LONGEVITY in the music business is a rare commodity.

But The Hollies are celebrating more than 50 years of music making and in all that time they have never split up, and two of the band who were there at the start are still there.

The band are on a UK tour celebrating their massive catalogue of hits and play Southampton Mayflower Theatre on Sunday, March 15, and The Anvil, Basingstoke, on Thursday, April 5.

They have had no fewer than 30 hits, including the classics The Air That I Breathe, I’m Alive, We’re Through and The Woman I Love, plus their most famous hit, the 1969 number two He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother, which became their second chart-topper when it was re-released in 1988.

By the autumn of 1963 Allan Clarke and Graham Nash had been joined by Tony Hicks on guitars, Eric Haydock on bass and Bobby Elliott on drums.

Hicks and Elliott still steer the ship today, complemented by bassist Ray Stiles (ex-Mud), who has been in the band since 1988, Ian Parker on keyboards, who joined in 1990, and Peter Howarth on vocals and Steve Lauri on guitar, who joined the band in 2004.

Much of The Hollies’ success came from the Clarke/Hicks/Nash partnership, who not only wrote many of the hits, but supplied the band’s trademark three-part harmonies.

Drummer Bobby Elliott, 73, is confident that the band can long continue to ply their musical trade.

“Everything is good in Hollieland at the moment,” he said.

“We are getting revved up and are really looking forward to it.”

The band has a very hectic touring schedule which takes them all over the world.

“We’re very popular on the continent and Down Under, but we aren’t going to Australia this year as we’ve been there two years on the trot and we tend to only go every couple of years,” Elliott said.

“The last time we were there, we met up with Bruce Springsteen in Perth, who was there with Nils Lofgren, and ended up chatting with Nils about hip replacements.

“Actually, he told me that he’d had some new ceramic hips fitted and that they were made by a company called Smith and Nephew, he said that I wouldn’t have heard of |them.

“I had to tell him that Smith and Nephew owned practically all the mills in Brierfield, which was just down the road from where I lived.”

The show itself promises to be a hit-fest, as Bobby explains.

“We’d get lynched if we didn’t do the hits, but what’s gratifying is that we’re now getting requests to perform some of the newer songs from the recent Staying Power and Then, Now, Always albums.”

“We don’t want to get too clever. You don’t change a winning formula.”

Tickets: The Anvil, Basingstoke: 01256 844244; Mayflower, Southampton: 023 8071 1811.