Anders Gustav Nelsson

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 August, 2003, 12:00am

Anders Gustav Nelsson

Anders Gustav Nelsson, 57, became a Hong Kong teen idol in the days before Canto-pop as lead singer of The Kontinentals (right). A born entrepreneur, Nelsson stopped performing when he turned 30, but continued in the field as a promoter and publicist. He was host of RTHK's popular country music show for eight years, but is probably best known to Chinese audiences for his roles as a string of baddies on local TV. He speaks about the 53 years in his adopted home.

The Kontinentals started life in the late 50s as The Cagey 5, a play on the name of our school, KGV [King George V]. That group evolved over the years into The Kontinentals, when we were not all KGV kids. One of the outsiders was a La Salle College boy named Mike Souza [later head of programming at Commercial Radio]. We never made a fortune because it was a very small market, but we had a lot of fun. We made two singles and they went to the top of the pops. We were the first act in Hong Kong to record our own compositions. We also had that 'import appeal'. In those days anything imported had to be good.

One of our regular venues was the Bayside in Tsim Sha Tsui. The place was full of China watchers and actual spies. People were always pointing each other out as CIA spies and other spooks.

My parents were missionaries. I was born in the US and we went to Hunan when I was eight months old. When we were kicked out three years later in 1949 (following the Communist takeover) we were sent straight to Sweden and I arrived speaking just a few words of Swedish. Then when we came to Hong Kong in 1950, I spoke a four-year-old's Swedish and a bit of Hunanese. Of course, nobody here spoke either. Cantonese came much later when I made friends with Chinese musicians.

I was there for the early days of Commercial Radio. They had DJ contests and I won a couple of times when Nick Kendall was running the shows. Ten years ago, RTHK producer Gerry Jose called and asked if I could fill in temporarily on Today's Country. It lasted eight years. I still fill in when 'Uncle' Ray Cordeiro goes away.

My acting career began about 25 years ago when I had a small role in the Bruce Lee film, Way Of The Dragon. What started it was a commercial for rice. I was filmed coming off a Qantas plane holding Australian rice and spoke my lines in Cantonese. An RTV [now ATV] producer was struggling to find a local [westerner] who could speak enough to act. They were casting a series on Hong Kong gentlemen, set in the beginning of the last century. I played a corrupt police commissioner. It was very well rated and I have been acting on a regular basis since. It's a sideline. You couldn't really make a decent living as a gweilo from acting.

After my national service, I came back to Hong Kong and started a band called Anders Nelsson And The Inspiration. That was in the late 60s and the scene was thriving. Then, in the 70s, I had another band, Ming. When my parents left Hong Kong in 1963, I had made my first record and didn't want to leave, so my Dad said I could stay, provided I fended for myself. All he would pay for was my school fees.

I was an entrepreneur even then. It must be in the air, or the water, or something, so I went to the Dairy Farm Golden Phoenix Restaurant (in TST) and offered to be their MC in return for three meals a day.

When I turned 30, I kept a promise to myself and stopped performing. I got a job as artist-and-repertoire manager for EMI and switched to doing behind-the-scenes stuff.

I'm married to a local girl, Loretta. I consider myself very lucky as I've been able to stay employed in the field I love. And I was fortunate to have two bites of that elusive apple, first with The Kontinentals and then my two other groups, with our recording contract and three albums.

By the time we called it quits it was really the swansong of English pop here.