Thursday, August 09, 2018

Elvis Costello’s Dad Ross McManus “Patsy Girl” - this Guyana’s In Love with You

      For a little while, Ross McManus was "Mr. Patsy Girl," the guy who hit the charts his first time out. "Patsy Girl" was credit to Ross McManus and the Joe Loss Blue Beats. The HMV single (1964) was the solo vinyl debut for a guy already respected as the vocalist for Loss's very popular big band.

       Born Ronald Patrick Ross McManus (October 20, 1927-November 24, 2011), he was both a singer and  trumpet player for Joe Loss. He took his son Declan McManus (Elvis Costello, born in 1954) to some of his gigs and TV tapings. The kid was delighted to meet all kinds of famous musicians thanks to his Dad and the fame of the Joe Loss group. At the height of Beatlemania, his Dad came home one day with...yes...ALL FOUR BEATLES AUTOGRAPHS. Because the large piece of paper couldn’t fit in his autograph book, ELvis cut each signature out individually to preserve.

      Elvis' Dad was an expert musician who could almost instantly memorize any song. He'd slap a tune on the turntable, get it down, and hand off the vinyl to his son. With budget cover version records becoming popular, Ross moonlighted as a mimic, covering a diverse range of artists. For cheap labels such as ROCKET and CANNON, Ross would come into the studio and knock off a bunch of tracks using different voices. He used different names, too. As Hal Prince, he performed Roy Orbison's "It's Over." As Frank Bacon (backed by the Baconeers!) he sang The Beatles "She Loves You." Ross was the lead voice behind mythical groups such as The Layabouts, The Ravers and The Foresters, the latter specializing in folk music. 

       Ross's background in voices was an asset when his first single came out: a novelty A-side done in a Guyanese accent, backed with a jivey variation on Muhammad Ali (see I'm the Greatest" below).

    Pretending to be “of color” is not PC anymore, but there was quite an arc for it, starting with the minstrels and Al Jolson, and wandering through “isn’t he a black guy?” 78 rpm singles by jazz vocalists Frankie Laine and Louis Prima. In 1964, it was ok to goof around with an accent, and "Patsy Girl" did well. Singing ethnic would remain with us through Sting’s ridiculous “Roxanne” and Peter Gabriel’s offensive “Biko,” which can’t pay tribute to an African without mimicking the dialect. 

    In 1964, did people assume Ross McManus was from Guyana? Did they simply think he was a white guy putting on an accent the way Lonnie Donegan fucked around with hillbilly American voices? Most likely people just weren't as fucked up as they are now, and figured that if somebody wanted to cosplay in another dialect, it was a tribute.

     Ross issued one more HMV single, "Stop Your Playing Around" in 1966, and was signed by Decca for a one-off, a cover of Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You." His next and last single, on the Spark label, was a Beatles cover, "The Long and Winding Road" issued under a new name...Day Costello. Altogether now...the DAY would come when another Costello would get a chance at the charts...and come up with hit after hit.

PATSY GIRL - a hit for ROSS MCMANUS listen online or download. No ego type-my-name passwords, no "give me a Paypal tip for my HARD WORK" horse shit.

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