The British Beat Poet

Who was backed by The Shadows, Jimmy Page then The Beatles
When they were still unknown

Biography & Work
Royston Ellis is a British writer, biographer and poet. As poet, he’s the main British representative of the Beat Generation. England's answer to Allen Ginsberg. As Richard Tresillian, he wrote The Bondmaster series of historical novels.

Born Christopher Royston George Ellis, on February 10, 1941, in Pinner, England, he attended state school there until the age of 16.
After he left school in 1957, he had various jobs: office boy, duster salesman, gardener, milk-bottle washer, building labourer, and farm hand.
In 1959, by the age of 18, when he started to publish poems, heavily influenced by the American Beat poets such as Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg, he already wore a beard, looking like a beatnik.
Since April 1958, “Beatnik” was coined by Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle columnist, to describe followers of the Beat Generation.

He began his career with two poetry collections: "Jiving To Gyp" (1959) and "Rave" (1960).

In the following years, he performed these sequences of poems on stage and TV (e.g.‘Living for Kicks’), accompanied by rock music. His mix of poetry and rock music was called "rocketry. From 1960 to 1961, he was backed by some of greatest British Beat Musicians such as The Shadows, Jimmy Page (later of Led Zeppelin) and the Beatles when they were still unknown. It was Ellis who suggested these latters spell Beetles with an "a" instead of the "e", as they were inspired by the Beat generation and played beat music.

In 1960 for his literary achievements he was awarded the title Duke Gypino de Redonda by the king of that Caribbean island.
In 1962, he left England for a life of travel – “always on the road” as Jack Kerouac would have suggested. This long trip took him to Berlin, Moscow, Guernesey, the Canary Islands, the Maldives, Dominica and finally Sri Lanka where he now lives since 1980.
During his trip to Moscow, he appeared with the Russian poet Yevtushenko. In the Canary Islands, he acted as an Arab with Cliff Richard in the movie "Wonderful Life". In Guernesey, in Summer 1963, he met up the fab Four once again and later inspired them two songs: "Paperback Writer" (Parlophone single, 1966) and "Polythene Pam" (Abbey Road, LP, 1969).
From 1966 to 1980 he lived in Dominica, becoming President of the Dominica Cricket Association, a member of MCC and of the Windward Islands Cricket Board of Control. There, he became the estate developer for the Marquis of Bristol and a Reuters correspondent. He also edited “The Educator”, a journal favorable editorially to the Premier, Edward Le Blanc.

In 2003 was appointed as the Warden of the Galle District for the British High Commission. He writes travel features for inflight, international and Sri Lankan magazines.

His Work

He’s the author of over 60 published books: guides, travel books, novels, biographies and volumes of poetry.

Volumes of Poetry:
• Jiving To Gyp (1959)
• Rave (1960)
• The Rainbow Walking Stick
• The Mattress Flowers
• The Cherry Boy
• Driftin' With Cliff Richard (with Jet Harris, 1959)
• The Big Beat Scene (1961)
• The Shadows By Themselves (1961)
• Rebel, the story of James Dean (1962)
• A Man for All Islands
• Toni, the Maldives Lady: My Story (1999)

• Myself For Fame (1964)
• The Flesh Merchants (1966, Canary Islands)
• The Rush At The End
• A Hero In Time (2001)
• Sweet Ebony (Kenya)

As Richard Tresillian:
• The Bondmaster (Windward Islands)
• Blood of the Bondmaster
• The Bondmaster Breed
• Bondmaster Buck
• Bondmaster Revenge
• Bondmaster Fury
• Fleur
• Fleshtraders (Mauritius)
• Giselle
• Master of Black River
• Black River Affair
• Black River Breed
• Bloodheart
• Bloodheart Royal
• Bloodheart Feud

Guides/Travel books:
• India by Rail (1993)
• Sri Lanka By Rail
• Bradt Guide to Mauritius
• Bradt Guide to Maldives
• Bradt Guide to Sri Lanka
• Festivals of the World: Trinidad
• Festivals of the World: Madagascar
• A Maldives Celebration (With photographer Gemunu Amarasinghe)
• The Sri Lanka Story
• The Growing Years, 150 years of the Ceylon Planters Association
• History of the Grand Hotel
• History of the Tea Factory Hotel

‘Jiving to Gyp’, released in 1959, was dedicated to Cliff Richard.

