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First published August 2017

Guitarist/singer/songwriter Steve Wigglesworth (Steve Wigz) passed away on 3rd August 2017.   Steve will be remembered for his great work with blues band "Riverhead Slide".  See Steve's 2012 story of Riverhead Slide below.


The story of Auckland Blues Band: Riverhead Slide
By Steve Wigglesworth - December 2012

Legend has it that the name Riverhead Slide came from the fledgling band’s first real gig in 1987 when we played at the Riverhead Village Hall to raise funds for a new community playground at the local playing fields.  At that critical point in time, Riverhead Slide could just as easily have become Riverhead Swing if we had been considering a career playing jazz. 
But Riverhead Slide was conceived a long time before 1987.  It was in Leeds, West Yorkshire in the north of England, twenty years earlier, that The Jelly Roll Blues Band had a short career playing local pubs, clubs and schools.  The band’s setlist in those days included slide guitar numbers RHS still play today - Albatross, Talk to Me Baby, Shake your Moneymaker.
My brother Geoff and I were at Art School at the time, learning how to play snooker and pool, appreciating the value of real ale and enjoying appearances by currently popular British underground, psychedelic, R&B and blues bands who would regularly tour the college bars and cafes.  I remember Pink Floyd, John Mayall, Alexis Korner, Chicken Shack, Tyrannosaurus Rex...
I was eagerly reading about the blues idiom (Paul Oliver’s Screening the Blues recommended reading) and listening to scratchy 78s and re-issues of early blues recordings on Yazoo Records, particularly bottleneck slide players like Hambone Willie Newbern and Robert Johnson along with newer material by living legends Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James and John Lee Hooker.  Bluesmen who were still young enough to be enjoying blues music resurgences in the US and particularly the UK and were touring and recording with British bands. 
Then one day at Art School, some kid brought in a copy of Fleetwood Mac’s first LP (with the dog and dustbins on the cover) and I was really hooked.  It was Jeremy Spencer’s Elmore James-styled slide guitar and Peter Green’s warm and easy Les Paul blues licks that really got to me.  Fleetwood Mac imploded after only a few years but during this time they produced an impressive amount of outstanding blues recordings. 
Sadly, Peter Green’s subsequent comebacks never worked for me, the edge was gone, Jeremy Spencer’s recent material seems empty and it goes without saying that the new Fleetwood Mac just don’t register. 
Early Fleetwood Mac, and the slide playing bluesmen that they emulated and parodied are my most important musical influences.  In turn, Muddy Waters’ song ‘Honey Bee’ served as Peter Green’s initiation to the blues.  He described it as ‘very spare and together.’ But before all that, when I was much younger, it was my dad who taught me to appreciate African American music styles when he filled the house with his Jazz, Swing and Blues.

I acquired my first second hand acoustic guitar at about age 14.  Got a few important chords down and then set about learning to play slide guitar, playing around with two basic open tunings which I still use:
Open E - EBG#EBE 
Open G - DBGDBG or with no bottom string - DBGDG
When brother Geoff (drums), Brian De-Lucchi (lead guitar), Phil Daniels (bass) and I got that first band together, my early electric guitars included a heavy old black ‘64 Burns amongst other second hand dinosaurs which included “Hawaiian” lap steels and a semi acoustic Hohner copy which was great for slide.
Since the beginnings of Riverhead Slide I have used the same Telecaster for open E and Tokai Strat for standard tuning, both bought new in 1987.  These days I sometimes use a second Strat for open G and my single-cone Dobro which stays permanently in open E, heavy strings raised off the fretboard.  I also own a Regal single-cone steel body and a Dobro Hound Dog wooden body with resonator, round neck.
I have never seen myself as a “lead” guitarist and in the band I have always enjoyed performing with a second guitarist who can play lead solos with me on rhythm and then, when required, drop down and back up my slide stuff with some nice boogie riffs to make me sound good.
The best guitar amplifier I had was a Marshall Bluesbreaker, but it was always breaking down.  I couldn’t make my Fender Twin Reverb work for me and these days my Peavey Delta Blues does everything I need.  No pedals other than a volume control for switching guitars quickly and quietly, I get too confused on stage otherwise.

