Southbound were active around the North East in the 1970s. The Sunderland band were regulars on the workingman’s club circuit, supported New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang at Newcastle Mayfair, and had a residency at the Gosforth Hotel in Newcastle.
Southbound have already featured on this site, interviews with Mick Kelly and the late Alan Burke have proved to be popular. To discover more of the Southbound story and find out what he is up to now, I met up with George at The Littlehaven Hotel in South Shields.
Growing up it was a very musical house. Although I knew that my Dad’s voice was classically trained, I never found out till late that he went to lessons for ten years. My mother used to sing and my brothers and sisters were also into music. We had a guitar and piano in the house, I took a few piano lessons and changed to guitar when I was 11 year old.
I served my time as a sheet metal worker in Jarrow and worked for another year, but it was too much with the amount of work Southbound were getting on the North East circuit.
Southbound had three sets, one all original material, then another playing Eagles, America West Coast stuff, and then more poppy stuff to get paid in the clubs. We were out regularly every week, in fact a few times we played nine gigs in one week!
The Ivan Birchall agency had us in the clubs till 10.30pm, get your gear off stage then double up and go do a night club, then a Sunday afternoon gig.
But our stomping ground was The Gosforth Hotel where we took over the residency from Sting’s band, Last Exit. Sting went to London and joined The Police, we were fortunate to get the residency.
He came to one of our shows around the Roxanne days, he had the dyed hair, the leather jacket, he’d be stood at the bar and we had a few words with him – nice fella. Playing the Hotel was good for us, it would get packed, the queue to get in would sometimes be out onto the street.
There were a few line ups of Southbound but when we were becoming popular there was myself and Alan Burke on guitars and we wrote the songs. Mick Kelly on drums, bassist was Dave Giles and Mal Troughton used to sing with the band. There is a photo of us standing against a van, this was taken around 1975 or 76.
I’m racking my brains here but Mick Kelly was great for all the names and dates, a real memory man for the venues we played. (Interview with Mick on this site – All Right Now 13th March 2019)
When punk came in 1976 the record companies saw us as old hat, they all wanted punk bands. But we still packed venues out and had a good following.
We played Newcastle Mayfair with Tygers of Pan Tang, we played with Raven and headlined there in our own right. Obviously, played the Sunderland Mecca a few times, some good gigs at Newcastle Guildhall and the Bedrock festival.
Bob Smeaton, who is a very successful film maker now and a great lad, used to be singer in Newcastle band White Heat and when they weren’t gigging he often used to jump in the van with us and help out with the gear.
Tom Noble, who manages Tygers of Pan Tang now, used to work on the Bedrock BBC North East radio programme during the 70s and 80s, he worked alongside Graeme Thomson. They managed a band I was in with Phil Caffrey called The Lions Share and then Caffrey. We got a publishing deal on the back of that band.
Graeme’s brother Steve, was engineer at Impulse Studio in those days and he recorded four songs on a Southbound demo. Actually, he released them on Cherry Red label not long ago. We also recorded at Linx studio in Newcastle.
In hindsight if we had more of our heads screwed on and business focused it might have been different, but we were just having a good time spending most of our money on brown ale and curries after gigs in the restaurants on Ocean Road in South Shields.
Looking back to those times we just took it in our stride and loved being with our mate’s playing music. You know Southbound never really fell out, we might have had an argument here or there but no, we were all good mates having a lad’s night out and getting paid for it.
After Southbound I teamed up with Phil Caffrey in a song writing partnership, we had a publishing deal with Axis music which was a subsidiary of EMI. We used to write songs and go down to London and record them. We were signed and managed by a guy called Nigel Thomas.
Nigel also managed the Heavy Metal band Saxon, Joe Cocker and Kiki Dee who recorded one of our songs and put it out as a single. This went on one of Kiki’s albums, Angel Eyes, with the likes of Dave Stewart and Daryl Hall, it was just nice to get our names to something like that. Nigel also managed Keith Emerson and Lynsey De Paul so we did some work with them.
