1 Ali Baba
2 Got Me Talking
3 Wayfaring Stranger
4 Boogie Woogie Country Girl
5 Nobody Ever Loved You
6 Look Away
8 Long Haired Country Boy
9 Rock That Boogie
10 That’s Alright Mama
11 California Blues
12 Goodnight Irene
The Hired Hands band broke up in October 1984 and members moved on to other projects.
But for the next three decades they would each year do a reunion show during the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January.
They’d invite friends and past members to come up on stage with them.
These shows would be recorded or videoed, and the sell-out crowds would be hyped up.
According to Hired Hands co-founder, guitarist and singer Lawrie Minson, the 1987 show started at midnight and finished at 6 am.
What Simon Glozier remembers most was: “They were really really shit-hot musicians.
“They were all friends, bantering with each other and playing stuff they liked and which I really liked, and the crowd was responsive as well.
“It was the first time I mixed them, and I really enjoyed myself.”
Glozier was in Tamworth as part of his role as a PA clinician for Yamaha, to showcase their equipment to musicians at the festival.
He accompanied the 20-piece Yamaha Allstars (including Sam See) and their production to play at the Leagues with Goanna and Hired Hands.
“There’s nothing better than to mix for a good band. The better they are, the less you have to do once you set it up straight.
“Hired Hands were the kind of players who listen to each other. When someone plays a solo, all the others drop back slightly. They essentially mixed themselves.”
Tamworth is the country music capital but it was a different story for Lawrie Minson in the ‘60s.
“It was a rough place to grow up in then. Kids would find any excuse to give you a hard time.
“My father John had a radio show called Hoedown. When I was at high school, I used to get heckled, or made fun of, because country music was extremely uncool.
“I’d be called Hoedown Jr. or they’d suggest you were some in-bred hill-billy redneck.
“As a reaction I went to the other end and got into heavy rock like AC/DC and Deep Purple.”
Nevertheless, John Minson still had an impact on his son’s country music learning.
With the latest records sent to his show each week, Minson Sr. was tapped into what was happening in America.
“He was really cool, he explained to me there was more to country music than Slim Dusty, like bluegrass or the West Coast sound.
“One day he came home with a banjo and a guide on how to play it. Later he got me a dobro.
“By the time I was 16 or 17, I’d bailed out of school and discovering music and playing.”
John Minson Lawrie Minson
Lawrie Minson also learned guitar, didgeridoo, piano, accordion, mouth harp, mandolin and lap steel.
“My father also built Pedal Steel guitars as a hobby and he built some for me.”
So by the time future members of Hired Hands came into his orbit, Minson was ready.
In the late ‘70s, there was a steady migration of players from Western Australia – mostly from Kalgoorlie, some from Perth – to Tamworth.
Among them were pianist Kirk Steel and drummer Ken Ramsey of Drugstore Cowboys.
“They did folk clubs in Tamworth and blew them apart, not only because they were excellent players but they’d been on the road for nine months straight and they were really tight.”
When the band left Tamworth, Minson kept in touch with Steel.
A year later, Lawrie Minson and another future Higher Hand, fiddler Paul ‘Pixie’ Jenkins, were part of a nine-month tour with veteran Buddy Williams.
When the tour reached WA, Kirk Steel joined, coming back with it to Tamworth in December 1979.
At the time the country festival’s organisers decided that to add to the vibe of Hands of Fame ceremony in CWA Park (later changed to Hands of Fame Park), they would allow unknowns to get up on a stage and do some songs.
“Nothing was booked, people would just turn up looking for a place to play,” said Minson who was asked to put together the backing band for just a week.
Steel, Ramsey and late bassist Steve Williams were in the first line-up, paid a handsome $500 a week because the initiative had a sponsor in fruit juice company Mr. Juicy.
The name came from a line in the Eagles’ “Tequila Sunrise”, “He was just a hired hand/ Workin’ on the dreams he planned to try.”
Among those they backed was a 13 year-old unknown called Keith Urban.
The band developed a reputation as hotshot players, and after two years, they continued as a stand-alone outfit, with an ever-changing line-up.
They included Randall Wilson, Warren Gordon, Ken Mackay, Garry Steel, Paul Henderson, Ted Tilbrook, Russell Adams and Ken Ramsay.
Pixie Jenkins, accepted as Australia’s best fiddle player, joined in 1984 – the year they won the Golden Guitar (country awards) for Best Instrumental.
Pixie, later to play with Bullamakanka and John Williamson, was honoured with Hands of Fame in 1993 and in 2009, the Lifetime Achievement award at the Golden Fiddle awards.
Another player on the live tape, Paul Green, is described by Minson: “He was a way way better guitarist than anyone else on the block, we’d stand and watch him play with our jaws on the ground, and he was a really good singer too.”
The 1980s were an exciting time for bands in Tamworth, with regular work and younger players introducing modern sounds from the likes of JJ Cale, Charlie Daniels Band, Little Feat, The Eagles and Amazing Rhythm Aces.
As the LIVE at the West Tamworth Leagues Club 1987 tape shows, they went from up-tempo “Boogie Woogie Country Girl” and “Long Haired Country Boy” to gorgeous late night “Got Me Talkin’” with Steel’s brooding playing and Cate McCarthy’s vocals, and the gospel “Wayfaring Stranger”.
There are highs when the band kicks in together on the calypso flavoured “Nobody Ever Loved You”, countrified pre-Elvis “That’s Alright Mama” and the eight-minute “Rock That Boogie”.
At one point in the night, Minson asks for applause for the crew:
”They’ve been working night and day, this is the best sound we’ve ever had for Hired Hands.”