A Country Night In Nashville – 4000 Miles in the Making

when i first saw Dominic I saw a premier league player playing in the fourth division and i thought i’ve got to get him on a big stage they say that if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life i guess this was one of those days when i wasn’t working i was just having fun playing music with my band in a bar and this was the day that i met Mr Stuart Littlewood we had a chat about putting a country show together and i love country music i was brought up on all kinds of music and i have such strong fond memories of being a kid at my parents house while they threw these parties i’d be kneeling in front of the record player with a stack of vinyls ready to put on there were some great artists like frankie lane dean martin connie francis elvis presley and then see my aunties and uncles dancing and singing along to these great songs that image of my aunties and uncles dancing and singing away that image has always stayed with me one of my uncles was a huge country music fan and after one of these parties he left some of these old records at our house there was one artist in particular i was drawn to by the name of Cowboy Copas Cowboy Copased was a huge entertainer in his day he died in the same plane crash as Patsy Cline he had these wonderful romantic songs about traveling the world and falling in love hits like Signed Sealed and Delivered Sunny Tennessee and they were so simple and i remember trying to always work them out on the guitar and working the chords out and there was one called Flat Top Guitar that i probably still remember if you go down in nashville on a saturday night be sure to see that barn dance Jublie for there is a boy with a flat top guitar and he really picks the blues for me oh lord yeah really I’ve had this jukebox for 40 years 40 years it’s been in the house and i do change the records every so often because of different generations of children and grandchildren and they enjoy different music however two or three songs have survived and a couple of them have been country artists Connie Francis was one and she survived with the Lipstick on your Collar but also a very very big favorite of mine a country song by Marty Robbins a song called Devil Woman and it is a great great country song and as i said say it survived 40 years on this jukebox I told mary about us I remember this one time I was sat in a bar with my bass player after a show we were just having a chat about music we were asking each other where we’d like to record we both said Nashville then he said who would you like to have in the band and i said on drums i’d love to have Elvis Presley’s drummer Ronnie Tut during the 70s that footage of elvis on stage is so exciting and the Ronnie on the drums going crazy anyway

that night I phoned a friend who had a contact and put me in touch with Ronnie i sent him an email with an original song called Senor Blue He quickly came back to me and he loved the song and he’d loved to record with me he was quite busy working with Neil Diamond at the time but the bigger problem was the distance between us me over here in the uk and he was over there in the states i asked him where he was based and he said Nashville and that was music to my ears and it was just too coincidental so i had to make this happen you know what i did Let me hold you one more time recording the album which i called 4000 miles because that’s how far nashville is from my house give or take a few miles it was just an incredible experience Ben my bass player went to Nashville with me in the studio as well as Ronnie Tutt we had Will Kimbrough on guitar now will’s an artist in his own right and has worked with many top recording artists like Mark Noffler rosa and cash and Emmy Lou Harris with Ronnie on the drums i felt in safe hands as Elvis had decades earlier the 70s was a very different landscape for elvis while he was making movies music had moved on having Ronnie behind him on stage every night gave him great confidence the connection between them that’s what made those shows so exciting after the Elvis years ronnie became Neil Diamond’s drummer and once that connection was made Neil Diamond famously said he would never tour again without Ronnie on drums Hi music fans Ronnie Tutt here i had the honor and pleasure of Dominic Halpin doing an album in Nashville a while back it was great fun love the humor and its music as well as sincerity so check it out hope you enjoy it The first time i ever picked up the guitar was on my grandparents farm in Spain it was one of these spanish nylon string guitars but it only had one string but i still managed to work out all these tunes i was taught at school on it the next christmas my dad got me a secondhand electric guitar i learned three chords and i was away and with those three chords you could play Buddy Holly you play Eddie Cochran how cool was that soon other kids on our street got instruments and we had a band and because i knew all these songs from my childhood i was the nominated singer we booked a local pub and we did our very first gig it didn’t take long before we started getting lots of bookings playing working men’s clubs pubs wine bars basically anywhere that would have us really

