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Country Boy

by Phil Dobbin

        I was 18 years old when I met Ronnie Lane.  It was the year after the great summer of '76 that England still talks about today.  They'd remember the summer of '77 for more than just the weather.  I'd met a girl and out of whatever reason moved in with her across the other side of the country.  It was virtually in a different country.  Right on the borders of Shropshire, Herefordshire, and what was then Montgomeryshire, Wales.   

        I'd been playing guitar since I was about 11yrs. old; seeing Jimi Hendrix on T.V. when they re-released "Voodoo Child" the week he died saw to that.  So I was hot shit by this time, even other people said so.  What the hell was I doing moving to butt**** nowhere?  It didn't take long, however, when I got there to find the old (& young) hippies still trying to work out the Steely Dan & Little Feat riffs.   So singer, guitar, bass & drums, me trying to teach them how to play R&B, blues & rock 'n roll, the singer thinking he was Peter Gabriel or some other hippie.  

        Then one day Ronnie walked into the pub.  I'd got a job from my next door neighbour, labouring for him as he had the contract to refurb the brewery out back & build a beer garden.   We'd nearly finished and they'd kept me on to help out behind the jump.  I sussed Ronnie straight off:  The Faces, man!  Our drummer was so old he could remember before the Small Faces.  After a while we got to talking, met him at a couple of parties and finally blagged a support spot for him at a local boozer up in the hills - the Drum & Monkey (or as Laney would have it, The Horse & Trouser).    We were called some half-arsed name like The Rhythm So & So's so after the 1st gig Ronnie sold me for a fiver the name he'd been calling his mob - Harry Earthquake & the Tremors.  So we copped his gig & the name - nice one, mate.   At one lunchtime session in the pub as I was closing up (in those days 2.30pm last orders) he asked me up to the farm he'd got on the hill by Rowton.  "Let's get a few beers and have a strum".   O.K. mate, you're the boss. 

        After that I think he took a shine to me.  Lent me a Twin Reverb when the bass player took back the amp he'd lent me, another guitar to use live 'cause I used to hit it too hard & kept breaking strings.  But mostly, "why do you keep playing with those guys? Go play with other people".  By this time the romance was pretty much over and definitely taking second place so I'd taken at weekends to hitching to London with the guitar and crashing on peoples' couches.  One week back in the west Ronnie introduced me to Nico Korner, eldest son of Alexis Korner, who lived most of the week in a converted chapel in Knighton, just across the border.  Nico, like his dad, was a guitar player so we stared hanging out & playing, and through him and his dad I ended up moving permanently to London, spending a month on Alexis's couch in Queensway.  All due to Ronnie...Typical. 

        A good, honest bloke. If you were straight with him, no problem (God knows enough people had tried to have him over over the years...). The other guys I'd played with up in Wales couldn't understand it.  They'd brown-nosed him, told him all the bullshit, got nowhere.    He'd just help someone out if there was no big deal about it.  Me?   I was too grateful to say much.  I just got me 'round in.  That was enough.  He did this for loads of guys, nothing special about me.  I thought he was sick of the attention from people just looking for what a name could do for them, regardless of who it was.

        What I'll always remember about him was him insisting that the thing he was most proud about his whole career was his songwriting.  Never mind the strong, swooping basslines, or that great earthy voice: 'Ronnie Lane - Songwriter'. 

        I only saw him once after I left Wales for good.  It was a pub gig in town.  He just walked up, shook me hand, said "hello, mate what're having?"  Nice one, Ron.

Phil "what made Milwaukee famous" Dobbin,   2001


 


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