Ashton-on-Mersey Showband

The Band’s History

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.

Early Days

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 was unable to continue his career due to his injuries so he offered his voluntary services to Ashton on Mersey School, where his son was a pupil.
The consequences were amazing. No band existed in 1972 yet by 1973 a small band of 13 children gave a Christmas concert. The story then goes on to read like something from a pre-war Boys' Own paper.

In 1975 the Band toured Ireland and played for the President of Eire, Erskine Childers. It now had 27 members, all trained by Ernie. In 1976 its first LP was cut. This was the first of many LPs, cassettes and CDs and the list is still growing. Also in 1976 it was invited to take part in a national contest for young musicians on BBC TV and won it. 'Settle The Score' was really settled!

Then, 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 H R H the Duke of Edinburgh. By this time the majority of the band had reached school-leaving age.

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.

In August 1987 they were invited to play at Disneyland, Florida, USA, where they were an instant success, so much so that they were invited to play further shows at the EPCOT Centre, Cypress Gardens and Fort Liberty. Their popularity in the UK is so great that audiences follow them from show to show, and seats are booked well in advance,.
During their 1988 tour of the Canary Islands they were given a standing ovation by a German audience of over 1000. Music is truly international.

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.  Each April, the band performs a special concert in Ernie’s name, with specific charities being chosen to benefit from the show. These performances have paid tribute to the big bands, musical theatre and film and are always keenly awaited by the band’s followers.  Donations from these concerts alone have topped £15,000.

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 2 albums under Ivan’s baton, “The Magic Lives On” and “Feeling Good”. These albums help 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. The band had performed this show at the Opera House in Blackpool for many years but re-starting the Festival after a long break was a daunting prospect both for Ivan and the band.  The Stockport Plaza theatre was chosen as the new home for the Festival and it was an immediate success.  The show has included contributions from vocalists, dancers and choirs and the band has been lucky enough to share the stage with the drum corps of the Royal Marines, the Ghurkas, the King’s Division Army Band and, in 2010, the pipes and drums from the Scot’s Guards Association.  

Each year, support for the festival has grown, with the Plaza nearing sell-out each year as audiences come to see the parade of standards, the formal act of remembrance and to enjoy the music.  The Festival pays tribute to those lost in conflict in both World Wars but also more recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Falklands.  All proceeds are donated to Armed Forces Charities with some £10,000 having been raised since the festival’s launch.

So, the Ashton-on-Mersey Showband continues to wow audiences across the Northwest, playing good tunes and showing 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”.

The loyalty and enthusiasm of the band was so great that 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 still has youngsters from all over the area and is registered as an official youth organisation with the borough of Trafford.