My current ability to tell stories, travel and perform has been brought about by a musical career that I was dedicated to from being a teenager at school. My parents always read to me and I was always a singer, and beautifully sung to by my mother, and that led me to become interested in the post skiffle craze of traditional folk music. At school we had a folk club that ran every Friday after school and it was there that I cut my teeth as a performer and singer.
When I was about 15 my father made me a series of unfretted, guitar-like instruments that I would strum on and learn the basics of how a guitar worked. My first 'real' instrument was a Christmas present in 1968 of a 5-string banjo accompanied by a Pete Seeger 'How to play' book. The next Christmas brought a classical, nylon strung guitar, and this was shortly followed by a 'Guaranteed Spanish', steel-strung guitar from a Scottish Uncle brought to me strapped on my sister Anne's motorcycling back.
A flurry of banjos, mandolines and guitars followed as did going to the local folk clubs in and around South Shields. It was all very mysterious and slightly grown up; sipping under age IPA, frothy-topped pints of 'illegal' beer and listening to people singing about sexual activities that I didn't have a clue about.
I am so grateful to all of the residents and guests at the different clubs in the late 60's and early 70's who did nothing but fire my enthusiasm and determination. Predominent among them all was all-Ireland picollo champion John Doonan who took me under his wing and gave me a taste for travelling and playing as I learned the ropes in his Celidh band. After playing alongside some fantastic Irish players in The Regent Pub in Leeds I became proficient at playing the tenor banjo.
I took what had been a hobby as a profession in 1977 when I became a solo singer and then in a number of bands and duos that lead me to play all over the Continent. Again I am eternally grateful to the likes of Mick Doonan, (John's son), Tom Napper, Tom McConville, Gordon Tyral, George Ormiston and many more who gave me the chance to make a racket and sometimes get paid for it.
In the mid 80's I also served, way above and beyond the call of duty, in a number of bands and solo efforts in Working men's Clubs that was more akin to SAS training. I really brought my playing career to a halt in 1980 when I became a father and then a teacher in 1989.
I was involved with many other musicians along the way, notably Harpist Sean Barry, ace guitarist Nigel Lawson and Wind maestro Mick Roberts. It is with some confusion that I look back at the work that Mick and I did as the critics loved us, audiences were so amazed at what we did, fellow musicians would make a point of telling us how much they enjoyed it and we couldn't get work to save our lives. I am so glad that we made the effort to record what we did.
Ceilidh bands then asked me to 'dep' for them and I couldn't find my banjo... it had been so long. My long-time ceilidh band 'Deadly Ernest' was my last real connection to playing until the early 2000's when I couldn't fit the storytelling and the music together.
I play occassionally in folk clubs but only if people really twist my arm and I need to get my old records and CDs out to remember what I did as a folksinger. I am so grateful to the people who still remember me as a singer and I am happy to play and sing for children until the cow's tail comes home. I have included some links to songs and tunes and performances as well as some scary, hairy photos of me.