Weren’t Born A Man: Dana Gillespie Talks

❉ The remarkable blues singer and cult film icon on her amazing career.

“After Bowie and MainMan collapsed around our feet I knew that I couldn’t really carry on a kind of pop star image in stilettos and plunging necklines, and blues was what I always loved. I went to Ace Records, having probably lost a bit of credibility while wobbling around in my Manolo Blahnik high heels!” – Dana Gillespie.

A world-renowned blues singer, Dana Gillespie started her career on the folk and R&B scene in 1960s London, rocked the London stage alongside the likes of Marsha Hunt and Paul Nicholas in gospel musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Catch A Soul, was a prime mover in David Bowie’s rise to superstardom as part of the MainMan empire, cutting the RCA albums Weren’t Born A Man and I Ain’t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle, worked with maverick film directors Ken Russell and Nicolas Roeg, and ran the Mustique Blues festival for twenty years. She’s also become a cult movies icon thanks to her appearances in Hammer’s The Lost Continent and Amicus’ The People That Time Forgot.

In 2019, Cherry Red Records released an anthology of her MainMan recordings, What Memories We Make, and Ace Records her latest album Under My Bed. 2021 sees Dana having published her keenly awaited memoirs, ‘Dana Gillespie: Weren’t Born a Man’ published by Hawksmoor Publishing and with two new albums awaiting release. There’s seemingly no stopping this feisty force of nature, and We Are Cult‘ had the pleasure of her company over the telephone, to discuss her incredible life and career…

How are you keeping?

I’m kind of busy. I’m in the lockdown. But in the summer I got to finish the memoir. I’ve written two albums, which are both in the middle of recording, so I’ve been keeping busy.

Well, that’s one thing I find I really appreciated from reading your book is you seem to have quite a sort of quite a kind of balanced philosophy about, you know, ups and downs and things like that.

There’s no point in being pissed off about anything – you learn from all these things.

A lot of the people who appear in your book are quite sort of significant cultural figures and personages…. It all gets very mythologized these days, but it’s all very much like when you’re talking about getting to know people like Bob Dylan and John Lennon and David Bowie, obviously, it’s person to person rather than starstruck – very grounded.

I think I am quite grounded, because I never took those kinds of things that seriously. A lot of those people that you mentioned, weren’t so famous when I first met them. They were just me mates, my pals. Yeah, they weren’t global stars, although with some of them, you could sense it was about to happen, but nobody really knew what being global was in those days. Even to go to America was like flying to the moon. So musicians when they started in the ‘60s, I know the Stones once said, they will do this music for three years and then go and look for normal jobs.

Nobody thought it was actually going to last. Because there was no blueprint to say, I want to be like this. The only one that was really famous was Elvis, who was in America. But were just my pals, and we were all just on the pathway following lifestyles that were all interwoven with each other to do with music.

I think that definitely comes across in the book. I mean, I really appreciate a lot of the insights into the sort of folk and r&b scene you started out in. And is it fair to say that Julie Driscoll was a significant inspiration at the beginning of your musical career?

Well, not significantly. She was more experienced than me, I mean, she, she got to sort of get up and sing occasionally. But I mean, I was never that close friends with her, but she was somebody that I wished I had been a couple of years older.

I was interested to find in your book that the first instrument you learned was the drums. I mean, it’s quite still quite an unusual thing, isn’t it: Women who play drums, we only really think of Moe Tucker from the Velvet Underground, Karen Carpenter, and the Honeycombs.

Karen Carpenter was a really good drummer, and it’s so difficult to drum and sing, and be as good as she was. What turned me on was an album by Buddy Rich and Sandy Nelson called Let There Be Drums. And I loved the energy of it. That’s what triggered me off to be a newspaper delivery boy, or girl, for five years from the age of 11 to 15, so I could raise money to get my own drum kit. And, you know, I did and I had formed a band. In those early days of the early 60s, bands like the Honeycombs were rarities in the British music scene, you know. So I thought, Well, God, if they can do it, well so can I…

My drum teacher was very famous – that’s why I delivered my papers, to pay for his lessons. He used to take me to see Buddy Rich, who was, you know, the star of all drummers.

