Back in 2019 I interviewed drummer Michael Kelly (link below). He talked about his time playing in North East bands The Virgins, Stampede and Southbound. This post features another member of that band….
I know you’ve had a comprehensive conversation with Mick Kelly so not sure how much I can add to the Southbound story but I’ve put a few things down. To be fair Mick certainly has the best memory and was careful to record and document things – a real organiser! Anyway here goes.
When did you first pick up the guitar and play live ?
I started playing at an early age and was pushed into a first gig without any experience of playing on stage with a group called Arabesque in a club called Stormont Main in Gateshead. I was 17, and at some points I didn’t know what the hell I was doing – a real baptism of fire.
Then a band called Southbound came knocking. George Lamb (guitar) asked if I wanted to join him in a band with Keith Nicholson (bass) and Alan Gordon (drums). Mal Troughton was the singer. After intensive rehearsals we started gigging in pubs and clubs doing covers. George and I were focused on developing strong three part harmonies and twin lead guitar which became a signature sound.
We became established quickly and George and I started to compose our own songs, a couple of the first ones being High Time and Summer Sound. Davy Giles (bass) and Mick Kelly (drums) came along and joined a little later.
We started playing more of our own songs than anything else and we’re still proud of them today. Bill Sharpe joined as singer for a short time and Richard Archibald towards the end, but there was a long period when George and I played guitar and shared lead vocals/harmonies – a time I really enjoyed. I felt it pushed me on a professional and personal level.
What other bands were around at the time ?
Bands like Junco Partners, Kip, Scratchband, Young Bucks, Eastcoast Sidekick to name but a few.
Can you remember what venues you were playing ?
We played North East pubs and working men’s clubs such as Wheatley Hill, Thornley, West Cornforth, High Pit, Forest Hall and many others. We travelled across country also getting down to London. A few stand out gigs are Sunderland Mecca, Newcastle Mayfair, Newcastle Poly (now Northumbria), Cooperage and Guild Hall in Newcastle. I remember supporting Def Leppard the night they got signed up.
We did the Durham Domefest for a few years working our way up the bill each year and I really enjoyed our weekly residency at the Gosforth Hotel in Gosforth High Street. We took over from Last Exit, Sting’s band at the time. I remember a packed house every time, they even stood on the stairs.
What I didn’t enjoy was lugging equipment up and down stairs alongside our dedicated roadies/fans. Mick was hoping to organise a get together at the Gosforth Hotel in 2020 but Covid put paid to that.
Did you record any of your songs ?
We wrote a lot of songs and Mick saved a lot of live recordings. We did a more formal recording in Impulse studio, Wallsend, which was exciting at the time. When the studio closed down they discovered some recordings and they digitally remastered them which was really unexpected. Even today I am still proud of the songs we wrote.
Looking back to those times does it bring back any stand out memories ?
Gigging with Southbound always felt like a great night out with my mates. They were great lads and we were always laughing even though we took our music very seriously. There were no egos and we all got on well.
I remember a gig in Seahouses when we picked up a former GI from America who was hitch-hiking. He came to the gig and a big fight broke out. We had to stop playing while the GI got stuck in along with a well-known North East actor. (Alan wouldn’t say who, but my money’s on that 6 ft brickie with a chipped tooth, his wife was called Marjorie).
One night we got snowed in during a gig in Wes Cornforth and stayed overnight at the concert chairman’s house. I remember he had crossed swords hanging on the wall. He removed one and started chasing us with it trying to jab us – I hid in the toilet.
Basically I had the time of my life. It was always a great laugh. It still surprises me today how well we got on and still do. I often think about how we would have done if we had got signed up.
Do you come from a musical family ?
My parents used to sing at ‘Go As You Please’ venues, as they were called then, but I wouldn’t say we were a musical family. They always encouraged me and I was sent to piano lessons as a child however I knew it was the guitar for me. I used a guitar belonging to a guy who lived on my estate. He taught me the basics sitting on the steps outside his house, but I’m mostly self-taught.
I used the Fender Telecaster my Dad bought for me in 1976 from a small music store in Jarrow. I’d been searching Newcastle shops but just couldn’t find the right one. As soon as I played the Telecaster I knew it was for me and I used it right up until I had to stop playing due to illness in 2014.
My telecaster changed appearance over the time in terms of colour, pick-ups and other additions, but for me it always gave me the wide range of guitar sound required during my career. I bought different guitars but it was always the telecaster.
What does music mean to you ?
Music has essentially been my life’s passion and allowed me to form great lasting friendships. I went on to play with musicians who are well regarded locally including Pat McMahon (Idle Hands), Ray Stubbs and the All Stars during which time I honed my ability to play blues. The Annie Orwin Band, when we played versions of some unusual and interesting songs and with Paddy Doughty in the Rain Kings, who I consider to have a great blues voice.
At 40 I went to University to become a music teacher and worked in high schools and finally a great little school called Southlands in Tynemouth. At the same time I worked as a guitar tutor in a private school in Sunderland and got children and adults through their exams with sustained success.
What are you doing now ?
I have a rare medical disorder called Amyloidosis Polyneuropathy which means I can’t use my hands to play guitar. I did some singing but my vocal chords were affected too. During lockdown I was encouraged to take up the harmonica which I’m loving. I use a neck rack which slows me a little but I’m working hard so you never know.
Not sure if this was any good to you but I enjoyed remembering the Southbound experience.
Interview by Gary Alikivi January 2021.