I arrived in New Zealand in 1970 with a suitcase and my old Yamaha.  In those days I couldn’t find a steel slide in any music shop in Auckland.  So just like the old guys, I had to make do with broken off whisky and wine bottle necks until I got one made out of copper pipe down at the Power Board workshop in Takapuna where I was working while waiting to be discovered by a hotshot Ad Agency.  But that copper slide was a beautiful thing, so soft, I wore shallow grooves into its satin surface during the many years I owned it.  Sadly it was lost back in 2005. 
By the mid-seventies some very good blues bands were playing the pubs around Auckland.  Upstairs at the Globe Tavern in Wakefield Street was my Big Friday Night, regulars there were Street Talk with Hammond Gamble and my favourites The Willie Dayson Blues Band which featured a youthful Brian Glamuzina on harp.  Willie never played enough slide guitar for me though.  Upstairs at the Shakespeare was another of several pumping blues venues in the city at the time, Garry Powell Band had a long residency I remember and Alan Young was leaping onto bar tables all around Auckland.
In the late seventies I got to witness a “Blues Revue” concert at a half empty Western Springs, a lineup which was headlined by Freddie King (I borrowed his “Goin’ Down” riff for my song “Married to the Blues”).  Other acts at the show included Hound Dog Taylor (who played his sliding set sitting on a beer crate and swigging from a bottle, he couldn’t believe that all those people had come to see him!), Alexis Korner, one-man band Duster Bennett and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee.  They are all long gone now.
Around that time, Muddy Waters along with Pinetop Perkins on piano, Carey Bell on harp, Willie Dixon on bass and I think Francis Clay on drums put on what I consider to be the best show I have ever seen! It was at the Auckland YMCA of all places - and I think it was around then that I decided it was time to finally get a band started again, time to play some blues.

I had met Rick Marsh soon after arriving in NZ and we soon discovered that we shared a deep affection for the devil’s music.  We had played acoustic blues together for years until in 1987 we teamed up with Johnny Downes and the late Steve Hunter on drums and formed the garage band that was to become Riverhead Slide.  Mike Richards soon joined on lead guitar and it was Mike who got us focussed and gigging regularly while trying vainly to shift our repertoire away from blues to make us more of a commercial prospect.
We went through a lot of band members in those early days.  Bassmen were a particular problem, we used up several and finally auditioned until we found one who could play “Help Me” without making it sound like “Green Onions.” He also had a girlfriend who looked like Debbie Harry so he got the job, but he didn’t last long either.  Luckily, John Downes finally took up the bass and stayed with the band for a decade.
Fiona McCloud sat in on drums creating some interest for the guys at our early pub gigs at the Masonic, Esplanade and the Riverhead Tavern.  Fiona didn’t have any drums and used to borrow Pete Ludlow’s set, prophetically as it turned out.
I started writing songs - Riverhead Sliding Blues, Sliding Man, Comin’ Home, Two Side Blues, Talkin’ Dirty Mama, Serious Blues...

I started playin’ the blues
back in nineteen and sixty nine
messing around drinkin,’ smokin,’
Life seemed so fine
Got myself a pretty little woman
She said she’d share my life
I guess I got unlucky when she
ran off with another man’s wife

Mark Hansen took up the sticks around 1989 but it was Mark’s replacement Kevin Sheehan on drums (Disraeli Gears, Black & Blue) and Mike Richards’ replacement John (JT) Tresidder (Black & Blue) who really set Riverhead Slide on the path to bluesdom. 
The nineties were tough times for blues bands in Auckland, we got by with a mix of originals and blues covers with some R&B standards thrown in for non-blues fans.  We still had regular gigs in Devonport, Riverhead and out west but we were finding more interest out of town.  Mangawhai, Warkworth, Leigh, Wellsford, Whangarei, Hamilton, Thames and the Coromandel became our haunts through the nineties. 
We were desperate for work and some South Auckland pub gigs we attempted at that time required us to pack chicken wire along with the PA.  Yes, we played some dubious gigs in the nineties including a performance at the low security block in Paremoremo Prison where we had lots of offers of help to carry the gear out after the gig.  Then later at Headhunters HQ in South Auckland where we were actually lucky to get ourselves out at all.