He used to write for a magazine. And so I’d go along with him to the rehearsal. This is when I was 13. And when then when I saw what he was doing, I kind of realised there’s no way, no way Jose, that I can be as good as that. So I kind of gravitated more to singing and with drums you can’t you can’t sing and drum at the same time unless you’re Karen Carpenter, not really. And I like getting my philosophies across – and for that, I had to be a songwriter.

17th May 1971:David Bowie with Dana Gillespie. (Photo by Michael Stroud/Express/Getty Images)

Twelve string was really your thing, wasn’t it? The 12 string guitar, same as Bowie?

If you play a 12 string rather than a 6 string, it makes the sound fatter and fuller, which is good when you’re on stage solo. But then, you know, by the ‘70s I had my own band. The more great musicians I had, the less inclined I was to play. I used to do one or two numbers on the guitar and I dropped that, but I still played.

I was wondering if you could tell us about what you remember from the Foolish Seasons album which is a bit of a favourite with ‘60s music enthusiasts.

Well, I mean look at me on the album cover, on the Palomino horse. I mean how ‘60s can you get, I have that long hippie style hair! Well, you know, I had done singles but wanted to have an LP deal and thankfully Decca picked me up on that. And although they released it on something called the London label in America, but not in England, Foolish Seasons had some early songs that I wrote.

In those days, girls singers usually had to sing what the record company told them and they would put them with a producer, who would then try and offload his own badly written songs so that they could cash in on sales. I’m not saying that Wayne Bickerton had badly written songs, but he was the guy that was pushed my way. But I was striving to be a singer-songwriter, and you learn from doing.

But in the early days of the ‘60s, the one thing you had to do, even if you’d have to sing a side that you didn’t really want to, you made sure that you wrote the B side because you got the same amount of royalties in those days.

I’m also quite fond of the Donovan track ‘You Got To Know My Mind’.

I always jokingly call it a surfing song, I mean Donovan’s version of surfing, and I was very lucky because already Jimmy Page was doing guitar on the album, but on this particular track, he produced himself and played the guitars on it. But at that time, you know, obviously, it was pre-Led Zeppelin, and he was just the most in-demand session guitarist.

And also on these tracks was John Paul Jones, Zeppelin’s bass player. So I was very lucky, you know, I had great musicians.

And talking about great musicians… One thing I have to mention is you mentioned in the book, you sort of reveal that you are one of the many future stars who appeared on those Top of the Pops compilations you’d see in Woolworths, with Elton John.

Good memories! It was really very cheesy that – there was a dodgy bird in a bikini on the cover. Yeah, really tasteless, actually. We met when Elton was still Reginald Dwight then, he was just turning into Elton John. We used to do a lot of these, we used to get 25 quid, or 50 quid if you did the lead vocal, rather than the backing vocals. And I was so happy to do it in Marble Arch – a huge studio. Those are the days when musicians have to be paid by musicians’ union rates, right? Don’t over one minute, otherwise, they will complain and double their price!

But those were great days growing up. So these LPs would come out with us singing the top 20 hits, but not by the originals. And I remember sitting in a Wimpy bar and hearing my own voice coming by with these fake top 20 songs!

So around this time – late ‘60s, early ‘70s – this would be when you did a couple of what we call rock operas: Catch My Soul and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Scratch My Hole (!) was great because it was, you know, rocking songs and in between I had a great time. I had a costume that I had been falling out of it nearly every night. So I got a lot of attention in the show! And Jesus Christ Superstar was probably the biggest musical for a long, long time just mentioning the word Jesus next to the word superstar was quite shocking, blasphemous for many. And we had to fight our way through picketing nuns, to go into the stage door at the Palace Theatre, which is one of the biggest in London.

