Before we get to the central topic of today’s post – that being a particular address in San Francisco – we would wish a most happy birthday to someone we only know by his nickname. Please: no looking ahead and peeking!
Today we wish a happy 71st birthday to the English singer, songwriter, bassist, and actor Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, CBE (“Commander of the Order of the British Empire”). He was born at Sir G. B. Hunter Memorial Hospital in Wallsend, Northumberland, England.
He grew up near the shipyards there in Wallsend, which itself is located just outside of Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the east coast of northern England. The eldest of four kids, his mother Audrey was a hairdresser and his father Ernest a milkman.
Our birthday boy took up the guitar as a child, but as music didn’t pay the rent, he worked as a bus conductor, a construction worker, a tax officer and, after having attended the Northern County College of Education (today known as Northumbrian University) from 1971 to 1974, he received a teaching credential. He went on to teach for two years at St. Paul’s School in Cramlington, some 9 miles north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
His various day gigs did not preclude Gordon Sumner from playing in bands on nights and weekends, and he became the bassist for a Newcastle-upon-Tyne based New Orleans-style jazz band called the Phoenix Jazzmen. The band was led by its trombonist, a gentleman (we assume he was a gentleman) named Gordon Solomon. One day young Sumner showed up to a gig wearing a black and yellow striped sweater. We’ll let Sumner himself describe what happened.
“One Saturday night, we are playing the Red House Farm Social Club, Sunderland, in the middle of a tough working-class area in the north of the city. The Phoenix Jazzmen will perform at 9pm, after the bingo session. It is the early part of the evening, and we are lounging in the dressing room.
Gordon Solomon, or ‘Solly,’ the band leader, is going over the set that we will play tonight. He is delivering our nightly pep talk, leaning casually against the bingo machine. [He turns towards me and says] ‘Sting, dear boy…’
He’s been calling me that for weeks now. I must have worn the damned sweater but once, and yes it did make me look like a wasp, with its black-and-yellow hoops, but this stupid name is beginning to stick.”
Stick the nickname did. In 1985, when a journalist called him “Gordon” during an interview, Sumner replied:
“My children call me Sting, my mother calls me Sting, who is this Gordon character?”
Happy 71st birthday, Sting.
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