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Bob McKinlay

I met up with Bob at The Welcome CMC in Leigh on the 30th of October 1994. We spoke as the club was filling up in anticipation of a great night of country music from Wigan's finest.

Ray Grundy
Bob McKinlay

  Growing up as a youngster in Wigan, when did you first become interested in music and performing?
  The guitar was a brand new kind of thing in about 1954, and it caught everybody's imagination, with Lonnie Donnegan and the Skiffle groups, and that was when really I started to become interested.
In the 1960's I joined the rock & roll circuit, and then in the late 70s I turned exclusively to country music, and I've been there ever since.
  What made you move into country music?
  I alway's liked it, right from being a kid in the 40s. They never used to distinguish between country and pop music in this country like they did in the states. Consequently you had people like patsy Cline, Jim Reeves and others, who were singing country songs, but we just regarded them as being very pleasant pop tunes.
  Who would you say is your biggest influence in country music?
  I don't really have a single influence, there are many. 
Tompall Glaser was alway's one of my favourites, Jerry Lee Lewis - who many people only know as a rock and roll artist - when he's singing country music he's a guy who sings with real feeling. He's made some superb country albums. 

Elvis Presley is another artist I liked when he was singing country. I like a lot of Johnny Cash, I like a lot of the modern artists, but I don't say I like just one person, I like a little bit of everybody really.

  You were known for many years as Bob McKinlay & Dixie Fried! What made you decide to change the name?
  Well, when we used to play the working mens clubs, we used to get names like Bob McKinlay & Fried Chicken, Bob McKinlay & Kentucky Fried, one night we even got Bob McKinlay & Fried Bread. So eventually I thought, this act is becoming a total joke, so I decided to change it to the Bob McKinlay Band. 

I still sometimes get Bob McGregor or Bob McKenzie, but at least it's not as bad as fried bread.

  Where did the name Dixie Fried come from?
  It came from a Carl Perkins song, "Let's Get Dixie Fried"
  It isn't easy making a living playing country music in Britain! Have you ever thought of giving it up and changing to a different style of music?
  No I havn't! Country music audiences are the most appreciative audiances in the world, and that means more than the money to me.
  You've collected many awards over the years, what do these mean to you? Are there any you're especially proud of?
  Well, really I think I'm proud of every one, because although it's not elevated me to the heights of being a star, what it has said, is that the people who visit the clubs and listen to my music, have voted for me as artist of the year or whatever, and that is a great honour in itself. 
The country music circuit over here is only small, and I've had about 50 or so awards, so I'm very proud of that. Their all very important to me.
  Where have you played outside of the UK?
  I went to the states to try and sell some of my songs, and I played at Tootsies Orchid Lounge when it was her birthday. Tootsie had met everybody there was in country music, Hank Williams Sr & jr, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, everybody, because they all went into her place after playing the Opry. 
The only person she never met was Elvis Presley, and that was because he didn't drink and wouldn't go in.  I was accepted just the same as they were, which was very,very nice.

We play some shows in Germany every year, which I enjoy, but mainly it's just here in Britain, and I'm quite happy with that.

  It's regularly being said that if country music is to move forward here in the UK, then we must have more original material instead of just covering songs from the states. But getting acceptance of that in the clubs isn't easy is it?
  Well, a good song is a good song, but it needs to get plenty of play's to allow people to get to know it. The big disadvantage we have over here is that we don't have the major record company's behind us, so we don't get much radio airplay. You could turn a television advert into a hit record, simply because it's alway's being heard. 
There's an old addage; People don't know what they like, but they like what they know.
  In 1990 you released the album Bob McKinlay - Singer/Songwriter, an album containing all original material. Did you ever feel you were taking a gamble, or were you confident of it's success?
  When I do my own songs on stage, I get a lot of good response, people sing along and they go down well, so I felt the album would sell enough to get my money back, but I was dissapointed that some of the songs didn't get any further than they did.

It did create enough interest though to encourage me to write more material, so it wasn't a negative thing. I've no doubt that if I had released an album of 20 covers, it would have got more play's, but it was another step along the way of what I had to do. You have to have a goal to aim for, and that was mine, because I had done everything else I wanted to do.

  One of the songs on the CD, Cactus Charlies, was that about a real place?
  Yes, in Paris. I spent about 4 day's in Paris with a friend from Westhoughton. Foreign Legioners used to come in after they had done a tour of duty in Chad. There was all different types of people in there, teachers, hippies you name it, and I wrote a song about it. There was a big rotting cactus at the door.
  Another song on the CD, English Born, Dixie Fried! You've had someone record that song in America havn't you?
  Yes, a girl actually recorded it in Nashville, but sadly the guy who was putting it out decided he would re-write some of the words, and I didn't think he should. He didn't really treat me with the respect I felt I deserved. He passed comment to somebody, if I want to re-write this song, I will do, and that annoyed me. 

That song was my first, and it meant more to me than money, so I pulled out of the deal because I didn't think it was good enough. It was a matter of principle.

  Do you have a personal favourite of all the songs you've written?
  English Born Dixie Fried, because I never get tired of singing it. There are some songs I sometimes don't feel like singing, but I never get tired of that. I don't know why, I'm just alway's enthusiastic with it.
  I read once that you had an ambition to sing with a Gospel choir! You've achieved that now havn't you?
  Yes I've done that now. A black Gospel choir and a ten piece barber shop (quartet) all on stage at the same time. It was fantastic! They were inspired people who sang because they believed. I believe, but not too the extent they did. They weren't interested in anything but spreading the word. I was interested in the concert and getting the feeling from it too. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  Are there still any future ambitions for Bob McKinlay?
  Yes, there is. I was sitting in a place in Germany last year, and there was a lot of old time country music on the jukebox, and I thought I would really like to write one song where you could walk in any bar, anywhere in the world, and it would be on that jukebox. I don't think it will ever happen, but it would be nice to just walk in, hear it playing and say, I wrote that song.
  Bob, I've enjoyed talking to you, thank you for giving me your time. I'll now leave you go to get on with the show.
  It was a pleasure Ray.


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