It was very moving on the opening night. It was very good. But then if you do it for a year, it does turn to a sausage factory. Yeah.

That that kind of regular live performing must have been really helpful for you as a vocalist?

Well, it’s very, it’s great discipline. I mean, you’ve got to be disciplined when there’s that many people on stage and it’s a professional show that costs a fortune. When the show would come to an end, I’d run, leap into my old banger and drive to a pub on the edge of London and sing with a rock and roll band so that I could kind of get it out of my system.

But I left after a year. I mean, I was the first Mary Magdalene in the original cast in London, and I did the original recordings. But I left because I needed my first knee operation, having damaged my knee in an accident when I was 15. And I had to have surgery and I left the show.

But by then I had signed to the same manager as David Bowie – our wonderful manager, Tony Defries, who formed the MainMan company. Yeah. And there, my life took another turn.

That’s where we get to the Weren’t Born A Man album, and that’s got quite an interesting sort of genesis, because I know it came out in ‘74, but it dates back to those early Trident sessions with Mick Ronson and Rick Wakeman from Hunky Dory times.

Well, absolutely. And in fact, it took longer for me to finish my album because I was still committed to doing JC Superstar. So although Bowie had written the Andy Warhol song for me, and he played on my version – if you listen you can hear his voice and his 12 string guitar in the background – he liked the version that Ronno had produced and he did his own version. He got his version out before me. I still needed to finish the album. And by the time I finished it, he’s already taken off for America because of the whole Ziggy thing.

The recording sessions were great. Rick Wakeman has always said that Trident had the best piano he’s ever played. And Ken Scott was producing Bowie’s album so I had a guy called Robin Cable in the studios, at the same time, sometimes overlapping with David, but not really. We kept different hours. Sometimes I’d see him turn up.

There was one thing I meant to ask while we’re talking about the MainMan recordings: There’s the single ‘Hold Onto Your Fire’ with  band Libido and I’ve never encountered that until I got the Cherry Red MainMan compilation. What was that all about?

Like most of the sessions it was just like a kind of sort of one-off. It came about because they had a number one hit with Resurrection Shuffle. Fabulous guitarist, Mick Liber, he had got a record deal as solo singles deal, and I can’t remember the name of the label, it escapes me at this moment.

And anyway, so we wrote the song Weren’t Born A Man together. And, he plays guitar on that, and we did. He called himself Libido. It’s like his surname, Liber. But it didn’t do very well. So he never got another record deal. But in the meantime, I was already signed into RCA and I liked the song. So I wanted to carry it on to the LP.

Have you heard Marc Almond’s version of Stardom Road that he did about 10 years ago?

Well, Marc is a friend of mine anyway. Yes. It was originally done by some kind of an underground band, Third World War. When I did the song Stardom Road I thought I was being quite progressive because it was very different from your average song.

It’s a song with two parts.


Yeah, cuz it kind of builds and builds into a bit of an epic.

It’s something that I wished I’d written myself. It’s a great track.

There’s something about albums recorded at Trident Studios in the 1970s. It’s got a really immediately recognisable kind of sound. I mean, you mentioned the famous Bechstein piano that’s been in so many classic recordings, and then there’s the arrangements. There’s one chap I wanted to highlight Robert Kirby, who did the arrangement for What Memories We Make.

Yes, right. Well, actually there was another guy called Del Newman. It was just when Elton John had just been working with a guy called Paul Buckmaster. And suddenly, string arrangements and different arrangements were suddenly coming into vogue, not just just normal arrangements, they had these young and innovative composers. I can’t actually remember what Robert Kirby looked like! But I can remember what Del Newman looked like. I mean, it seems a long time!

And after Bowie and MainMan, the mad circus sort of slowly collapsed around our feet. I knew it wouldn’t last, of course, I knew that I was going to keep recording. After I’d gotten through the litigation Bowie and Tony Defries were going through.

