The Legend that is……….The Creeping Charlies Story

In 1983 I was listening to more and more rockabilly music. Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly were big heroes of mine, but it was one album that led directly to the creation of The Creeping Charlies: Rare Rockabilly Vol. 1. This particular album of godlike sounds was borrowed from Clydebank Public Library by Stevie Craig who made me a copy of it. Stuffed full of classics such as Hot Rock, Cast Iron Arm and Make Like a Rock n’ Roll, it shook my soul daddy-o. I was filled with a rampant desire to play rockabilly music, and what’s more to play it live with a real drummer.

So filled by a spirit burning with a mesianic fever I sought compadres in my rockin dream. Stevie liked the idea big time, being a rockin kinda guy, Stuart Duff was happy enough to tag along, but whence the drummer and the lead guitar player?

I met Davy Kinnaird one time at the boulie, (mingin Clydebank “disco” mentioned below), he was willing to drum. “It can sound really good if it’s done properly” he opined on the subject of rockabilly mayhem. How little he knew.

Then Big Larry came to my attention through his friend John Rankin, and never have a done a better days work than the day I asked L to join the band.

So, now I had a band – fantastic, but where to rehearse? and what tunes were we going to play? Stuart, Stevie and I sometimes used to rehearse in the school up the road from Stuart’s house. The jannies would let us in and take a fiver off us. There was equipment belonging to some other band in one of the cupboards in the dinner hall which we used shamelessly, until they found out. I used to wheel my amp up there in a cut down shopping cart. That was no joke; sometimes I pushed the fekin thing all the way from my parent’s house, a distance of three miles up and down pavements and across roads. For some reason I can no longer recall this was not an option for the proto-Charlies.

It turned out though that Davy had a garage at his palatial home in Risk Street and that we could rehearse in there. It was a damp and freezin experience however. The place stank of fungi and there were gothic layers of spider’s web lying about the place. It was really bitterly cold in the winter, you could see your breath and your fingers went numb. I think he had some sort of space heater in there but it was ineffectual to say the least. Over time my cabinet took on the ghastly honk of the place and became a thing unclean. This cabinet was a giant thing with two massive speakers. Dickie Banana, Clydebank’s notorious P.A. guy, was always offering me money for the cover off it. I wish I had taken it now. When I finally got the thing back from Davy’s garage it spent a while in my Dad’s shed before being sawn in half (an abortive attempt to make a smaller, living cabinet) and chucked in a skip.

Enough of this cabinet talk. We used to rehearse in the garage every week. A Wednesday night mebbe. I made up a tape of likely rockabilly tunes and distributed it to the boys. We intended doing a few Elvis numbers “King Creole”, “Hound Dog”, “Jailhouse Rock” amongst others. Our attempts were always on the putrid side however. It’s strange how you can never tell if a song is going to work out. Some of our most successful early tunes like “Not Fade Away” were ones we jammed rather than planned to do.

Anyway, we continued in this manner for several months before scoring our first gig at the celebrated Boulevard Hotel in the benighted pit we grew up in (or near), unlovely Clydebank. God only knows how this was arranged, these chumps had the get up and go and business acumen of a corpse (D. Kinnaird excepted). I was the leader so I take the blame. This gig went really well and is described elsewhere on this site – check under Gigs if your interested, don’t bother if your not. Though why anyone who wasn’t interested would read this far down this description of nowhereland I don’t know.

So, several years of trying to get no ambition gigs in a series of shiteholes ensued during which we morphed from a rockabilly band to a band who played pretty much only hard core Charlies tunes. The best gigs were second boulie, Edinburgh Frederick Street somewhere and the Pinetrees Milton. If you were at any of these congratulations.

It wasn’t all fun and games however, sometimes we had to record. Our first “demo” was recorded in the august studios of BBC Scotland, Queen Margaret Drive, Glesga. Our bonny looking drummer, “Kanary” to his high school chums, “Spike” to the BBC, worked there and got us in on a homer. This particular session was memorable for the arsehole who seemed to be in charge chinnin me about “breathing in the mic”, qouth he,”this session ends now if you do that one more time”. Fortunately for my readers I didn’t take this twat’s advice. To my eternal shame however I self-censored the lyric to The Jig to include “stick your mixed-up kid feelings in your golf bag” (the fud referred to above strode off carrying one) instead of “stick your mixed-up kid feelings RIGHT UP YOUR ARSE”. Silly and tame now I know, but you have to remember that this was the early eighties, you couldn’t say swearies on the radio then without being banned. I was actually worried about ,that – bless.

We recorded another demo at the BBC and another few at studios like Sing Sing, the Arches and a place down a pend in Argyll street, Argyll studios in fact, in later years, and there are also a lot of portastudio songs. I think its fair to say that we never really recorded anything we were completely happy with. I like the live Sing Sing recording, its pretty good.

We got an out of the blue phone call around 2004 or something from a chap in Dunoon who had heard some of our stuff online, liked it and wanted to make a record with us. That was exciting but for one reason or another, mainly our lackadaisical attitude I guess, it never came to fruition. We did a fair bit of work on this project but those recordings have vanished into the ether. I’m putting that out there as a challenge to the hordes of Charlies completists obviously.

However the advent of laptop based recording was a god send to us and now we’re recording stuff we actually feel pleased with. Some of it is on here and other bits and pieces are scattered over the internet for you to find if you feel the need.