The ‘trouble’ started in 1962, when I was 13 and an uncle gave me an old acoustic guitar. We had always had a piano in the house and my sister and I were made to go to piano lessons. I truly hated them and after a couple of years I stopped going. As with most youngsters it was the discipline and the practising that I couldn’t handle, and have regretted that decision in later years. Anyway, because of the piano there was a definite interest in music and this guitar filled a gap. I found a ‘first step’ tutor book from somewhere and was soon strumming three chords … that was all that was needed just then. Influences included Lonnie Donegan and those skiffle groups, until I started listening to the Shadows. All got a little more complicated then and a few more chords were needed together with single note melody picking. One thing led to another and I picked up my first electric guitar and little 5 watt amplifier from a local second-hand shop. There were lots of shops like that around that time and beat-up guitars, and other instruments, could be found relatively cheaply. The electric guitar got me into a group where I soon advanced to a slightly better instrument (funded by a loan from my grandmother) and by the age of 15 was playing gigs doing pop songs of the day. Rolling Stones, Beatles, Kinks … that sort of thing. Then … there was an incident at a local club when we were setting up equipment and I got hold of a microphone stand (belonging to the club) and it was ‘live’, earthing through me and my guitar, which threw me across the stage in a blackout. I ended up in hospital with a concussion and ‘electric’ burns to my hands! Strangely it turned out to be a cloud with a silver lining. A friend came to visit, whilst I was recuperating, and brought me some records to listen to. These were things I had not heard before. John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson changed my life during the next few months. The more I listened the more I realised that this was the music for me! I dropped out of the pop group and starting learning how to play the Blues. I got involved with some school-mates who were into this music too and a Blues band was in the making. Also, about this time, I found a guitar neck which had been broken off from the instrument and discarded so I took it home and built a new body for it with an old bed-headboard. It was very like the type of thing used at that time by Bo Diddley, so that started to be carried around with my pal and his harmonica. We ‘infiltrated’ the local folk club where this blues music was frowned upon, for being foreign I think, and persuaded the club Chairman to let us join up with him. This was the start of South Tyne Folk & Blues, which was the first and longest running blues club in the North of England. Many home grown talents, some of which are still making great music after all these years, were nurtured in this club. Jim Murray and Peter Mason (the Hokum Hotshots), Gordon Smith, Rob Mason, Ray Stubbs, Stu Weetman, are all names that come to mind who passed through our training ground. In parallel to the blues club scene I was still playing in electric bands. Our first ‘blues combo’ the Way In, eventually merged with another local band, the Sneakers, with myself on bass guitar and Robin Thompson on drums joining up with Dave Bainbridge and Les Gofton, both guitar players. The double lead guitar style was quite innovative just then and we were extremely lucky to have such talented players with contrasting styles. Dave with his crisp, technical Clapton-esque technique and Les with his country-blues and folk freeform improvisations. This was quite a dynamic mix and The Bond quickly attracted a large dedicated following in the area. Biggest ‘claim to fame’ was in February ’67 playing as support for Jimi Hendrix at our local nightclub. After a while personalities started to clash and, along with Robin’s replacement drummer, Andy Race we left the Bond to join up with another legend Pat Grover. Pat was one of those dynamic characters, like John Mayall, who was always trying to stretch the boundaries of blues music. This band was called One More Mile and, again, had two guitarists in Les Tones and Brian Miles. They were each formidable players but once again the personalities clashed most of the time. When I left that band I ditched the electric side of things altogether and sold my precious ’58 Fender Precision bass. (wish I hadn’t now!) Concentrated more on the acoustic stuff and eventually got side-tracked into the strange world of folk music itself. I had picked up an acoustic bass guitar and refurbished it. At that time these were extremely rare instruments and, to my knowledge, their were only two in the North-east. Mine and that of Phil Murray who played for Hedgehog Pie, and is now part of the famous Doonan Family Band That acoustic bass, as well as being perfect for the blues sessions got me teamed up with Steve Evans and Paul Bagley who were Crooked Oak. This was a great relationship and we gigged far more than we should have including three seasons at the famous Sidmouth Folk Festival. This was my last band and in 1974 I stopped playing in public for many personal reasons. Not long after I left Crooked Oak made two albums, ‘From Little Acorns’ and ‘The Foot O’ Wor Stairs’ which are both quite rare and sought after these days. I sold the acoustic bass, to help fund my wedding, to a young Scottish band who were taking everywhere by storm, Silly Wizard. I always kept a guitar at home. In 1974 Denise bought me my beloved Jedson which I have treasured ever since. When the girls were at school it often came out to support them when they started learning musical instruments, to accompany the keyboard with Cora Beth and the violin with Lilah Grace. In 2005 Lilah had an urge to join a penny-whistle class at our local college. She didn’t want to go by herself so she talked me into going along with her. This was the best thing that had happened to me in years! We had a wonderful year being taught by the magical ‘Mr Sax’, Kenny Kirsopp. I set up a small home studio and joined up again at the college the next year on a music technology course, led by Tony Pottinger (of Jen Stevens band) After doing one term, which gave me the basic skills to develop things myself, I transferred back to the whistle course for the remainder of the year. As I was ahead of most of the class I started to take the guitar in so as to accompany the others. It was another great year culminating in an ‘end of year review’ where we all performed at a private gig. This was my first public appearance in thirty years! Since then I have been pouring all of my musical energies into collecting and restoring instruments and recording primarily for the web based music forums, KVR and Kara-moon. Allegiance has more recently moved to Kompoz with music selling on Soundblend.
After making attempts to showcase my history with the album pages I feel that it is only fair to give some extra information about my ‘hobby’. If you follow the links from here you may get an insight into this very strange mind!