When JT quit Riverhead Slide for the first time, Derwent Gordon joined as lead guitarist.
Then, when Kevin moved to Thames and Johnny Downes moved to New Plymouth, drummer Rex McCloud filled in until he and Derwent moved on.  Time to regroup.
With new inspiration and enthusiastic new members keen to play we got the band back together, JT made a brief comeback and then Pete Ludlow (Gaelforce) began what was to be a long spell drumming with the Slide.  Part time roadie and Midnight Express bassman Murray Finer made up the new backline.  Rick Marsh quit his fulltime harp role soon after, and Riverhead Slide became a four-piece with Darren Hogwood replacing JT on lead guitar.

2001 - 2012.  FOR THE RECORDS
In 2001 we made “Slidin’ Blues” - our first serious recordings on tape in a remote Coromandel studio, with six originals included.  This recording is now thankfully, a collectors item and out of print.  All copies have been recalled with an amnesty still in force.
Riverhead Slide were beginning to enjoy a reasonable following as a result of Jazz and Blues Festivals which were starting to become popular around the country.  The four-piece received invitations to the Bay of Islands Jazz & Blues Festival (RHS made eleven appearances from 2001 - 2012), Mission Bay Streetfest and Wine and Food festivals. 
Trouble though, was again around the corner.  It was at the 2003 Bay of Islands J&B that Darren Hogwood spotted Kelly, the girl of his dreams, and immediately ran away to Tasmania with her - and Riverhead Slide became a three-piece.
Luckily we had already put down some tracks with Darren for a possible second CD.

I was feeling particularly creative around this time and wrote more tunes - Married to the Blues, It Ain’t So Bad, So Over You, Naked Blues, Someone Else’s Baby, Midlife Crisis Blues, Te Arai Blues, Don’t Forget About him, Why Don’t You, Hush My Mouth.
And the album “Married to the Blues” was recorded with the help of Aron Neale out at at WildRecords, Howick, in June 2002.  Three original compositions featured.

The day I met my baby I was drinkin’ in a bar
There was a white boy playing blues
on a shining steel guitar
The band laid down a boogie that stole away my heart
I’ve loved you since that day and now we’ll never part
Oh babe, can’t you see it ain’t no use
I don’t need no lovin’ woman
Seems like I’m married to the blues

I had songs backing up and some had been written for inclusion on what was to be a fairly personal self-indulgent even) solo album with lots of Dobro and acoustic guitar.  The album featured nine originals plus Willie Dixon’s My Babe and John Mayall’s Sitting in the Rain.
“Naked Blues” was recorded and produced in 2004 using new and archived material.  Pete and Murray joined me in the production and we remixed and overdubbed tracks to create our most laid back compilation.

Riverhead Slide, now a trio by default, continued to play the festivals, pubs and clubs.  This was a slide-driven outfit pumping out 12-bar blues almost exclusively.  The stripped-down three man format was very restricting but it did allow us the luxury of inviting guests on stage and eventually we persuaded some of those guests and friends: Gael Ludlow (vocals), Keri Betti (harp), Richard Hall (keys) and Nigel Major (guitar) to feature on tracks to be included in a fourth album planned for release in 2006.
We wanted to write and produce albums, but we were never under any illusion that Riverhead Slide was destined for fame and especially not fortune.  Too old, wrong genre, wrong era.  Any of the above.  I confirmed this suspicion in “After all these years” which featured on our June 2006 album of the same name.

The A&R man, his suit sharp as a knife
don’t like the songs I’ve been living all my life
He says “hey boy that’s not Rock and Roll”
I guess I ain’t gonna win no Silver Scroll...
I guess it’s true, we’ve been used and abused
But after all these years, I’m still a fool for you

And we were never in it for the doh-ray-me either.  We were in it for love.  We could earn $300 - $400 for a three to four hour gig back in 1987.  Twenty five years later in 2012 we can earn exactly the same if we are lucky.  But mostly we weren’t lucky, and always happy to play charity and fundraising gigs.
Any local band will tell you the same story, exemplified in The Flaming Mudcats’ original Twenty Dollar Gig and verse one of “After all these years....”

