In the 1960s they were East Lancashire’s answer to The Beatles and after nearly 50 years they’re still going strong, with a full UK tour for autumn 2011. We spoke to one of the area’s most famous residents — The Hollies’ drummer Bobby Elliott.

FROM the back streets of Burnley to the prestigious American Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Bobby Elliott has lived out his childhood dream.

Born and brought up in Chiltern Avenue, in the Pike Hill area of Burnley, Bobby's early drumming days began on a makeshift drumkit made up of household items from his mother's corner shop.

As the drummer for one of the leading British groups of the 1960s and 1970s, Bobby achieved worldwide success. And along with The Rolling Stones and The Searchers, The Hollies are one of the few British pop groups of the early 1960s that have never officially broken up and continue to record and perform.

“I never wanted to do anything else,” recalled the 68-year-old former Nelson Grammar School pupil, currently on the road with The Hollies’ latest sell-out tour, coming to The Lowry, Salford Quays this month.

“My mum bought the bungalow shop on the corner and we lived in the back. I used to take biscuit tins from the shop to use as drums, and I had baking tins for cymbals.

“My grandad, Alf Precious, had a plumber's merchants next door and it was like a treasure chest of instruments.

"Sometimes I would sit in front of our radiogram and emulate brush specialist Chico Hamilton of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet. I'd swish my homemade copper wire brushes over the newspaper, placed atop the French polished sideboard in my parents' home. Dad was a master cabinet maker. He'd made that piece of furniture with his bare hands. I still have it."

Bobby, who still lives in the area on the outskirts of Colne, bought his first proper drum kit aged 16.

"It must have come from the Ark," he joked.

It set him back two pounds and 10 shillings, many weeks worth of pocket money.

"I saved up for ages until I could buy it," Bobby remembered. "I'd go to The Sefton pub at Colne every Saturday and not go out with my chums.

"I'd just sit there all night until the drummer got off the drums to sing, and he'd shout me up 'Come on Robert' and I'd fill in for three numbers, and I was in heaven."

It was around the same time when Bobby met his future wife and in turn his lifelong music partner, fellow Hollies bandmate Tony Hicks, originally from Nelson.

"It was very strange how we met. I'd met a girl called Maureen (Bobby's late wife) at Butlins and I went to visit her. We were back at her house sat on the sofa in Bankhouse Road, Nelson, and there was this guitar in the corner.

"It turned out it belonged to Tony Hicks, my future brother in law. Not long after I joined his first band The Dolphins."

While they were making a name in the music business around the North West the pair also held down apprenticeships to keep their parents happy that they had a 'back up' if the band didn't make it.

Bobby said: "Tony was a an apprentice electrician and I was an apprentice mechanic. We used to play gigs all over and then get up at 6am for our jobs.

"I remember going to my boss to hand my notice in and he laughed and said he'd keep my job open for me. I obviously never went back," he smiled.

Of course, it was with The Hollies that Bobby had his big break. With more than 30 hit records released though EMI Records and countless international tours, they were among the UK's biggest stars of the Swinging Sxties, and continue to sell out arenas to this day.

Last year they were honoured by the prestigious American Rock And Roll Hall of Fame for their impact on the evolution of popular music.

Bobby recalled the early days: "There was no end to churning out the hits at one time. We'd be at Abbey Road Studios and across the corridor in another studio there would be The Beatles.

"We'd have cups of teas with them and hang out. When we were new we'd both be there a lot as we'd have to earn our stripes. We'd record all day and even through the night because we thought that was the thing to do. It was great fun."

And there's no slowing down this veteran rock and roll star anytime soon, with not even a hint of retirement on the cards.

"It's unbelievable that we're still going, it really is," Bobby said. "I come off stage and I feel so fortunate that we're still doing this.

"We still have a party after the gigs like the old days but it's perhaps not until quite as late as it used to be. I never want to retire. The feeling I get from it is the best ever.

"I do like to come home after gigs, though. Most of the band moved down south years ago but I never really wanted to move away."

And with that he bid me good day and went to do his weekly shop at Tesco in Burnley. It doesn't get much more rock and roll than that!