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Byron Shire
December 2, 2021

Interview with Jimmy Willing

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Jimmy is Willing at Billi

The Lost Recordings of Jimmy Willing feat The Real Gone Hickups, Sara Tindley & Ash Bell and The Mumblers

The Billinudgel Hotel  |  Saturday  |  2.30pm  |  $15

Jimmy Willing is a force of nature on stage. Shirt stripped off, he’s jumping up and down, part cowboy, part crazy anarchic punk. It’s hard not to be impressed by that energy, and moved to strip your shirt off and jump up and down too. And guess what? He’s found some lost recordings that he’s having remastered and re-released… to kick off he’s playing a wild gig at the Billinudgel this Saturday!

Jimmy, tell me about the lost recordings? What surprises are in store?

In recent years I had a wakeup call when I was caught unawares by the sale of Rocking Horse Studios in Coorabell and my master tapes went missing.

I was about to give way to despair when rummaging through my own archives I found in a trunk a meticulous set of copies of Bushrangers & Ghosts that the late Anthony Lycenko had left for me in case of just such an event.

I think the big surprise for me was hearing the late Cameron Muir’s voice once again; he does a haunting backing vocal on our song Mad Dan Morgan. It’s doubly haunting now that he is no longer with us.

Surprising for the audience will be hearing my early version of Singing Kate Kelly to Sleep with Tim Freedman on grand piano. The song has gone on to have a life of its own being played by The Whitlams, The Australian Chamber Orchestra, and The Bushwhackers to name a few.

What do you call eclectic rockabilly sound you’re laying down; is there anything like it?

We do play rockabilly and we spearheaded its revival here on the Northern Rivers but with all of our love of retro culture we are not a trad rockabilly band. We have our own revolutionary sound and there is nothing like it.

We also have an undeniable influence from the ska music that I danced to in the 80s. Tom Jones, our first double bass player, once quipped that we play ‘skunt’, a hybrid of ska and country!

Where did it all begin for you musically? How does it continue to evolve?

As a 16-year-old I would sneak out of my bedroom window on Friday and Saturday nights and in my father’s horrified words, would ‘inhabit Sydney’s dockfront pubs’. The city was full of music in those days and we would dance all night to the ska music that my generation loved so much. It was here that I sang my first songs in the rock’n’roll dives. There was a mod outfit called Division 4 that played The Sussex Hotel and they would ask me up on stage to sing a couple of numbers. A Buzzcocks song called Boredom and also the 60s Batman theme (which I have recently put back on to my setlist).

Around this time I also did my high school work experience on Double J radio, formed Ragadoll with classmate Duncan Harty, and interviewed The Clash for my music fanzine A Toy Horse. This was my entry into rock’n’roll and bohemia and I have never looked back.

How does it continue to evolve?

My music and art continue to evolve because I still have things to say and I have a large creative drive. Also quite frankly I don’t know how to do anything else. I burnt down all my bridges to any kind of straight and narrow life years ago and there is no going back; I paint, I sing, and I dance – that’s my job.

Can you tell us a bit about the show BushRangers and Ghosts you have at the Billinudgel Hotel with The Real Gone Hick-Ups and The Mumblers? Where did the concept come from and what can people expect?

It’s a record release for Bushrangers and Ghosts and my other lost recordings in one of our most beautiful old pubs. The Billinudgel Hotel has never been ruined by gentrification and has a wonderful beergarden with a stage out the back. I want to give this show an Australian bush feel so I’ve contracted country icons Sara Tindley and Ash Bell and well as Lennox Head’s favourite oldtime combo The Mumblers.

What else is on the cards for Jimmy Willing and his gang for 2019; is there anything else you want your Northern Rivers fans to know about?

We have a big year ahead of us with a lot of shows and a small tour coming up. It’s too much to go into here but these are some highlights:

On Saturday 10 August we have a Rock & Roll Prize Title Fight between us and our longtime rivals The Re-Mains. It’s Jimmy Willing & the Real Gone Hick-Ups v Mick Daley & The Re-Mains at The Billinudgel Hotel in an all-star cockfight to see just who is king rooster!

First Friday night of the month: my duo with Davey Bob Ramsey, Jim-Bob play The Bank Cafe in Lismore. It’s a dinner show with a three-course meal and they have let the chef off the leash on this one; the food is something else.

Then on the full moon of 14 September we release our brand-new album Horse Operas. We will have a full folk orchestra for this one plus our troupe of can-can dancers The Buffalo Gals coming down from Brisbane. Once again it’s at The Billinudgel Hotel.

Sunday 13 October I’m operating The Von Tramp Family Puppets and playing rock’n’roll with The Real Gone Hick-Ups at The Channon Markets’ birthday.

But you can catch Jimmy with The Real Gone Hick-Ups when he launches Bushrangers and Ghosts – The Lost Recordings of Jimmy Willing, with Sara Tindley & Ash Bell and The Mumblers in support. Saturday at the Billinudgel at 2.30pm for $15. A Lismore/Billinudgel Red London Bus return leaving from Lismore Quad at 1pm for $50 travelling through Ballina and Lennox Head!

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