I once got paid to hold Waylon Jennings’ pony skin coat while he sang on stage at a Country Music festival. Well, not just hold the coat, I confess I actually wore it for a while. In my defence it was as heavy as some of the maudlin lyrics, and I had no idea how long he’d be singing for.
I wasn’t just hired as a human coat stand. Us promotion girls were sorting tickets, arranging signing schedules and doing anything else required at the North West London pilgrimage for Country music fans, most of whom had dressed up like extras in a Clint Eastwood B movie. (One that went straight to Betamax video.) But I loved it.
At 18, just moved to London as a student, and having answered an ad in the Evening Standard, I suddenly found myself in this alternative universe for the Bank Holiday weekend. As a hip-hop music fan, I had an instant education into Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette, Asleep at the Wheel and the man who wrote the Dukes of Hazard theme tune, Waylon Jennings.
They were all friendly, as down to earth as Dolly Parton, and loved their fans who were every bit as dressed up as Comic-Cons. Middle aged Milky bar Kids from Milton Keynes, with dreams of the Wild West on a Sunday while mowing the lawn.
I had never seen anything like it, but my response then, as now when confronted by something completely outside my comfort zone was to smile. Try not to look shocked, keep your ‘game face’ on. A tactic that’s worked well in prison workshops, hospital visits, working with survivors of domestic violence and as a DJ hosting events on stage in front of 25,000 people. Smile, try to ignore the fear inside and hope that inspires confidence in others that you know what you’re doing, even if you haven’t a clue and are trembling with nerves inside.
So why did I suddenly remember something from nearly 30 yrs ago? Well it was another gig….last weekend in Liverpool, the boyfriend’s band were playing at Kazimier gardens. A sublime venue in summer, but an outdoor stage in February?? Shivering while wearing my own coat, as the band went on stage I reprised my human coat stand role and gratefully added my boyfriend’s silver parka on top. My body flashed me back to Wembley Arena. It was warmer back then in the West. The Wild West of North West London that is.