The Magic Highway


An Interview with Greg Ainsworth

GregQ: Gregory who? When were you with Christie?

A: I was with the band for a few months in 1974. I replaced Danny Krieger for the last leg of the Spanish tours and a trip to Germany.

Q: Tell us about your musical roots.

A: My very first band was made up of school pals in 1969; we were called Catalog .. we did covers of the Beatles, Hollies, etc. But immediately before Christie I was in my first proper band called Stress. Apart from our own songs we did stuff by Wishbone Ash, Rory Gallagher, Deep Purple, etc, all the stuff of that era.
    There was me and Pete Rance on guitars, Pete Walker on bass and Stuart Arnott on drums. Stu had hepatitis and died of an infection in hospital aged 29; he was a good friend and it was a great loss.
    We were based in the Northwich area which roughly forms an upside down triangle with Manchester and Liverpool. We never got a recording contract but we did support such notables as Vinegar Joe (Elkie Brookes and Robert Palmer) and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

Q: How did you join Christie?

A: Stress eventually fizzled out in early 1974, then came Christie.
    As I remember it, a guy named Bill Hurley, who used to roadie for Stress, became an agent. He later became manager of Smokie. I think he had something to do with Brian Longley Associates in London, who in turn had something to do with Christie.
    One day I got a phone call from Bill saying that Christie needed a guitarist and asked if I would be interested in meeting with Jeff, which I did.
    At the time I was living in Sale, Cheshire, and I used to drive from there to Jeff's parents house in Leeds where we both ran through relevant songs. We did this on several occasions preparing for a Spanish tour.

Q: Can you remember the dates?

A: I can be fairly accurate here as I have a bullfight ticket dated June 20, 1974, from Madrid, costing 250 pesetas. This must have been the central week of three gigs because for some reason, that second week of shows had been cancelled.
    The band — Jeff, Roger, Terry and myself — gigged the first and third week and had the second week off in Madrid.

Q: Can you remember the set list?

A: Luckily I also have a set list written on the back of a Spanish promoter's business card! It went like this:

» San Bernadino
» One For The Road
» Alabama
» I'm Alive
» Iron Horse
» One Way Ticket
» The Dealer
» Yellow River
» Tobacco Road
» Johnny B Goode

Q: That is a sensational set list!

A: I remember that Jeff and I were fans of the Beatles and McCartney. I remember we both enthused about the Band On The Run album that was playing in one of the clubs we played, and we also sang some Beatles stuff together backstage. He did the John bit and I did the Paul bit. I particularly remember doing Baby's in Black.

Q: Do you remember any interesting incidents?

A: I do remember being approached at one open air gig by some young gay men, one of them telling me in Spanish that he had a "grande " (big one). Well, I was young and pretty at the time, big flares, small hips and little short satin jacket with an oriental design across the back .. an easy mistake to make in my book!
    Today I look more like French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez .. bald.
    I also have a mental snapshot of Roger driving us all home from a bar along one of those roads that was nothing more than a dirt track up through the hills.
    It was pitch black and we were all a bit worse for wear, I was drifting off to sleep as best as I could on the bumpy road when I heard Roger's voice shouting "Here we go!". We shot off the road to the left through the luminous sticks that marked out the track. I was expecting to go careering down into a ravine but luckily it was just a bit of an incline, it made me sweat though.

Greg in the 60s

   Then came the German tour, which was just 10 days. All I remember of this was at one gig the owner decided he didn't want to part with any of his money, and there was a really unpleasant moment when he appeared with some sort of a weapon in his hand. I can't recall what it was or if we ever got paid for that one.

Q: What happened after Christie?

A: I left after the European shows, and when Terry also left, the band dissolved for a while. The next thing for me was a residency at a night club called Bailey's in Liverpool, backing various acts.
    In 1975, I got married and had two fantastic daughters.
    Then there was an eclectic mix over the next 18 years, taking in another residency at the ' Ritz ' in Manchester for two years, 10 weeks backing up the Grumbleweeds (believe it or not), a duo, a trio, a pop band, three 50's rock 'n roll bands ... but like a lot of ancient musos I returned to my playing roots which for me lies along the bluesy side of things.

Q: You write songs as well?

A: There was a song I sent to a fairly well known British country band called Poacher who performed it on TV — but that was the last I heard about it.
    Next there was a band called the Jags who won a recording contract on Chitern Radio with one of my songs .. but they then split up.
    My current band is called Atlanta Roots .. we don't strictly consciously follow a particular type of music, but we do also play blues and some covers which we try to make our own.