Scandalous tales of a near death bus crash, cream cheese and the red light district revealed in The Confessions of a Female Tour manager, by Kim Hawes

Kim Hawes with Lemmy
Kim Hawes with Lemmy

From dodging madams in Hamburg; being involved in a near death crash and stumbling on a human trafficking ring in the same night and dealing with the fall out with a law suit involving cream cheese, Kim Hawes has seen and done it all.

With more than 30 years in the music industry, she certainly has enough to fill a book - and then some.

Confessions of a Female Tour Manager

Confessions of a Female Tour Manager

The Confessions of a Tour Manager only scratches the surface of what life was like on the road, as she lifts the lid on some sordid and eye opening stories.

Kim, of Leyland, explains: “I had spent 10 years with Motorhead and there was not really anything else I could have seen or done.
“I had a bet with singer Lemmy one night. The band were off to the red light district of Hamburg, known as the Reeperbahn, and he dared me to go for a bottle of vodka. The madams would stand at the front of the houses, vetting the men who would see their women. I put on a baseball cap, jeans and trainers, and I had a massive flying jacket raised up to my face. I walked in with my head down and it was only towards the end that a madam figured out that I was female, but I managed to run out and I got my bottle of vodka.”

Kim reveals Lemmy had even tried it on once with her - and he was left feeling mortified afterwards: “I was walking down the tour bus and he held his hands out and squeezed my boobs. There was a look of horror on his face afterwards. He said he would never do that again.”

Lemmy was never far from a joke and Kim was left to smooth things over. She recalls: “We had done six weeks in Scandinavia and Lemmy covered the promoters agent with cream cheese and handcuffed him in a lighting truss that was shaped like a bomber plane. This was put in front of the audience and he went up in the air. The next day, the lawyers got involved and he was going to sue, but I managed to sort it.”

Kim Hawes at The Rolling Stones 'Urban Jungle' event in Copenhagen the day after the show and just before tear down of the site

Kim Hawes at The Rolling Stones 'Urban Jungle' event in Copenhagen the day after the show and just before tear down of the site

But perhaps Kim’s most shocking moment was when she was touring with Hawkwind and, after being involved in a bus crash, witnessed another crime.
She reveals: “In the late 1980s, we had finished a gig and were driving through Vienna. All of a sudden a Mercedes jumped a red light and went into our bus. People were thrown out of their bunks and the front part of the bus was all twisted.
“There was an American man who came over to help us and he took us to a bar a few doors away. It was closed but there were people asleep on tables and chairs who were waiting for a way out of Austria. The guy had helped us, thinking we could take some people through.”

Kim, who grew up in Hesketh Bank, had certainly proved to be a tenacious character - and it was that trait which earned her the first foothold into the music industry when she was just 19.
The former Tarleton High School pupil recalls: “When I was nine I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon and I knew I wanted to do something different. When I said I wanted to do something other than be a shop assistant or a secretary, I was dismissed, so I started to rebel. I went on a school exchange in America and I returned to my pen pal at Christmas in 1978 after I left school.
“We watched Elvis Costello and The Attractions on a programme called Saturday Night Live (SNL). I had a huge crush on keyboard player Steve Nieve.

“I returned home and they were playing at The Guild Hall. I stormed up to the stage before the gig and said to a guy working there that I needed to see the band as I was with them when they performed on SNL. No-one in this country had heard of SNL so it was plausible. The guy, who was the promoters agent Mike Stuart, told me to come back after the gig and he took me to the hotel across the road and I saw them at the bar. They said hello and carried on their conversation, so Mike knew I hadn’t met them before. But he said nobody had ever got one over him so he asked me to stay for a drink but I had to get my bus home. Mike invited me to another gig and then he asked me to join them on tour - there were only five days left.”

Kim was invited initially as a ‘groupie’ and added that despite being naive, her mum had sorted out her own hotel room and she said she ‘was never put in a position where I didn’t know what was going on’.

Kim Hawes. Photo by Andy Hetherington

Kim Hawes. Photo by Andy Hetherington

Kim stumbled on an opportunity to really get involved when the woman selling merchandise fell ill and she was asked to step in for the remainder of the tour. She adds: “Mike told me I could get into selling merchandise but I told him I wanted his job. He just laughed and said ‘girls don’t do my job’.”

Kim returned home and was soon invited to tour the world with Rush and sell their merchandise, experiencing the rock and roll lifestyle: “I was at the Pinkpop Festival in the Netherlands with Rush and everybody was in the same hotel - Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, The Police and Elvis Costello. I walked into the bar and Sting told the bar staff not to serve me as I was only 20 and you needed to be 21. The barman said I could not be in here and Sting said sorry, offering to buy me a drink but that was refused.

“Rush found out and hired a room and set up a private bar for me, so everyone went there. I was surrounded by all these people, having the time of my life. I woke up the next day with the cleaner vacuuming around me. I had managed to get the key in the door but not made my room. Rush lead singer Geddy Lee was asleep in the lift, just going up and down.”

That same year, in 1979, Kim joined up with Motorhead and this was where she really made her presence known, as she was soon called upon to be accounts manager. Then, when the band’s tour manager quit at the end of 1988 without warning, there was no-one else to step into the breach.

She reveals: “The band would put their tour managers through hell. They were hard work and as this was his first tour with them, they put him through his paces. He had enough. So I had to do it.”

It was at this point Kim decided to give up drinking as she had to keep her eye on the game: “There was always a lot of men that tried to catch me out as they didn’t like to be told what to do by a woman.”

After 10 years with Motorhead, Kim toured with Hawkwind and Girlschool and she was headhunted by Concrete Blonde as their lead singer, Johnette Napolitano wanted a female tour manager.

In 1994, she fell pregnant with her daughter and spent less time touring to look after her. A few years later, Kim stepped in to do ‘crisis management’ when Chumbawumba threw an ice bucket over John Prescott during The Brits in 1998. She reveals: “Their tour manager got fired, as instead of using it for publicity to fuel their anarchist reputation, he apologised. I found myself in a new role and turned it around, refusing to apologise. Their hit Tubthumping went to the top of the charts.”

Kim gave up touring in 2009 to look after her mum who had cancer and died in 2017. She received an honorary fellowship at UCLan this summer and hopes to inspire the next generation as she helps out with the university’s tour management course, as well as at Spirit Studios in Manchester.

And while she has a career to be envied, she admits sometimes simplicity is the key: “I achieved what I always wanted, by doing what I was told I could not do as a woman. That was MY Neil Armstrong moment. But it was lonely. In all honesty, the best job was selling T-shirts. It was great fun. As I became a tour manager, I had gone from being one of the guys to ordering room service on my own.”

Confessions Of A Female Tour Manager is available now via Amazon: £8.99 Kindle or £12.99 paperback.