Sunday, May 31, 2009

Beatle People: Larry Parnes

Larry Parnes watches the Beatles audition, May 10, 1960 at Wyvern Social Club (The Blue Candle), LiverpoolLarry Parnes (real name Laurence Maurice Palmer) was born in 1930, in Willesden, London; and died on 4 August 1989, in London. He was an English pop manager and impresario. He was jocularly known as "Parnes, shillings and pence," because of his known reticence in paying performers their worth.

Parnes had a reputation for signing male singers and giving them evocative pseudonyms. These included:

* Marty Wilde (born Reginald Leonard Smith)
* Billy Fury (born Ronald William Wycherley)
* Vince Eager (born Roy Taylor, 4 June 1940, Lincoln, Lincolnshire)
* Dickie Pride (born Richard Charles Knellar, 21 October 1941, at 74 Parchmore Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey; died 26 March 1969)
* Lance Fortune (born Chris Morris)
* Duffy Power (born Ray Howard)
* Terry Dene (born Terence Williams)
* Johnny Gentle (born John Askew, 8 December 1940, Nightingale Square, near Scotland Road, Vauxhall, Liverpool)
* Georgie Fame (born Clive Powell)

Joe Brown was the only one to resist Parnes' name changing; he intended to name him "Elmer Twitch." Songwriters like Lionel Bart provided original material.

Parnes auditioned, and then turned down The Silver Beetles - who were yet to change their name to The Beatles - as a backing band for Billy Fury, who also came from Liverpool, but he did employ them to back Johnny Gentle.

In 1967, he announced that he had outgrown the world of pop and would be devoting himself to the theatre. In 1972, he bought the 12 year lease for the Cambridge Theatre. During the 1970s, he administered the business affairs of the Olympic ice-skater John Curry, and in the same decade he held the leases of four London theatres and was the first impresario to bring the hit musical Chicago to the UK. Parnes also persuaded actress Joan Collins to perform her first West End play, The Last Of Mrs. Cheyney in 1976.

Parnes was also a horse racing fan, and owned racehorses, including 'Cambridge Gold,' named after his involvement in the Cambridge Theatre and John Curry. He had a penthouse property in the center of London, and a country mansion in Send, Surrey.

Larry Parnes died from meningitis in London aged 59. It is unknown what happened to Parnes's fortune after his death.

One of the other acts Parnes turned down in this era was pop singer William "Billy" Dean who would later tour with Roy Orbison.


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