This year was tough, no way of hiding that fact, not from myself, not form anyone else. The first year I didn’t tour Texas, cancelling the shows to be by Dad’s side, there was band members leaving, birth of my second son, and then my father collapsed, and deteriorated over the year, finally passing in December. I kept playing, not as much as I would have liked, but as much as I could of under the circumstances. This is how it played out.
When I was thinking about this year it feels like it started in Brisbane just before New Year’s Eve, we played there with Mike Errol Jnr and Corn Liquor and headed to Sydney excited for a NYE show at Matraville with Corn Liquor. We had Tex Austin sitting in on drums, and he is one of music’s great gentlemen, a hell of a lot of fun to play with, just sits in that pocket all night. NYE was ok, but for one of the biggest shows of the year we walked out of there without a cent. That’s another story. That’s Rock and Roll.
Then there was Tamworth, we had a strong first half of the week gigs wise then a real break till the inaugural Outlaws show at the Courthouse, and a final Alberts Hotel show. Quickly the week turned tough. The Outlaws show was a lot better than I thought it would be, and we used to drummers, Al Fisk and Mark Fairhurst. Two different stick men couldn’t be found, but both made the Wagon their own. Fisk is an uncompromising, live hard, drum harder sort of guy, man we had some fun at Wanita’s on an all-nighter after playing at Shot by Jakes, with Dave Major as well, we nuded up for a pre-dawn swim, it was a hoot. Mark is a more calculated player, worked real hard, and the Outlaws show was a success musically due to him coming up early and doing the work. Thanks man.
It was the first time I ever ventured into the Crabpot, and Jake and I hit it off, and one night I played a three and half hour set , straight!, into a Tamworth dawn. He did a photo shoot with me. He one of Australia great larrikins, and the Crabpot will always be that weird sort of Star Wars Bar in my heart.
The vibe went downhill over the week in the band, split loyalties and differences of opinion lead to John Wardle and Dave Turner, The Roadie, resigning. It happens. John was already playing with Benn Gunn at Tamworth, and stayed with him, so be it. He is a great player, and I wish him every success. There’s a lot more to say here, but it stays with me. Something’s are best kept unsaid. It was fun to meet long time hero Jim Lauderdale at the CMC After party!
Luckily for me the sting of Tamworth was washed away immediately by the birth of my second son Maverick on the 6.2. 12. He was healthy and happy and as I write this he is a beautiful bouncing boy, starting to play with Little Marshal and they have become fast friends, Brothers. He is a bad sleeper though, and man I cannot remember being more tired in my whole life. Never getting a chance to catch up, he ends up in with us most mornings, and it’s pretty cool waking up with him. My mum calls him smiley, and it’s a good nick name. Kids change everything, with two boys now, and providing for them and there mum, and the band being so hard to keep together, I took a serious job, to help with bills, especially for debts I owe from film clips and albums etc. It kills me not having as much time to focus on the band, but after Maverick coming along, and then my Dad getting ill, I just had to bite the bullet.
Had a Sydney show booked, then some shows booked down the south coast, and we needed a guitar player, and Jeff Mercer stepped in. It was amazing playing with such a talented man, he is all feel, had such an amazing touch, and yet is the coolest guy on earth. The shows where fun. We had a new drummer to, Henry. A friend of Harding’s. He wanted the job, I needed a drummer. It all worked in nicely. However it was on this trip that after setting up in Tilba at the Dromaderry Hotel. It was my mother, my father had collapsed. He had not been well for a while, but this seemed more serious. I took a risk and finished the shows, I have never wanted to cancel shows. As it was , when I got back to Sydney it was his heart and me and mum started our first night together in a waiting room, waiting while he had open heart surgery for the third time. It would not be the last time we shared a space, in over 7 hospitals in the coming 9 months. Each time he took a step forward he seemed to take two steps back. It did seem that the surgery at the time was a success, and he headed to rehab. His balance and memory were effected, eventually leading to a stroke. He recovered from the stroke, but balance and memory were worse, and he would forget he could not walk properly, and he would fall, injuring himself. Eventually he broke his hip, and kept falling, and then the wound split, he got Golden Staff, and never recovered from that. So I slept a lot at mums in the end, especially when we knew he was dying, albeit slowly, and many a night sitting in a hospital, most of the time in the dark, just holding his hand, cause I got there late, as I would come home, help out with the baby, then head off when they were asleep. With Maverick keeping us awake in the early hours and this schedule, I was always exhausted, as I had to keep working. Gigs became a nice distraction, but because we were not rehearsing or playing enough, gigs always were rough. Don’t get me wrong, there were always moments, where we were really on it, but nothing feels as good as a well-oiled working band.
