Tracks

  1. Evangelina
  2. Just Enough To Keep Me Hangin’ On
  3. Pink Bedroom
  4. So Sad
  5. Colder Than Winter
  6. Tiger Rag
  7. Tear It Up
  8. Everybody’s Sweetheart
  9. That’s Alright Mama
  10. Let’s Do Something
  11. Setting Me Up
  12. Mystery Train
  13. Country Boy
  14. One Way Rider

Crew

Noel Bennett
audio

Now a country music superstar, winner of 22-Grammys and who last toured Australia as part of The Eagles, Vince Gill was still establishing his solo career when the Australian tour took place.

Now based in Nashville, he knew Albert Lee when they were both living in Los Angeles and moving around in the same music circles.

On Live at The Prince of Wales Hotel, 1988, Vince can be heard laughingly telling the audience, “I was the only one in the US stupid enough to play after Albert Lee!”

Thirty three years later, Vince exclaims, “That’s still true! No one plays like Albert. He has a swing and a bounce, and so intoxicating to play with.

“There’s absolutely no competition when we play together, just total admiration.”

In 1988, Albert Lee enjoyed legend status among other musicians.

Born in England, he was “the guitarist’s guitarist”, for his technical virtuosity and for playing his Telecaster at breakneck speed.

This was the time of squealing feedback courtesy Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. Lee wanted to play country music and thought he’d try his luck in Los Angeles in 1974. He was embraced there, recording and touring with heaps of musicians, notably with the Everly Brothers and Emmylou Harris.

“We were the youngsters who picked up the mantle after the great country names like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard,” Albert recalls.

“That’s when I first met Vince. He was more into bluegrass. But he and Ricky Skaggs would tell you I was an influence on them picking up the guitar.”

Listening to Live at The Prince of Wales, 1988 brought back memories.

“I wasn’t nervous about hearing those old tapes because I knew we played well,” Albert says. “But we wanted to do this for ARCA’s Roadie Fund. Being a crew member is tough and there’s no pension, so it’s all I could do to help.

“I don’t think there’s a fund like ARCA’s in America, not that I’ve heard of. But I do know musicians are doing charity shows for crews.”

Vince put the spotlight on the relationship between musicians and crews.

“The sound, the lights, everything’s done for you. So many guys who do that are musicians themselves. Maybe they never made it up to that level of musicianship or singing but they love being around people who love the same things.

“It’s been a crazy 12 to 18 months and it’s apparent everybody is struggling. Everyone’s in the same boat, and there are a lot of good people doing things like this to give a hand up.”

On Live At The Prince Of Wales, 1988, the mood is both laid-back yet intense, the crowd cheering them along as they exchange licks, harmonies and affectionate stage patter.

The set included Lee’s “Evangelina”, ”So Sad” and cover of John Hiatt’s “Pink Bedroom” while Gill contributed “Colder Than Winter” and “Just Enough To Keep Me Hanging On”.

Because of time constraints in rehearsing with their Australian backup band, much of the second part of the set was filled with uptempo rockabilly classics as “One Way Rider” and “Tear It Up”.

“Sweet Little Lisa”, which Albert Lee had recorded with Dave Edmunds, saw the duo joined on the night by Stephen Housden of Little River Band. They knew him from LRB’s American tours, and had dinner with him before the show. Also at the meal was Russell Morris, whom they knew when he lived in the US. Morris was in the audience that night but didn’t join them on stage.

The classics “That’s Alright Mama” and “Mystery Train”, popularised by Elvis Presley, were more a tribute to the King’s guitarist Scotty Moore.

Vince: “We grew up listening to things like ‘Mystery Train’ and ‘That’s Alright Mama’, we were all influenced by Scotty Moore.

“Those were some of the earliest things we heard, a bit of rock, a bit of rockabilly, a little bit of country twang, those songs were perfect and timeless.”

Albert: “I still do some of those classics in my set. I rest them but they always keep coming back!

“I really admired Scotty, he was one of my earliest heroes. I met him when we played at a big concert at Abbey Road Studios in London.

“Sad to say I never had the time to sit down and talk. He was pretty shy. I’d love to have picked his brain on a number of things. I had his phone number but sadly I didn’t take the chance to call.”

The 1988 tour was pulled together by folk music promoter and wine grower Andrew Pattison. In 1973, he and a friend drove in an old London taxi from England through Europe and Asia and ended up in Australia where he ran the Troubadour club in Melbourne

Pattison, who donated the live tape to ARCA, originally planned for the tour to include Rodney Crowell but the schedules clashed.

“The tour with Vince and Albert was the most enjoyable I’d ever done. They were so down-to-earth and of course great musicians. They stayed at my home, and my wife washed their clothes.”

He recalls taking them to a birthday party at a friends who also ran a winery, in Hanging Rock.

Neither were household names at the time, but one of the guests realised Vince was a top golfer, “a scratch golfer” who had no handicap.

“Why didn’t you become a professional golfer?” she asked.

Vince replied in his typical matter-of-fact style, “Because I can sing better!”