Penrith NSW, about 1978  

I can’t remember the date or even the exact year yet but I do remember my first big ticket purchase.

I left school when I was only 14 and 9 months and have had some regrets about that decision over the years, although there were some positives too. Perhaps one is that my first job was at a workplace mostly of women – it provided me with some good grounding. I didn’t realise it at the time of course but when you’re young you never do. True wisdom comes only with some age and life experience I have since learned.

I was a trainee waiter complete with red vest and cummerbund, at a fancy hotel on the banks of the Nepean River. I was so naive that I was good at my job. I think back now and wonder how I did it – put up with dickheads who today I wouldn’t tolerate.

Anyway, with cash in hand and my older friend Les we went into Penrith to buy my very own record player I decided it should also have a radio too. I think it was a department store called Waltons. My mother used to shop there –  she often used the store’s own paper money. That’s right, back in the day before all this digital stuff and credit cards, stores would offer a line of credit and issue you with their own money. My mother took advantage of this probably too much, as she would often go into hiding when the Waltons man knocked at the door. She would send out the kids to give some lame excuse as to why she wasn’t home.

With Les’ help I decided on a PYE system. It had a radio and a turntable and speakers. I remember its cool blue light on the face of it when you turned it on. Les managed to get the salesman to throw in a pair of headphones in the deal. Sadly what I paid for it is long forgotten.

I had to buy some records now and I remember my first purchase was a Johnny Cash hits album with popular songs like Sunday Morning Coming Down, Folsom Prison etc. The song that got me was Five Feet High And Rising. I can’t say why – perhaps I was too young to appreciate Sunday Morning Coming Down. From the first time I heard Five Feet High And Rising I could relate to it, not that where we lived in the lower Blue Mountains was likely to get flooded. It just somehow touched me.

Many years later I was looking for a song that introduced each member of my group, The Recycled String Band –  something rather fun and would that feature the band’s harmonies. Five Feet High And Rising was it. We worked out an arrangement. Everyone got a verse except our drummer –  he played a wobble board till the Rolf Harris story broke and we had to re-think his part.

Today I still love that song, I still love Johnny Cash. I lost the original album, but found a copy in an op shop, as you do.

Luke R Davies and the Recycled String Band won the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia Folk Recording Award 2013 for their album Not A Note Wasted. A Wangaratta musician, Luke joined The Stereo Stories Band after seeing them at the Newport Folk Festival in Melbourne in 2014..