I knew that I couldn’t really carry on a kind of pop star image in stilettos & plunging necklines, and blues was what I always loved. I went to Ace Records, because I was impressed with their blues back catalogue and I mean, they’ve got loads of great back catalogues, and I think I’m probably their only living artist left! I went to them in 1980. I think I mentioned this story in my memoirs, that I knew that I needed a label with some blues credit, having probably lost a bit of credibility while wobbling around in my Manolo Blahnik high heels! So I go to take care of the blues, and I said, Listen, I want to do an album of all the rudest songs from the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s. And I’ve stayed with them ever since!

It’s a great thread of albums. I’m a big fan of I Rest My Case, which is all your own songs, isn’t it?

I think it’s important to write about how you feel, and I don’t sing soppy lyrics, that’s why mostly I just sing what I’ve written and all my life I’ve considered myself a songwriter who sings. Bowie felt the same actually, he thought of himself as a songwriter who sings

One thing that I found was a pleasant surprise on the Cherry Red MainMan compilation is you’ve got two versions of Never Knew. And, obviously, one is Weren’t Born A Man era. And the other is from the Second Fiddle sessions. I mean, the first time I heard the second version, it’s just such a drastic change in your style. You know, that the blues thing is more to the fore. And it’s a lot more upfront, you know, and there’s just a gap of a couple of years, from that and the likes of  Mother Don’t Be Frightened!

By the time of Second Fiddle, I was getting stronger and stronger blues leanings. And my voice was toughening up. On Mother, Don’t Be Frightened I’m singing quite gently and softly, a bit angelic sounding. And by the time you get to Second Fiddle, a bit of the devil was coming into my life. So it came into into my voice and you know, if you do something enough times, it’s like body building, your muscle builds up and my voice was getting stronger and stronger so I could carry off the songs.

You mentioned you had a really good live band and we’ve got a mutual friend, Tony Zanetta. I mentioned I’d be speaking to you and I asked Tony if there was anything I could pass on, and he mentioned he has very fond memories of seeing you and your band play Reno Sweeney’s.

Tony suddenly found himself as Defries’ right hand man and on tour with Bowie. The whole MainMan crew was full of these crazy New Yorkers that had never done this sort of work before! Reno Sweeney’s… I suppose it’s a bit like playing Ronnie Scott’s here but it was a bit trendier. And they booked me twice there for ten days. And there was one evening where Dylan, Bowie and Bette Midler… Am I allowed to swear?

Oh, you can say whatever you want.

I was feeling so ill and Dylan was coming backstage to try and see me but I told the guy on the door, “I can’t see anyone, I’m feeling ill”. And Dylan was going through a slightly tramp looking phase, when he had a bit of a wispy beard and looking like literally like a tramp. And he said to the doorman, “Oh, I’ve come to see Dana”, and he said, “She’s not seeing anyone”. He said, “Well, can you tell her Robert Zimmerman is here”, the doorman, who didn’t know, he said, “Well, I don’t care if you’re Bob fucking Dylan!”

He never came in to see me which I was sad about.

New York was exciting, but I never felt like the New Yorker. I love Europe. I like the culture of Europe. New York never really thrilled me as much as it did for Bowie. I yearned to my roots, went back to Europe. I speak several languages. And what’s the point if you don’t need any of them in America?

Can we ask you a bit about a couple of your film roles, from the mid 1970s period? I’ve always wanted to ask about your appearance in ‘Mahler’, because that’s actually one of my favourite Ken Russell films. Kind of a bit of a hidden gem in his kind of canon. He’s such a unique director, What was he like to work with?

Dictatorial, but I mean, that’s how he got the results. I played Mahler’s mistress, Anna Von Mildenburg. They actually had me learning this lieder, which singers take years to master it. And I had to have a lesson every day for about ten days. And then it was blatantly obvious that the old blues singer really could not sing opera. So they dubbed my voice and every time I see this, I’m horrified by that kind of warbling, opera voice but I’ve never been a huge opera fan.

