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I started playing when I was 13 years old. My father had played drums in dance bands in Northern Ireland. So when rock’n’roll came along and everybody wanted to be in a band, I decided to be a drummer. The first band I listened to were the Shadows. I’d see them backing Cliff (when they were still called The Drifters) on TV shows like 6-5 Special and Boy Meets Girl. They’d be on with bands like Joe Brown and his Bruvvers and Billy Fury but I was always more interested in the musicians than the singers. Then on Sundays they would show musicals with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and musicians like Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman would sometimes appear so I started listening to them as well.
By the time I was 14 I was going to local dancehalls the see The Hollies, Small Faces, Georgie Fame and Zoot Money. By then I was in a local band called The Addix doing covers of whatever we heard on the radio. I used to lie under the bedclothes listening to Radio Luxembourg. Later I discovered AFN, the American Forces Network broadcast from Germany and if I put the radio at the right angle, in the right corner of the room, at the right time of day, I could just about hear James Brown, the Kinsmen, Jr Walker and suchlike. At the time we didn’t realize that most of the records we copied were actually cover versions of old blues songs.
Then along came Ready Steady Go with the Beatles, Stones, Jimi Hendrix, the Animals, Manfred Mann and Otis Redding, and that changed everything.
My first professional band was a 12 piece soul road show called The Freddie Mac Extravaganza 2. We had a 7 piece band, 3 dancers, 2 singers plus Freddie himself. Freddie had been the number 21 world ranking heavyweight boxer at one time and fancied himself as another James Brown This was around 1969/70. By this time I was living in London and going to see people like John Mayall, Fleetwood Mac, Aynsley Dunbar and so on in a local club called Klook’s Kleek.
I worked in soul bands around the American bases in Germany for a while and then got involved with a Tex-Mex singer/songwriter called Wes McGhee who I have played with on and off since the early ‘70s.
In 1974 I was with a very strange, progressive/heavy rock band called ‘Noy’s Band’. This was the weirdest band I have ever played with. We had a show that lasted about and hour and a half but the music only stopped for one bar in all that time. Talk about complicated, other musicians would come up and ask questions like “How do you know where you are?”
From 1976 until the early 80s I worked in theatre shows. Mostly small community theatres that put on musicals shows. I particularly enjoyed that as it really stretched me as a musician. Lots of different styles of music which is always good for your playing. At the same time I was also still doing stuff with Wes McGhee and other bands. Later on we both joined Texan country singer Kimmie Rhodes for a couple of tours and also Freddie Krc – another Texan.
I first met Otis Grand in 1991. I had no idea who he was at the time. I was playing in a rock’n’roll band called Vince and The Viletones at a party for BBC DJ Mary Costello. This big guy comes up and asks for my number. Says he’s a blues guitarist and when he can’t find a good blues drummer he looks for rock’n’roll or country players because the rhythmic structures are similar. It’s just a question of where you lean on the beat. I gave him my number and didn’t think much more of it.
Then about 6 months later I get a call and it’s him. I ended up staying until 1995. We toured all over Europe and that’s when I got to play with Larry Garner, Robert Ward, Guitar Shorty and Phillip Walker. We even had Joe Louis Walker join us one night. I have fond memories of that band, it really cooked. We even won the Blues in Britain Blues Band of the Year award in – I think, 1992.
After Otis I just freelanced for a while and did gigs with Big Joe Louis, Little George Sueref, King David, Earl Green and a whole bunch of others. I had got to know Constance by then and for a short while we had a western swing band going and later formed Misdemeanour, a blues band featuring 3 women. Guitar, bass and vocals. For a while we had rising guitar star Matt Schofield with us. I also did some work with the Lee Sankey Band contributing two tracks to his CD ‘My Day Is Just Beginning’.
For a long while I was the house band drummer for the main blues jam in North London. First at The Weavers Arms in Stoke Newington, and later the World’s End in Finsbury Park.
Then one night Constance called and said a jazz bass player she knew had told her about an amazing guitarist he was working with so we went down to see him and it was Ben. Neither of us had heard of him before but we couldn’t understand why not. We thought we knew most of the people on the blues scene by then. About a year later we became part of the Spikedrivers.
Since joining Ben and Constance I feel that I’ve really begun to open up as a musician. Aside from drums, I’ve been getting more into different percussion instruments and I learned to sing (Thank you Melanie Harrold). I’ve also started to write songs and have some input into arrangements. Right this minute I’m learning to play guitar and all I can say about that is I have very sore fingers.
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