at this time i was still living at home and after a couple years of playing music i felt i was at a crossroads and i i really wanted to travel i wanted to see the world and maybe it was one of these romantic country songs calling who knows but i packed a rucksack and i packed up my guitar and i went to the furthest place i could go Australia i said goodbye kissed your lips so tenderly why did i listen to the calling of the sea i sailed away found my boy her dreams are true out on the ocean, seven seas from you once i arrived in Sydney it didn’t take long before i met more musicians and i was playing live again i fell in love with Sydney the bars the clubs it was such an exciting place to be and the live music scene was just thriving he has a style a style of his own and yet you can see the influences uh the past influences that have made him a fabulous performer there are a lot of singers obviously you know you see on the talent shows and you see in your own families and you see at the shows you go to and so on there are people that can sing but not everybody can perform and he’s got it he’s got he’s got the gift of of being a great performer he can hold an audience in the palm of his hand In Sydney we were doing well playing all the top places the casinos the hotels doing lots of private functions one day my drummer had mentioned to me about a cruise line that looking for new acts so we went along and auditioned it was an open audition on a saturday morning we set up and there was three people from the cruise line sat behind a desk and they said begin so i think i would have played um all of me why not take care of me well can’t you see that i’m no good without and he stopped me he said what about Mac the Knife and i knew Mac the Knife oh the shark babe has such teeth dear and he shows them his pearly white then he stopped me he went okay imagine there’s a an older couple and they’re celebrating a special anniversary and they want um a fox trot now i wasn’t quite sure what a fox trot was so i looked at the drummer and he said it’s just a slight swing so i think we went into like a Someday

when i’m awful when the world gets cold i will feela glow just thinking of you and he stopped me he goes okay say they want a waltz i went i was dancing with my darling to the Tennessee Waltz with an old friend i happen to see he stopped me goes nice country song there he says what about King of the Road i think he was testing me now so trailers for sale or rent rooms to let 50 cents and a big smile came over his face because he was he said he was a huge Roger Miller fan and i said i love Roger Miller and i think he wasn’t sure if i was telling the truth or not so he was testing me said what about Dang me i went dang me dang me they ought to take a rope and hang me high from the highest tree woman would you weep for me and he said what about another Roger Miller i went you can’t roller skate in the buffalo herd you can’t roll a skating in the buffalo herd you can’t roller skate in the buff herd but you can be happy if you’ve a mind too and he said thank you very much we’ll be in touch and we left anyway the next day we get a phone call and he says we love what you do we want to offer you a contract he says it’s the largest cruise ship in the world we need you on it for at least four months and we need you on board in two weeks time so we had to cancel a lot of shows we put everything into storage and away we went working on board the cruise ship as a musician was a great experience it was quite demanding because we had to work most nights and so the repertoire had to keep changing and so i found i learned more and more songs i learned the american songbook then i pick up things from other musicians on board who would lend me things to listen to it was great away singing my way around the world beats working for a living As well as working hard we played hard so after the shows we’d either go upstairs to the nightclub and talk to passengers or the real fun would be below decks that’s where the real parties would happen and as the old saying goes what goes on on tour stays on tour not like now what goes on on tour goes on Facebook back then we didn’t have Facebook good times on board i was so lucky to be able to rub shoulders with some incredible entertainers some straight out of Vegas getting to see them night after night and watching them do their show has been really useful over the years and especially when putting the country show together as well as playing live i’ve always enjoyed creating and recording music the very first album that i made was recorded at home on a reel to real tape recorder we cleared out all the furniture from the lounge room we put the drums at one end guitar amplifiers at the other microphones in the middle and we pressed record the album which is called Paris Dumper such a warm sounding recording because it was done in that traditional way and it was such a novel way to record back then that the local newspaper did an article on us but i really enjoyed the simplicity of doing it that way as opposed to nowadays it’s all very digital and a little bit sterile great experience ah was good fun my partnerLaurie and i decided what we should do is do a musical

