Richard_Hawley_-_Steve_Gullick

My life in music: Richard Hawley

The first record I ever bought…
That was a Gene Vincent and the Bluecaps 78rpm record called ‘Race with Devil’ from Kenny’s Records on the Wicker, bought some time around the mid-70s. I wasn’t allowed to play my parent’s records at that time but they let me play the old 78s, which is odd really because they are so easy to break. They’re made from shellac, which is incredibly fragile. It’s a substance made from millions of Indian and Thai insects called lac bugs – they use it for a food glaze now, among other things.

The first gig I ever went to…

To see my Uncle, Frank White, play The Pheasant at Sheffield Lane Top. I was about ten-years-old, so they had to sneak me in through the side door. It wasn’t too long before I was playing with him on the same stage. He was an utterly brilliant guitarist and singer.

The first song I ever performed…
‘Jenny’ by Ken Cook, performed upstairs at the Firth Park Hotel at a little folk club ran by (I think) by a great folk musician called Ian Spafford, a friend of my dad. Ken Cook was a Sun Records artist and that song has a wonderful melody that’s been used over and over. You can hear its chronology from ‘Thrills That I Can’t Forget’ by Welby and Boaz (1925), ‘I’m Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eye’ by the Carter family (1929), ‘The Great Speckled Bird’ by Roy Acuff (1936), ‘The Wild Side of Life’ by Hank Thompson (1952) and many more! It wasn’t until later I found all this out, and also that Ken Cook’s real name was Roy Orbison! I was only very young at the time, to be fair.

One song I wish I wrote…
‘Pale Blue Eyes’ by the Velvet Underground, one of Lou Reed’s most beautiful songs of the many that he wrote. It’s utterly spellbinding.

One song I wish was never made…
I can’t be negative about music – well, I try not to be these days because not all music is made for us. Someone, somewhere might get a lot from it so it’s best to try and be tolerant even if you know damn well that it’s bloody awful. It is hard though sometimes.

I first fell in love with music when…
I was a boy and I heard my family singing together around the house. It all just seemed so natural. There was always music playing from somewhere at home. I thought we were normal until I went round other folk’s houses and found out they didn’t even have a radio.

A song I can’t get out of my head at the minute…
One I wrote last night! It keeps going round and round my brain, driving me crazy. This is a problem I am blessed with so I can’t complain. I’ll be 50 years old in January next year and those songs and ideas haven’t stopped since I was a boy. Sometimes I think I must be a bit mental with it all though.

A record which reminds me of a specific time and place…
Listening back to all the early R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, bluegrass, delta blues, psychedelia and English folk music I absorbed as a child reminds me of Scott Road and Vickers Road in Sheffield, where I grew up.

Music allows me to…
Be free.

Richard Hawley plays Sheffield City Hall on Monday 5th December. Tickets and more info from www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk.




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