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Sandy Kelly

Music and Memories of Patsy Cline


From 1993 to 1998 Sandy stared as the "Great" Patsy Cline in Mervyn Conn's highly successful London West End show, Patsy Cline - The Musical, with George Hamilton IV joining the cast as narrator. Following this Sandy played Tammy Wynette in another musical, Stand By Your Man, before subsequently adapting the Patsy Cline musical to create a touring version of the Patsy Cline tribute concert, Patsy Cline, Music & Memories, with George joining Sandy once again as narrator.

George and Sandy first met in 1991 in Nashville when Sandy was recording her album Heroes. George was one of the featured guest artistes along with the likes of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Glen Campbell. At that time Sandy had her own highly popular TV series on RTE back in Ireland and invited George over to make a guest appearance on the show. The following year both Sandy and George appeared on the bill of Mervyn Conn's promoted Slim Whitman UK tour, singing a duet together. Meanwhile George would hear Sandy singing traditional Irish songs offstage which greatly impressed him. Subsequently they began singing together occasionally offstage and George soon found himself learning a whole new repertoire.

George wanted to record an album of the songs he had heard Sandy singing. The release of We will Meet again sees 12 tracks blended together from four track from George, four from Sandy and the pair coming together on four duets. Along with the traditional 'Maggie, 'Isle Of Innisfree', the upbeat 'The Raggle-Taggle Gypsy' and sad introspective 'Rare Ould Times', three numbers are penned by noted Irish singer/songwriter John McEvoy, 'Long, Long Before Your Time', the harrowing 'Famine Song and the upbeat 'When The Rain Comes'. One song 'Leavin' Enniskillen' is included from contemporary singer/songwriter Charlie McGettigan and Kentishman Ralph McTell lends his own 'From Here To Clare, the only non-Irish song on the album.

The original Patsy Cline - The musical last run in1998 - pick up the story from there please.

"The original script was mine and when we finished in the Mervyn Conn West End touring version of it around 98, George and I went back to my original script and we have been touring since that with our own concert type version of it Patsy Cline - Music & Memories. We just finished an eight-week tour last Tuesday's been great, it has more of the still has the story by way of George reminiscing, but it's got songs in their entirety rather than just bits and pieces.

George and I would have spent an awful lot of time travelling together and inevitably I would have been asked to sing at charity concerts and I would always sing an Irish song and that is how George became interested in some of the folk songs for that album. It was his idea to do the album...I wasn't that pushed to be honest, because I'd been singing those songs for a while. But I'm glad that he talked me into it, because it turned out very nice.

As you tell it is a very basic album, not a big production. It was probably the first time in his career and most definitely mine, that we had a chance to do something on our own, just to go in and do songs that we liked...and just sing them, rather than have producers telling us what we had to do. So if it hadn't come out good we didn't care, it was done because we wanted to do it."

How did you get involved with Mervyn Conn's original production?

" I had recoded 'Crazy' here in Ireland in 1989 and became a Gold Record and #1 record in Ireland that year. On the back of that I did a one woman show...Patsy Cline. I used top present my own TV series and it was a segment in the series every week. So Mervyn got to hear about it and living in London he knew of the success of the Buddy Holly Story and I suppose that he decided to put together a Patsy Cline show much the same as he could. He called me up, I went over to meet him and it took a wee while to put it together, but I enjoyed it and learned a lot from it. George wasn't involved at all at that stage and later they asked George to narrate it, which suited me fine because we were very good friends."

George told me that while he was driving you during the Patsy Cline tour, that there was an incident involving a road sign, a roundabout and you rebuking him quite ferociously. I believe the word egiot was mentioned. Would you like to throw a little more light on the subject?

(Laughs) "That was very mild compared to the words actually used. What freaked me out was that he dives up to the roundabout, drives straight on to the roundabout and then stops. Then when people start honking their horns at him, he waves at them...hello...good morning...howdy. He's serious, but hey think he's being sarcastic.

(more laughter) He is a very nice and polite man.

"Yes, that's right. He brings road rage to a whole new standard" (laughs)

How do you find having to fit in family life and touring?