a musical in the West End we’d had lots of success with shows in in places like blackpool and scarborough and bournemouth all around but we never had a success in central london so we decided to we decided to put a musical together based on the life of Buddy Holly who we both loved it came to london in 89 and stayed there for 15 years in the west end and then it toured all around the world um simultaneously we had five versions of it at one point and in fact when Dominic and i started to chat and the staff seemed to become aligned for us to work together because it turned out that when he was in Australia 20 years before he’d auditioned for the part of Buddy with our director at the time and and our musical director and the people who who go out on into foreign parts and onto the road to put the shows together Dominic had auditioned for the part and i believe was was offered a role in the show which he he subsequently turned down but i think it was for different reasons after many years i moved back to England to be closer to family i was starting all over again the music scene here was so different to what it was in sydney but i was determined to make it work so i put together a new band and i started knocking on doors again and slowly but surely they started to open it wasn’t long before things started to pick up bookings started flying in sometimes from high profile clients like Simon Cowell and Elle Mcpherson the band and i were traveling all over the world and having an absolute ball one of the things i had to do was i had to convince Dominic that he could play to a much wider audience he could he could become successful on a on a bigger stage he was doing great he was at the level he was at he was doing great he was he was doing good business he was playing the right places he was enjoying himself and he was making a good living but the potential that i saw was much bigger than that and and to try and convince dominic i knew would be difficult but if i could do it it would work the thing is i’ve never really seen myself as a country singer but i’ve always loved the music and its history but to have the opportunity to celebrate country music in a show that’s what really excited me it was going to be a very different kind of show for me that’s for sure but i knew as long as it was authentic as long as it was good and entertaining would be okay and i get the opportunity to wear flashy jackets and rhinestones and i could cross that off my bucket

list while in Nashville i wanted to get a stage jacket something with embroidery and rhinestones on and there’s only one place in town to go manuels now Manuel Cuevas is known as the rhinestone rembrandt he’s dressed hank williams turned johnny Cash into the man in black and also designed the famous masking outfit of the Lone Ranger i was lucky to meet Manuel himself and see how his jackets are made one jacket in particular caught my eye i had to have it it fitted like a glove i tried it on it was just perfect well almost how much of the hardest things about putting the show together was choosing the songs i quickly found out how broad the genre of country music is you ask 10 country fans what country music is and you’ll get 10 different answers one person’s country is another person’s rock so when choosing songs for the show i again thought about what made our family parties a success when i was growing up some good sing-along songs but also knowing most people in theaters were sitting down we definitely needed light and shade so we came up with the basic idea of 50 hits like dolly’s 9-5 Johnny Cash’s Ring of fire country Roads and so on then 25 modern country that say anything from the 80s to the present day and then 25 hybrid like our own twist on things or an original song that way i felt that we ticked all the boxes it was time to get the band together finding the right people that could not only play and were good but could perform was so important i knew from the very beginning i wanted to find a strong female singer that could perform alongside me and you know what happened i found two you don’t know right both great singers great songwriters and great players just what you need for a touring show i have my bass player and drummer that i played with for years then after a few lineup changes we found a guy who could play acoustic electric slide banjo if it had strings he could play it the lineup was complete and away we went having gone to nashville a couple of times i’d experienced a live music scene on Lower Broadway the stage had to look and feel like one of these honky tonk bars where music’s played from 10 in the morning till two in the morning on both sides of the street and it’s loud it’s energetic and it’s exciting oh as a contrast you get venues such as the Bluebird Cafe and it’s a singer-songwriter environment where the audience is very quiet and they listen to the songs or the stories behind the songs and it’s usually someone on a guitar or on a piano and it’s very intimate me

once we had a list of songs we started rehearsals sometimes with the whole band other times with just me and a guitar as we worked out the arrangement and the order of the songs the show started to take shape we knew the show had to have hits big hits but it’s just so many songs to choose from you’ve got all of Dolly Parton’s catalog johnny cash’s catalog where do you start but there was one song that kept coming up again and again on all the billboard charts it was it was a huge hit for Willie Nelson and Elvis Eresley and we had to put it in the show and everybody thinks Willie wrote it but he didn’t willie Nelson did however write a song to become a show favorite