Me and the blues boys, driving ‘cross town
Got a gig in the city gonna lay some boogie down
We played all night, we took regulation breaks
And the barman’s happy with the killing he makes...

“After All These Years” featured blues covers we had been including in recent sets and only five originals out of sixteen tracks this time.  We liked the three-piece “and Friends” concept, but what was initially simply an idea for the CD, quickly turned into a more concrete arrangement.  Riverhead Slide became a six-piece variety act boasting new lead guitar, keys, dedicated female vocalist and part time harpist.  This outfit became pretty slick and well rehearsed and we picked up quite a bit of business and sold a lot of CDs.
We were so confident in fact that we decided rightly or wrongly to produce a live DVD/CD the following year - Riverhead Slide, Live at Centrestage - and it was nearly the death of us as a band.  We set up a concert to be filmed and recorded live at Orewa Centrestage.  The night went well with the auditorium filled with invited guests.  But during production and mixing we nearly imploded just like Fleetwood Mac.  It took us two years and great expense to produce and release the DVD which incidentally we had on good authority that this was the first full length DVD produced in New Zealand by a New Zealand band.  The DVD included live versions of previously recorded studio tracks, some new material and two originals by Gael -Hard Kind of Loving and (She Needs) Three Men.  We later released an audio version of “Riverhead Slide Live at Centrestage” as a CD.

I took some time out for work in England (and to recover from the DVD) returning to NZ in July 2009 to fulfill band bookings including the BOI and Waiheke Jazz & Blues festival.  But I was sick.  I was dragged off to hospital in August and then in October 2009 for the surgery that put me out of action for weeks.  The band battled on bravely and played gigs without me including BOI Jazz & Blues, even adding new material for Gael and replacing Richard Hall (who had quit the Slide ride) with Mike Jensen on keys.  My comeback gig was at the Whangamata Jazz & Blues Festival six weeks after my surgery, just a shadow of my former self and with the knowledge that I could look forward to more surgery further on up the road.  We played on.

After “Blues, Brews and Barbecues” in Blenheim 2010, Pete Ludlow left the band leaving us with the hugely difficult task of replacing him.  Pete had been drumming and arranging songs with us for 15 years and left a huge gap and with a lot of rehearsal time coming up.  We auditioned for a replacement and Paul Dunningham (Misex and Coup D’etat) was the stand out choice, very experienced and very talented.  There is no doubt his style changed the feel of the band to some not inconsiderable degree and so we entered a more upbeat phase in the life of RHS.
The latest six-piece incarnation added new blues material to suit the new lineup and Gael and I continued to write new tunes.  Gael was giving the band more dimension and we picked up work from further afield, receiving invitations to perform around the country.  We arranged and played mini Bluesfests at the Masonic.  Highlights for us during this period were tours around NZ and trips to the Pacific - the Samoa and Fiji J&B Festivals all promoted by Billy TK Junior.

After the problems of 2009 it’s hard to believe really, but we went back into the studio in early 2012 armed with new material for our seventh and very possibly our last Riverhead Slide compilation.
The result was “Let it Slide” comprising thirteen original tracks.  Six by me and seven by Gael.
Gael was now writing hard out, and I realised I was slowing down, my inspiration waning.  I wrote Save me From Myself in defiance of my illness and the last song I wrote was Record Collection in recognition of my dad’s inspiration and influence on my music:

Well my old man got an eclectic record collection
Jazz and swing and jive and a big band section
turn on the dial make your selection
I got the blues from my old man’s record collection

I went to bed with Sarah Vaughn, woke up with Lena Horne
We had Nat King Cole for tea, and we dined with Dinah Lee
Louis and Dizzy were blowing their horns
Come on daddy turn the radio on!

I enjoyed the mischievous inclusion of kiwi Dinah Lee in the lyrics.  Apart from the fact that she rhymes, her name is a mix of Dinah Washington and Peggy Lee.  Dinah was performing in the 60’s in NZ, but she wasn’t very big in England at the time.

