Multi-string maestro

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Chauffeur to stars, showman, fireman – and community man.

Long-time Queenstowner Lyall McGregor would have to sprout at least another two heads to cope with all the hats he’s used to wearing.

When not driving the rich and famous around in a limousine, the 62-year-old can be found tackling blazes as a volunteer firefighter – or entertaining punters while singing with a band.

And McGregor recalls with relish the time he bamboozled a pair of American tourists with the full monty of his multi-tasking repertoire all within a few hours.

“I picked up a couple at the airport a few years back and drove them around town before taking them to the Heritage Hotel,” McGregor says.

“In the evening, they had to do a double-take when they went into the bar and there I was with my guitar belting out some songs.”

But the surprises didn’t stop there for the visitors.

“Later on, I was woken at 2.30am by my pager alerting me to get down to the fire station.

“It was a callout to the Heritage and when we arrived, all the guests were standing in the carpark in their dressing gowns.

“When I got out of the fire truck wearing all my gear, the first people I bumped into happened to be the same American couple from earlier on.

“This time the guy took one look at me and said: ‘I don’t believe this – if you are serving breakfast in the morning, buddy, then I’m out of here.’”

McGregor’s regular job is with Queenstown-based company Limousine South.

And as a lot of business comes from the exclusive Blanket Bay lodge near Glenorchy, he’s driven around visiting Hollywood superstars such as Bette Midler, Robin Williams and Donald Sutherland.

“I went to the airport once to pick up some people with a Polish-sounding surname,” McGregor explains. “One of the guests was this little red-haired lady and we got talking because she had a ukulele with her and I play one as well.

“Then it dawned on me that I was speaking to Bette Midler.”

McGregor adds: “In 1999 I picked up Robin Williams and his family and took them to Blanket Bay. He sat up front with me in the bus and his mouth was hanging open at the scenery.

“He was also very funny and I could recognise bits of his film characters like Mrs Doubtfire and Peter Pan coming through.”

McGregor and wife Ann shifted from Dunedin to Queenstown in 1970.

He arrived in the resort as bass player with the region’s first professional band Cord 3, who for many years played to mobs of Australian tour guests at various hotels six nights a week.

The group also featured drummer Peter Doyle – best known these days as school board chairman of Wakatipu High – and keyboardist Colin Robinson, killed in a jetboat accident on the Kawarau River in 1980.

In the late 1970s McGregor also had a two-year solo stint as resident musician at the plush James Cook Hotel in Wellington.

“All the stars used to stay there and Rod Stewart once came up and introduced himself and bought me
a few drinks. But later on there was a bit of trouble when he was playing football on the roof and then his band trashed the place.”

Dad-of-two McGregor is a big community man.

He’s been in the local fire brigade for 33 years and as vice-president of Queenstown’s RSA, he helps organise annual Anzac Day parades.

But his big love is music and he still keeps his hand in, playing gigs whenever he can.

“It keeps me young,” McGregor insists. “There’s nothing that beats belting out Crowded House and Bee Gees numbers, or some good old rock ‘n’ roll.”