THE telephone was red hot after local musician Gerry King asked Looking Back readers if they could remember the name of a young Bolton singer who had a brush with national fame in the 1960s.

More than 100 people rang him to say the man he had in mind was Michael Haslam - a man who toured with the Beatles but failed to make the big time.

I found several yellowing cuttings from 1964 to 1966 which told the story of how the "handsome lad from Crescent Road" was signed up by Beatles manager Brian Epstein, made records, supported the Beatles on their UK tour in October and November, 1964 - and then returned to his £15 a week job on a fleshing machine at Walker and Martin's tannery in Weston Street, Bolton.

Fellow workers displayed a light-hearted banner which read: "Welcome back Mike. Top of the Flops."

Sadly, Mike, who was born on December 20, 1939, died on May 29, 2003, in High Wycombe, Bucks.

In his early singing days, he sang at local venues including the Navada and the Palais.The former choirboy was said to have a voice like his idol, Elvis Presley.

But it was his successful performances at the White Hart in Deane Road - singing songs by the likes of Roy Orbison - which led a fan, Joan Simpson, of Russell Street, Bolton, to write six times to television personality Godfrey Winn.

Eventually Winn and Brian Epstein turned up at the White Hart, and the would-be star signed a £3,000 a year contract with Epstein.

Mike's obituary, written by Spencer Leigh, begins: "Not everybody that Brian Epstein managed became a star, and Michael Haslam was a sad casualty of his heavy workload - sad because Haslam had genuine talent and deserved better."

Mike spoke to Mr Leigh in 1999 about his time with the Beatles on tour and in Another Beatles Christmas Show at the Hammersmith Odeon.

He said: "It was fabulous because it was at the height of Beatlemania. We got on well together, although one night John Lennon pushed me too hard and I fell into the orchestra pit."

Mike recorded two unsuccessful singles - Gotta Get A Hold Of Myself, and, ironically, There Goes The Forgotten Man, by Bacharach and David.

Although Mike promoted them on Ready, Steady, Go! and Thank Your Lucky Stars, Winn felt Epstein should have done more for the singer. But Epstein did not want the extra pressure and let Mike go.

But Mrs Simpson insisted: "As far as I'm concerned he's still the greatest. The Beatles are nothing compared to him - he can sing."

She believed Brian Epstein did not handle Mike's career correctly when he gave him "slow ballads that send the kids to sleep".

During his brief period near the top of the tree, he supported other top acts including Gerry And The Pacemakers and Billy J Kramer.

Mike's sister, US-based Annie Haslam, was the singer with popular 1970s group Renaissance and later went on to a solo career.

She is quoted in the obituary as saying her brother had a great voice - "much better than mine".She wishes they had made an album together.