Royston Ellis: “My first book, Jiving to Gyp (gyp means hell) published when I was 18, contained raunchy atheistic poems.”

‘The Big Beat Scene’ was one of the first-ever books about the British music scene. It still stands up as an appraisal of early British rock ‘n’ roll

‘Myself For Fame’ (1964) about a fictional pop star, with a chapter set in Liverpool recounting his experiences with The "Beetles" in 1960.
Royston Ellis: “I based a chapter on the Jacaranda in a novel I wrote in which the Beatles feature as the Rythmettes.”

‘The Bondmaster’ described the lives and loves of 19th century West Indian whites and the workers on their estates.

‘Fleshtraders’, again about 19th century miscegenation and adventures, set in Mauritius.

‘A Hero in Time’ (2001) details the atrocities of the 16th century Portuguese in their attempts to convert to Christianity and colonize the Islamic Maldives.

‘A Man for All Islands’ is a biography of the Maldives former president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was a good friend of Ellis.

‘Sweet Ebony’ is a fiction which follows the travels of a group of Americans through Kenya, in which these characters echo the Beatniks of generations past.

Excerpts Poems by Royston Ellis


Royston Ellis
The two books are sequences of poems that tell a story.
…my idea was to get young people interested in poetry so I thought of performing it with rock music instead of with classical or jazz music as some poets were doing.

“For an Old Man’s Sorrow” and “Rouse, Fizzle & Plop” originally appeared in “THE RAINBOW WALKING STICK” by Royston Ellis "to commemorate his twentieth birthday on February 10, 1961, and his attainment of middle age, Royston Ellis respectfully dedicates this pamphlet to the friends of his teenage years."

"Break me in Easy" was the poem Royston read backed by the Beetles at the Jacaranda Pub, in Liverpool, in early June 1960.

His new concept of poetry/rocketry consisted in fusing highbrow spoken verse together with lowbrow – or, rather, no-brow – live Rock’n’Roll.

“For an Old Man’s Sorrow”
Straight sears of taut temptation
Like a warm trickle of weary disgust.
Whelp and flow for an old man’s sorrow
And his struggle to tumble tonight.

A smiling creature smelling sweet
Shouting and strutting so young
Was a whisper of some secret wish
To an old man’s mind torn by time…

“Rouse, Fizzle & Plop”
No One is to blame
The Newspapers were rustling to work
When I saw
The One-arm-bandit
Wheeled up Wardour Street

Someone spoke. He was
A seraphic sort of fellow
Blotched by gnat bites
Clean as a queer…

Royston Ellis
“I suppose I read these at the session attended by John Lennon (and Bill Harry) in the audience at Liverpool University. However, the poem I read backed by the Beetles was called "Break me in Easy" and Paul [McCartney] remembers it to this day (he quoted it to me when we met by chance in a bar in Paris in 2006).”

"Break me in Easy"
Easy, easy,
break me in easy.

Sure I'm big time,
cock-sure and brash,

but easy, easy,
break me in easy.

Sure they've been others,
I know the way...

(From Rave published by Scorpion Press, May 1960)

Royston Ellis
“When I met Paul [McCartney] in the bar at Le Bristol in Paris in 2006, after a few minutes of conversation, he - without any prompting from me - quoted the poem to me, but suggested it was better if it began:
“Easy, easy
squeeze me in easy.”

It was pretty impressive to hear Paul remembering one of my poems 46 years after we performed it together at the Jacaranda in Liverpool!”

The performances were very informal and only for a few minutes

Royston Ellis
The Shadows, the Beatles or Jimmy Page
They were all different. Obviously the Shadows were smoother and more
professional. I performed only once with The Beetles (as they then
were) at the Jacaranda Club ….
It was only later when I read the letter in International Times from John
Lennon about he and Paul, Stuart and George backing me, that I recalled
it had happened. Jimmy Page was very dedicated to my poetry, understood
it, and we worked well together, producing a dramatic presentation that
was well received both on Tv and stage (London's Mermaid Theatre).

