Anne's little autograph book was packed with rock and pop royalty

Dessie Blackadder

Reporter:

Dessie Blackadder

A little red book re-discovered during a lockdown 'clear out' has shone a fantastic light on a vital time in Ballymena's social history.

Generations have heard stories of the famous Flamingo Ballroom in Ballymoney Street - but an autograph collection. lovingly collected by a late Ballymena woman provides superb tangible evidence of the music history which was created in a golden era.

The autographs in the book were collected by the late Anne Webb (nee Harper) who was one of thousands of Ballymena people who were privilged to see some of the biggest stars of the vibrant music scene literally on their doorstep.

To see artists of this calibre nowadays coming to a relatively small market town in Northern Ireland is close to unthinkable but back in the 60s and right through to the early 70s, The Flamingo played host to some of the biggest names - and Anne managed to convince quite a few of them to sign her 'little red book'.

Anne's daughter, Lynsey Jane Webb McKeown, recently shared some pictures of the rock royalty names on social media and the Guardian asked her to expand on the story.

She says: "My mother has been dead for a decade now and is very much missed every day.

"Lockdown 2020 prompted my father Robert Webb to have a clear out and he unearthed this little red book I remember flicking through as a child.

"My mother Anne Webb, formerly Harper was a Ballymena woman most of her adult life, growing up on Thomas Street which is now the taxi office there.

"Her father and grandfather owned Harper's garage across the road, now the opening of the Fairhill. Every time I listen to Roy Orbison I can still hear her singing along and have a vague memory of how sad she was when he died in 1988.

"She was a music lover to the end having "How Great Thou Art" by Elvis played at her funeral.

"This is not a sad story as I smile at the wonderful times she must have had at the Flamingo before marriage and family came along.

"This little red book is not just signatures of some of the greats but snippets of her happy days, memories and laughs at the time."

And what memories these scrawled names from the past will bring back - and how jealous will members of the younger generation be to see just how big a 'draw' the live music scene in Ballymena was more than 50 years ago.

The Guardian is grateful to Lynsey and her father Robert for permission to print a small selection the autographs.

The full collection includes:

Bert Weedon, The King Brothers, Sully, Jimmy Greene, Grace Emanuel, Kenneth McKellar, Paul Allen, Robb Storm

Eden Kane, Mike Preston, Acker Bilk (Stranger on the Shore - first released in 1961 in the UK, and then in the US, and reached number 1 in the US and number 2 in the UK. In May 1969, the crew of Apollo 10 took "Stranger on the Shore" on their mission to the moon. Gene Cernan, a member of the crew, included the tune on a cassette tape used in the command module of the Apollo spacecraft.)

Emile Ford, Monty Sunshine, Micki and Griff, Karl Denver (wimoweh fame), John Barry Seven,Dusty Springfied plus Dusty Springfield signed photo, Them (includes Van Morrison), The Tornados, Sheila Steele, Shane Fenton (AKA Alvin Stardust), Ronnie Carroll, Jim Reeves (The ultimate country'n'western star), Mike Sarne, Marianne Faithfull, Maisie Mc Donnell, Tommy Roe, Jet Harris (Shadows), Kenny Ball his jazz men, Craig Douglas (only 16 fame), The Brook Brothers, Houston Wells, Otolie Patterson, The Rolling Stones, Peter and Gordon (A world without love fame), The Magil 5, The Bachelors, Hank Locklin, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes (constant 60s chart toppers/Silence is Golden), Jimmy Shand MBE, The Rocking Berries, Val Doonican, P J Proby, The Four Pennies, The Seekers (one of the biggest pop/folk groups in history), The Honeycombs (Have I the Right), Ivy League (Funny How Love Can Be), Roy Orbinson, Joe Brown, Freddie and the Dreamers.

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