Micky & Steve performing at Reading Rock Festival 1974
Hustler’s dynamic American vocalist and front man, Steve Haynes, returned to home in North Carolina in the 90s where he resumed his musical career. He wowed audiences with his well honed vocal style. But suddenly, in 2010 without warning, Steve suffered several severe strokes that left him paralysed down the left side of his body. Unable to sing or play an instrument, it was the end of his music career, or so he thought. Little did we know that 6 years later, his old school mate and Hustler bassist, Tigger Lyons would attempt to reform the band to showcase his uniquely soulful rock vocals.
Hustler’s Cockney guitar genius, Micky Llewellyn, settled in Amsterdam, Holland in the late 1990’s and was at home amidst the vibrant live rock music scene there. He became a local celebrity and a symbol of classic British Rock for many years. Tigger saw a video of him on YouTube and tried to track him down, but to no avail. It was a great shock to all us all when he passed away quite suddenly, from heart failure on his way to a show in Germany.
Any dreams of reforming the band seemed dashed, but there was still a glimmer of hope.
1968 - Tigger & Steve in 'Nice & Lazy' (left to right) Steve Church (vocals), Tigger Lyons (bass), Steve Haynes (guitar) and Steve Sayers (Drums)
Micky left the planet January 2014 and in November Tigger embarked on a round the world trip. He stopped off in North Carolina to visit Steve to celebrate what would have been Micky’s 60th Birthday and was heartbroken to find him wheelchair-bound. When Steve had the strokes, he lost the ability to sing and so the dream of one day reforming Hustler was the last thing on his mind.
Having met at school, Tigger and Steve had learned to play guitar when they were 13 years old. They spun dreams of one day being professional musicians, touring, playing at big venues, writing songs and making records. They began writing songs together before they had mastered the art of playing, running before they could walk and building an unbreakable bond in those early days. Their musical careers took them from one band to the next and finally Hustler.
Despite Steve’s disabilities, it was just like the old days, he still had a great sense of humour and so leaving him after just a few days was a real wrench. Tigger wondered what he could do to improve his old friend’s way of life. He soon remembered the demo recordings he had made with Steve in the mid 1980s. Although the songs were written and recorded on an 8 track tape machine using synthesised and sampled instruments, the recordings were of excellent quality. Tigger had an idea, and got to work on making digital copies and importing them into Protools. Hustler’s 3rd album soon became a reality and a journey of discovery slowly unfolded.
The massive Neve Console at Shelter Island Studios New York
The task of creating the new catalogue took over 4 years. It was Tony Beard, Hustler’s original drummer, now resident in New York, and bassist Tigger who began the process in 2016. Tigger flew to the Big Apple, hiring Shelter Island Studios for 2 days, and with the help of New York producer/musician Freddie Katz laid down Drums and Bass against the pre-recorded vocal tracks.
Tigger then returned to the UK to begin the daunting task of completing the tracks. During the following 3 years he made numerous trips to Yorkshire from London with his portable recording studio to capture performances of Kenny Daughters playing Hammond, pianos and synthesisers. Tigger then enlisted Tick Brown and Tony Miles to fill the large shoes of guitarist Micky Llewellyn. The guys did well and we hope Micky is smiling down from his heavenly stage.
The making of the album was not without its difficulties as progress broken on numerous occasions due to personal dramas, bureaucratic delays and financial constraints, but the energy and determination to complete the project has never diminished.
Tony Beard at Shelter Island Studios
The vocal recordings of Steve Haynes were made at Tigger’s 8 track home studio in the mid 80’s. The intention was to write some soulful songs for an album and they made demos of a number of songs using first generation music software sequencers by Steinberg, an Atari 1040ST computer, samplers, sound modules and drum machines all linked via midi. No real instruments were used, it was all sampled or synthesised sounds, with the emphasis on drums, bass, and Steve’s vocals. Subsequently, there were no guitar parts and therefore, it was not evident that these could be played rock songs. However, Steve had performed the songs with a passion equal to any rock song he had ever sung. After visiting Steve in North Carolina in 2014, Tigger had the idea of recording the instrumentation to match the lustful vocal range of Steve’s performances. Real musicians, making a rock sound reminiscent of Hustler using real drums, bass, Hammond organ and raunchy guitars and this seed grew into the idea of reforming Hustler. Tigger soon referred to the venture as ‘Hustler Reloaded’.
Tigger got to work converting the old 8 Track tapes into ProTools sessions and this also presented an opportunity to modify the musical arrangements and to take the songs in a different directions. He flew to New York in March 2016 with his ProTools sessions on a portable hard drive and met up with Freddie Katz and Tony Beard. It was important for the drums to set the stage by laying down a strong foundation. They had two sessions at Shelter Island Studio and Freddie captured Tony and Tigger laying down a ‘kick ass’ rhythm section behind Steve’s vocals.
The rest of the recording sessions were at Tigger’s home studio in West London. Tigger managed to entice Kenny Daughters to come out of musical retirement and he made a number of journeys from London to the Yorkshire Dales to record him playing his Hammond Organ.
Tigger recalls, “I was on ‘Cloud 9’ the first time I drove back to London after a couple of days of recording Kenny. That Hammond sound was a joy to hear and I was excited knowing we had captured an important piece of the jigsaw puzzle”.
Tigger's Stingray Bass Purchased in New York for the album
I began by playing the 8 track demos to drummer Tony Beard, now a well respected session musician living in New York. Tony, like me, felt that Steve was singing at his best and readily agreed to be involved in the project. Some months later and with the help of Freddie Katz, I hired Shelter Island Recording Studios in New York and we laid down drums and bass behind the original 8 track demo vocals.
Hustler’s keyboard player, Kenny Daughters, had not played a note since the day he left in 1975, so convincing him that he could contribute to the new recordings took a while. I persuaded him to buy a cheap keyboard in the hope that he could recapture some of his keyboard skills. After a few months of practice and regular progress reports, my heart sank the day that he called me to say he had sold the cheap keyboard, but after a long pause of silence he joyfully exclaimed, “I’ve traded up to a Hammond Organ!”. From that day he was committed to the project and has played an important role musically, plus he has remained my wingman since.
So now it was a matter of finding a guitarist to to fill the massive shoes left by Micky Llewellyn. An almost impossible task as Micky was a uniquely gifted guitarist with a huge personality which reflected in his playing. I reduced a long list of possibilities down to two. Both were familiar with the original Hustler material. Tick Brown, who I had played with shortly after Hustler broke up and who’s solo playing was reminiscent of Micky and Tony Miles, a more recent acquaintance of mine but who knew Micky and had played with him in the old days. I was convinced that they would provide a valuable contribution to the album, so enlisted them both.
The quest to complete this album has been a huge learning curve for me, but it’s been a great opportunity to reconnect with old musicians and friends together with many new ones. Mike Lowe, a gentleman who managed Hustler for a while with his friend and colleague Keith Ferguson, came on board in an advisory capacity in the latter stages, bringing his knowledge, wisdom and contacts to the table. He and Kenny D have supported me in this venture and without them I would have probably given up long ago.
The recording process has been a peripatetic operation. After getting the drums and bass performances down in New York in 2016, I subsequently returned to the UK, with my base (and basses) in West London, I’ve travelled up and down the motorways many times to capture performances and sort out technicalities. The journey has brought me into contact with some remarkable individuals who’ve been crucial to the success of this project. It’s been a roller coaster ride and an adventure I would not have missed for the world. I just hope it brings pleasure to others too. This creation is a tribute to the remarkable voice of Steve Haynes and dedicated to the memory of Micky Llewellyn and Chris Abbott RIP.