The Ashton on Mersey Youth Showband was formed early in 1973 as the school band of Ashton on Mersey School, Sale, Cheshire. Its early success was due mainly to the enthusiasm and skill of its musical director Ernie Waites. The secret of the unique sound of the band and its ability to reproduce the sounds of others is quite simple - it never uses published music. Every arrangement was scored by Ernie himself until his passing in 2002 and since then have been scored by the new Musical Director, Ivan Lewis.
Ernie received his training at the famous Kneller Hall and spent his military years playing in the Band of the Green Howards. After a serious road traffic accident he offered his voluntary services to Ashton on Mersey School where, in 1973, a small band of 13 children gave a Christmas concert.
Under Ernie’s leadership the Band toured Ireland and in 1976 its first LP was cut. In 1976 the band was also invited to take part in a national contest for young musicians, 'Settle The Score', on BBC TV and won it with an arrangement called '1776' especially written by Ernie, commemorating the bi-centennial of the American Declaration of Independence.
In 1977 came the biggest surprise of all, an invitation to play at a garden party in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. The majority of the band had reached school-leaving age and so it was decided to take on the name of Ashton-on-Mersey Youth Showband so that band members would not be forced to leave at 16.
The band has toured Belgium, France, Yugoslavia, Cyprus and the Canary Islands, it has appeared at music festivals as far afield as Harrogate, Dubrovnik and Rhodes and, in 1987, they were invited to play at Disneyland, Florida, USA.
With members still playing from the very first days, the band have now dropped the ‘Youth’ from the original title and are now known as the Ashton-on-Mersey Showband.
Keeping the Magic Alive
In 2002 the band suffered the greatest loss of all; that of it's leader, writer and our greatest friend, Ernie. He always said he wanted the band to continue, should anything happen,and so, Ivan Lewis, who had been the lead tenor saxophone player with the band for many years, agreed to become it’s Musical Director.
Under Ivan’s leadership the band has continued to go from strength to strength with new members joining and enjoying the wide variety of music the band plays. The band has also recorded several CD albums which help to chart the progress of the band and are packed full of wonderful melodies underlining the band ethos – “Play good tunes and enjoy yourself”.
In 2005, Ivan decided to bring back the NorthWest Festival of Remembrance siting the concert at the Stockport Plaza theatre. Since then, the show has gained popularity year on year and has included contributions from renowned vocalists through to the drum corps of the Royal Marines and the Ghurkas.
The Festival has raised tens of thousands of pounds for forces charities and pays tribute to those lost in conflict in both World Wars but also more recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Falklands.
As the band surpasses it’s 50th birthday the enthusiasm remains undimmed. Ivan continues to produce new arrangements with the emphasis on good music being retained. The band’s repertoire now boasts music from the 40’s, marches and big band numbers through to arrangements of the greatest musicals, Michael Buble and even Take That!
The dedication of the members, and the reaction of our audiences shows that live music is still the greatest form of entertainment.
We look forward to welcoming you to one of our shows soon as you come to hear “The Best Band in the Land”.