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Viva Staly Vegas - Stalybridge musician Dominic Halpin looks to Elvis for inspiration

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 February 2014

Dominic Halpin in a Nashville recording studio with his hero Ronnie Tutt.

Dominic Halpin in a Nashville recording studio with his hero Ronnie Tutt.

Not Archant

Dominic Halpin had a dream...to work with one of the musicians who helped Elvis Presley sparkle

Dominic Halpin and Ronnie Tutt (centre) with, left to right, bass player Ben Wiltshire, assistant engineer Michael Walter, sound engineer Casey Wood and guitarist Will Kimbrough.Dominic Halpin and Ronnie Tutt (centre) with, left to right, bass player Ben Wiltshire, assistant engineer Michael Walter, sound engineer Casey Wood and guitarist Will Kimbrough.

It began with an idle conversation between singer Dominic Halpin and bass player Ben Wiltshire as they played a gig in Manchester.

‘If you could record anywhere in the world, where would it be?’ said Ben, from Altrincham.

‘Nashville,’ replied Dominic.

‘And what about the band?’ Ben asked.

Dominic Halpin on stage.Dominic Halpin on stage.

‘I said if I could have any drummer in the world, it would be Elvis’s drummer Ronnie Tutt,’ recalls Dominic.

Soon that idle conversation turned into phone calls being made, demo recordings winging their way to Ron Tutt, now 75, studios being reserved, and flights being booked. So Dominic and Ben headed for Nashville and spent three days in Omnisound studio, Nashville, recording 11 of Dominic’s original songs with the help of Ron and guitarist Will Kimbrough.

Throughout Elvis’s Las Vegas years - following his 1968 ‘comeback’ - the musical ‘conversation’ between singer and drummer was a big part of the stagecraft.

‘I believe Ronnie was a major influence in Elvis’s comeback, though Ronnie is a very humble guy,’ says Dominic, who lives in Stalybridge with his American wife Cathryn and their ten-year-old daughter Emma.

‘Ronnie said he watched Elvis like a hawk and every time he did a little movement, he’d accent it.’

Dominic came away from Nashville with an album of new songs - titled 4,000 Miles - and the satisfaction that Ron had enjoyed the session too.

‘I have to say that this project with Dominic was one of the most fun times I’ve had in the studio,’ says Ron. ‘I love the simplistic approach he takes to his music - never over-produced.’

All of which gave Dominic a treasured connection with the music which first fired his love of music as a child in Stalybridge.

‘From an early age, I remember these parties at our house and because my dad’s one of ten children. they were big parties,’ says Dominic, aged 46. ‘We had a big record player and I’d sit in front of it putting on records by Elvis Presley, Rosemary Clooney, Guy Mitchell, Johnny Cash.

‘Then when I was about 15, I got a guitar and started playing, and this music was the first thing that came to me. So I put together a three-piece band, the Rockin’ Red Roosters, playing rockabilly, and had a great time playing working men’s clubs.

‘When I was about 18 I was at the point where I needed to do something different so I packed a rucksack and a guitar and headed to Australia. I landed a nice job with a computer company but then the music took over. I was playing in Sydney four or five nights a week with my own band Dominic Halpin and the Suspects.’

Dominic was to spend 18 years in Australia. In the course of it, he got a six-month booking performing on the gigantic Grand Princess cruise ship, where he met Cathryn, a passenger.

Ten years ago, he came back to England and has been busy performing swing music with Dominic Halpin and the Honey B’s, and country and rockabilly with Dominic Halpin and the Hurricanes. The Cinnamon Club in Bowdon is one of his regular venues, but his gig schedule has included performances at parties thrown by supermodel Elle McPherson at a castle in Yorkshire and an 80th birthday party for Simon Cowell’s mum at a London hotel.

‘We had a good chat with him,’ says Dominic. ‘He loved it. You want him to be all mean and nasty, but he’s not.’

Every year for the past six years, Dominic and band have headed for Halifax, Nova Scotia, where wealthy Canadian philanthropist David Fountain books them to play at a house party. One year, on Dominic’s recommendation, Mr Fountain booked a surprise guest star in the shape of Tony Bennett.

‘None of the guests knew Tony Bennett was going to be on,’ he says. ‘I was standing just two feet away from him when he was singing.’

See www.dominichalpin.com for details of upcoming performances and to buy Dominic’s music.

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