Billy Steele & The Strollers

On stage at the Westfield Welfare

Billy Steele and The Strollers were a popular and successful group during the sixties based in Maryport.

They played regularly in the Palace Ballroom (later the Civic Hall) and supported many of the headlining acts which came to the Palace which was in those days a relatively major venue.

A listing of the headlining groups playing at the Palace, together with the supporting groups (usually The Strollers) can be seen on the Palace Ballroom page and many of the posters featuring
The Strollers on the End of the Palace page.

The band was formed by a group of schoolfriends who attended Netherhall school in Maryport, Billy having sung in the school choir. They found that they shared similar tastes in music such as that of Buddy Holly and the Crickets and Ciff Richard and The Shadows.

The founder members of the group were Robin Melville on drums, John Manchester on lead guitar and Jim English on bass.

When they left school they were joined by Billy Steele on vocals and David Stubbs also on guitar. David and John also provided the backup vocals for Billy. David's brother Alan was a member of The Electrons

Kendal Town Hall

Initially, like most groups in their early stages, they practised in attics, sheds and anywhere else they could find until they became proficient enough to play in public.

They then had the idea of asking the leader of the Palace's dance band, Bobby Key, if they could play during the dance band's 20 minute interval during the Saturday dances. Bobby in turn suggested to them that they should ask Cyril Martin, the manager of the Palace, if they could rehearse in the Palace itself.

So started the long association of the Strollers with the Palace. Their 20 minute spot grew to 50 minutes and then two spots as the days of the dance band came to an end and the beat groups took over. The Strollers became the principal attraction at the Palace drawing up to 600 people on Saturday nights.

At this point they were earning the magnificent sum of £7.10s (£7.50) between them! Other venues were not so handsomely paid. The Tanner Hop (i.e. it cost 6d to get in!) at Siddick on Tuesdays paid only £2.50 but with 75p extra for transport. Wisely they invested their earnings in new equipment and by 1964 had £1500 worth of gear.

Whenever nationally famous bands came to the Palace to appear on the midweek shows the Strollers were the first choice to support them.During the peak years of the sixties beat boom they supported most of the great names such as The Hollies, The Searchers, Herman's Hermits, The Animals, The Four Pennies, The Mojos, Wayne Fontana, The Fourmost and the late lamented Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages.

Appearing alongside such names enhanced their growing reputation and they played at venues all over Cumberland and Westmorland (now Cumbria) and into Southern Scotland. One night in Dumfries they played in front of 2000 people

In 1964 David Stubbs left the Strollers, who carried on as a foursome before being joined for 4 months by George Scott on guitar and subsequently David Stubbs returned for a couple of months.

They were then joined by Ian Todd on guitar and vocals. In 1965 Jim English left and was replaced by Ronnie Bird. This lineup lasted until the band disbanded in 1966.

In 1990 The Strollers reformed to celebrate their silver jubilee and again in 1995. Both performances taking place in front of sell-out crowds and and in aid of charity.

The information and illustrations for this page were kindly supplied by Robin Melville who subsequently went on to feature in other local bands such as Mid-Stream and Late Harvest who are both documented elsewhere on this site.

Billy Steele & The Strollers with Sister Act
in 2005

Billy With Sister Act & Shindig in 2006

Three original members of the Strollers were got together by Robin Melville for a charity gig in the Bounty Inn in Maryport in June 2004.

The lineup included Robin Melville on drums, Billy Steele on vocals and John Manchester on lead.guitar. They were joined on stage by two of Robin's sons, Neil on rythmn guitar and Mark on bass. In support were girl duo 2Hot To Handle and local singer Willy Lowes.

The gig was so successful it was repeated in June 2005 at the same venue to a sell out crowd.

The second gig was a much more spectacular affair with a similar line up performing a two and a half hour show which included 2 Hot To Handle doing 70s to modern-day material and live set of 60s songs with Emma, Sarah and Keri later providing female vocal backing for Billy Steele for a 1 hour rock'n'roll set.

These gigs raised over £1200 for Maryport Cottage Hospital.

In 2006 another charity gig was arranged by Robin at the Maryport Civic Hall (still "The Palace" to those of us of a certain age!). The show, which was a sell-out, starred Billy, Lenny (of The Silhouettes) and Jimmy McLean (The Inspirations and Portus Albus).
Sister Act and Shindig appeared as well and also backed the other acts.

Robin in the driving seat

Billy still rockin' in 2006

Lenny Robson (left) and Billy Steele (centre) with Sister Act