I’m pleased to bring you the first in the series of musical features about how gigs have influenced our lives. I hope to be able to bring you a great selection of stories about the positive effect that music has and will be featuring fans, musicians, DJs and promoters.
Today’s story is from Richard Smith and he takes us right back to 1981. For those of you who don’t know him, Richard is the unsung hero of the psychobilly and rockabilly music scene. Not only is he out at gigs a couple of times a week with his lovely wife Laura, he constantly supports the bands by buying their merch and adding to his already extensive vinyl and t-shirt collection, and boy is it a collection!
He runs several fan pages on Facebook and is constantly sharing events and musical releases. Yep a true supporter of live music. Gigs have certainly influenced his life. I will let Richard tell you his story now of how he became a rockabilly.
Gigs That Influenced My Life – Richard Smith
“I got introduced to Rock ‘n’ roll by my brother, who is 10 years older than me, and my sister, 6 years older, from as far back as I can remember. They played a lot of glam bands, such as T-Rex, but also Elvis, the first singer that I loved, and it all came from there really.
My first gig was the Stray Cats at the Lyceum in 1981.
Rock’n’roll was the first genre that I got into, then Rockabilly, Psychobilly and then Punk. Ska was always a bit in the background, due to chart hits from Madness, Specials, Selector & The Beat. (Although as a rockabilly I didn’t always admit to that!).
In 1981 at the age of 15, I was a spotty little Teddy Boy with sideburns, (which my mother used to say that I could have as long as my Dad grew some) creepers and a bootlace tie. On Saturdays, I used to hang about Wood Green Shopping Centre, never really buying anything, just walking around mucking about on the lifts.
When one day two Rockabilly girls walked by and the blonde one gave me a big smile. So, after following them about for a while we got talking and I found out her name was Debbie. She proceeded to invite me to The Royalty the next Thursday, to which I replied ‘yes, I would love to’ and we then spent the next couple of hours walking around, avoiding the Wood Green skins. We said goodbye, I got on the 261 bus and headed home, wondering how I was going to explain Thursday to my mum.
Strangely, my mum was quite fine about me going (especially being on a school night) and as long as I was outside by 11 o’clock, it was fine. I couldn’t believe it, I was off to the home of Rock ‘n’ Roll, only the year before Bill Haley had played there. I phoned Debbie to confirm she was going, she said ‘yes’, and that I should get a concession ticket from outside which got you in for £1.
On the Thursday, I got myself ready; drainpipes, shirt, creepers, pink stripy socks and my denim jacket and started walking to the venue. I got there just after it opened and managed to get a ticket and got in for a pound. The first thing I that happened was an older Ted and his wife asked me to sign a petition to get Billy Fury back to The Royalty, and then I walked in.
It was an old-fashioned Ballroom, which had two bars either side of the entrance, a balcony around both sides (the actual balcony that Jimmy jumps off in Quadrophenia) and a stage at the other end. In the middle was a big dance floor surrounded by table and chairs.
On the dance floor, there were over 20 to 30 couples jiving; the ladies were wearing circle skirts, and as they spun around, they showed off their stockings. Rockabillies, Teds and Rockers all milling about, smoking and drinking; it was fabulous! It was the first time I felt like I was home.
I found Debbie and she tried to teach me how to stroll, and in no time the band was on. It was Buzz and the Flyers, I had seen The Stray Cays already, but that was at The Lyceum, this was much smaller much more intimate, I loved it.
All of a sudden there was a scuffle from the balcony and two Teddy Boys were going hammer and tongs at each other, bouncers waded in, I was surprised that no-one else seemed to bat an eyelid at them and carried on watching the band.
I was out at eleven, as promised, and my mum picked me up in the car, she asked if there was any trouble? and I replied, “no, nooo, not at all”. The main thing I thought about on my way home was that I was dressed like the older teds there, not like the Rockabillies, who were much more my age. They had much shorter hair and a more American influenced style of dressing.
So, Saturday, I headed down to East Barnet Road (avoiding the East Barnet skins) and went to Lawrence Crafton’s barber shop and got a flat top. It was one of those barbers that would have punks, skins and rockabillies sitting, waiting to get their hair done with locals. He moaned at me that I shouldn’t come on a Saturday to get a different style as he was too busy, but he still did it for me.
Out went the creepers and the bootlace tie and in came the peg pants and the bowling shirts, this was the beginning of my journey. That chance meeting of two girls on a Saturday sparked a difference to my life! ”
What a great story! It’s funny how just one meeting or gig can influence the course of your life and musical tastes forever. Thanks so much for sharing Richard.
Many of you enjoyed his wife’s Laura’s story (in fact it’s been one of the most popular posts here on the blog) but if you haven’t seen that, go and give it a read. I’m sure there’s going to be a bit of friendly rivalry going on between the marrieds.
You can find links to all my musical features and interviews HERE
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If you want to appear in one of my musical features, maybe albums or gigs have influenced your life and you feel you’ve got an interesting story to tell with some cool photos to share, then please do CONTACT ME.
As I mentioned Richard runs several fan pages so go and show him some support: