Colin shares the background of his new single, Trader Bob .
Trader Bob is a song that was born on the the same day in the same town as Lee Kernaghan and I wrote She’s My Ute, the beginning of over two decades of songwriting collaboration.
It was 1994 and I was the opening act on Lee’s southern NSW tour. I’d headed for a chilly morning walk and had got as far as the car yard across the road from the motel. I pay tribute to the first line of Ute in Trader Bob because they were part of a quite remarkable day.
To this day Lee ribs me about disappearing into second hand stores. We’d stop for lunch, the band were back in the Tarago...”Where’s Bucko?” They learnt pretty quick. Find the junk shop, you find the Bucko. And there, up the lane behind the dealership, was the big daddy of junk shops. Trader Bob’s Bargain Centre.
I spent hours in there. He had the high-roofed building supply yard which bled into a rabbit warren of what I call in the song “a bric-a-brac Nirvana”. Aircraft gauges, tools, hundreds of timber cobbler’s blocks, military surplus stuff - and a bunch of artificial limbs hanging from the roof! (When I asked Bob, “How much for the artificial legs?” he replied, “Depends how much you need one.”)
The torpedo tubes mentioned in the song seemed an unlikely purchase in the southern tablelands. Bob explained that he couldn’t get enough of the things. Locals were buying them to bury their then soon-to-be-illegal semi automatic rifles.
The single artwork features a classic portrait of Trader Bob, taken just before his retirement in 2000. In the photo he’s holding one of a bunch of what look like canvas jackets. His son, Stephen, tells me it’s a job lot of women’s fencing suits, purchased at a government auction. Bob could sell you a kitchen sink - or a fencing suit. That’s my kind of store!
This musical portrait has been lingering in my song shoebox for a while. That’s what made it such a great choice for my new single. What Trader Bob gathered at auctions and clearing sales, I do with songs. Songs of all shapes and sizes tend to tumble out when and where they wish, and I gather them up, finished and unfinished, and pop them into my song shoeboxes, waiting for the right moment to perhaps give them a life of their own.
So I’m thrilled that the time is right for Trader Bob. The man in the khaki bib-and-brace overalls is no longer with us, but it’s time to share his story, to step again into the bargain centre and fill our musical nostrils with the whiff of timber, mothballs, leather and age. Amongst the jumble, there’s gold to be found.
That’s the way it was with Trader Bob.