One nice thing about it was that in the scene where Mahler (Robert Powell) and Mildenburg, who’s having the affair with Mahler , they’re sitting at the piano and in comes Mahler’s wife, Alma (Georgina Hale). She’s written a song because she also wants to be considered as a songwriter composer. And she handed it to Mahler and my character we both laugh at it. The original version that she was meant to be handing to her husband was so complicated that I said to Ken Russell, “Listen, if they’re gonna laugh at her compositions, they got to be really simple. Throw this one out. Let me write the song for it.” He said, “You’ve got 24 hours”. Four hours later, I came back with the song that’s actually used in the film. The melody that had to be it had to be simplified. Otherwise, we couldn’t laugh at Alma’s lack of musicianship.

Yeah, cuz it implies a certain naivety doesn’t it? I just love that scene where he’s portraying Anna as almost an angel of death. So you make quite a big impression for a small role. Because there’s only about four or five main characters in the film. And it’s one of his more low-key efforts. And even though it’s got goose-stepping Nazis.

He loved a bit of sexual depravity, but not in any of the scenes I was in! There was a fantastic actress called Georgina Hale. She’s excellent.

Can you tell us a little about making Bad Timing?

It was a such a depressing film. Did you ever see it?

Yeah. It is a real downer of a film to be fair.

Bit of a love story with a necrophilia tinge to it. And I told Nic Roeg, I said, “Listen, I’ve never met Art Garfunkel and we’re about to go to bed together.” He could at least introduce us!

So he introduced us and I put my arms around his neck and he sort of put his arms around my waist and we stood talking for about 25 minutes and then half an hour later. And then I’m in my purple Janet Reger knickers and a pair of Spanish cowboy boots, and a purple dress that kind of gets lost in his bed. And we start kissing. And then the first kiss and that’s kind of okay. Thirty kisses later… (tiresome sigh)

You’ve got 20 people doing the lighting staring at you. And in the scene I have to sort of slide down his body to… well, I don’t have to finish that. But I’m sliding down his body and then the telephone rings and his girlfriend in the film, Theresa Russell, has taken a load of pills. And he sleeps with her. Well, she’s basically dead. Yeah. Necrophilia, a cheery little subject, isn’t it?

It’s a cult movie! And then there’s The Lost Continent, which was in 1967.

I had these strange sort of balloons over my shoulders meant to keep me afloat from being eaten by the weed that was devouring the people in the film. So I had to splash around on inflatable rubber rings, when in fact you didn’t because the water wasn’t that deep, but it had to look deep. So what with my cleavage and these two balloons on my shoulders, it looks like four balloons and I went to see the film, incognito, to see how film was going to look on the big screen. And as I walked up, splish splash across the sea onto the set, my scene, the whole audience keels over with laughter. So I was quite happy that nobody recognised me on the way out!

Was it a similar situation when you did The People That Time Forgot?

I call it The Film That People Forgot! Although the script was abysmal all I had to do was rush around in shammy leather and make sure that my boobs didn’t fall out of the costume! I remember it best of all because we were on location in the Canaries.

It was a trilogy thing. And they had that marvellous actor, Doug McClure, he was really good. Yeah. He’d been in The Virginian and although he was quite pissed a lot of the time, the moment the action board, the clapper board went, he went straight into acting mode. But I mean, there’s no great acting accolades to be found in one of those sorts of films. While in my case, you’re trying to fight a dinosaur or pterodactyl or something. And in fact, it’s a man inside the thing pulling leavers. So, you know, nowadays with computer generated stuff, it’s extremely tame. But jolly good fun, too.

I don’t think it furthered my career but I’ve always been very realistic in the fact that I was never offered anything that required monumental amounts of acting. I don’t really call myself an actress. I’d much prefer anything to do with music. I just did it for the hell of it a bit – was offered and I was just can’t say no. And it’s work and you learn from every type of work; camera angles, how to get on with the crew, which is vitally important. You know, how to deal with directors and makeup and everything else, just learning my craft.