There had been blues clubs around the North Island, notable Bay of Plenty, Hamilton and Wellington but the inauguration of a formal Auckland Blues Club was great news for me and Auckland blues lovers in general, blues was back to stay! And good new blues bands were forming right, left and centre, in Auckland as well as around New Zealand.  The Club have done good things in the face of some adversity and are actively promoting young players at monthly jam nights and inspiring new blues bands.  I’m proud to be a member.
Blues venues remain hard to find, and looking for new venues, Gael and I met with the owners of the newly refurbished Riverhead Pub, we hadn’t played there for years, not since the old “boatrace” days but they were in the process of doing amazing things renovating the historic old place.  They had coincidentally Googled ‘Riverhead’ and found us, locals had also put in good words for us and so it was suggested that we meet up to discuss the possibility of a regular venue in the new garden bar there.  We settled on a theme: “Blues at the Boathouse” to be run on Sunday afternoons.  We pointed the owners back to the Auckland Blues Club and they took over the management and identification of suitable acts to play the venue on a weekly basis.  Riverhead Slide kicked off the very first Sunday in the Boathouse in October 2011.  In October 2012 we celebrated the first birthday of the new blues venue by playing our third gig there, blues bands having played every Sunday throughout the year, a great coup for the genre! And I feel, full circle for Riverhead Slide.

A wry comment in an Auckland Blues Club newsletter highlighted the fact that the upcoming gig at the Riverhead Pub was actually our fourth gig in as many months since we had played “Riverhead Slide’s absolutely last, final performance...  ever!” at the Masonic Tavern in May 2012.  It was a great night at the Masonic with our loyal band of supporters and a good turnout of ex-sliders including Mike Richards and Darren Hogwood from Tasmania showing up.  Not many knew what was behind my decision to bring down the curtain on Riverhead Slide.
But there had been a pretty good reason for calling it quits.  My specialist had reminded me earlier in the year about impending internal things that hadn’t been dealt with and that now was the time.  He quietly mentioned to me that he thought - and this was confirmed by a CT scan - that I only had a matter of months to live.  And another operation may not even be possible.  This was confirmed by a second specialist at North Shore hospital.  But I had been in this position before and didn’t want to kick up too much of a fuss.  I wasn’t scared of dying (lots of people do it) but I was a bit scared of never playing my music again.
With not many options left to me I had quietly arranged the finale for the band at the Masonic.  One month later I was on the operating slab again, a third specialist from Auckland Hospital, an adventurer who wasn’t afraid of going where no surgeon had been before, decided that after looking closely at more detailed scans, an operation might just be possible and it was probably worth a shot especially as I was such a fit and healthy bloke otherwise.  So in June 2012 they dragged me into surgery, offering me a 50-50 chance of pulling through, they then slashed, burned and booted me out three days later, saying things like “well done,” “here’s your morphine” and “good luck.”
I felt pretty good considering so we got the band back together for one last round.  Well there was work to do! We were in demand and two months after my surgery we were back in August at the Bay of Islands, followed by gigs at Dairy Flat Hall, a Blues Night and a fundraiser, then a Breast Cancer fundraiser at the Masonic and the aforementioned last gig at the Riverhead.
But it couldn’t last. 
The band was now in freefall, understandably filled with uncertainties over my health, but there were other issues concerning band direction, leadership, genre, money - the usual stuff.  The six-piece had become cumbersome and the prospect of replacing outgoing integral keys man Mike Jensen was just too imposing.

Folks roll their eyes and smile every time Riverhead Slide attempts to pull the plug, and with good reason too, but it’s just too damn hard to quit. 
Riverhead Slide is a living thing and only 25 years old.  There will be reunions and gigs we won’t be able to refuse.  Me, I’m enjoying playing some acoustic stuff right now as I write in December 2012, and who knows what will happen in 2013?
One thing is for sure, I won’t easily be giving up on the music that I’ve lived all my life.

