I was born on November 3rd 1945 at Frogmore House Maternity Home in Norwood Green, Middlesex. My dad, Rupert, was a hardware store manager, and my mum, Clare, was a housewife, joining Dad at the shop when I went to Grammar School in Hillingdon. Together with older sister Liz, I had a very happy childhood growing up in working class, but still semi-rural Hayes. Like most families on post-war Britain, we would party at any excuse, playing the 78 rpm hit records of the day on an ancient wind-up gramophone. Liz played reasonable violin, but my musical ambitions stopped at the recorder.
I guess it all started with Lonnie Donegan. Like most young people in the 1950’s, I was completely knocked out by the excitement of his records. Liz bought “Rock Island Line”, “Stewball” and others. My first record purchase was Lonnie’s “Gambling Man”, on 78 rpm of course, which survived for two days until it was dropped and smashed in two!!
There is no doubt that Lonnie’s influence began the guitar boom, and I soon began pestering my parents for one, a plea which fell on deaf ears. Most guitars sold at that time ended up in a cupboard, so I understood their reluctance to buy me one. However, Christmas 1957 saw me the proud owner of a plastic ukulele which, whilst being worse than useless, was at least the right shape!!
Liz, meanwhile, would regale me with stories of her trips to the Ken Collyer Club in London, where musicians would hold what they called “jam sessions”. She built me a tea-chest bass from a box, broom handle and string, in true skiffle style, which I plucked while she cavorted around the living room strumming the out-of-tune ukulele, both of us boogieing along to the current Donegan hit.
It was not long before new sounds began to shape our lives. Tommy Steele, Haley, Paul Anka, and the one that really did it for me – Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
Whilst on holiday in Devon in 1959, I first heard the sound that would have a profound effect on my musical direction – an amazing disc called “Please Don’t Touch” by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, which I could not get enough of. Little did I know back then as a twelve year old, that one day I would be a member of the Pirates!
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