The Ranchsliders

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John Campbell Collection


The Ranchsliders - the eight-piece iteration (which only ever played two gigs) - the group would eventually become The Coalrangers
Geoff Farmar (Bass/Vocals), Barbara Fox (Vocals), Paddy Long (Pedal Steel Guitar), Des Hetherington (Guitar/Vocals), Blair Allchurch (Guitar),
Tralee Denegrie (Vocals), Wayne Beecroft (Drums) and John Lloyd (Keyboards/Vocals)

19-year-old keyboard player John Lloyd had been in a couple of minor Christchurch bands before joining The Blues Army Salvation, later shortened to just Salvation, in 1968.  They were signed to Barry Coburn's short-lived Viking Ventura label and released the single  I'd Rather Be Asleep, written by bassist Don McKenzie.  The flip side was a cover of The Byrds Why with Lloyd on lead vocals.  When the band ended in 1972, Lloyd took a break from the music scene and became an art teacher at Christchurch Boys' High School.  At the end of the 1970s his former Salvation bandmate Mike Waldegrave invited him to join his new band The Cowboys.  Lloyd asked who would be playing bass, and discovered it would be Mike's friend from Palmerston North, Geoff Farmar.  Starting as a drummer, Farmar had been biding his time trying to earn a buck in commercial covers bands since the 1960s.  He became part of the nine-piece Happy Cactus Western Swing Orchestra, which could only play on Saturday afternoons because all of the members were in other bands during the evening.


The Ranchsliders original six-piece iteration (from left)  Geoff Farmar, John Lloyd,
Ashley Sheppard, Des Hetherington, Blair Allchurch and Barbara Fox

The Ranchsliders eight-piece iteration (from left)  John Lloyd, Blair Allchurch, Barbara Fox,
Tralee Denegrie, Ashley Sheppard, Paddy Long, Geoff Farmar and Des Hetherington, (Bottom),


The Ranchsliders formed in February 1986 to feature at the 5th Whitecliffs Music Festival, backing John Grenell and doing a set of their own.  The band worked as a four-piece regularly the 1986 (including a residency at the Old Star), when in February 1987 it reformed with a lineup of Barbara Fox (Vocals and Percussion), Des Hetherington (Guitars, Pedal Steel and Vocals), Blair Allchurch (Guitar and Vocals), Geoff Farmar (Bass and Vocals), Ashley Sheppard (Drums) and John Lloyd (Keyboards, Harmonica and Vocals) to play again at Whitecliffs, and began intensive rehearsals.  The band "came out" at intervals to tour the West Coast, to do concert/dance nights at the University, and to appear on the upcoming Dixie Chicken music series on TV2. The band's repertoire was wide reflecting the varied musical interests of the individual members, and the collective wealth of their musical backgrounds.  The members were key figures in such diverse and popular groups as: The Cowboys and The Tie Band (Christchurch), and Cat and The Ratz (Queenstown).  The Ranchsliders were intentionally formed from a desire to collect these people into one group, and this combined talent and energy reflected in their live perfromances and growing popularity.


The Ranchsliders four-piece iteration
John Lloyd, Geoff Farmar, Phil Doublet and Allan Cattermole

The Ranchsliders appearing on The Dixie Chicken TV show
..... at this point the group was on the cusp of renaming itself The Coalrangers


The Orchestra exposed him to all manner of country music - from Bob Wills to the modern sounds of the day, and he began writing his own songs.  With a repertoire ranging from Frank Zappa to The Allman Brothers to a few of their own songs, The Cowboys held down a residency at the Carlton Hotel for a good part of the early 1980s, but a lack of enthusiasm for each other's songwriting helped bring an end to the band.  Lloyd and Farmar were in a bunch of short-lived groups together when Lloyd became involved in New Zealand legend John Hore Grenell's annual Whitecliffs Music Festival.  A graphic designer, he handled advertising and artwork.  At one of the festivals Lloyd and Farmar met up with Queenstown band Cat n The Rats, featuring guitarist Des Hetherington.  Cat n The Rats and Farmar came together as a makeshift backing band for Californian Ron Valente.  Valente had fallen in love with the South Island since arriving in New Zealand around 1980 and becoming a regular on TVNZ's That's Country as half of American duo The Gypsy Mountain Pickers.


The Ranchsliders in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens
February 16th, 2014

The Ranchsliders in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens
February 16th, 2014


Des Hetherington started as a bass guitarist in Hokitika band The Impact in the late 1960s before becoming a singing drummer in Swamp and then taking up guitar.  By the late 1970s he was part of popular West Coast band Jasper and then moved to Queenstown where he met multi-instrumentalist Nigel Hirst and formed Cat n The Rats.  They changed names every week until settling on The Coalrangers and eventually added Ranchsliders drummer Ashley Sheppard.  When he finished with Cat n The Rats and moved to Christchurch, Hetherington joined Farmar and Lloyd to form nine-piece country outfit The Ranchsliders.  Due to its size, the band only played a handful of dates and Hetherington, Farmar and Lloyd appeared on the ill-fated TVNZ show Dixie Chicken in 1987 as a stripped-back version of The Ranchsliders.  Put up by the show's producers in a Wellington hotel, Lloyd accidentally destroyed his room after the wrap party when he ran a bath and fell asleep watching TV on the sofa in his underpants.  Woken by the frantic knocking of his Japanese honeymooning neighbours, he jumped up and burnt his feet in the ankle-deep water that had flooded the apartment.Struggling under the weight of their membership, The Ranchsliders imploded.  Hetherington briefly journeyed home to the West Coast before returning to team up again with Farmar in a duo.