The Hollies were one of the top acts in the 60's and early 70's. They offered up timeless songs and their harmonies are among the best of the Rock Era. The Hollies continue to tour and release albums to this date, although many of their original members are not in the group.
The group formed in Manchester, England with childhood friends Allan Clark (on lead vocals) and Graham Nash (on guitars and vocals) joined by Vic Steele on guitar, bassist Eric Haydock and drummer Don Rathbone. Clarke and Nash had already performed together under various names, including the Guytones, the Two Teens and Ricky and Dane.
Nash has said that the group named themselves the Hollies in admiration for Buddy Holly. In 1963, Tony Hicks replaced Steele and Bobby Elliott replaced Rathbone. The group was signed to Parlophone Records. Bernie Calvert, who was a member of the group the Dolphins with Hicks and Elliott, replaced Haydock in 1966.
The Hollies were discovered by Ron Richards of EMI Records; Richards produced their albums through 1979. They first specialized in cover songs and performed songs given to them by writers such as Graham Gouldman. The group's first single was "Ain't That Just Like Me" in 1963, which hit #25 in the U.K. They followed that with a remake of the Coasters' hit "Searchin", which reached #12. The Hollies released their first album Stay with the Hollies in 1964, which yielded their first Top 10 in the U.K. ("Stay", again a remake (of Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs' hit)). But soon, three members of the group (Nash, Clarke and Hicks) began writing their own songs. The Hollies' first original song was "We're Through" in 1964, but they continued to score hits with songs written by Clint Ballard, George Harrison, Gouldman (the smash "Bus Stop") and Burt Bacharach & Hal David. Two other early hits were "Look Through Any Window" and "Just One Look".
But from 1966 on, the three talented songwriters in the group provided the Hollies with all their hit songs. These included great songs like "I Can't Let Go", "Stop, Stop, Stop", "On a Carousel", "Pay You Back with Interest" and "Carrie-Anne".
Nash wanted to go deeper in his songwriting but when "King Midas in Reverse" only reached #18, that "failure" (most groups would love to reach #18!) was one of the factors in Nash deciding to leave the group. Another was Nash's dislike of fans drowning out the songs with screaming. He would, of course, move to Los Angeles and later join the supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash with ex-Byrds member David Crosby and ex-Buffalo Springfield member Stephen Stills.
Nash was replaced by Terry Sylvester, a member of the Escorts and the Swinging Blue Jeans. Sylvester was an important choice for he too could write songs. With that lineup, the Hollies produced the U.K. hit "Sorry, Suzanne". In 1969, the group scored one of their biggest hits and certainly one that will live the longest in the Neil Diamond song "He Ain't Heavy...He's My Brother".
If that song doesn't affect you, you aren't human. Elton John played piano on that song as well as on the Hollies' next single "I Can't Tell the Bottom From the Top". The Tony Hicks-penned song "Too Young to be Married" found new audiences, reaching #1 in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia. The Allan Clarke song "Hey Willy" charted in eight countries.
In 1971, Alan Clarke, like Nash, was becoming frustrated with producer Richards over material, and left the group to pursue a solo career. His solo effort is best exemplified by the hit "Slipstream". Mikael Rickfors of the group Bamboo replaced Clarke on lead vocals and the Hollies signed with Polydor Records. In the meantime, EMI took a track from their album Distant Light done with Clarke and released it as a single. That song "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" became the biggest hit of the Hollies' career. "Long Dark Road" featuring Clarke was also released in 1972.
A song from Rickfors, "Magic Woman Touch" became the first single to fail to chart in the U.K. since 1963, but it was a hit in seven other countries, reaching the Top 10 in Holland, New Zealand and Hong Kong. In 1974, Clarke returned to the group and the Hollies released their last major hit song--"The Air That I Breathe", a remake of a Phil Everly solo hit.
In 1981, Calvert and Sylvester left the group shortly after releasing an album of Buddy Holly covers. Prompted by the BBC, Nash and Haydock briefly reunited with the group to promote "Holliedaze", a medley of the group's hit records, on the British television show "Top of the Pops". Nash recorded with the group on the Alan Tarney song "Somethin' Ain't Right" in 1981 and the album What Goes Around, released in 1983. The group toured the United States with Clarke, Hicks, Elliott and Nash and a concert at Kings Island Amusement Park in Ohio was recorded. That recording was released in 1997 as Archive Alive then retitled Reunion in 2004.
In 1988, bass guitarist Ray Stiles, formerly with the group Mud, joined the lineup. The Hollies were awarded an Ivor Novello Award in 1995 for Outstanding Contribution to British Music.
The group still tours but with only two original members--Hicks and Elliott. Clarke retired in 1999 and was replaced by former lead singer of the Move, Carl Wayne. Wayne died from cancer in August, 2004 and was replaced by Peter Howarth. The new lineup produced the first group's first studio album in 23 years called Staying Power. In 2009, the Hollies released Then, Now, Always.
On December 18, 2009, the Hollies were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio and on March 15, 2010, the group accepted the award. Clarke, Nash, Sylvester, Haydock and Calvert represented the group and gave a reunion performance 47 years after they first began together. They sang "Bus Stop", "Carrie Anne" (accompanied by Jesse Carmichael and Adam Levine from Maroon 5) and "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" (with help from guitarist Steve Van Zandt and Pat Monahan of Train.
The Hollies' string of hits in the 60's was rivaled by few in the decade. The group remains one of the most successful and best-loved bands of the Rock Era.