I first heard Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly songs when I was about
nine or ten though not at first hand - for me it was Lonnie Donegan
who really started the ball rolling.
Elvis was leading the way but skiffle
brought it down to street level
and made everything possible. I was
given a Tommy Steele plastic ukulele one
Christmas and got by with three chords
until its replacement arrived –a six string
made of Bakelite on which I learned
my first minor chord. With those
four, I could play just about anything by
the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran,
Carl Perkins, Bobby Darin and the rest
along with Cliff, Marty Wilde and Billy Fury.
I auditioned for our local band The Aztecs when I was thirteen
and got the job as I was the only one who owned an amp.
Rehearsals midweek, then the bass guitarist’s dad would drive us
to village halls and youth clubs on Saturdays where we’d fumble through
the Shadows’ repertoire although Apache was the only thing audiences would vaguely recognise.
That all changed in 1963 when the Rolling Stones played at a church hall in Horsham
and overnight we discovered 'The Blues' and ‘R&B’. I didn’t know what ‘R&B’ meant but
we promptly abandoned Hank and Bruce and headed down the highway in search of
mysterious people called Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.
There was whispered talk of an even more enigmatic figure called Robert Johnson
but it was enough that four white youths in Sussex could get away singing ‘Smokestack Lightning’.
It was around that time that I met Jim Younger,
later of the Peelers, who introduced me to
Irish and Celtic tunes and the
possibilities of finger picking
rather than using my
Hard on the heels
of that encounter,
I discovered Davy Graham’s
second album ‘Folk, Blues and Beyond’
and the die was cast. It was all there –
Leadbelly, Broonzy, Willie Dixon, Dylan, Reverend Gary Davis .....
There was much to learn but living in London during
the folk revival in the '60's I found myself in good company,
not least Chris George who introduced me to the likes of Bert Jansch,
John Renbourn, Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick.
Les Cousins in Greek Street was our home on Saturday nights, marvelling
at Wizz Jones, Ralph McTell, John Martyn, The Incredible String Band, Al Stewart,
The Young Tradition and so many others that we’d come away at five in the morning
with our heads spinning.
And so it was that Mr George and I eventually teamed up with Doug Morter and Roger Trevitt
to form Hunter Muskett in 1969.
The rest of the story is best told on their website
complete with archive photos and songs from those halcyon days.
For now, I'm still trying to master the middle section of 'Apache' ...