The recent death of Stu Page cannot pass without an appreciation in The Express considering his name first graced its gig listings nigh on 30 years ago stretching back to a time when 45s were still the usual mode of acquiring recorded music.
For most of that time various versions of his band has pursued a career in music that has seen it has become such a familiar sight on stages throughout the city and beyond and ultimately throughout the nation at larger promotions and festivals.
My own introduction to Stu’s distinctive interpretation of country music in those days would be during the late 1980s, a period when his band was fortified by the precocious versatility of Tim Howard, the fluent expression of a youthful Andy Whelan and a solid bass groove courtesy of Terry Clayton, himself now passed.
An abiding memory of standing behind Terry in a queue at Leeds Irish Centre awaiting entry there for Steve Earle’s debut UK tour probably tells you just where Stu’s band stood at the time.
It is correct to state the band inevitably advanced technically with further experience, drifting into a heavier country rock attitude but for me that initial onslaught of sublime fretwork bouncing off the walls, Stu and Andy shoulder to shoulder with spontaneous bursts, displaying a joie-de-vivre that only naivety can cultivate and so rare at the time from British country musicians, and local ones at that, remains for me Stu’s legacy
A later period would see his involvement with The B’Eagles, a self-explanatory aggregation that ironically was probably his most fruitful period, ironic only because it was a tribute which, however skilful, merely apes what has already been laid down and stifles creativity which Stu was always buoyed with.
He always retained a chippy confidence in his own ability and when I interviewed him at a Hemsworth gig in 2010 for UK Rock ‘n’ Roll, he was under no illusions about the business. Public acclaim, alas, inexplicably failed to equate with critical acclaim which culminated in British Country Music Awards for his band.
That Hemsworth gig featured his latest incarnation, The Wild Hogs, surely a misnomer for a band using Led Zeppelin, J.J.Cale and Jerry Reed in its sets, but notwithstanding that, though his voice showed signs of wear and tear, he remained a master of the hardware, after all there’s no use touting a Telecaster if you couldn’t do it justice and he still could.
Surely all that awaits now is posthumous elevation into the BCMA Hall of Fame, that often being the order of events. I’m sure many of Stu’s fans so familiar with his talents...for so long a fixture of Wakefield’s night life...will join me in sharing the sadness of his passing.