After the fall out at Tamworth, mate and Troubadour Den Hanrahan said he would sit in on guitar and help me out. He was an angel for me this year. A brother I needed in a time of need. It was always going to be a different sound, but man, I had some fun, and then we started doing solo gigs, and Den started sitting in, and that was something I ended up doing more solo and duo shows this year, and I liked it a lot. He knows the struggle of the road, and bands, and his love for music is the same as mine. I look forward to this year’s Tamworth with Den up there with me. For the sake of a song.
I even dusted off the slide guitar and did a few shows three piece, one show out at Orange and we played Johnny Winters version of Highway 61, Clapton’s Telephone song, Rollin and Tumblin, it was fun.
Also a highlight was going to the Independent Music Awards for Miss Texas Tonight for country song, and I Played Country for best Video. We didn’t win, but it was a nice change of scenery, and our first night out together since having a baby. Felt a bit human again.
Just after Dad died, Deadwood 76 called me, Jeff Pope couldn’t make the show, so at four hours’ notice, I filled in. It was a really rough show, but I played some solo stuff, and it was the first time I dedicated Family Man to my father. It was the second single off I Play Country, I released it in September, and planned to get a film clip together for the CMC, but I simply ran out of extra cash, and Dad was really unwell at this time, and that’s when I had to cancel Texas/ Colorado Tour. I was bummed, but I didn’t want to be there worrying whether Dad did while I was away. I was worried about my mother to, as they had been married 60 years this year. How was she going to cope when he went, it was unthinkable.
For Dad’s eulogy, I went through a lot of old photos, and I dug this one out. He helped me build a guitar case for a huge Hollow Body I had, I glad I will have it for ever. Its built like a brick shit house!
So, here I sit, New Year’s Eve, three weeks out from Tamworth. Just a few shows this year, I look enviously at the posters of other bands doing 15 shows in 9 days, As much as it is gruelling as hell, it’s awesome to just take Tamworth on like that. This year, I’m playing the first weekend at the Albert then Im getting the hell out of there. My spirit this year has taken a battering. I need some time to get my head right, get the passion back, revision the dream, at the moment, it’s all lost in some sort of fog. I need to find my mojo, and just battling away on stage isn’t doing it. Den and I talked about doing a record, starting something new, and it’s exciting, and this coming year I am reforming my first ever band for some anniversary shows, so more three piece, and I am excited about that. As for the Wagon, well, it’s likely to go in the barn for a bit. I’m sure it will hit the road again, but until then….
So thank you to all who came out to the shows, and choose to get some live music Chucks Wagon style. Thank you to all who bought the new album, my heart and soul is in that thing. Thank you to all the D.J’s that played I Play Country and Family Man. I will hopefully get a film clip together in the New Year.
Thank you to Heath Blows and Graham Walsh from Fender Australia. You guys have kept my amp humming. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the support. Thank you to Mark Fairhurst, Al Fisk, Dave Major and Henry for sitting in on Drums. Thank you to Jeff Mercer for the Guitar licks, it’s a memory I will keep for ever. Thanks to the Mighty Den Hanrahan, who stepped into a place I needed filled by someone who believed in the music, and to Dodge Dave the Hitman Harding, for holding down the bottom end. Sorry to my USA fans for having to cancel this year. I know I will be back, be great to see you then.
Last but not least. Thank you to my lovely wife, who knows I need to play, and sees me off with a smile, knowing she has two boys to deal with as soon as I round the bend. Thank you to all the folks that support through my father’s illness and passing. Mark Andrews, my Warning bass player helped carry the coffin. I look forward to getting Warning back on stage mate. Also to Gary Poulton, who grabbed a handle on one of the most important days of my life.
I’m sure I have forgotten something in all this, but to be honest I’m amazed I actually got it down at all.
See you on the road somewhere….