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This is how it all began …

Discovering Rock and Roll

It was an extreme case of tonsilitis in 1955 that got me into music and collecting records. If you haven’t had your tonsils out, let me tell you it is a very, very painful experience. After the operation my throat was excruciatingly sore, I was constantly bringing up blood, and it was too painful to talk. My parents gave me a handbell to ring when I needed something. Recovering at home, they gave me an old wind-up gramophone and a pile of 78s to play with. I had the gramophone set up on the table next to my bed, and I could simply lean over and wind it up. The 78s were mainly British dance bands from the 1930s, and the only one I halfway dug was ‘In The Mood’ by Joe Loss. It was the riff and the dynamics of the arrangement that appealed. After a couple of days of badgering mum for something better, she came home with ‘Rock Around The Clock’ by Bill Haley, and that was it. Changed my life, especially the B side, ‘Thirteen Women’ with its gorgeous guitar solo by Danny Cedrone. My introduction to the blues, though I didn’t know it at the time. Playing those two sides over and over, I’d get so gone with the beat, that I just started waving the bell around, and of course poor old mum, hearing those frantic peals, would come running up the stairs to see what was going on with her nine-year-old son, the answer being that he was being sent by that rock and roll beat. And that was the beginning, I suppose, of an interest that has led me to spend most of my life involved with music.

Island Records and Trojan Records

Apart from teenage summer jobs, in Minehead, Somerset, on the edge of Exmoor, my first real job came right after I left school, and was with Island Records, in 1965, and then briefly with Transatlantic Records in 1966, and then back to Island in 1968, and thence to Trojan, right at the dawn of Reggae. Working out of the legendary Music House, at the bottom of Neasden Lane in Willesden, we watched reggae first hit the charts in the UK, and then literally storm the world. Chart records by The Pioneers, Desmond Dekker, The Upsetters, Boris Gardner, Dave and Ansel Collins, Dandy Livingstone, The Maytals, The Melodians, Jimmy Cliff, Bob and Marcia, Greyhound, Freddie Notes and the Rudies … the list goes on and on. And this was three years before Bob Marley broke through. (Link here to Island/Trojan memoir) Meanwhile, Island was home to Traffic, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention, Mott The Hoople, Roxy Music and countless others. It was the destination label for aspiring young bands. 

From London to the Brendon Hills

I left Trojan and Island at the end of 1972, dropping out to live and work on a communal 500-acre hill farm on Somerset’s Brendon Hills, where I learned to plow, run a combine harvester, lay a hedge, make hay and silage, become a shepherd and discover the ecstasy and joy of going to work with your dog every day. 

Back to Island … and then off to the USA and meeting Roomful of Blues


Returned to Island in late 1979 at the time of the Two-Tone ska revival, organized the company’s Jamaican archive, and came to the USA in 1980, to search for the ghost of Jack Kerouac. Early in the trip I ran into Roomful of Blues in Atlanta, Georgia where the band was playing a three-night stand, and blown away by their jump blues repertoire and impeccable musicianship, got the band record deals in  Europe and ended up working with them for the next twenty-two years as manager, publicist and occasional sound engineer. It was one more great job in a long list of great jobs … I got to travel the immense vastness of the USA, plus much of Europe, and while doing so got to work with, hear and meet so many wonderful musicians, such as Earl King, Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson, Big Joe Turner, Jimmy Witherspoon, Jay McShann, Koko Taylor, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Mama Thornton, Percy Mayfield, Albert Collins, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Anson Funderburgh, Robert Cray, Jimmy McCracklin, Bobby Parker … the list goes on and on and on...

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