From then until now

Black and white days. The house (right) in Topsham, Devon, where I was born in the 1950s.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm the youngest of four brothers and it's thanks to them that, by the age of six or seven, I was listening to the likes of Lonnie Donegan and Buddy Holly. Before long, I and my brother Roger were playing Everly Brothers songs and Shadows tunes together on our guitars. (His was acoustic -- mine was plastic!) 

Before long we moved on to 'folk' music, doing our versions of some of the intricate guitar arrangements by Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary. For a while I was keen on Donovan, but he didn't do so much in the way of fingerpicking and I began listening closely to Bert Jansch, Ralph McTell and the supremely talented Welsh guitarist and singer, John James
 
 
By the age of 16 I was playing floor-spots at the Exeter University folk club -- in those days very much a guitar-based club -- held every
week at the Prince Albert in Cowick Street, Exeter.

Folk trio

It may be hard to imagine now, but back in the mid-Sixties, folk music used to be really cool! In 1965, for example, CND sponsored a tour -- like a pop 'package tour' -- that came to Exeter. It featured singers like the Watersons, the Ian Campbell Folk Group, Julie Felix and Donovan. We even got backstage and asked the Watersons for their autographs!
 
At university in the 1970s, I formed a group with Simon Mayor, now a well known mandolinist, and singers Hilary James and, briefly, Malcolm Hobbs. My contribution was to add some ragtime and blues to their more traditional British folk influences. And I was the one that came up with the name for the group, Spredthick, which nearly everybody (including the rest of the group) unaccountably disliked. People also found us completely unclassifiable, but we didn't change our repertoire because we loved all those different kinds of music! 

A particular highlight was in June 1974 when we played at the Norwich Folk Festival, which in those days ranked second only to the Cambridge Festival. At the final concert we played right before Decameron. A big name back then, they were the headliners that year. The audience hadn't come to see us, but we got an encore all the same!  

While Simon and Hilary went to greater things, I worked in a series of 'proper' jobs. But I continued playing the guitar, got married and brought up a family

The Blues Kitchen

Then in 2008, I decided to make more of performing and got together with singer Liz Harrington. Through most of that year we played a monthly residency in Reading which we called The Blues Kitchen and the following year we produced a CD with the same name, a collection of blues and ragtime songs from around the 1930s, with a couple of re-worked 1960s pop hits and two originals. 

Still drawn to country blues and ragtime guitar, nowadays I also like exploring what can be done on the solo instrument with a wider range of material, like vintage pop and jazz songs from the 1920s, '30s and '40s. Singers such as Louis Armstrong, the early Bing Crosby, Fats Waller and Billie Holiday were hugely important and are always worth listening to.

Hoagy

I've also listened a lot to songwriters of earlier generations -- 'singer-songwriters', although they weren't called that at the time. One of the first and most successful was Hoagy Carmichael. He and Johnny Mercer were both great vocalists -- much influenced by black blues artists.
  
Until late in 2013 I worked with singer Lisa Winship. As well as being a great singer, Lisa made a great collaborator on songwriting which by then I was getting more interested in. Together we made a six-track CD called Vintage Acoustic Music and, as you'll see on the Reviews page, it  won high praise from music magazines and other performers.  

Late in 2017 I began working with Lisa again, writing new songs, revisiting some old ones and chasing gigs. We're picking up where we left off and we're keen to see what we can do in 2018!