I work well with everyone actually. I’ve never had trouble with anyone in the business.

You’ve obviously aware that there is a bit of a cult following for these films as you’ve been to a couple of Hammer signings and Misty Moon events, has it been nice to embrace the cult film thing?

I enjoy those signings, because it’s a lot of fun. Usually, they get me to give a talk for an hour. So I just, you know, I love Q&A, a lot of fun on stage.

So yeah, I’m proud to be associated with those because it’s, it’s something that can never be recreated. It’s part of cinema history. And boy was I lucky to be part of it.

What are your memories of your album Move Your Body Close To Me?

That one is kind of another one that’s kind of slipped through the net because it’s sort of just pre-Ace, I think really was pre-Ace. Well, the thing is, it never got released in England, I simply couldn’t find a label interested. Don’t forget this was before world music or, you know, Peter Gabriel hadn’t founded it. You know, his label with World Music. Very few people weren’t even knowing what world music was. But I’d always travelled and always had oriental influences coming into my life. And although it wasn’t released here, it was actually a number one hit in Australia did very well in Germany and Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland.

Probably due a reissue then!

I think the label’s defunct, and I’m so bad at all of this. It probably needs somebody with a brainwave to actually take my old music and catapult it up one more time.

It must have been a double-edged sword that, you have always been a very beautiful woman with certain attributes, but going through your press clippings, often the first thing that is mentioned is your cleavage…

Are you asking did it piss me off?

I just wondered, yeah!

I just learned to live with it. I would advise any woman is thinking of getting surgical enhancement, Don’t bother. I definitely was not surgically enhanced. I was just big. And it’s all the waterskiing I did when I was younger, and in some ways it got in the way, perhaps but in other ways It opened doors for me because I got offered busty parts. I mean, you have to just take it with a pinch of salt.

One thing I found really interesting reading your memoirs is that, living and working in the ‘60s and ‘70s, with sexual liberation going on, you’re very frank about making the most of what was going on and you’re quite keen to point out that you never did anything that wasn’t on your terms and you never felt exploited, which feels quite progressive in a way that goes against the current climate.

I had to deal with guys but the world was a different place, I never held it against them. What’s the point in me being pissed off? That doesn’t help anyone. You know what I mean? You know, that’s how you learn. That’s how you get a life. No, I’ve never let it affect me. I’ve always had humour and I look at the world with compassion, because a lot of people need help.

And that’s quite a good way of touching on one of your book’s life chapters and that’s your time with Sai Baba.

I first went there forty years ago, and it did change my life actually, changed my view on philosophy. And I became more tranquil, I learned by going to sit in his ashram. Even saying “the ashram”, you know, I didn’t do any of this kind of hippie backpacking stuff in the ‘60s. This was in the 80s. And he showed me so many things where they were beyond explanation, they could be called miracles, because he was known as the miracle man. And it was the book The Man Of Miracles by an Australian called Howard Murphy that I read. And I was so impressed. Three weeks later, I left on a plane to go to India and go and see him, where he then ignored me for 12 years!

I learned lots of things by sitting in silence, you know, the ego has to be quashed. You have to learn how to switch off, how to look on the world with more compassion, and just be a better person. So he taught me so much. And then I started to make albums in Sanskrit, because even if you can’t understand it sounds good. It doesn’t matter. It purifies the space around you, and it’ll make you feel better. So I used to get a lot of really good people playing on my budget CDs are the second guitars from Pink Floyd, the bass player, loads of people played great instruments on this Indian music, and I tried to make this great form of music slightly more acceptable to the west.

And from the amount of sort of talent you managed to get on board it certainly sounds like you must have done. In your autobiography you write about how you went on to reconcile this spiritual journey of yours with your raunchy blues persona, and the answer was Sai Baba said, play the game and be happy, which I found very interesting.

