Back in 1962 four servicemen at Saxa joined together to form a group. They were Dave Joseph, (Lead Guitar), Bill Borthwick (Rhythm Guitar), George”Geordie” Henderson (Drums) and Jim Barber (Bass). It must have been quite difficult to arrange practices and gigs – Dave was a radar operator (ADO), Geordie was a fireman and Bill & Jim were radar mechanics. A further problem was that Jim had not played the Bass before! The name decided upon was “The Hustlers”
However, plenty of practice and talent led to the group getting bookings firstly on the station and then further afield. The group was booked on a number of occasions to perform in the Airmen’s’ Club, Sergeants’ Mess & Officers’ Mess– the two photos which follow were take in the NAAFI & Officers’’ Mess:-
According to Eileen Hunter from Unst their first civilian booking was at Ordaal – a large house on the south side of Baltasound. The actual venue for the next set of photos is unknown so if anyone can help out it would be appreciated (possibly the Spriingfield).
Judging from the lack of females present it looks as if the event could have been something like an airman’s birthday celebration, held off camp to avoid some of the normal service restrictions.
Less than six months after the Hustlers formed a Shetlander by the name of Tom Georgeson, made a recording of them for BBC Scotland (Radio Shetland didn’t exist, not going on the air until May 1977). The tunes recorded were “Yellow “Bird (recorded by many people including Chet Atkins) and a version of the Shadows hit “Dance On”. I have been unable to discover if Radio Scotland actually used the tape. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has any other recordings of the Hustlers - I know some private tapes were made.
In the early 60’s most of the music heard in Shetland came from fiddles, accordions and pianos. There were some local groups playing Country and Western but it was of the older variety – Slim Whitman, Ferlin Husky, Hank Snow etc. Practically everything was acoustic; in fact a number of islands and communities still awaited mains electricity. When the Hustlers started playing material from the Top Twenty the younger generation responded with enthusiasm. Radio Luxembourg, which broadcasted on 208 metres, was in its heyday. Some of their repertoire is listed in Note 1 at the end of this article. Bookings increased and, despite the inter-island travel difficulties, the group became a frequent act at the Planets Ballroom in Lerwick. The logistics of getting guitars, amplifiers and a drum kit between Unst and Lerwick would have been complicated and overnight stays essential. A couple of photos showing some of the Hustlers and other servicemen travelling on the overland follow:
It would not be true to say that the Hustlers were universally popular – there were 2 sections of the community who were not always happy to see them. It is rumoured that a few of the local bands were not too keen on outsiders coming in and playing “their gigs”, especially where a loss of their normal income may be involved. The other section consisted of some young male members of the community. Normally, wherever the Hustlers played there would be a group of single servicemen tagging along for the dances. Although servicemen were not particularly well paid they were in employment, were usually fairly smartly dressed and like most single males – they were interested in girls. From the point of view of the girls the servicemen were different from the males they went to school with and perhaps had more experience of the “modern” outside world. Because the dances were officially dry most of the lads paid a visit to the Lounge Bar or to the Excelsior before arriving at the dances.
The following four photos were taken during an afternoon practice session at the Planets Ballroom in Mounthooly Street, Lerwick.
It was not unusual for more than one group or band to play at the Planet sessions. The next picture from the same era features servicemen and locals at the Planet whilst a Shetland Band is playing. I believe the photo was taken by Jim Barber, the Hustlers Bass player, and it was sent to me by his son Chris.
The next photo, sent to me by Pete Brindley, was also taken during this era in the Planets:
Servicemen at RAF Saxa Vord normally did tours of duty which lasted 18 months. By the middle of 1964 attempts were being made to try to get all the Hustlers posted from to the same Station so that the group could continue to play together. All early attempts proved to be to no avail and it wasn’t until there was a change of Commanding Officer in the autumn that success was achieved. In November all four Hustlers were posted to RAF Boulmer, near Alnwick, Northumberland. The following photo from Bill Borthwick shows the group playing together during their time at Boulmer.
Life in the RAF is not always predictable. Soon Geordie Henderson, the drummer, was posted to Germany and shortly thereafter so was the lead guitarist Dave Joseph. Overseas tours were attractive and being in the RAF you did as you were told. This inevitably led to the group breaking up. The lads kept in touch for a long time, holding their last reunion in the early 90’s. The last known picture of them all together is below:
Sorry to say that since that last reunion both Geordie Henderson and Jim Barber have passed away. Bill Borthwick now resides in the south of England and Dave Joseph lives in the USA.
I am grateful to Bill and Dave for their help in producing this piece and also to Chris Barber, Jim’s son, for his photos. If anyone has any photos, recordings or anecdotes of the Hustlers from their time in Shetland I would appreciate it if they would get in touch: gordon.carleATgmail.com (replace the AT with the normal symbol). Anything I receive will be copied to Bill, Dave & Chris.
NOTE 1. Some of The Hustlers Repertoire in Shetland (Compiled by Rita Carle)
1. South of the Border
2. Theme for Young Lovers
3. Isle of Capri
4. Never on Sunday
6. In the Mood
7. Yellow Bird
8. Kon Tiki
9. Dance On
11. Glass Mountain
12. Back Home
13. The Boys
18. Spring is Nearly Here
19. It’s a Man’s World
20. Scottish Selection
21. El Comanchero
22. Hava Nagila
24. Ghost Riders In the Sky
25. The Breeze & I
27. Guitar Tango
29. Tiko Tiko
30. Theme from a Filleted Plaice
33. Shakin’ all Over
34. Everything’s All Right
35. Hippy Hippy Shake
36. Lubi Lu
37. Do Wah Diddy
38. Jailer Bring Me Water
40. Do You Love Me
41. I Won’t Forget you
42. Anna Marie
43. Listen to the Donkey Calling
44. I Saw Her Standing There
45. Little Children
47. This Song Is Just for You
48. My Devotion
49. Things we said today
50. I Wish I was Single Again
51. From Russia with Love
Note 2. Dave Joseph & Bill Borthwick
Dave and Bill have both sent me enough material to produce individual sections about their time at Saxa Vord. I hope to publish the two sections sometime next year.
Note 3. Earlier Section
In Mar 2010 a short section with different photos of the Hustlers was published here: http://ahistoryofrafsaxavord.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/hustlers.html