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And now to end 2007 on a positive note. In a year when I lost a grandfather, my old Hawke's Bay mate Jim Toner passed on and we very nearly saw the demise of the wonderful Ritchie Pickett, the festive season has brought some good news with a slew of Tamworth Country Music Festival gigs next month and the recent release of Red McKelvie's CD.
I've had no luck trying to secure any work at the Tamworth festival since my last visit there in 2003, but was rapt when I was invited to join the Smokin' Crawdads line-up for their work at the Fitzroy Tavern and with Sinead Burgess at Wests. It will be great getting back there and especially sharing a beer with my previous hosts the Howie family.
Crawdads bandleader Mick Martin has been doing some acoustic gigs with me lately, while Michael Muchow is promoting his EP, and I performed with the band on the Sunshine Coast at the start of November. Things really clicked and Mick immediately asked me if I'd like to do Tamworth with them. Would I what?
Who wouldn't want to be part of a band with Mick on vocals and guitar, Andy Tainsh on bass, Randal Terrens on piano and the legendary Doug Gallacher on drums? You can read more about the Crawdads by clicking on the Heroes & Friends link. And we also get to provide backing and harmonies for rising Caboolture star Sinead Burgess.
As I said, the other highlight this month was the release of Red McKelvie's debut album 'Ridin' On Trains' after, what, more than 40 years in the business? And it's full to the brim with original songs. It's so good to see Red writing again, and well. Check out the sublime "Wally's Song".
I spent a great chunk of the '90s making music with Red and I've never played with a more natural musician. He can do it all, whether on pedal steel, guitar or accordion, even sitting down with a torn Achilles tendon.
Just before I left New Zealand in 2002, I sang harmonies on some of Red's demos for the album -- yes, it's had a long gestation -- and was moved by the honesty of his writing, which he'd suppressed for many years. There was also the great humour. One of my favourites that didn't make the final cut was "The Ballad of Jono and Lizzie" with the great chorus line, "Up ya, Jono/You're the biggest bastard in the band". Of course, the icing was the aside at the end -- "No, you're not, Jono. Glen is."
Check out the Red McKelvie site by hitting the link at Heroes & Friends and buy the new CD.
All the Smokin' Crawdads Tamworth gigs are at the gig guide, as are the Tallboys' Brisbane regulars, so come by and say hi.
Hawke's Bay lost a colourful identity this month with the passing on Friday August 10 of Napier City Country Music Club founder and my former mentor Jim Toner. Jim succumbed to an infection related to his diabetes.
He had been a tireless fundraiser and a performer in countless charity concerts, but had been battling ailing health in recent years and had lost a leg to his condition. But that could not dampen his wit or the twinkle in his eyes.
I will always remember Jim Toner for his fostering of young talent. I was a 16-year-old schoolboy when Jim invited me to join his band the Overtones back in 1987, setting me on the path I still tread 20 years later.
When the Moffatt family joined the Napier City Country Music Club in early 1981, Jim had temporarily drifted away from the organisation he had founded in 1975. My earliest memories of him was as the leader of the band Ramrod, a combination of his and Doug Fletcher's experience and a crop of talented teens associated with the club -- namely John Fletcher, Kym Stanford, Donna Paramore, Brenda Thomson, Sandy Wraith and Jim's older son, Peter.
Jim was soon back in the club and convenor of their New Year Awards, scoring a major sponsorship from a local bread manufacturer along the way. And he was always entertaining. The songs I most associated with him were "Bed of Roses" and "Yellow Roses".
It was Jim who bustled me into a small Napier recording studio when a little song I had written called "Like Father, Like Son" had some success at the New Zealand Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year in 1986. He mailed the demo to a contact at CBS, receiving a polite "no, thanks" letter which I still have. But I always appreciated the effort.
The following year I was replacing Jim's other son, Richard, who was off to Palmerston North, in the Overtones. The band also included Jim's youngest, Adrienne. It was my introduction into the world of professional entertainment. We backed Brendan Dugan in Wellington, played in all manner of country halls, and you had to love those daytime Rothmans Christmas functions.
