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7 Sep 2015

Roadie Loyalty Costs – Ron Clayton Tells

RON CLAYTON has written a book about being an Australian roadie through the golden era of rock. It is a gloriously unfiltered tale, with references to aboriginals, homosexuals, nuns, groupies, blondes, the disabled, and of course sex and drugs. Being self published you can do this. But more importantly it is a historical novel, probably more than he intended.

ron clayton with some money

‘It’s a Roadies Job – may contain traces of nuts’ came about after Ron sank into depression in 2013. His entire working life was devoted to one band, Ted Mulry Gang (TMG) and he is probably the only Australian roadie from the 1970’s until Ted died in 2001 to have mostly worked for just one band. The band exploited Ron, ripped him off badly, and used him – although he doesn’t say this. Yet he is devoted to them, especially the late Ted Mulry. The book strongly argues Ted was mistreated by Alberts, the iconic label. Ron says they sidelined Ted in favor of Vanda and Young. Whatever the reality, Ted Mulry had his time in the sun, touring and selling Platinum for much of the mid 1970’s. He was without doubt a prolific and successful songwriter.

This is a book about the struggles of road crew life, and it is deadly accurate since many named within can attest. In some parts you could be forgiven for thinking it was a work of fiction. But it is factual.

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Ron has a delightful writing style. He also has a sharp memory and presumably was a prolific diarist. Malcolm Young (AC/DC) was in an early version of the band that became TMG – Velvet Underground. “He worked as a sewing machine mechanic at bra maker Hestia, which he said stands for ‘Holds Every Sized Tit in Australia’. On one of those visits to the Young household, his 14 year old younger brother Angus didn’t seem to be very friendly not just to us but indeed to Malcolm”. This jives with those who knew the Young brothers in those days.

The story covers the remarkable rock era from the mid 1970’s. TMG became one of the top earning bands in the industry, yet at the height of their success ended a year where they played 200 gigs in debt. Ron had progressed from being the sole roadie who did everything to a kind of assistant manager role.

Australia then was quite different – Queensland required permits to carry musical equipment over its border. Each state collected Road Tax from trucks. Venues did not have three phase so an electrician hooked up and disconnected at the end of a gig. Venue attendants wore uniforms and were often hostile to band crew.

TMG

In 1977 Ron crossed a line and borrowed money secured against his home to support the band. His wife ran the fan club, and between tours he was hiring out the truck, crew and production to help keep everything afloat.

He was taking all the risk for no reward. He bypassed a Tasmanian promoter and booked the gigs himself, almost tripling the take, but then racking up unforeseen costs. Thus followed a lesson in band management. He was the only guy the band could actually trust.

By 1980 the band was broke again, a manager (named in the book – and not Roger Davies) hadn’t paid bills, and Ron would end up sued by repair shops, an airline, and a car hire firm. The new truck was repossessed.

Ron paid off the bands debts for years and then in 1985 almost unbelievably guaranteed a loan to buy a new lighting desk, and a new mixer. He was in debt on behalf of Ted Mulry for almost 20 years.

The band originally had Ron as an equal member, he drove them in a converted Toyota Coaster bus, band up front and gear behind. In 1975 his 20% split was earning him $300 a week, which was well more than the average wage. It allowed him to buy a home unit. The equality quickly faded.

TMG

Things changed fast as the hit records started rolling in, and without complaining about it in the book, Ron was consigned to the crew or assigned to personal assistant status for The Ted. Late night commandments to join Ted at clubs for drinks were always obeyed. Ron’s diet at the time is detailed – baby food, chips, baked beans, soft drinks. It is a wonder he survived.

The book is best when describing the daily grind of road life, and also serves fans of Ted Mulry who will enjoy the career highlights. As it is the story of Ron’s life, it includes details of his relationships and early days, yet it is the road crew stories that prevail.

Ron avoids tipping any buckets, which is a shame since he was treated so poorly. He truly gave his life to his musical master. Ronald Clayton has penned a valuable account of an era that can never be repeated.

Email Ron to buy the book: kim_ron@optusnet.com.au

Ronald Clayton today

Ronald Clayton today

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