March 2019 News Update
Friday, March 1, 2019
A fairly quiet one this month compared to last month's bumper edition!
I haven't featured any guitars for a while so three will be mentioned this month!
Firstly two gigs to tell you about.
Huntingdon Hall. February 2nd
Huntingdon Hall was particularly nice having my good friend Mr Nick (Harry Potter) Hooper as my guest. Nick opened for me and did a cracking half hour set and played superbly. The audience loved him with his lovely gentle eccentric humour and brilliant compositions mixing original material in with his famous “Irish set".
Nick joined me for three numbers in the second half and all was well received by the usual warm and appreciative audience that I attract at the hall. I was pleased to be playing to a pretty packed house which is always nice and restores a degree of self confidence in all I do. Yes, I'm still filled with doubt at times, but better that way than an over inflated ego!
A superb review of the evening, as always, by our dear friend Keith Meredith
Our journey to the beautiful city of Worcester – famous among other things for its Anglican cathedral by the River Severn, and the delicious concoction purveyed by Messrs. Lee & Perrins – was uneventful.
My Beloved and I were more than content quietly exploring the city under a bright blue sky – and I was looking forward to introducing Fiona to the atmospheric arts venue, Huntingdon Hall, that evening. Situated almost opposite the Cathedral in the city centre, the Hall’s former Methodist history is well in evidence. The interior still features wooden pews and boxes of its era and exudes that solemn, very slightly musty ambiance.
We had journeyed to support Gordon Giltrap MBE and Nick Hooper in an evening of musical bliss and had opted for a private box from which to appreciate the concert – and although that sounds grand it was decidedly lacking in luxuries and frills (and carpet and comfy cushions).
The structure of this gig differed from previous Gordon and Nick shows in that Mr. Hooper took to the stage unaccompanied for the initial part and proceeded to enchant with self-penned works from his repertoire and album. His presentation has developed over the times we have seen him play, and he appears much more confident and relaxed with his audience. His chosen works – including From the Bottom of My Socks and Basement Blues – were presented in his precise and accurate style.
When Mr. Giltrap took to the stage in his new charity shop special shirt - some friendly banter was exchanged between the two friends: G particularly emphasizing Nick’s being a prolific and acclaimed composer with a couple of BAFTA’s under his belt (notably for the soundtrack to a modestly successful movie franchise about a boy wizard named Harry) as well as a published author. There followed an archetypal traditional Giltrap concert encompassing favourite pieces old and new, including; Appalachian Dreaming, the Lord’s Seat, Shining Morn, This Father’s Love and introduced both a new composition called The Kissing Gate, and a new guitar – a Gibson J200 - a gift from Pete Townshend to “cheer Gordon up”. A flawless rendering of Dodo’s Dream concluded the first half festivities.
Following a short intermission both artistes appeared on stage. It is manifest that when a piece of music is played by more than one instrument the resultant harmonies and counter melodies cohere to produce a richer, more rounded sound. And so it was with Maddie, Ring of Kerry and Roots – performed to inaugurate the continuation of the concert. The classic Giltrap vibe continued after Mr. Hooper took his leave. An out of season Christmas Carol, a tribute to Davy Graham – Angie, and a stroll along Camber Sands, led us to the Fast Approaching, Lucifer’s Cage. The medley of G’s Greatest Hit (as he puts it) served as an encore. This gig presented us with a synchronous miscellany of music from two gifted and brilliant musicians/composers in an intimate and atmospheric venue. Both have received plaudits and recognition for their genius, toil and effort and I sincerely look forward to further collaborations.
I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this concert. The venue is lovely, the sound was lovely, the organisers were lovely and I was pretty pleased with my performance. More than that one couldn't wish for. A delightful lady singer songwriter Sarah Sharpe was on before me who played piano to accompany her songs which made a nice contrast to the evening.
Fylde 12 String
This is a rather precious instrument in so many ways. The guitar was built by Roger Bucknall in his garage at Lytham St Anne's in 1973 and was the first ever 12 string he had made and pre dates the formation of Fylde Instruments later to become Fylde guitars.
It had had a rather rough life and I sold it to Garry Burnett who then after a few years managed to persuade Roger to restore it. At the time of parting with it which was madness itself bearing in mind its history (more of that later) Roger was too busy making rather than restoring, and I honestly thought it was beyond repair. Even so I should still have hung on to it.
Anyway after Garry had it restored I asked if he would be willing to part with it, and fortunately he agreed to do so. I think I gave him some guitars in exchange and the deal was done. Looking at the guitar today it is stunning and Roger lovingly restored it with a new top with wood binding and the same around the fingerboard.
For anyone who has my Giltrap Phonogram album you will know that it features on the back cover where I'm holding it and desperately trying to look like Cat Stevens, and who can forget that dreadful vest/ T shirt! The album has become very precious to me as it has some beautiful photographs of my Jamie on the front cover blowing bubbles. It does bring a tear without a doubt.
I don't play much 12 string these days, but you never know I may just dust it off and play it on stage, but no promises. I used this guitar on the album and also on From the Four Winds on the Visionary album.
