Dusty & Me


My first encounter with Dusty Springfield was in 1964 after her concert at the Odeon Cinema, Renfield Street, Glasgow. Fired by the power of the music and the enthusiasm of the audience I waited by the stage door and chased her taxi cab through the streets, catching up each time they stopped at a red light. When she reached the North British Hotel I did not hesitate and ran into the hotel after her. My evening was completed with Dusty signing my wrist (why it wasn’t the programme I can’t remember!).

My fascination with her personality & my love of her music never left me and I bought every single, E.P., and album on release day from then on.
I had always know I could sing; it was a prerequisite at family gatherings, and it was really no surprise to anyone when I started singing in local bands in the evenings. The material was always largely Motown covers and the occasional ballad (sounds familiar, doesn’t it).

Somehow, inside me I always knew where I was going. Once, in the late sixties, I heard that Madeline Bell would be appearing at a casino/club in Glasgow where it would be impossible for me to go. I skipped school in the afternoon and went to the club hoping to catch a glimpse of her. I must have been fearless in those days, as I got into the club and found her band (Dusty’s Echoes) rehearsing. Madeline herself was coming later in the day and they had to run through her latest single "Climb Every Mountain". There was a look of surprise when I volunteered to sing it in her place. I already had the record and knew it well. I did not meet Madeline that day.

It was some years later that I was sharing a flat in London with a bunch of musicians, one of whom was renting his sound system to Doris Troy. I begged to go along to her show, and spoke to her afterwards about my singing. Through that meeting I started doing sessions with Doris and came to work with Madeline and all the other singers I had admired from afar. Dusty was, by this time, living in the States.

One night in 1978, after a show with Madeline at Caesar’s Palace in Luton, we arrived back at her house to a message from Dusty saying she needed singers to back her on Top Of The Pops. She was promoting her next single "A Love Like Yours(don’t come knocking every day)". Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

I met her for the first time professionally in the Philips studio where she had recorded her greatest hits; the very hits that had inspired me to become a singer. I recall that early in the rehearsals that night I pointed out that something we were singing was not exactly as it was on the record. She checked, and I was right. From that moment we had a trust about her music that was to overlap into all areas of our lives.

I went on to record with her when she was in London, and to appear on stage at her concert performances. My knowledge of her songs was useful when I would stand in for Dusty at sound checks, complete with hand movements!
When her work became infrequent, we still saw each other regularly, on shopping trips and visits to her favourite Fish & Chip restaurants. She also liked a day at the races.

It’s easy for me to smile as I recall those days. What followed, on the diagnoses of her illness, I won’t be going into, but I was happy that she trusted me to be with her through it.

I don’t remember anything much of my performance of "The Wind Beneath My Wings" at Dusty’s funeral. I think I was on some kind of "auto pilot".
I do know that I miss her every day, and my heart stops every time I hear one of those wonderful classics.

Simon Bell.©1999.

© Simon Bell 2013/2014/2015/2017/2018/2019