The meaning of life, you know, “What’s the point of all of this?” and he said, these five words, “Play the game be happy”. And I realised that we can choose to be happy, even in the most terrible circumstances. Everyone has a choice, even if things going really wrong. There’s always something good that you can see in a terrible situation. And he changed my mindset so that I would see life much more like this. Rather than complaining or whingeing and gossiping or being pissed off because somebody grabbed your parking space or not being upset by little things by looking at seeing the world through the big picture. He opened my horizons.

I mean, I’m not saying that everyone has to go running off to read books on Sai Baba, because one of the main things I liked about his teachings was, it didn’t matter if you were a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or nothing. He just said, everyone’s got their own path. And so I like the fact that every religion would be sitting there in the audience, the congregation, I suppose, when he had his 70th birthday, having not spoken to me for 12 years, I was suddenly asked to sing for the 70th birthday in front of nearly a million people that came from all over the world. And I kept thinking the world must be tilting to one side, all the people there. And after that, he would ask me to sing every year, his birthday, two years when I was ill, so wasn’t there. But you know, I think I’m the only Western singer that’s done that. But I have written about it in the book. It was relevant.

However, I think if anyone steps towards the road to spirituality, which basically means go to into yourself, the journey might take some time, but can only start if you take that first step, and enquire and to find out why things are. So inquiry is very important. The more you grow in self-confidence, and then your life just gets better.

I can’t fault any of that. Another chapter of your life that must have been fulfilling in a different way is running the annual Mustique Blues Festival for the last 20 years. You must feel proud!

Pride is the wrong word. I’m just very grateful to organise this and to have all these wonderful blues musicians who would rather not be in snowy, snowy, freezing England between the end of January/beginning of February. My job was to find musicians who would come and play for free for 15 days and contribute to the charity and I had great musicians and I made an album from this every year that was also sold to help the charity so yes, I was lucky. Very lucky, very blessed to have that brainwave.

It’s quite an accomplishment. Did it sort of start organically from the jams and parties you used to hold on the island when Princess Margaret was a regular attendee?

I was singing songs from the MainMan albums when she was around. No. It started because there’s a very famous bar called Basil’s bar, the only bar on the island of Mustique and he always liked blues. And one night I was singing. I discovered that the microphone had been left on there were no punters, everyone had gone home. So I sang a capella – just my voice for an hour and a half – all the blues songs I could think of. And at the end of it, I said to Basil, you know, I’m a blues singer, you love blues. Why don’t we put a festival together? So we planned it, and he still has the rights to run it. You know, I stepped back after 20 years. But hey, one of the most famous islands on the planet. Musicians loved living the dream.

What’s next ?

I’m already thinking about my two new albums that I’m working on. Nearly finished one of them actually, called Deep Pockets. We recorded in the summer, it’s just being mixed at the moment. And the other new one is, I can’t really tell you about it! I’ve got stuff to do.

I’m really happy to say that I’ve managed to cover everything that I hoped to ask you about. So I just want to thank you for being so kind with your time.

Thank you, James.

❉ ‘Dana Gillespie: Weren’t Born a Man’ published in Hardback and Softback (RRP: £24.99/£19.99) by Hawksmoor Publishing, ISBN: 9781838099046. Hawksmoor books are available through bookshops & internet booksellers. Visit www.hawksmoorpublishing.com.

❉ ‘Dana Gillespie – What Memories We Make – The Complete MainMan Recordings 1971-1974’ (CDBRED745) is available from Cherry Red Records, RRP £11.99. 

❉ James Gent is the editor of pop culture webzine We Are Cult, and has previously contributed to volumes such such as 1001 TV Shows You Must Watch Before You Die, Blakes Heaven: Maximum Fan Power, You and 42: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Douglas Adams and Scarred For Life Volume Two: Television in the 1980s. He is the co-editor of Me And The Starman (Cult Ink), available to buy from Amazon, RRP £11.99. UK: https://amzn.to/30ZE8KE | US: bit.ly/starmanUSA ISBN: 9798664990546.


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