I can remember 27 sliders who played more than one gig with the band.  Although I can’t remember all their names.  In 1988 Mike Richards brought in bass and drums from his earlier band Waistcoat, and he can’t remember their names either! Here’s the way I see it:
Lead guitars
John Downes, Mike Richards, John Tressider, Derwent Gordon, Darren Hogwood, Nigel Major.
Bass guitar
Nick, Graham, That other guy, Lee Cooper, John Downes, Murray Finer. 
Steve Hunter, Fiona McCloud, That other guy, Mark Hansen, Kevin Sheehan, Rex McCloud, Pete Ludlow, Justin Roys, Paul Dunningham.
Richard Hall, Mike Jensen
Rick Marsh, Kerry Betti, Steve Wigglesworth, Darren Hogwood
Steve Wigglesworth, Gael Ludlow, Darren Hogwood
Slide guitar
Steve Wigglesworth


Recorded at Coromandel Studio.  2001
10 tracks - Slidin’ Man, Comin’ Home, Doctor Brown, Two-Side Blues, Oreo Cookie Blues, Little Red Rooster, Serious Blues, Riverhead Slidin’ Blues, Scratch My Back, Talkin’ Dirty Mama.
Steve Wigz: Vocals/slide/guitars
Darren Hogwood: Guitars/vocals/harmonica
Murray Finer: Bass
Pete Ludlow: Drums
Rick Marsh: Harmonica

Recorded at WildRecords, Howick.  June 2002.
13 tracks, 3 originals - Married to the Blues, All Your Love, Talk to me Baby/Dust my Broom, It Ain’t so Bad, Albatross, Long Grey Mare, Shake Your Moneymaker, So Over You, She’s Tuff, Route 66, Red House, Messing With the Kid, 32-20 Blues.
Steve Wigz: Vocals/slide/guitar/harmonica
Darren Hogwood: Guitars/vocals/harmonica
Murray Finer: Bass
Pete Ludlow: Drums
Aron Neale: Harmonica

Recorded at Wildrecords, Howick.  June 2004
11 tracks, 9 originals - Naked Blues, Sitting in the Rain, Someone Else’s Baby, Midlife Crisis Blues, Te Arai Blues, Talking Dirty Mama, My Babe, Don’t Forget About him, Why Don’t You?, Comin’ Home, Hush my Mouth.
Steve Wigz: Vocals/slide/guitar/harmonica
Darren Hogwood: Guitars/vocals/harmonica
Murray Finer: Bass
Pete Ludlow: Drums

AFTER ALL THESE YEARS - Riverhead Slide and Friends
16 tracks, 5 originals - After all These Years (intro), It’s So Good, Serious Blues, Slidin’ Man, Love Me Like a Man, Got To Move, Sweet Home Chicago, Black Magic Woman, Hootchie Cootchie Man, I’d Rather Go Blind, Harp Breaker, Riverhead Slidin’ Blues, Further On Up The Road, Little Red Rooster, Ramblin’ , After All These Years.
Steve Wigz: Vocals/slide/guitar 
Murray Finer: Bass
Pete Ludlow: Drums
Gael Ludlow: Vocals
Kevin Sheehan: Vocals
Richard Hall: Keyboards
Keri Betti: Harp
Rick Marsh: Harp
Nigel Major: Guitar
Darren Hogwood: Guitar

OnStage Productions.  June 2008
15 tracks, 5 originals - Married to the Blues, Fever, Riverhead Sliding Blues, Hard Kind of Loving, All Your Love, No Beginner at the Blues, Midlife Crisis Blues, I Know How to do it, Albatross, Difficult Woman, I Put a Spell on You, (She Needs) Three Men, I’d Rather Go Blind, Black Magic Woman, Love Me Like a Man.
Steve Wigz: Vocals/slide/guitar 
Murray Finer: Bass
Pete Ludlow: Drums
Gael Ludlow: Vocals
Nigel Major: Guitar 
Richard Hall: Keyboards
Kevin Sheehan: Guest Vocals
Keri Betti: Guest Harp
Rick Marsh: Guest Harp
JT: Guest Guitar

Recorded at Wildrecords, Howick.  June 2012
13 tracks, 13 original compositions by Gael and myself.  Let it Slide, Save me From Myself, Handyman, Just the Blues, Play You For a Fool, Record Collection, Waking up, Naked Blues, Sing in His Band, She’s Had Enough, Couldn’t Hold a Candle, Why am I Feeling This Way, The Mysogynist’s Blues.
Steve Wigz: Vocals/slide/guitar 
Murray Finer: Bass
Paul Dunningham: Drums
Gael Ludlow: Vocals
Nigel Major: Guitar 
John Keatley: Tuba and Slide Trombone on Record Collection

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