When I applied for the position of cadet newspaper reporter at the 'Daily Telegraph' in late 1987, I'm sure it was Jim's glowing handwritten character reference that pushed me over the line. And he made sure to announce the appointment when the Overtones were performing at the competitor 'Herald-Tribune's Christmas do a week or so later.
Jim got me a last-minute support slot on the Slim Whitman concert in Hastings in 1988 after the previous support act had walked out. And it was Jim who leapt to my defence after my review of the concert for the paper, in which I referred to Slim as "a tired, old pretender", brought all sorts of personal attacks from some of those traditional country and western stalwarts over in Hastings.
The Overtones ground to a halt and Pete and Rick Toner and myself put together the Infamous James Gang, which Jim managed. During this time he ran an Access scheme for unemployed musicians and took on Hawke's Bay's established music stores by opening his own independent music store opposite Nelson Park.
I left Napier in late 1991 and caught up with Jim only a handful of times over the years. Once when he popped into a festival at Alexandra Park from his hospital bed across the road having not long undergone a multiple bypass. He got to meet and hold my firstborn, Quinn, who was then nearly a year old.
I am eternally grateful to the Napier City Country Music Club for having me as the special guest at their 30th birthday celebrations in December 2005, not least of all because it gave me a chance to let Jim know exactly what his contribution to my career meant to me. I also got the chance to share the stage with him one final time with a duet of Merle Haggard's "Ramblin' Fever".
"My hat don't hang on the same nail too long
My ears can't stand to hear the same old song
And I don't leave the highway long enough to bog down in the mud
Cos I've got ramblin' fever in my blood."
Farewell, old pal.
Gidday, all. Once again, it's been a couple of months since I reported in, but things have been going along swimmingly in thirsty Brisbane. Married life is treating us well and it's been a busy existence in the Moffatt household with the boys involved in swimming, piano lessons and soccer. Oh, and Daddy's in a band.
The Tallboys have just completed a run of Friday nights at Premier's Bar of the Treasury Casino throughout April. With bassist Chris Haigh once more returning to the Central Coast, we were joined by Micah Reimers for these gigs. This venue is a lot of fun to play with a good atmosphere and big crowds and it's a chance for the band to really let our hair down and cut loose away from the more formulaic RSLs and leagues clubs.
In May, Michael Muchow and myself are playing every Thursday night at Easts Leagues Club. I love the chance to play acoustic guitar and sing with Michael without a drum machine in sight. We are able to be a bit more spontaneous sans a rhythm section and Michael is able to follow whatever I throw at him. Even after four years playing together there's still the odd song I can surprise him with.
We're now starting to introduce some of Michael's original songs from his imminent EP release. The six tracks are co-writes with Kevin Bennett, of the Flood, and Bill Chambers and "Sandra Shine" written by Michael and myself. To listen before you buy -- because I'm sure you will want to own it after hearing it -- click on the Michael Muchow link in the Heroes & Friends section.
On May 6, the full band is appearing at the Caboolture RSL as part of the Urban Country Music Festival. My old pal Tamihana Johnston joins us on bass for this one, with Leon Ernst completing the line-up on drums. For those of you who can make our 10am slot, expect plenty of Michael's and my originals.
A couple of months back, the wonderful New Zealand singer-songwriter Al Hunter moved to Brisbane. I discovered Al at the end of the '80s when Napier's Bay City Radio was still programming itself and started playing his "Highway Song". Despite the frightening cover photo I bought his album 'Neon Cowboy' and instantly became a fan.
His Saturday afternoon King's Arms gig became a weekly destination once I moved to Auckland, and when Al and Glenn R Campbell hit the road to tour his second album, 'The Singer', I inherited the gig and his band until his return. Of course, many of you will know that when Al did get back to Auckland he opted not to continue at the KA and took up at the Astor.
Anyway, Al and family have now settled in Brisbane and the two of us are looking forward to doing some writing together and trying to get some regular singer-songwriter nights up and running. When I recorded my debut album, 'Somewhere In New Zealand Tonight', I included a cover of Al's "Gypsy Woman" as a nod of appreciation.