It was late 80s when Saxon were recording a new album at Hook End Manor Studio in Berkshire, which had been Dave Gilmour’s house. It was a residential studio with horse stables in the grounds, a great facility, we were down there about a week. The Saxon lads were great.
Def Leppard had a huge album at the time (Hysteria, released 1987) with big sounds and plenty vocals on. The Saxon album (Destiny, released 1988) was nearly finished they just wanted to experiment with block harmonies using four male voices.
Through our manager Nigel Thomas, Phil Caffrey and I got the job, we got paid the session fee. There was another guy managed by Nigel called Steve Mann, who now plays with the Michael Schenker group.
We were waiting in the studio for the fourth male vocalist when in walked an old Sunderland friend of mine – Dave Taggart. I said ‘what you doing here?’ he said ‘what you doing here?’! I couldn’t believe it. Just a massive coincidence.
(Formerly in Danceclass, Dave now plays in the Belinda Carlisle band. An interview with Dave features on this site – Music Still Matters, 15th April 2018).
Dave told me that Stephan Galphas produced the album by Sunderland band Well, Well, Well and he had recorded some backing vocals on it. Stephan’s next project was producing the Saxon album and he asked him to come down and put some backing vocals on Destiny.
Don’t know how successful the album was but I heard the single Ride Like the Wind on national radio a few times.
Actually, we asked Dave to join Southbound at one time but he was playing with Tony McAnaney. Later I did record some backing vocals on the Jimmy Nail album they were working on, Crocodile Shoes.
What am I doing now? Well during lockdown I invested in a home recording set up, I’ve always worked with a porta studio facility writing and recording songs, but this was an upgrade to a digital studio. So late in life I learnt how to record properly and put down a lot of songs.
I originally had 50 then whittled that down to 12, I was doing drums, guitar, vocals, all recorded solo, a one man band. I hadn’t thought about releasing them.
Then I lost two musical brothers, Alan Burke, original guitarist in Southbound and Richard Archibald, who also played in a late Southbound line up. He also played in the Big Picture, a band from Sunderland amongst others.
This made me think profoundly differently. Why not release these songs on an album and why not ask friends of mine if they want to get involved? So I did, and was absolutely blown away when they all said yes. The album is called Family and Friends because that’s who’s on it!
It includes North East musicians Dave Ditchburn, Phil Caffrey, Don Airey, George Shovlin, Archie Brown, Terry Slesser, Emma Wilson and more, plus my brothers and sisters. I got some great performances.
The album got some great reviews and was in the blues charts at number two – Buddy Guy pipped me to the post!
At first I thought the logistics of playing it live would be too difficult, but after a longer think I went ahead and touch wood, after getting all our diaries synched up I’ve booked The Fire Station in Sunderland on the 10th June 2023. I’m really looking forward to it.
The Fire Station auditorium is a fabulous place. I had the tour looking on stage, checking the sound system and back stage – it’s a great place.
As a house band I’ve got ex Showbiz Kids guitarist Pat McMahon, Paul Wilson on keys, ex Circus and Lucas Tyson bassist John Taylor on bass, Jim Bullock on harmonica and not one but two drummers, Ian Hamilton and Barry Race.
Everyone on the album apart from Don Airey can make it – he’s touring with Deep Purple that night. Don’s a lovely bloke he still keeps in touch with his Sunderland roots.
Looking back at the Southbound days, we weren’t striving to make it we were just enjoying the journey, making it wasn’t the main focus. We were young kids playing in our bedrooms, wrote a few songs then took it to the next stage and it was great fun. We were just dead lucky.
I never thought in a million years that here I am 66 year old and still doing it …I still feel that I’m dead lucky!
Click here to buy tickets for The Fire Station on 10th June 2023
To buy Family & Friends CD contact the official website at: georgelambmusic.co.uk
The album is available to stream on Spotify, I-Tunes, Apple Music & Amazon music.
Alikivi April 2023