For the next few weeks it will pretty much be business as usual for Bobby Elliott as The Hollies embark on yet another major tour of the UK.

The band is now entering its seventh decade of delighting audiences with classic songs such as Bus Stop, Carrie Anne and The Air That I Breathe. At 81, Burnley-born Bobby has been the backbone of the group throughout that time.

The tour gets underway with virtually a home gig next week - at Blackburn’s King George’s Hall - before the 26-date run around the country ends at the London Palladium.

“We’ve not been to Blackburn for a number of years,” said Bobby. “But King George’s Hall played a big part in my musical grounding.

“When I was young, about eight or nine, my mum and dad took me there to see the Liverpool Philharmonic. Somehow we ended up sitting behind the orchestra and I was right next to the timpani, these great big kettledrums. My dad said he thought that’s where I got the bug for playing drums from.”

It was another visit to King George’s Hall which made a major impression on the teenage Bobby.

“When I was at grammar school me and my mate went there in 1956 or 57 to see the Count Basie Orchestra with the great Sonny Payne on drums,” Bobby recalled. “They were probably the best American jazz orchestra ever and there we were, me and my pal Bob Palmer, just fascinated by it all.

“The old place played a big part in my musical development.”

Bobby, along with friend Tony Hicks from Nelson formed a band, The Dolphins, which played around East Lancashire. When guitarist Tony joined The Hollies in 1963 that left Bobby searching for a new band.

“I remember he rang me - I had to go the the neighbours’ house because we didn’t have a phone - to say that Shane Fenton and the Fentones were looking for a drummer,” said Bobby.

Shane Fenton would later find fame as Alvin Stardust.

“Although I didn’t think their music was particularly for me my dad drove me down to London in his little A35 van for an audition. It was somewhere off Tottenham Court Road but we couldn’t find the place then down an alley I saw this queue of blokes and one had drumsticks in his coat pocket so I knew we’d found it.”

Bobby auditioned and was invited to join the band.

“I didn’t know it at the time but Keith Moon also went to that audition as did Mick Fleetwood,” he said.

Bobby left the Fentones when Tony Hicks invited him to join The Hollies and the rest, as they say is history. The band went on a hugely successful run through the Sixties achieving number ones on both sides of the Atlantic. They have been widely acknowledged as one of the most influential bands of all time - in 1995, they were presented with the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution To British Music, and in 2010 were inducted into the American Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame for their ‘impact on the evolution, development and perpetuation of Rock and Roll’.

Now Bobby - and Tony Hicks - remain in the band preparing for another major tour.

“How many gigs have we played over the years? Good question,” said Bobby. “Tony and I started out playing together when we were just teenagers. I suppose I could work it out as I’ve always kept diaries

“A couple of years ago I wrote my autobiography - It Ain’t Heavy It’s My Story - and my diaries were the key to it all. In the end I had too many words for the book so I stopped in 1982/83.

“I keep threatening to write volume two but I haven’t got round to it yet.”

Having not only survived but also thrived during the tumultuous period in music that was the Sixties, the Hollies were one of the few names to escape relatively unscathed from the excess that surrounded the music industry.

“I think that’s because we were canny northerners,” laughed Bobby. “We had our moments but when we started recording at Abbey Road Studios in 1963, the whole thing was still very much in its infancy.

“We made mistakes - everybody does - but there was nothing major really. If a slight hiccup happened we always managed to get over it quickly and bounce back.”

Even today The Hollies have a unique and distinct sound, a combination of beautiful harmonies and unusual arrangements.

“Part of that was down to us being allowed free reign in Abbey Road,” said Bobby. “It was usually where the big classical orchestras would record so there would be all these strange instruments lying around.

“I’d find some tubular bells or timpani and just drag them into our recording sessions. Because we’d earned our stripes the hierarchy at EMI said ‘let them enjoy themselves’ and many of those instruments appeared on our records.”

Bobby remains delightfully down-to-earth - “I’d best get the grass cut before we head out on tour,” he quipped - but you can tell he clearly loves playing those songs to fans.

“After all these years you still don’t know everything,” he said. “You strive for perfection and on a good night there just is no better feeling. You don’t walk off stage, you float off.

“It’s important to have good musicians around you; they can stimulate you and together you can achieve that little bit of magic.

“But I always say to people, I’m just a humble drummer but I’ve managed to get away with it so far!”

The Hollies, King George’s Hall, Blackburn, Saturday, September 16. Details from They also play The Lowry, Salford Quays on Sunday, October 1. Details from