Monday, 20 February 2012

Mervyn Conn interview with Steve Cherelle

Mervyn Conn interview with Steve Cherelle

Steve Cherelle
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The International Festival of Country Music returns to Wembley Arena on Sunday 26th February 2012 and with just a week away Steve Cherelle from BBC Radio Essex / Kent who is a compere talks to legendary Mervyn Conn the festival promoter who promoted the festival which ran for 23 years from 1969 to 1991 at the Wembley Arena.

Mervyn Conn
"Mr. Music Man" Image

Steve Cherelle (SC) - Getting people to go to shows when there’s so much choice for what people can do, and the Internet is such a wonderful thing when you can see people live on their videos and download music. To fill a show up is quite a task these days.

There is a big show coming up next weekend. It’s a MASSIVE MASSIVE Country music show probably the biggest I would say there has been for many years and there are THOUSANDS of people going which is great news. Thank you to the man who has put the show on, his name is Mervyn Conn, Hello Merv. 

Mervyn Conn (MC) - Hello Steven how are you dear?

SC - I’m good where are you at the moment Merv?

MC - I’m sitting in my office, my den, in my house, speaking to you (laughs)

SC - Has it been busy on a Sunday there with the phones ringing?

MC – Err, no I try not to. I have that every day of the bloody week

SC – You are always doing stuff aren’t you? You’ve got a day off now, we know it’s a week away now from the big day. It’s been a massive amount of preparation, organization for you and your team. Is everything coming together now?

MC – Yes it is. We’ve had some horrendous problems. Of course bringing something back after 20-years is monumental because I don’t have the same team that I had 20-years ago because not only did we do the 6-7 festivals that we did each year but  we also did 200 live concerts with the Johnny Cash tours, Tammy Wynette tours plus musicals that I did and other things that I did beside country music. Of course all those people have gone except a couple that I’ve recouped back to me and it’s been a task training people into this and of course times have changed. I had to learn as I’ve gone along how we have to change the marketing of this.

SC – But it’s going well, I’ve seen and heard it on lots of radio and seen it in pretty well much all the big papers. It’s all over the Internet and in the last few weeks I know that the ticket sales, there has kinda been a rush, and it’s gone up. I think that’s the way things are these days isn’t it.    

MC – I’ve had to do some special deals. We’re now giving the top price tickets as a special deal now. You buy one and you get one free. It’s a 2-4-1 deal on top price tickets which we did with the Daily Express Group newspapers. We’ve left that open so if somebody wants to buy top price tickets they will get 2.   

SC – You see that’s just the way the world is now. Its a longtime since the old days of the festival but these days people want that with so many deals. There are bargains all over the place and people want to get a deal, so that’s kind of moving with the times isn’t it?  

MC - Well that’s something that I’ve had to learn since starting this. When I first started this the recession wasn’t as bad as it is now, unemployment wasn’t as hard and a lot of my customers, the country music people, they’ve been hit pretty hard. So I would rather them have the benefit of any loss that I’m personally going to make. Ermm, which I am going to lose money, is for them to have the benefit of 2 tickets for 1 now.    

SC – There are thousands of people going to the show the line up is VERY strong. We know that Lonestar are on Reba McEntire, Asleep At The Wheel, we’re going to talk with Ray Benson from Asleep At The Wheel a little later and Raymond Froggatt’s on George Hamilton IV is definitely on isn’t it, he’s over?  

MC – Oh yes George is coming. We’ve got George Ducas , we’ve got ummm, I haven’t got the line up in front of me. We’ve got 14 ACTS ON! In all the years that I’ve put on the festival I’ve never put 14 acts on in one day. It starts at 2:30 and goes onto 11 o’clock. 

SC – That’s great

MC – Even at the price of the ticket its phenomenal value for the customer and I’ve never let my customer down.

SC – It’s going to be like a rolling show, we’re going to kick off about half past 2 and it’s just going to keep going isn’t it? There’s a very small break but the way its going these things tend to run over I’m sure that probably won’t be a break it will just carry on and when we do a band change over people will have to dash out, grab a quick fag and then come back on.

MC – Well we’ve planned for 3 intervals during the course of the day as people have to go and have a wee. So we’ve tried to do it the best way possible. There will be 3 intervals I’ll make sure of that. People go out they will want to buy some merchandise and look round the stalls that are there and also some of the artists will be on at the various stalls they have got there. So they can shake hands and meet everybody. I hope to meet a lot of my old friends and customers from years ago.        

SC – That will be nice. We’ve got Reba McEntire, Asleep At The Wheel, Lonestar, Ricky Skaggs who we had a lovely chat with. Narvel Felts, George Ducas, Will Banister, George Hamilton IV. Pig Earth are they going to be there?

MC - Yes
SC – They’ve done some of the country music festivals this year, Tim McKay, Raymond Froggatt, John McNicholl who is a MASSIVE Irish act my good self Steve Cherelle and your obviously going to get up and say a few words aren’t you?

MC – I’ll say a few words to my customers, why not?

SC – (laughs) I like that you call them customers
MC – (laughs)

SC – That’s nice, they are your friends
MC -  They’re my friend but they are buying a ticket so they are customers

SC – I know they are. I think it’s nice to call them customers because they keep returning. Merv, enjoy your week in the run up to it. Try and enjoy it now I suppose and I’ll find you on the day. I’ll look for yer.

MC – Mate, look forward to meeting you and I’m sure you’ll do a good job compering the show 

SC – I’ll do me best for you

MC – God bless to you

SC – I’ll see you next week. Thanks very much Mervyn Conn the promoter.
 The phone number for tickets for Wembley is 0844 815 0815 or you can go to Ticketmaster , it’s just a week away.
(interview ends)

Wembley Festival LOGO


Tickets are NOW much cheaper than it was for the Wembley International Festival Of Country Music
( Sun Feb 26, 2012) with Discounted tickets.

Adult tickets start at £30

It's 2 for the Price of One in through Ticketmaster.
1) Go here -

2) Enter offer code/password - “FESTIVAL21
It then shows a small Express / Star Readers Promotion (Code Good for 2 Tickets) window.

About Mervyn Conn:
Born 5 February 1935, is a British music promoter and entrepreneur. He started work in the fashion industry, but by the early 1960s, with the help of his cousin, the comedian Bernie Winters, he had begun running a club, Romano's, in Gerrard Street in Soho, London. He worked closely with agent Joe Collins (the father of Joan and Jackie Collins), and staged the first Beatles Christmas Shows in 1963. He then managed many of the major pop music touring shows in the UK, including those headlined by such bands and musicians as P.J. Proby, The Byrds, Johnny Cash, Chubby Checker, Marlene Dietrich, Sarah Vaughan, Chuck Berry, Peggy Lee, the Red Army Ensemble and many more.

He also directed the Melody Maker Pop Shows held at Wembley Arena in the 1960s, before launching the annual International Festivals of Country Music held at the same venue between 1969 and 1991.
To read more about Mervyn Conn’s amazing life story which straddles many decades from Mervyn's childhood in war-torn Britain to his triumphs in making the International Festival of Country Music at Wembley check out this 256 page publication by Tonto Books (11 Nov 2010) Link:

About Steve Cherelle
He is “an accomplished country music artist” and presents a country music show every Sunday on BBC Radio Essex (Sun 2 – 4 pm)
BBC Show Page He also co-presents the country hour, a  Wednesday evening programme (9pm-10pm) on BBC Radio Kent.

SOURCE – BBC Radio Essex Interview (Broadcast Sunday 19 Feb, 2012), Wikipedia

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