Crazy recorded by Patsy Cline in 1962 a song she originally disliked but the rest of the world loves it before we could take the show on the road we had to test it so we booked it in a local venue and got as many people to turn up as possible it was a great night but i knew i had to make a few changes so i rearranged the structure and i jiggled the songs around a little because the next show was gonna be big Glasgow King’s Theater oh there was one thing i’d forgotten what was i gonna wear mom sew like the wind that’s the first half done we’re just going back on again now this is behind the curtain that’s the curtain there and as you can hear that’s the crowd behind there i’ll see if i can see them without them seeing me let’s have a look as you can see it’s quite a few in um so anyway i’ve got to get back into my

side of the stage and get ready to go on it’s funny but no matter how many live shows i’ve done over the years i still get sweaty palms standing in the wings of the stage then the adrenaline kicks in and away you go walking out onto these big stages every night is something i never ever take for granted that was it we were away rolling into different towns and cities traveling north south east and west and loving every minute of it the reaction by the audiences in theaters and concert halls around britain has been incredible it’s it’s surpassed even my expectations and i’ve been promoting concerts for almost 50 years and so when you take it to Aberdeen and you see the reaction there or to to belfast um down to London into Norwich and and to the Midlands into the center of Manchester the reaction is the same people love the music now if they love the music they’re not always happy with the performers but in this case they love the performers as well because Dominic is a character who’s got great charm a great voice but he also has great instincts he understands what an audience wants he understands they don’t want a whole night of cover versions he understands that they don’t want a night of all original songs they want a mixture and they want male and female-led songs so all those ingredients are in a country night in nashville being part of a show like this you get to visit some great places and amazing theaters the poor car does a lot of miles that’s for sure depending on where we are sometimes we make it home sometimes it’s your trusty budget hotel or worse you curled up in the car for the night the reality of running a show like this means you’ve got to do a lot of driving sex drugs and rock and roll they said still waiting for that sure you have fun times but i also spent many hours alone in the car but those hours and that solitude is when i’m most creative and the other side of midnight for me is the perfect time to write a new song when the performance started and walked on stage that instant connection

that he has with the audience and the warmth that comes from don and also comes back from the audience i was just so impressed it was um it was it was just something very special my job on the show as production manager normally starts about three months before we ever get to a venue um i’ll use over the three months before with the theaters to make sure when we get there on the day we know exactly that what we’ve got to expect we can make sure that everything we need is in place people-wise and equipment wires we normally get there for about 12 o’clock we don’t have to build the set build the backdrop put the sound in put the lights in a production manager’s role on the day is to make sure everything goes in properly the set looks as it should do um when the band arrives most importantly you’ve got to make sure they have a cup of tea or a cup of coffee you’ve got to make sure that they have their biscuits in place this is a very important part of the job boy if this one of my favorite parts of the evening is after the performance is finished some of the guys come out and they do a meet and greet in the foyer of the theater they’re happy to sign the merchandise um if you want to get your photograph taken with dom or any of the band they’re always more than happy to do that normally i get roped in as the official photographer of the band because people selfies don’t look so good sometimes when everyone piles out the theater all at once it can get a little bit crazy i really do enjoy meeting the audience after the show and hearing their thoughts on the show and what country music’s meant to them how maybe one or two of the songs brought back some nice memories what a great time they’ve had it kind of reminds me of my family parties and being a kid

seeing my aunties and uncles having such a good time it’s just the tonic you need before a long drive home