It’s hard to conjure during a stroll along the Cairns waterfront these days, but that stretch of this northern town was once a place seething with a potent mix of live music, rorty characters, smoky pubs – and a nightlife that routinely strayed well past sunrise.
The centre of the action was the wharf end of Abbott Street – a stretch that soon became known as the Barbary Coast, a name evoking wild north African coastal towns or the famous red light district of San Francisco. Pubs like the Great Barrier Reef, the Oceanic & the Royal did a roaring trade keeping sailors, cane-cutters, miners, bikies and assorted desperados well lubricated and entertained. The Cairns Barbary Coast hit its peak in the 1970s, which is when a young musician from country Victoria first played in Cairns. Andy Collins learned some valuable showbiz lessons playing the Barbary Coast when Cairns was a frontier sugar town at the end of the road up the Australian east coast.
Andy fell in love with the north and it’s been his home ever since. He’s written songs about the people and places of far north Queensland, and he’s explored his long and deep relationship with the blues on his most recent albums Way Down The River and Downunder The Blues.They’ve been successful here and have opened doors for Andy in the blues heartland of the southern USA, where he’s performed in recent years as Sugarcane Collins.
LISTEN to my interview with Andy and hear songs from Downunder The Blues here