John Lennon writing in International Times 31 May-13 June 1973 issue stated: "Royston read his poetry whilst we played 12/bar blues at the local in-place.”

an interview with Hank B Marvin by Paul Guy, Sweden, 2002.
“There was a book written in about 1961, I think - ”The Shadows By Themselves”, it was called. By Royston Ellis. He was a young ”Beat Poet”. He wrote very off-beat poetry, but he like to recite it to music, and we did a couple of gigs for fun with him - Jet Harris, Tony Meehan and myself. And we just played absolutely - drivel. It was totally free-form rubbish, we’d just get a beat going, it was absolutely shocking stuff. And he would sit there and be going ”Ah-be-dum-be-dum”... He was an early hippie, he had the hair and the beard, which in 1961 was very far out. He was only a young guy, in his early 20’s I think - a very bohemian character. But it was fun.”

Last News:

THE BIG BEAT SCENE is to be published again in April 2010 by Music Mentor Books (

Royston Ellis & The Be"A"tles (June 1960 then Summer 1963)

Royston Ellis first met the Beatles when he visited Liverpool in Summer 1960. At that time, they were still unknown and called themselves The Silver Beetles. They became one of the numerous bands that backed the British Beat Poet. After this meeting, the band decided to modify the spelling of its name: now spellig it with an "a" instead of the second “e”, as they were inspired by the American BeAt generation and played BeAt music.

Three years later, he met up them once again in Guernesey at the height of the Beatlemania. He later inspired them two songs: "Paperback Writer" (Parlophone single, 1966) and "Polythene Pam" (Abbey Road, LP, 1969).
The Beatles inspired Ellis the “Rythmettes” in the chapter set in Liverpool of his novel ‘Myself For Fame’ realesed in 1964.

On Friday 24 June and Saturday 25 June, 1960:
Royston Ellis held a lecture ‘Jazz and Poetry’ in the basement coffee bar at Liverpool University during the ‘Festival of the Arts’.
John Lennon, Stuart Sutcliffe, Rod Murray and Bill Harry were in the audience and Rod invited him to stay at their Gambier Terrace flat for a few days.

Royston Ellis
"I was quite a star for them at that time because I had come up from London and that was a world they didn't really know about."

Ellis introduced them to their very first experience of a drug. He cracked open a Vick inhaler and showed them the strip of Benzedrine inside.

Bill Harry:
It was nicknamed a ‘spitball’ and you chewed it. The amphetamine kept you awake all night in a state of excitement.

Royston Ellis
“Yes, the Vick inhaler story has become part of drug legend. I was shown how to do that by a singer who later became Neil Christian and his guitarist, who used to accompany me in those days, Jimmy Page.”

Later in June, 1960:
Poetry-to-Rock session at the Jacaranda coffee club, Slater Street, backed by John Lennon, Stuart Sutcliffe, Rod Murray and Bill Harry who call themselves the Dissenters.

From the book ‘Big Beat Scene’
“Royston Ellis, a bearded teenager who made a name for himself on the television programme ‘Living for Kicks’, visited Liverpool last year. Appearing at Liverpool University’s ‘Festival of the Arts’ where he recited his poetry, he was threatened by students who wanted to set fire to his beard. Later, he recited ‘poetry-to-rock’ at the Jacaranda coffee club, Slater Street, backed by the Beatles.”

The Record Mirror of 9 July & 14 July 1960 reported that Royston Ellis had been searching for a group to use regularly and was thinking of bringing a Liverpool group called the Beetles to London to back him on his poetry readings, but nothing came of it. John and Stuart were trying to think of a new name for the group.
Ellis who suggested then that they put an ‘a’ into the word, making it ‘Beatles’, inspired by the Beat generation.

Royston Ellis
“There is famously a letter from Record Mirror (June 1961) in which I said I was planning to bring to London a group of Liverpool art students to back me after appearing with them in Liverpool, named the Beetles. I told them to spell it Beatles as I was a beat poet and they liked the beats of the USA and played beat music.”

