Phil Hewitt talks to Shakin’ Stevens about embarking on his latest tour.
The great Shaky resurgence continues apace as Shakin’ Stevens embarks on his biggest-ever UK tour visiting 33 towns and cities across England, Scotland and Wales – all off the back of a great response to his latest album last autumn.
His 12th studio album was titled Echoes Of Our Times and gives its name to his tour.
“I am really, really chuffed with the album,” Shaky says. “It has made its mark. I am really pleased with it. It was very personal to him.”
It comes against a background of finding out more about his family: “The biggest surprise was that my ancestors came from Cornwall. I was from family of 13, and there was never much talk. I was the baby one in the family. My eldest brother who has passed away was 95. That gives you an idea of the age range. I was the last of 13, and during my family research, I also found out that I have got a half-brother as well!”
Inevitably some people discover things they wished they didn’t know when they embark on family research, but not Shaky: “I kept an open mind about it all really. What was there was there. What happened, happened. People used to think Shakin’ Stevens who had all those hits came from Cardiff in South Wales, but I thought to myself ‘Is there more to it?’ A lot of people delve into their past wanting to find money or that they are royalty. I just wanted to know. I found that my ancestors were from Cornwall. They were copper and tin miners and working in horrific conditions. They moved to America and South Africa and New Zealand and far afield.”
As for Shaky, he was, as he says, one of a large family in south Wales, a family in which music mattered: “There was always music in the family. We could all sing. That’s what I really wanted to do from an early age. All my brothers and sisters could. When there were weddings – and there were a few of those coming from a family of 13 – everybody used to have a few favourite songs to sing. I grew up listening to the music of the late 30s, 40s and 50s. At the back end of the week, my brother and I used to get down to the record shops and buy the latest records.
“When I left school, I just wanted to sing. You just started to form a band. It was ‘OK, you be drummer, you be singer.’ And then we started doing church halls and weddings and then doing the valleys. We got to come of age and develop.”
And maybe it was that apprenticeship which means that Shaky’s still in the business now. He earnt his stripes.
“I am really really pleased that I experienced those days. It used to take three or four hours to get to London. It was the days before motorways, the days before service stations. It was just transport cafes.”
Shaky’s “leg-up” in the business came in 1977 with the West End Elvis! musical. Three actors were needed to portray Elvis’s life during the course of the show. Shaky got to play Elvis, with P J Proby taking over the part for Elvis’ later years.
“I think that helped me get my first record deal,” Shaky recalls.
Shaky’s tour takes in The Pavilion, Worthing on Friday, April 21, Guildhall, Portsmouth on Sunday, May 14 and White Rock Theatre, Hastings, on Sunday, May 28.