"My has always been like this...I come from a family of actors, actresses and musicians and at the age of three years old I was on the road every night performing. We livid in caravans like a vaudeville show, so my mother and father had a routine, which didn't affect any of us, and we are the same. We bring our children with sister has a four year old and when we do our concert tours in England, she comes with us. I have a handicapped daughter who is twenty and she comes with us. At time our dressing room looks like a crèche. To our kids the dressing room is home, and it works."

George and yourself have just released a new album, which was recorded at Tom Kelly's studio, is this a family interest.

"He's my brother in-law...and he was 'free' (giggles). Where could we really go to do an album that we wanted to do and wouldn't cost us a lot of money? Because Sanctuary Records took the album after it was done, but we didn't have a record company on board. We didn't want one either! Tom has a beautiful studio in Mayo and he allowed us to record there and actually it meant that we had more time. A lot of it was done in the early hours of the morning...between 12 and 5 in the morning. We were just going in and out over a period of two years and we didn't have to pay him until it was all done."

Are there any plans for a follow up album between yourself and George in the future?

"We would love to do...and I feel hypocritical, saying we'll do another album, when I really wasn't fussed about this one. There has been such a positive and a nice reaction to this, if Sanctuary wanted us to do another, we really would. We have sold an awful lot of this one on the road, which is money in our pockets and not to a middleman. So from that point of view being a woman, I'd be very interested in another." (laughter)

Being a woman...In my interview with George, he said that Patsy Cline kicked down doors rather than knocked on them. In your own career, did you find doors were harder to open in what was still a rather male dominated world?

" I suppose Graham...because I was always in it I never made any point in my life that I was going to be in show business, in fact I tried to be a real person if you like. What would have attracted me was to have lived in a house and go to work everyday and have an education and all of that. I achieved some of that, only to find that I belonged on the stage. So it was different to me. Obviously when it came to getting recording deals and when I got my T.V. series , went to Nashville and all of that, I had to do a of knocking on doors. I don't really think being a woman is different now's not like it was in 50s & 60s when the woman was the window dressing on the stage. It's not really like that anymore because we can hold our own and if you look at the charts it's dominated by women at the minute! No thank God, I have never had any problems like that...and I'm a pretty tough cookie."

Do you still have a TV series on RTE in Ireland?

"No! That ran for three years. RTE is our national television and unlike the stations that you have, but where you have a TV show, they will contract those people for say at least a few years. Here you are just contracted for just a series. So I did a thirteen part series for three years. For each series, although I was #4 in the ratings, I never knew that I would get another one. So when Mervyn Conn offered me the role in Patsy, it was money in hand and at the end of the day I have to make a living. So I decided that I would go for that and inevitably of course once I committed to, the T.V. station asked me if I would do another series and it was too late. But I wouldn't have got more than one more out of it and considering all the years I've got out of Patsy Cline, it was the right decision.

I miss it though, and funny enough I did a tour last Sunday here...we did eight nights on the waterfront in Belfast...I was part of a nostalgic tour...And the amount of people who came up after the show , made reference to the T.V. show and how much they had enjoyed it and asked if it would be back again. So I've been off the screen for long enough for people to want to come and see me and when I did the series it didn't always materialise in bums on seats."

No! If they can see you on the telly, why bother coming out to see you.

"That's business is a funny old thing!

But I'm doing a play in New York, Graham, that you may not know about. Which has been a project for the past two years. A producer in New York took a synopsis of my childhood. I started writing down various bits and pieces about my family and my childhood on the road, with this travelling-set-up road show and it's now become a play in New York. So I've been to several rehearsals this year and I go back in April. So that's a new project that I'm involved in. There are some nice songs in that and probably the next album that I do, will be from that."

It sounds interesting; we'll look forward to it. Are you involved in anything else at the moment?

"At the moment we are starting our Christmas shows. George is doing his Christmas church concerts in the America...we do a T.V. show tomorrow and from Thursday we do our cabaret and dinner, which we do right up until the first of January."

Are there any plans for another Patsy Cline tour?

"We are doing a new show starting in February on Jim Reeves, which I have put together with my own band. It will feature songs of Jim Reeves and just the duets that he did with Patsy. Then there will be some of the other singer such as Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Glen Campbell and Brenda Lee. It will be a concert type version, so we won't be doing Patsy again until 2003."

It's been lovely talking to you and I wish you all the very best with the future plans.

"It's nice to talk to you and thanks for taking the time. Bye."