Who Is He?
Musical memories - first fumblings
- 1952, aged 6 or 7. Alone with the old harmonium in Grannie's front parlour. Struggling to reach the pedals with little legs. Pulling out all the stops. No idea how to play but what a great noise!
- Recorder duets. Theme from 'The Dam Busters' - big hit in 1954.
- Dad's church choir until voice broke - fired.
- Piano lessons from age 7 with organist uncle. Much too lenient so shipped off weekly to dragon-lady. Much valued in hindsight - still love Beethoven & Debussy. OK up to grade 7 but only scraped through grade 8 after hearing Duane Eddy at age 14 on Radio Luxembourg. Rock 'n' roll triumphed over the classics.
A guitar is for life, not just for Christmas
- 1959: TV repair man had a 'guitar' to sell - bought by Dad for 30 bob (£1.50p). Unplayable beyond the 5th fret where the strings went north of the fingerboard. But an ex-army headphone stuck on & plugged into Dad's tape recorder made it electric. No Epiphone but an epiphany!
- Here's an idea of how it looked. The headphone is the original - found recently amongst the junk in the garage. The guitar is my Yamaha FG180 (1968) - infinitely better than that first 'guitar' but suitably beat-up looking after many years' use. The sophisticated string and wiring arrangment are recreated from memory. Don't try this at home (especially with that vintage Martin)!
- 1959: Bought first single: Duane Eddy's "Some Kinda Earthquake". Three chords - A, D, & E - and never mind the sax solo. Also, and more significantly, rapidly mastered the lead guitar part on the flip side "First Love First Tears" (4 notes in the main theme, 2 more in the middle eight) - an instant result and a lot more fun than scales and arpeggios. Hey, you could play this stuff without having to read music! The picture is the actual record - I've still got it - how sad is that?
- Early '60s. Having caught the twangy guitar bug from Duane, I was primed and ready for the The Shadows. A slightly late starter - I was knocked out by the first few bars of "The Frightened City", backtracked to "Apache" and "FBI" then bought every single (usually the day it came out) until I could pile ten 45s on the auto-changer - all the A sides then all the B sides. Played lead along with every note and nuance, then all the rhythm parts and even the bass. The only way to learn in those days. There must have been thousands of us kids doing exactly the same.
- This is another picture from my record collection - the Shads' first EP, from the days when you got original tracks on those, not just recompiled singles and LP tracks. "Theme from Shane" still sends tingles. Saw the Shads' 'final' tour in May '04 (with Barrie from Auld Triangle - another 60s bands survivor) - still brilliant after all these years. Hope they'll continue to do final tours for ever.
- Real electric guitar - a Dallas Tuxedo then a Watkins Rapier (with tremolo arm and three pickups). 10 watt amp, Selmer wobble box and Watkins Copycat. Heaven! Here's the axe hero with the Rapier - taken in about 1961. The guitar was red, of course. Notice too the 'Hank Marvin' look, to go with the sound. Next amp was a Burns Orbit with built-in reverb - envy of the neighbourhood (though it looked like a radiator) and very hi-tech, being transistorised. Only later did I realise that valves are best and migrated to a Vox AC30.
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The Band (no, not that one)
- Knock on the door from schoolmate (Patrick Taylor, designer of this website) - "Do you want to join a band?" (Does a dog have four legs and a tail and go 'woof'?) First number: The Shads' "Tales of a Raggy Tramline". Lead, rhythm, bass guitars and biscuit tin lids for drums. A few early line-up changes resolved into yours truly (lead guitar and glasses), Patrick (rhythm guitar and attitude), Tony Worsley (who played a mean school desk lid and borrowed drums from Patrick's cousin Keith) and Pete Turbefield (who was sat on until he bought a bass guitar - he was smaller than us then). Here's an early publicity shot - L-R: me (very smart in sports jacket and tie), Pete (on the roof with the tree sprouting from his head), Patrick (dead cool), Tony (gurning through the window); the car's a Triumph Herald belonging to my Mum - don't think she was best pleased!
- This wild bunch hit the youth club and school dance circuit as The Citizens - later The Moonstones . There's a bit more on them and some photos on the home page - see the earliest dated item. Initially a Shads-type instrumental combo, the band evolved via Chuck Berry into a semi-pro harmony vocal outfit (Everlys, Beatles, Hollies covers). You had to start singing and phase out the instrumentals once the Beatles hit the scene - sorry Hank. Grannies were pawned to acquire good gear (still got the Gibson 335 and the Vox - here they are) - and I have several more, including a 1980s Korean made Fender Squier Strat with a very slim maple neck; it's been heavily customised with New Zealand sourced Kinman pickups - as endorsed by Hank Marvin - as well as lockable tuners and graphite string trees and bridge saddles - sounds cool through an AER acoustic guitar amp. (See Patrick Taylor's Fender Stratocaster page for lots more info on Strats in general.) Great times. Poised for success but...
The career break
- ... 1963: "Accountancy is the job for you" they said. And it was, soon morphing into management consultancy. 40 years in a suit and tie! Artistic credibility zero. But it taught me the only absolute truth I've ever known - "for every debit there has to be a credit" - a lesson in bookkeeping, as in life.
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Keeping the flame
- And music was always there - songwriting, playing at every chance, theatre projects, collaborations, recording, various short-lived bands. Influences: James Taylor, Paul Simon, Crosby Stills & Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell ... all the usual suspects.
- Moonstones, abandoned in '66, reformed in '86 but 'couldn't keep it on the road' (got a song out of it though - "The Turning of the Tide", probably to be featured on in-progress CD "Tendril Tales").
- 1990s: Infiltrated the folk scene. Joined a rustic band in a local theatrical production of 'Lark Rise to Candleford' (pictured) - an eye-opener to the potential of acoustic music. Discovered folk clubs (late starter again), floor-spots, sessions and sing-arounds. And never stopped writing songs.
- Joined Auld Triangle, long-established house band at Westhoughton Folk Club, 1998.
- Formed acoustic band Bandersnatch with four folk club contacts and one 'Moonstone', Alan Roscoe, 1999.
Over and nearly out
2002: Severe breathing problems. Diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. Touch and go for a while. Stabilised after much treatment but no cure. Forced to retire from professional life.
OK - what now?
SWOT analysis (management consultant's self-assessment):
S trength: Large backlog of unrecorded songs... people seem to like 'em.
W eakness: Can't breathe much (but can still sing).
O pportunity: Retired - never had time before.
T hreat: Already got the bus pass!
Conclusion: what's to lose? - "You gotta play the hand that's dealt ya" (Robbie Robertson, "Fallen Angel"). Looks like it's back to the music.
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A new focus
- 2004: First solo CD, A Northern Man, with harmony vocalist Alan Roscoe (he keeps cropping up) and ace bassist Terry Bowles (of progressive rock band Magrathea).
- Auld Triangle and Bandersnatch alive and well.
- Solo gigs and session work happening. Seem to be on a roll.
- Oldest newcomer in the business restarts delayed singer-songwriter career.
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The crest of my home town, Bolton in Lancashire. The motto "Supera Moras" is dodgy Latin for "overcome delays". How apt!
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