When it was first made and it arrived at my house in London, I took it out of its case and after tuning it I started to play it. The sound was so beautiful to my ears I started to cry and thought I would never be worthy of such a lovely instrument, foolish romantic fool that I was. I'm still a bit like that now with my stunning collection of Fylde guitars!
I came to buy this lovely Yamaha LA8 guitar under interesting circumstances. There is a thing on Facebook called Facebook market that has items for sale in one’s local area. It’s a bit like Ebay but you don't bid you just buy. So, I was looking through the market place at guitars (like you do) and really couldn't see anything that attracted me, bearing in mind that I need another guitar like proverbial hole in the head. So I just randomly typed in guitars for sale. This usually takes you out of your local area to anywhere in the country whether it be London, Scotland, wherever. Anyway once I had punched in guitars for sale, this beauty popped up! Not only did it pop up but it turned out to be a 15 minute walk from my house!
Back to the guitar which was clearly seen in the photograph, but I truly couldn't believe my eyes. I contacted the seller to ask the make of the guitar. I was pretty certain that it was what I thought it was but just needed it confirmed. Back came the reply LA8. Let me tell you about this model of guitar. It is a high end handmade range that is no longer made and very rare. I have owned two of these in my time and recorded the track Forever Gold on one, and believe me it's a pretty fine instrument. It’s not quite in the same league as a Fylde but a completely different beast altogether. I always regretted parting with mine and subconsciously had a desire to get another if it came along. This one did and at a really low price.
I contacted the seller who was a pleasant lady called Nicola who informed me that she was selling it on behalf of her mother whose late partner had owned it. I told her that I lived locally and could drop round anytime cash in hand. She then told me that there had already been interest in the guitar and the person was going to drop round later that day at an unspecified time to view it. I was not surprised that there had been interest, as players in the know appreciate the quality of this instrument. I said that's fine and of course she must honour the first person, and if I'm meant to have it then I will. Within a few minutes she had rung me back to say it was mine if I wanted it. I told the seller that the instrument was worth more than the asking price and maybe she should re list it for more money, but she said no, and wanted it to go to a good home.
Once I got the guitar home I set about setting it up and re stringing it. I then recorded a piece on it - Down the River, then burnt off a CD and dropped it through her door along with a Sponge Bob Uke for one of her grandsons. I think she knew it had gone to a good home. I do hope so.
I have been reluctant to mention this guitar until now because of my strong association with its previous owner Mr Pete Townshend. This beautiful signature J200 Gibson Pete Townshend signature model was gifted to me in 2015 as a gesture to lift my spirits during a challenging time. This model was based on an early J200 that was a personal favourite of Pete's. Gibson replicated the wood and neck dimensions on his original model and the end result is what you see here.
The bridge is different to a standard J200 and the signature inlay at the far end of the fingerboard makes it a bit special.
I'm normally not associated with Gibson guitars and this handsome model is certainly linked to country music and rock and roll. Word had got out that after all these years I had a hankering for this classic guitar. This one was made in 2004 and was one of Pete's stage guitars. A mutual friend Keith Robinson very kindly drove up from London to deliver the guitar. Needless to say I was deeply touched. I sent a thank you email to Pete, and his reply was “you are so welcome."
I have used it on stage at a couple of shows. It's only recently that I have decided to take it out, and feel comfortable sharing the story with my audiences without it sounding like a huge name drop and ego trip. How does it sound? It sounds like a Gibson obviously, but I have made it my own and I guess it's beginning to sound like me. I have replaced the pickup system that came with it to a Fishman Rare Earth model so it's compatible with all my other guitars. A stunning gift from a special human being.
A special thank you to Rob Taylor in Canada for putting the word out to the Who's office that Giltrap wanted a J200. I never believed that I would be gifted one, let alone from the man who changed my guitar playing life when I was sixteen. Thanks Rob. Thanks Pete.
Tony McManus and Julia Toaspern
On Sunday the 19th of Feb, my pals Geoff Olner and Mark Butler and I attended a concert at The Greystones venue in Sheffield where I have played many times (and will be again in May) to see one of the world's finest Celtic Guitarists and his partner perform an evening of superb guitar artistry mixed in with fine vocals and violin.
These two world class players played to an audience of about 35 people maximum! It never ceases to amaze me that great music attracts such small audiences. The exception being just a handful of players who have somehow made their mark. Tony apparently regards me as an early influence having seen me play at the Glasgow Apollo way back in 1978 when he was the tender age of 13!
Apparently I got another lovely name check from Pete Townshend in the Feb issue of Mojo saying that so far I was the only special guest on the album. Dreams can come true!!
Final call for 16th March Sharing Day
Just a quick reminder that my next Sharing Day with special guest Ken Nicol is in Sutton Coldfield on 16th March.
We can still squeeze another couple of you in, so if you are interested please email Sue Holton at email@example.com as soon as possible for all the details.
Turned out not to be such a short News page after all!
See you next month the universe willing. By then I shall be reporting back about our special Palace visit on the 7th of March!!