Whitley Bay was a hotbed of Country & Western music in the late 70s, I know not why, it had no natural link to any wild west town apart from on a Saturday night in The Rex, but if you require evidence that Whitley Bay was a hotbed of C&W music then I would refer you to the shop that existed on the road from the railway (now Metro) station which was dedicated purely to the sale of all the accessories that a faux cowboy would ever wish for.
I owned a pair of cowboy boots, wooden heels, pointed toes, nicely tooled leatherwork , I owned jeans, I owned a Ben Sherman checked shirt, instantly I was a cowboy, and thus attired I began attending the C&W nights in various licensed premises throughout the Whitley Bay area – Yeee-ha!
It was a different world.
The same people attended every event, the same people dressed in the same ridiculous cowboy and cowgirl outfits that they had all bought from that shop just near the station in Whitley Bay, imagine Woody and Jesse from Toy Story – now imagine a pub full of Woody and Jesse’s from Toy Story, and then don’t laugh, for these were no fancy dress party’s, people hadn’t gone out and bought Woody and Jesse outfits so as to attend a party as a comical gesture, oh no, they really thought they were cowboys, more so that cowboys actually dressed like Woody from Toy Story too.
And there was a plethora of C&W musicians in the Whitley Bay area, indeed musicians of all flavours were attracted to the area and its nightly live music performances in pubs throughout the district, most of them hated C&W but a true professional musician plays what the hell he’s told to play for money and so they dressed as Woody from Toy Story and they Yeee-ha’d with the rest of us.
I was living in the Queens Hotel at the time and another of our permanent residents was a professional bass player, he’d turned up one stormy night clutching an overnight bag and a guitar case in true vagabond musician stylee and had persuaded our landlord that he’d be able to pay the room rate by the end of the week if he could just have the room now please, the landlord relented and the musician must have been true to his word for he stayed for more than a year.
A small, haggard looking man with a long droopy Frank Zappa moustache and an equally long and droopy face he appeared to be carrying the woes of the world upon his shoulders but he found gainful employment with his bass guitar on almost every night in the area, I only ever saw him in the evenings as he didn’t seem to surface from his room at all until it got dark the following day.
Most of the venues operated a “turn up and play” programme and although there were regular bands, most nights ended up with ten or so musicians on stage all taking turns at singing their favourite cowboy songs, it was all jolly good fun and I got pissed nearly every night to the sounds of Peaceful Easy Feeling sung by a Geordie who thought he was a cowboy.
And then Slim Brady moved into the area.
Slim Brady turned up at The Pheasant one evening, had brought his guitar, wore a cowboy shirt like no other cowboy shirt anyone had ever seen, this cowboy shirt had the leather shoulder patches and fancy embroidery of the Grand Ole Opry stars, he looked for all the world a genuine Grand Ole Opry star and was instantly invited to take centre stage and show us what he could do.
In an obviously fake cowboy-but-really-a-geordie accent he introduced himself as Slim Brady, which raised a small titter as he must have weighed at least twenty five stone, then he strummed a chord and started to sing in the style of his hero Slim Whitman …
I have never seen anything quite so ridiculous in my life, not anything that was supposed to be taken seriously anyway, but ridiculous as it was it became strangely hypnotic and Slim Brady attracted a huge following and in each pub that he appeared the doors would be closed to newcomers as his audience packed the place to the rafters and we all yodelled along to “Rose Marie” and “Happy Anniversary”, I was 21 years old and I followed an overweight slightly balding man with a ridiculous moustache and a leather tie – I may have been taking drugs, its the only explanation I have.