From an issue of Bill Harry’s Mersey Beat: The Record Mirror reported that Ellis was thinking of bringing a Liverpool group called the Beetles to London to back him on his poetry readings.
“I recall discussing with John (Lennon) at the Gambier Terrace flat my plan to take John, Stuart, George and Paul to London to back me on my poetry reading performances. This was reported in the Record Mirror of 9 July 1960 – the first ever major musical press reference to ‘the Beetles’ with a follow-up in the next issue, 14 July 1960, in which I described the Beetles thus “For some time I have been searching for a group to use regularly and I feel that the Beetles (most of them are Liverpool art students) fit the bill.

“Of course, they never got to London to back me but I do remember meeting Allan Williams in London and he said that John wanted me to go to Hamburg with them as compere. I declined and am alive to tell the tale!
“I asked John what name he was calling the group. He said the Beetles. I asked him how it was spelt and he said B-E-E-T-L-E-S. That’s when I suggested that since they liked the beats and I was a beat poet, why not spell it with an A.

In 1960, Bill Harry commissioned John Lennon to pen a short biography of the band that appeared on page 2 of “Mersey Beat” issue #1 published on July 6 1961, in which he explained how the name “Beatles” did arrive:
“…Many people ask what are Beatles? Why Beatles? Ugh, Beatles, how did the name arrive? So we will tell you. It came in a vision - a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them 'From this day on you are Beatles with an 'A'. Thank you, mister man, they said, thanking him…”

Royston Ellis
“I recall cooking a meal at the flat one day which included frozen chicken pie. Somehow I managed to burn the chicken pie. It is that, I have always assumed, that gave rise to John’s reference to ‘a man on a flaming pie’ suggesting they call themselves Beatles with an A.

Polythene Pam
On 8 August 1963, the Beatles played at the Auditorium in Guernsey Islands where Royston Ellis was working as a ferryboat engineer.

John Lennon
“Polythene Pam: That was me, remembering a little event I had with a woman in Jersey. A poet (Royston Ellis), a beatnik that looked like a beatnik who was from Liverpool, took me to this apartment of his in Jersey. So this poet took me to his place and asked me if I wanted to meet this girl, Polythane Pam, who dressed up in polythene. Which she did. In polythene bags. She didn't wear jack boots and kilts - I just sort of elaborated - and no, she didn't really look like a man. there was nothing much to it. It was kind of perverted sex in a polythene bag. But it provided something to write a song about".

Royston Ellis
“We all dressed up in them and wore them in bed. John stayed the night with us in the same bed.”

Paul McCartney
“John, being Royston’s friend, went out to dinner with him and got pissed and stuff and they ended up back at his apartment with a girl who dressed herself in polythene for John’s amusements, so it was a little kinky scene. She became Polythene Pam. She was a real character.”

Royston Ellis with The Shadows (1959 - Late 1960)

The Shadows were an instrumental rock 'n' roll group, formed initially as a backing band for Cliff Richard. They became the most popular and succesful British beat group before the arrival of the Beatles with a string of hits from 1960 to 1963: ‘Apache’, 'Kon Tiki', 'Wonderful Land', 'Dance On', 'Foot Tapper' etc.
When they backed Royston Ellis during 1960, their heyday lineup was Hank Marvin on lead guitar; Bruce Welch on rhythm guitar; Jet Harris on bass and Tony Meehan on drums.
They became the most influential UK group of its kind in the early '60s, turning a whole generation on to homegrown rock'n'roll, after the release of their fourth single “Apache”.
Incidentally, this record became a hit in summer 1960 when Royston Ellis was backed by the future Beatles who at that time were complete outsiders, refusing to cover Cliff Richard & The Shadows hits and to mould on their style. As a result no British label accepted to sign them until June 1962.
With the advent of the Beatles, in 1963, the Shadows were increasingly perceived as anachronistic…

Royston Ellis wrote many books about The Shadows among them the Biography “The Shadows By Themselves” (1961).
His first volume of poems, “Jiving to Gyp” was dedicated to their lead vocalist Cliff Richard as well as the Biography “Driftin' With Cliff Richard” written with their bass player Jet Harris.

