jim Diamond left Bandit to form PhD, Tony established himself as the band’s principle songwriter, his song One Way Love reaching No.76 in the American Billboard charts.
Photo-credit: Nicky Lester
Accomplished drummer and percussionist Alan “Sticky” Wickett played a pivotal role in helping Russ assemble his touring band of 1976. Having left Curly, the band that backed Russ a year earlier at a CBS Records Convention, Alan re-joined Russ and recommended Bill Roberts and Tony Lester. Together with Wally Wilson on keyboards, the Russ Ballard Band took to the road for international live and TV appearances. Alan was also involved in the recording of the demo of So You Win Again, which was originally intended for release by the band. He was certain that they had a hit record on their hands. Unbelievably, management felt the song was more suited to Hot Chocolate, and their instincts proved right when the record soared to No.1 in the UK charts.
Alan went on to work with several major names in the music business including Steve Gibbons, Steve Marriott, Chris Barber and, amazingly, his childhood musical hero Lonnie Donegan. After Lonnie died, Alan decided to fulfil his ambition of forming his own ‘Swing Orchestra’, which has become successful on the UK Swing Dance scene. When he is not touring with his swing orchestra, Alan continues to work with other artists, most notably the Becki Brindle Band. When he is not touring or recording, Alan is an avid collector of vintage drums and percussion.
Alan says “My time with Russ and the band will always be special as it was the first ‘break’ in my career path. Working with him and playing his wonderful tunes was such a joy.”
Photo-credit: Alan Wickett