With the formation of their own showband – The Rambling Boys – whilst in Sixth Form, the guys built even more gigging (and driving) experience, and the freedom to broaden the setlists further beyond mainstream country.
At the time, public libraries offered out vinyl records on two-week loans, often relying on requests to guide their purchases of new stock. By chance a Country music fan seemed to be asking Kevin’s local library to order lots of these artists and so he got a free musical education in an emerging genre: ‘My lucky break was this person loved Merle Haggard and Joe Ely and the library seemed happy to order everything they wanted. I was quickly hooked.’
Discovering Joe Ely unlocked a rich new seam of edgier country artists soon to be called Cow Punk. Says Kevin: ‘Not only was Joe Ely brilliant but he toured with British punk band The Clash. He even sang backing vocals on their classic track, Should I Stay or Should I Go!. Cow Punks were making Country cool.’ Suddenly the records of the Cow Punk scene were hitting UK shores and the bands were doing live shows. Dave Alvin and The Blasters toured with Brit rocker Nick Lowe; followed soon by the likes of Lone Justice and Jason and the Scorchers.
London venues like The Half Moon, the Hope and Anchor and The Greyhound gave a warm welcome to visiting cow punks and provided a platform for home-grown country punk like Hank Wangford to break through.
Tony and Kevin were busy soaking this up and adding whatever they could to their own showband sets. Their new band was soon landing gigs in more venues – in top-tier places on the circuit like Leeds Irish Centre and Manchester’s Carousel club – and getting onto the bill supporting visiting Irish showbands at prestige venues like Derby’s Assembly Rooms.
Still only 18, the boys had now got around 200 gigs under their belts and were competing with the best of the established showbands on their patch, but this swift progress had to be cut short as University beckoned. Each plunged into student life in distant places and their musical partnership went on hold. Little did they know that only a year or two later they’d be putting a new band together to hit the road once again, this time a very long way from home.