In the late '50s and the early '60s, Royston Ellis was asked by television programmes to explain what teenagers were all about. Ellis ended up with his own series, “Living For Kicks,” in which he explored the controversial issues of the day such as gayness, pep pills and sex before marriage.

Royston Ellis with Jimmy Page (Late 1960 - July 1961)

Royston Ellis did performances of rock and roll poetry - rocketry - with the future founding member of Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page from Late 1960 to July 1961, taking over The Shadows who became so in demand after the success of their single “Apache”. Only 3 of these performances can be pinpointed within 9 months:

• TV show with Jimmy, late 1960, on Southern Television (from Southampton, with Julian Pettifer)
• 4 March 1961, HERETICS society of Cambridge University
• Sunday 23 July 1961, the Mermaid Theatre, London

Royston Ellis
“I gave Jimmy Page his first stage and TV shows when he backed me reading my poetry...”
“This was after my stage and TV appearances with The Shadows, because they became so in demand, I had to find other musicians…”
“I appeared on television with Jimmy on Southern Television from Southampton, with Julian Pettifer, in late 1960.”

In fact, Jimmy Page already appeared on television with The J.G. Skiffle Group, performing 2 Skiffle numbers on Huw Wheldon's All Your Own talent quest programme.

“We did other shows together, too, in the 1960s…
There was one to the HERETICS society of Cambridge University on 4 March 1961 and another at the Mermaid Theatre, London, on Sunday 23 July 1961 which was just Jimmy and myself on stage as part of an evening of poets and actors (Ralph Richardson, Flora Robson, etc) reading works…”

“I used to appear with Jimmy alone (not with the group in which he played then, the Red Cats and managed by Chris Tidmarsh who later emerged as Neil Christian) although I think we may have recruited a bongo player for some dates…”
“Jimmy was sitting down in the background while I was lecturing.”

About that time, Jimmy Page was lead guitarist in a rock 'n' roll band called Red-E Lewis & The Red Caps and that was managed by Chris Tidmarsh who later emerged as singer “Neil Christian” fronting his Crusaders that also included Page on guitar. Tidmarsh was the guy who had shown Ellis how to use the Vick inhaler (see Royston Ellis & The Be"A"tles)…

Royston Ellis
“Yes, the Vick inhaler story has become part of drug legend. I was shown how to do that by a singer who later became Neil Christian and his guitarist, who used to accompany me in those days, Jimmy Page.”

The previous line up of the Red Caps left Red-E Lewis to team up with black singer Cuddy Duddley then emerged as the new version of Johnny Kidd’s Pirates from July 1961 to early 1962 and featuring lead guitarist Johnny Patto, bass player Johnny Spence and drummer Frank Farley.
By 1961, the “New Red Caps” were Jimmy Page on guitar, then nicknamed “Nelson Storm” after the 18th century admiral, “Jumbo” Spicer on electric bass and Jim “Tornado” Evans on drums.
In addition to being the lead guitarist of the Red Caps, Page used to backed Royston Ellis in a different way from his illustrious predessors, The Shadows and The Beatles. Page and Ellis were just accompanied on stage with a bongo player. This couple of musicians backed Ellis reading sequences of poems from his first book “Jiving To Gyp” and “Rave”, released in 1961.

“Jimmy composed his own music to back my poems - usually ones from JIVING TO GYP although I might have been performing the one with the line "Easy, easy, break me in easy" from RAVE”
The Mermaid show was the peak - and possibly the final one - of our stage performances.”

After their final stage performance together, at the Mermaid Theatre, London, in July 1961, they finally parted company and Jimmy Page toured throughout Britain with the Red Caps who had fallen out with Red-E Lewis and then became The Crusaders backing Chris Tidmarsh aka “Neil Christian”. Page began his career of recording session musician with Neil Christian & The Crusaders, on their first singles, released in late 1962 and summer 1963, just after he left them because of his delicate health. Jimmy Page met up Royston Ellis once again also in Guernesey, also in 1963…

“I remember that Jimmy visited me when I was in Guernsey in early 1963 and we did a TV interview on Channel TV….
We are still in touch and have met several times during the past decades... we are still firm friends...”