Memories of days gone by…
It was the early seventies and it seemed like SLIM DUSTY and REG LINDSAY were the twin peaks of Australian country music. Slim of course, favoured the traditional path and in doing so, took the bush ballad style to an all-time high. Reg on the other hand, while by no means ignoring that same heritage, pursued a more modern sound which was influenced by the American style of country that was emanating from Nashville at the time. He was one of our first (perhaps the first) to record an album utilising their best players at the R.C.A. Studios, released as ‘Reg Lindsay in Nashville’ and produced by ex-pat musical giant Bill Walker. The sad passing of Reg Lindsay has reminded us that although he was highly-regarded overseas, he ultimately chose to concentrate on his career in Australia.
From a technological point-of-view, our local recording scene was just coming into its own and by the mid-seventies was starting to rival the overseas facilities. Pat Aulton had produced Reg’s biggest hit Armstrong (1971) at Festival Records in Pyrmont, most likely on a four-track tape recorder. In 1974 the company upgraded their studio and now boasted a 24-track facility with the latest English-made Neve mixing console. Studio A was so advanced at that time that it attracted many visiting overseas stars and gained a world-class reputation. It would have been inconceivable back then to imagine that one day recordings would be made on small computers and that a software company (Universal Audio) would sell a computer-based version of the mighty Neve desk at a tiny fraction of the original price!
On 25th May 1976, producer Martin Erdman was at the controls at Studio A, and his task was to record some tracks for a new Reg Lindsay album…songs that would sit alongside four recordings left over from the previous Nashville album. Pee Wee Clark from Reg’s band was there on pedal steel, along session men Milton Saunders on piano and from the jazz-rock fusion band Crossfire, Greg Lyon on bass, and Doug Gallacher on drums. For reasons that are lost in history, there was no guitar player and at the last minute, someone thought of the fresh-faced teenager who worked in the PR office around the other side of the building. but who always seemed more interested in what was going on in the studio. That dear reader, was how I got called to play my first professional studio session. When it came time to record Reg’s composition Johnny Foster (The Old-Time Travellin’ Showman), I played the finger-picking part on my Japanese ‘imitation’ guitar. This was back when ‘copy’ guitars looked good but sounded average. Reg said,
“…Here, try this one…”
as he handed me his black 1938 Gibson acoustic to play! The album was released as The Travelin’ Man in August of 1976 and featured a very elaborate cover (for country music at the time) with a leather-look printed background and an insert sleeve with photos of Reg’s career to date. I know he was proud that the local tracks did indeed match up to the overseas recordings.
In this age of mobile phones and the internet, it is hard to imagine how popular Citizen’s Band Radio was at the time. Recognising the trend, Reg co-wrote a song entitled just that, C.B Radio, and I was called back for another session on October 16th. Festival Records not only had a studio in their building, but also a pressing plant. Such was the rush to release this track as a single, it was in the shops exactly one week later! Although I would only play one live show with Reg (and his niece Anne Kirkpatrick) that year, a couple of years later I joined his band The Overnighters to tour with his show and also play on over 40 episodes of the Logie award-winning TV show Reg Lindsay’s Country Homestead. We can only hope that some of Reg’s television legacy will get released again one day. There were 156 hours of the Brisbane shows recorded, not to mention the earlier Adelaide shows. Somewhere there in the vault, is probably the most comprehensive visual history of a golden era of Australian country music.
Until next time, happy surfing!