'I've been playing guitar since I was nine years old. Before that, I used to dance around with a tennis racket and pretend to be one of the Beatles - we all did! My brother had a guitar but never used it. It was a typical sixties guitar with a floating bridge and terrible action. I picked it up and played made up chords and stuff - it must have sounded awful. At last a friend of the family came round, tuned it up, and showed me the first three chords - G, C and D7 - and that was it. I haven't been able to put it down since!
I remember my first little show was a two number set at the old Red Lion Pub in Sutton, near London. I went down with my mate Nick and we played a couple of folksy tunes that I'd written. I remember the guy in charge, Cliff Aungier, shouting 'that's enough boys' and pulling us off - we must have been pretty sour. Cliff Aungier played some mighty fine ragtime and blues so I must have logged that one in the musical head, but I didn't start playing that kind of music until years later. I've just learned that Sutton is on the map as being part of the British R & B trail. The Red Lion was the venue for early Stones gigs. Long John Baldry and Rod Stewart played there in the early 70's. We played there a few times after, so we must have got better. I was part of the British R & B scene without even knowing it.
Nick and I formed a band after those days called, JJ Jameson. This was the evil guy in the Spiderman comics - he was always out to nail Spiderman or Peter Parker - anyway, a crazy name, but it kind of worked at the time. We played all over the London scene; Marquee, Dingwalls, Rock Garden loads of places. We were around just at the start of Punk at the same time Dire Straits were just beginning to kick off. Charlie Gillett at Radio London used to plug their record and ours too. We got a chart placing at that time, tying 5th place with Blondie's Denis Denis - oh those heady days ! We toured a lot and ended up behind the iron curtain in Poland, and basically burnt ourselves out - busted and broke!
After the crazy band days I went back to my acoustic roots and picked up the classical guitar again which I'd been learning whilst at school. Finger style was far cooler than just strumming a few chords. I really got stuck into it. I wrote my first Ragtime ditty called The Deptford Cakewalk, which was named after the place I lived for a time. That was a crazy place in the late 70's. We had Dire Straits, Squeeze all living on top of each other - a buzzing town indeed. I wrote some other ditties around that time - My little Polka - was another.
Music wasn't really paying the bills. I had to get a job and ended up working for the BBC as an orchestral Assistant. Basically, this meant being an in house roadie for the likes of The BBC Radio Orchestra and The Concert Orchestra -all based at the Maida Vale studios just off Paddington. It was an incredible job, as I got to meet some of the finest session guitar players on the London scene. I remember Dick Flick coming in. He was the guy who played the guitar part for the original John Barry score for the James Bond soundtrack. I sat there with him and he showed me the famous Em9 chord at the end of the score - they were great days and I learned an incredible amount about reading session charts and comping chords, all really useful
stuff, which came out in my teaching later.
Around this time I started going out and playing an acoustic set which was a mixture of a whole load of styles. There were covers and a little blues and ragtime. I became a bit of a troubadour, travelling around playing bars and clubs in London, then signing up with an agency and ending up in Scandinavia. I began to pick up more finger style tunes and messed around with slide guitar. I had begun to listen to Ry Cooder and was totally blown away by his incredible bottle neck playing. By the time I reached places like Copenhagen I had become a bit of a celebrity playing this style. Danish Radio would turn up outside the gig and make a live broadcast and newspapers and magazines always running stories about me - another crazy time, thanks to the slide guitar.
I met some guys in Denmark from the states who were touring with their band, The Foothill Fliers. One of band, Paul Emery, ran a small roots label in Grass Valley California, and invited me over to record a blues record for them and play at the North Columbia Folk Festival. This is where Blue River Blues was born, recorded in the stifling heat of an Indian summer.
They were great sessions and I was especially blown away by the guy who was booked to play on a few tracks with me. This was John Girton, from one of my all time favourite bands, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. He's a great player and worked his magic on one of my tracks, Cafe Blue. I owe him a lot, especially watching him play and learning so much. Check out those early Hicks records - he really is a cool player.
By this time I had started teaching and writing courses for the guitar. It was something I always wanted to share, especially the roots styles of blues and ragtime. I produced a finger style book for a Danish school which became the inspiration for other courses I have written since.
Still writing I've kept on playing and have settled in Bristol which is the base for my on line courses. It's been a busy time for me here and because of my contacts in music I became Music Co-ordinator for the Bristol Old Vic Theatre, running a series of shows for them, called The Acoustic Alternative. It was a time when I could make sure all my old heroes like Bert Jansch, Martin Simpson, Eric Bibb could pass through Bristol keeping roots music alive.
Bristol, over the years, has become a Mecca for film post production and I've been lucky to be involved in many film soundtracks for the BBC. Whenever they want some slide guitar I always seem to get the call. These credits have been for a variety of projects from Whickers World, The Natural World, Ray Mears Bushcraft and Nick's Quest. I've just completed a score for an American short film called John Doe and the Anti - once again loads of slide! Bristol has always been a great scene for blues and roots music and I've just about worked with everyone here. Keith Warmington, Andy Sheppard, Chris Jagger to name a few. My band, The Blues Cowboys, still play, our last project was working together on my album The Bridge.
So, what now? I'm still playing, exploring new styles, techniques, writing courses and still totally blown away by the guitar. I've learned so much in all the years I've played. It's still a long road to go and always new stuff to learn. I think if there was one piece of advice I'd give to players it would be - keep it simple, clear and easy, then build from there. Enjoy!'
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