Performer, collector and writer, specialising in guitar and mandolin


Guitar has been good to me. It’s involved me with interesting people such as Marianne Faithfull and Mark Knopfler and has been with me to some interesting places including 10,000 miles round the U.S.A. during a gap-year scholarship there, where immersion in American musical forms from Jugbands to Musicals gave my playing and knowledge of popular music an immediacy: it was a move from monochrome (as the early 60’s were here...) to technicolour. And there were practical benefits: you could still find old Gibsons on thrift shop walls.

Back at University in Southampton, I led the Antiq Spasms band through a career in television, concert and theatre, featuring an exuberant almanac of popular music from Parlour song to Spike Jones. Following a first degree in Social Science and Philosophy, I became a college lecturer specialising in those subjects, but became increasingly involved in theatre and music teaching. This bore fruit both practically: running innovative guitar tuition programmes before going freelance — and theoretically: doing a Masters in Performing Arts before a PhD supervised by Prof. Simon Frith on the development of a sentimental tradition in popular song lyrics from the 18thC to today. Being a jobbing musician encompassed the usual mix of teaching and performing, as well as journalism and composition. Serving these musical demands meant reflecting the tastes of the time, but my own partiality has long been for earlier music styles and repertoires. I now devote my time to researching, writing and recording these, and this is what will be on my website.

The primary source for this material is often old sheet music, which deals a double delight: the charm of the cover artwork, and then the musical treats within. But this is far from being nothing but nostalgia: one can take older forms — rags, marches — and use them to compose new work. Performing such material requires appropriate instruments and I’ve been fortunate in collaborating with top-notch luthiers: Doug Kyle, Bill Puplett and Vince Hockey. Stuart Hall and Martin Wheatley, sympathetic musician friends with formidable formal skills, help with transcription, presentation and much else. The enlarged final website will make available archive audio and scores from my 50-year musical odyssey as well as posting photo-essays of artefacts and instruments and reprinting detailed magazine interviews with guitar virtuosi like Atkins and Knopfler. Work-in-progress and clips of future CD’s will be here too (a second selection — “Curiosities II”, Rollicking Times — is under way, as are solo steel guitar and multi-genre mandolin recording projects).

The quest continues: I believe those older forms, sensibilities and songs have an appealing directness in a world where so much popular music is over-processed. And provide it with some much needed merriment.