John’s life story in his own words on how he started to play and teach the guitar and the different influences people made to that end.
I was about 8 years old when I was introduced to the guitar, watching a film of the Singing Cowboy Tex Ritter or was it Gene Autry? I requested a guitar and a horse for Christmas; I’m still waiting for the Horse. I was a slow learner and therefore it wasn’t till skiffle came along that I found anyone to show me how to play.
When I was 15 a troubadour called Brian Peel (‘Fruit’) showed me how to play the basic cords. I’m still sorry that I didn’t thank him for all his efforts.
My early influences where Duane Eddy and Hank Marvin of the Shadows and many of the early Blues players. I always wanted to be a singer although people have never been overwhelmed with my vocal efforts and so I have followed the guise as guitarist, singer and backing singer.
I was at the top of my game for about 6 months as I copied Chuck Berry, but everyone else caught up with me and became as good as or better than Chuck Berry impersonators. I then sank back to be the same as everyone else.
I have played in a number of Rock’n’Roll groups as follows, The Pontiffs, The Dyaks, Gleneagles, Mamas Little Children and Take 4. I played the saxophone in The Chain Soul band for a while but I have to admit this wasn’t my finest work. I played with The Crux, and many more bands that elude me at present.
Potentially the best group I played with was The Cheetahs. We all sang in harmony and were better than most, until Colin our bass guitarist got an offer he couldn’t refuse.
During my time with various groups I went to Kitchens music school where Len Lewis a dance band guitarist taught. Len thought I was a good player but I wasn’t really reading music. Copying his fingers and playing by ear mostly.
I eventually became a part time perpetual evening student at Leeds College of Music along with many of my musical friends. I was privileged to be taught by two of the best guitarists, professional guitarists that this country has ever produced. Unfortunately I didn’t practice enough as I was working full time as an industrial Radiologist at the time.
Eric Kershaw was one of the best Swing guitarists of his time and is present on many records produced in the 40s, 50s and beyond.
Eric Hill is one of the best classical guitarists I’ve ever heard I possess all his early long playing records.
I have always been influenced by many of the early blues men and have been lucky enough to see Sun House and Muddy Waters, live. They were driven by great self-will and were self-taught. As soon as I heard Eric Hill play the classical guitar I was hooked. I didn’t have the courage or the self determination to be a classical soloist and I eventually teamed up with a friend John Bradley to play classical duets. We used to go to guitar Summer Schools where the guitar is king for a week each year, and I could be a hero for a couple of minutes.
I got another guitarist to play my compositions. Unfortunately John Bradley died at the age of 53 and I stopped playing the guitar for a number of years.
After being made redundant in 1999 I went to the College of Music full time and was offered a job as guitar tutor for then Park Lane College, part time. I worked for Park Lane for 9 years until it merged with Thomas Danby and Leeds Technical College.
One of my students rang me at Christmas (why is it always Christmas?) and told me you won’t be working in the New Year as Park Lane have sent my fees back. My line manager never bothered to inform me and wouldn’t give me a reference which was necessary for another job. I was informed I was subject to a reference after working for 9 years without any problems, I considered this very poor.
I then teamed up with Thiliga Phillips classical guitarist and singer and we formed “Guitar in the Community”.
Our aim is to teach all who wish to learn how to play the guitar and read music for free. We initially obtained some funding and provided music and guitars, but most of our funding was swallowed up by rent.
At a chance meeting in Leeds Market with Cllr Kim Groves, Kim suggested that we may be able to use BITMO GATE as a venue.
I spoke to Carla of The GATE, and Carla readily agreed to our request to teach on a Wednesday night at The GATE, which we still do.
The classes at The GATE are 6.30pm to 7.30pm beginners
7.30pm to 8.30pm improvers.
Free to all who are prepared to spend an hour or two a week practicing.
Thanks for sharing that with us all John.
Kenneth says : I have talked to John about a Blues Guitarist I love, for John to see when he goes online and see this blog, hopefully will click links and see Steve in action.
I aim to video John playing his Guitar and add to this blog. All I have to do is get him to sit down long enough.
Steve lives in Robin Hoods Bay and plays when not on tour at The Grosvenor Hotel in Robin Hoods Bay, usually Tuesday evenings. I have most of Steve’s CDs and autographed by him when he did a concert in Leeds a few years ago.
Steve also repairs and renovates guitars as well as being an artist, just like our John. Steve began his working life at Yorkshire Evening Post as a reporter, with Mark Knopler of Dire Straits no less. Steve went on to make a guitar for Mark, and the rest is history. Please click links for more on Steve.