Bill Hastings Story - FALKIRKMUSICSCENE2017

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     Bill Hastings - The Pack, Friendship, Solo Career etc.
(The career of Falkirk musician Bill Hastings from '60s beat groups to the present.)

Bill takes us from his first guitar to his first band - THE FORTHBEATS.
While at school in Falkirk, I was a regular listener to radio shows, and loved the sound of the guitar.  I heard Hank Marvin and Bert Weedon play and badgered my folks for an acoustic, and was told I would get one for Christmas.  When they gave me it, they were amazed that I could play so well so quickly.   Truth was, I had found the thing early, and had practised while they were out!  Later I talked my folks into buying me a solid body Electric Guitar which I badly needed if I was to play in a band.  This was got for me on the tick through Bells Music mailorder catalogue, based in London. I went for a sparkly Zannetti- a great guitar that I wish I still had.  My first venture was a group called The Forthbeats from the Airth / Stirling area, which was where we mostly played too. They were ; Jim Alan, Rhythm guitar & Vocals, Barry Hall, Drums, Bobby Duncan, Bass, and me on lead.
Bobby's dad was the Club Steward at Carmuirs Golf Club in Falkirk, which was where I met Peter Fallon, local businessman, who owned an electrical outlet in Falkirk.  He organised a band competition and the prize was a weeks recording in London at EMI, Decca, & Pye.   The Forthbeats were not actually involve but the joint winners were the Roadrunners, and Tommy & The Delmonts.  Anyway, I was at the golf club the night before the coach was to leave for the sessions in London and Peter Fallon asked me if I wanted to go down as second guitar in the Delmonts to allow Tommy to be more of a front man. I agreed and we had a great time.  We had a tour of EMI and just missed the Beatles by minutes but I did see Gerry and the pacemakers recording " You'll Never Walk Alone" . I also saw Brian Jones of the Stones in a clothes shop. He signed our guitar catalogues - I wish I still had that.  Fallon also bought us new instruments. I ended up with the Vox Teardrop once owned by Lonnie Donegan!  The London recording trip made me realise that there was more to playing in a local band, and I started rehearsing with, THE PACK.  Tommy went on to be a top jock with Central Radio & others.
The Pack are: left to right - Lachie, Stewart, Drew & Billy                                                                             Drew, Billy, Stewart & Lachie
'Based in Falkirk, this 4-piece group were one of the best around in the mid-sixties.  We rehearsed a lot to get to that standard.  We played a mixture of blues & rock.  The band consisted of Drew Templeton on Bass, Lacchie Innes on Rhythm, Billy Hastings on Lead Guitar and Stuart Buchanan on drums. We managed to lay our hands on a lot of American Blues imports featuring acts like Sugar Pie De-Santo, Leadbelly, Hooker Etc.  Although Falkirk-based, we played all over Scotland, and were to be seen at Edinburgh clubs such as the Place & The Gamp.  We also did a lot of work at the Edinburgh Art Collefe, where we played as support to a lot of top outfits such as Alan Price Set, The Johnny Dankworth Big Band, The Foundations, Alex Harvey and many more. I especially remember the Dankworth gig at Edinburgh Art College. There were some students in the balcony trying to land glasses into the top of the euphonium, one or two got in.  This was when they had their big hit with "African Waltz" - what great musicians.

Around this time three local business men decided to open a club in Falkirk called "La Bamba". Ian Rule, Ian Stirling & David Dillon should receive all of the plaudits they so richly desrve, for having the foresight to open a club like this, which went on to become as famous in Scotland as The Cavern was down south.  The club had a few incarnations, but the best was in East Bridge Street.  The Pack played there many times, with other local bands such as the Abstracts and the Cherokees as well as well known bands such as Marmalade, Alex Harvey, Hi Fi Combo, Dave Edmunds, Mud & the Peddlers.  Apart from the gigs we did all over the place we could be found in the Argyle Bar in Falkirk or Clarks Bar opposite Edinburgh Art College in Edinburgh when in town.

'The Pack were invited to go to Liverpool to play at 3 clubs, all in one night; the Cavern, the Peppermint Lounge & the Blue Angel.  We did the 3 gigs by taxi. The Cavern was everthing we expected.  To stand where great players had, was tingly, especially as I was on Lennon's spot.  We were to do 2 x 45 minute spots, and were introduced by the compere, Bob Wooler'. We had to get to the stage through basically a hole in the wall from the dressing room.  He told uss if they liked you, they would paint the band name along the stage front, there must have been a job lot of brushes that night.  We used the house PA. Drew had a nosebleed the night, nerve!!!  The entrance was down a very steep stairway.  Guess who dropped his Vox AC30 amp at the top? Correct, me.  It went down very fast, followed by me at the gallop.  I picked it up, plugged it, and it worked, great wee amp that.

The Pack were asked to do a showcase in Glasgow for a German Tour.  We blew the rest away and won the thing.  We were on our way then the promoter told us we had to take a female singer with us. "Nae chance" was the reply, "That's not what we do". In retrospect, we were pretty daft, but we were young then.  Sadly, we lost Lachie in a car accident and it was not the same without him so the group wound up.  I have no hesitation in saying that had this great band survived, we would have made it to the top, whatever that means, it just seemed it was not meant to be when we lost Lachie.  I still see Drew.  Stewart & I went together to France to work for a bit but have not seen him for some time, I think he lives in Edinburgh somewhere near Portobello.  The Pack did shape me for future ventures in music though and the nest one up was the GUITAR STRINGS.
The Guitar Strings: After the demise of The Pack I got a call from a friend, former Bass player with the Delmonts, Rod Harley. He told me to get over to Germany ASAP, he had a job for me with a German group called the Guitar Strings. Rod had gone over with the Delmonts, and decided to stay there, in fact he still lives in Munich. So off I went to Germany. I had no guitar, but Rod gave me his 6 string Fender Bass which I strung down, great sound from it.  The band were booked to play for the American troops in Enlisted men clubs. No women allowed, unless it they were kept out of main club and were with husbands.  We did not pay for food, drinks, digs, and we got a big fee as well. You were in each club for a month at a time and the accommodation  you were given depended on the group size -  4 piece? - 4 bedrooms.  The hair had to be a bit bit shorter given that we were playing for the American Military, it seemed the right thing to do to fit in a bit better, long hair to a serviceman at that time was a bit girlie, better for future work as well.
                         Above - Bill second left with the 6 string bass strung as a lead guitar

The Guitar Strings consisted of 2 brothers - Aly & Ernie Weisler on bass and rhythm guitar respectively, Pete Sleichert on drums and me on lead..  We had to have a female singer in the band, and we had a great one called Sylvia Finke.  After a while playing the bases we were invited to go to Italy to work and were based in Rome. We played mostly in and around the Rome area.   The owner of the Molo club at the lido had bought an old ship and cut off the top wheelhouse, and built the club around it; very unique. I was asked to get involved in doing some cabaret wrk there, which involved getting dressed up  - or down as it required!....
To be continued....?

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