Further nods on that album were aimed at Ritchie Pickett ("Bastards of the Rodeo") and Max Merritt ("Slipping Away") who, within days of each other, were admitted to hospital with similar symptoms earlier this month. My love and best wishes go out to both of these luminaries of Kiwi music. I spoke with Ritchie a week ago and he was in a positive frame of mind, or, in his familiar words, "Positively bursting with indifference."
I've recently uploaded another of Kerry Jacobson and my songs to my MySpace profile. It is called "Heard It All Before" and features members of Mick Martin's Smokin' Crawdads as well as Kerry's terrific harmony vocals. Check it out by clicking on the MySpace link.
Take a look at the gig guide and come and say hi at a show soon.
A belated happy new year, everyone! I hope Christmas and new year were happy and safe for you all. The family and I spent the break back in New Zealand with Melissa finally making an honest man of me. Yep, after 13 years and two kids we were finally married in Auckland last month. Well, you can't rush into these things, can you?
Our beautiful sons Quinn and Reuben were the best men and really played their part exceptionally. When our succinct ceremony clocked in very short, I even did the Keith Urban bit by serenading Melissa. I managed to avoid checking in to the Betty Ford Clinic afterwards, though -- it must be tough being rich and famous.
The day went off without a hitch from the weather to the reception, where my old pals Ritchie Pickett, Neil Hannan, Ricky Ball and Chet O'Connell provided the entertainment. I even got up for a couple of songs, as did Gordon Joll, Ian Thomson, Wayne Baird, and Reuben on the drums. Rob Galley escaped just in the nick of time.
It was great to catch up with so many family and friends we hadn't seen for a long time. If I start with the thank-yous I know someone's bound to get missed, but I must make mention of Jane Jackson, who was our celebrant and provided so much support in getting the ceremony how we liked it.
My wife has put up some photos of the day at http://glenandmelissa.weddingannouncer.com. Just click on the Our Wedding Day link near the bottom.
Although the trip was specifically for the wedding and to show the boys a bit of the old country, it wasn't without some gig action for Daddy. The night before the big day I was guest performer with Brendon Ham and his band at the Sky City Casino. It was great being able to do a mainly original set and especially to play with Chet and Gordon again. Brendon and Steve Rowlands put a lot of work into learning the songs too, and I was grateful to Brendon for inviting me. And it's always a hoot to spend time with the extended Greaves clan.
The father-in-law got me along to one of his gigs with the Gary Harvey Band, where Gary graciously provided me with an acoustic guitar and I got to sit in for their last set. Gary is a stalwart of the Auckland music scene as far back as the mid-'60s and later with the likes of Black 'n' Blue and the Red House Rockers and is a prolific songwriter. The line-up is completed by tasty guitarist Tony Abbott, who thankfully yelled some chords in my direction, and Murray Patten, who I enjoyed swapping harmonies with. Check out their web site from the Heroes & Friends link.
New Year's Eve was spent at the Stetson Club at Dairy Flat catching up with old mates Sandie and Eric, and doing a guest spot with Chet O'Connell's band, getting the privilege of strumming that Tele! All the time I've known Chet this was the first time I have seen him with his own band, featuring his dad, Johnny, on guitar, Rob Picketts on bass and drummer Joe Pukeroa. It was nice to have a yarn and a sing with Chet's Melissa (a different one) as well. Chet's even promised to send me some photos of the evening -- hint, hint!
Changing the subject, the video for "Anzac Day" is now up at my MySpace site -- click the link. As I said, it's worth a look if for nothing more than to get a laugh from my outfit. In my defence, and it's a thin one, it was 1996!
Back in sweltering Brisbane we're about to kick into action again with a month of duo gigs on Thursday nights at Easts Leagues Club, this time with Chris Haigh on guitar while Michael Muchow is unavailable. It's a good chance for Haighy to have a bash with an extra two strings instead of holding things together on the bass guitar. For more gigs, check out the gig guide.
See you there.
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