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It is with great sadness that I must tell you of the passing of our dear friend and traveling companion, Paddy Callaghan. Those of you who have seen our shows over the years may not be aware of the essential part Pat played for so long in our touring life but those adventures could fill several volumes.

In truth, it has been quite some time since I needed a bodyguard to prevent teenage girls from tearing my clothes to shreds but long after “security” was really just a matter of an orderly entry and exit to a venue, Paddy was always at hand, using humour and common sense to deflect any impetuousness or defuse a possible confrontation with little more than the emphatic question, “Do you want to be a _ _ _ _ * all your life?”.

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I first met Paddy Callaghan in the basement of the Kempinski Hotel, Berlin in 1978. You might be surprised that I can be so specific but the occasion was a post-show pool party thrown by Bob Dylan’s “Street Legal” touring ensemble. My main memory is of the security detail, led by Paddy, retrieving Steve Nieve from a sauna in which he had decided to continue a conversation with some of the musicians and singers.

Oh, did I mention that Steve was fully clothed at the time and that it was in this fashion that he dove into the pool, swimming alternate laps with our host – who as far as I know was actually wearing his aquatic togs but like Steve, also sporting a pair of Ray Bans. 

This would set the scene for Paddy keeping us mostly out of mischief during our tours, from the early 80s until the second decade of this century, offering his friendship, humour and his unique wisdom to an ever-changing scene.

Neither Pat or I were particularly good flyers in those early days and I developed the insane theory that planes were kept airborne by the proportion of gin and tonic (or “Vera”, as in “Lynn”) that we could down. If we hit turbulence, I would ask Paddy for a roll-up and he would share some of his Old Holborn with me to calm my jangled nerves, obviously in the days before in-flight smoking was banned and sobriety seemed the better part of valour.

Paddy made an impression on all those he worked with or encountered. He’d sometimes use a day off from our tour to visit Frank Zappa with whom he’d remained friends after a touring adventure but also had a strong bond with those who worked with us at “mission control” in London, Swansea and Dublin; a friend to Gill Taylor, Steve Maidment, our late production manager, Milo Lewis and an early mentor to Toast. I am grateful to our former business associate, Lew Difford who checked in with Paddy regularly and was kind enough to send me this sad news.  

Among Paddy’s earliest charges had been The Monkees and The Bay City Rollers. He is briefly glimpsed in a newsreel film tackling one of the Tartan Horde who was about to launch herself onto Woody or Les. Obviously, while looking out for us, Patrick never had to deal with such fan mania but he developed a fan club of his own among our audience, especially after he took the role of “Xavier Valentine” in the first appearance of “The Spectacular Spinning Songbook” in 1986.

This name was given to Paddy by Tom Waits – our first and finest guest M.C. – and Pat continued to select the finest candidates to spin the big wheel as “Your guide from your place in the stalls to your place in the stars” throughout the U.S. and European dates, even making a return cameo appearance in the role during a three-night NYC stand during the revival of the show in 2011.

One of the responsibilities for which I was most grateful to Paddy was in taking care of the family at our shows as the years moved on. He was there in 2010 at the RFH during Richard Thompson’s Meltdown – the last show my Dad was able to attend – and Patrick was one of only a trio of people (including her father and brother) who were permitted to address my mother, Lillian as “Lil’”, usually in the invitation, “Come on, Lil’, let’s have a Light Ale”, before repairing to the backstage bar, just as I can still hear him hail me ,“Alright, El” in my head.

There are so many hours, miles, jokes and rounds and rounds of drained drinks that we have all shared but there is not space here to impart them all to you and in any case so many reside in the “You had to be there” category and I might sound like someone auditioning for “Spinal Tap” or Nic Roeg’s “Performance”, only with less blood and acid but I will tell you this one last tale.

In 2007, I joined the bill of “The Bob Dylan Show” in Nashville. After the soundcheck, at the Ryman Auditorium, that night’s surprise guest, Jack White, invited me to join him and Bob on a ramble to a nearby guitar store.

Three of us walked the short distance from the backstage door to Broadway, where Gruhn Guitars was then still located, Jack and I jawing away at top speed while Bob walked beside us in contemplative silence (as in, I suspect, “Do these guys ever shut up?”).

Just as we stepped into the elevator to the second floor, vintage guitar showroom, a large frame joined us in the car. Bob came up from under his lowered wide brim and lit up with a broad grin, greeting the interloper warmly, “Hey Paddy”, as if not a day had gone by since he had inadvertently introduced me to Pat, thirty years earlier at that late-night Berlin pool party.

When Paddy and I last spoke in mid-January, I was pleased to hear a recognizable note in his voice, even though the days had reportedly not always been that clear or easy for him. I am grateful for that merciful light that shone on us that day, as we signed off without sense that time was pressing or darkness approaching.

Of the many hours and years we traveled together, this is one of my favourite afternoons, sitting on the steps of “Hitsville” in Detroit with Paddy’s great friend and colleague, our tour manager, Robbie McLeod.

Pete Thomas, Steve Nieve, Robbie and myself have all spoken today in the knowledge that we will likely run into people this time next year, when we hope to be back out on the road and they will enquire after Pat, as they have always done, since he stopped traveling with us and I will be able to say, “He’s gone on ahead, to check out the lay of the land”.

Rest well, Paddy, The Pride Of Carrickmacross.   

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