1929 – 1989
Laurence Maurice Parnes was born on 3 September 1929 to a Jewish family in Willesden, London. After leaving school he began work in a clothing store, and by the age of 18 ran a women’s clothing shop in Romford, Essex. He then bought a share in a bar in Romilly Street, Soho.
In 1956 he signed a young belter called Tommy Hicks, renamed him Tommy Steele, and created Britain’s first rock’n’roll star. Parnes went on to become the most successful British rock manager of the 50s and early 60s.
Known as Larry “Parnes, Shillings and Pence” he organised rock tours and talent contests and had a habit of finding artists – to whom he inevitably gave strange names: Reg Smith became Marty Wilde, Ron Wycherly became Billy Fury, Clive Powell became Georgie Fame, Richard Kneller became Dickie Pride, Ray Howard became Duffy Power and Roy Taylor was renamed Vince Eager.
These artists became known as the ‘Parnes stable of stars’, although most of the stable eventually fell by the wayside.
He gave key breaks to Wilde’s hairdresser Jimmy Tarbuck, and to Rolf Harris, Mike Yarwood and future James Bond theme man John Barry.
At the end of the 1950s, Parnes launched Elempi Records as a haven for young talent, although the short-lived label produced nothing of note.