July 2011 News Update
Friday, July 1, 2011
Hilary and I attended the whole of the JHS event this year from Sunday the12th of June until the Tuesday. The JHS event is specifically created for dealers who stock John Hornby Skewes products. I was there of course under the banner of Vintage Guitars extolling the virtues of not only my GG signature guitars but the brand new about to be launched Mahogany version.
As you will by know by now, the GG model is an out and out winner and already is regarded as a huge success garnering outstanding reviews right across the board in all the major guitar mags, so in many ways it needed little help from me to convince the dealers, many of whom have stocked this guitar. I was chatting with one of our major guitar makers Nigel Thornbury who is now a retailer. He was telling me about a guy in Australia who wanted the GG six string, and these guitars haven’t hit Oz yet. The price to ship was £200. The guy went for it! He was SO pleased with the guitar when it arrived that he promptly ordered the 12 string version!
Now on to the Mahogany GG MODEL.
This guitar is VERY close to my GG model but without the on-board electrics. It has the same Gold plated Grover machine heads but the body is unbound. The top and back are of solid mahogany and the sides are a Mahogany laminate as per the original GG model. It comes with the same fantastic bespoke Kinsman case and the sound is amazing!
This guitar I believe will have a retail price of £350 making it even more affordable and attractive to those on a tight budget who want a great sounding quality guitar without spending big bucks.
I can’t wait to get my hands on one as soon as they hit these shores. Watch this space as they say.
One of the most exciting moments for me at the event was to see the prototype of my Fret King electric guitar designed by Trev Wilkinson. This guitar is based on the Vintage Advance series electric that I’m currently using to play The Dodo’s Dream. This guitar will be aimed at the acoustic player who wants to dabble with an electric guitar. More than that I can’t say because it is under wraps at the moment, but believe me it is a beauty. I feel VERY honoured to have my name associated with such superb instruments.
JHS as a company are moving forward at a rate of knots with great players like Jerry Donahue coming on board as endorsees of fine instruments. The new JD guitar is a fine example of design and craftsmanship and Jerry was there to show what it can do along with John Verity of Argent fame, Paul Oliver of Saxon fame and Dave Caldwell of Bad Company fame, and to witness that German virtuoso Thomas Blug was truly jaw dropping!
I feel as though we are entering a golden age for the guitar right now. I know there is a certain magic and mystique attached to these old guitars but believe me the new ones in many ways are far superior and are better made.
The icing on the JHS cake was good to see John Parr, that great songwriter on the front cover of Gear magazine playing a GG signature 12 string. Also in the magazine I note that Brian Willoughby is now using the Manuel Rodriguez classical on stage these days with his partner Cathryn Craig. There is also a feature on the new Raymond Burley Signature guitar.
You can read the Gear Magazine articles by clicking the icons at the bottom of this page.
And so it goes. I can’t wait until next year, because for me this is just guitar heaven, and being the anorak that I am I can talk for hours about all things guitar related but usually out of earshot of Hilary who usually and quite understandably switches off when this guitar speak comes around.
A Moment In Time.... The Zombies
I’m delighted to report that one of the major inspirational bands from the 60’s The Zombies have just released a new album entitled ‘Breathe Out, Breathe In’.
One of the tracks 'A Moment in Time’ takes Heartsong into the realm of vocals! Tom Toomey, the band’s fine guitarist is a long standing admirer of my music, and many years ago even came to me for a lesson!
Tom has superbly set this classic tune of mine to a very catchy lyric, and my old friend Rod Argent plays a beautiful piano solo mid way through the piece. The whole thing is topped off nicely by one of this country’s great voices, Colin Blunstone.
Here is a link to the song for your listening and visual pleasure.....
’A Moment in Time’ Tom tells me will be the second single to be taken from the album and is set for an August release. The band are about to embark on a major tour which takes them to Japan and the USA, finally finishing up in the UK.
Tom has invited me along to one of the UK shows, and you never know, I may actually perform the piece with the guys!
For obvious reasons I wish the band great success with this album and the single!
Quote from the Zombie's website:
The Zombies would like to point out that the song, ‘A Moment In Time’ was written by three people rather than just the two credited in the CD booklet.
Rod Argent wrote all the lyrics; also music for the verses, plus the instrumental section in the middle, and Tom Toomey and Gordon Giltrap wrote the intro music and some of the hooks in the main body of the track.
‘A Moment In Time’, will be the new single from critically acclaimed new album ‘Breathe Out, Breathe In.’
I had the great pleasure of sharing the stage at three concerts with my old friend Woody Mann. Those concerts were: Bury Met on the 16th of June, Barnstable Theatre on the 18th of June, and finally Haverhill Arts Centre on the 23rd of June.
Anyone who is familiar with Woody’s work will know that he really is the real deal when it comes to the blues, having studied at the feet of the greats in American Blues, The Reverend Garry Davis, Son House, and many more.
Woody differs from many native New Yorkers that I have met over the years. He appears to have no ego whatsoever, is a complete gentleman and is the gentlest soul one could wish to meet.
We have known each other for the best part of 20 years and even performed together in the Soviet Union many years ago as part of an International Guitar Festival in Georgia the birth place of Stalin!
The format of each of the three gigs was quite simple: We would toss a coin to see who would be going on first, then when the last tune had been played in the second half of the show, one would invite the other on to the stage to join them for a couple of tunes.
This did one of several things for me. Firstly it terrifies me to try and jam with another player, as this isn’t a skill I have had to acquire over the years. Secondly it forced me to chance my arm and have a go!
This I did on all three occasions, and you know what? I didn’t do too badly, and proved to myself that when push comes to shove I can (to a degree) improvise over a given chord sequence!
Anyway I digress. The point is that both Woody and I had a ball and have decided to do a complete UK tour together round about the same time next year. We even have plans to record an album together to make the tour that bit more special by having some product to promote.
I find the prospect of working with this outstanding musician exciting and challenging, forcing me out of my comfort zone into new unchartered territory.
I have said it once, and I shall say it again...Watch this space!
Eye Of The Wind
I would like to take you back in time to the late 70’s and Capital Radio. This was the station that commissioned me to write The Eye of the Wind Rhapsody to celebrate Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe 400 years ago. This was all part of Operation Drake whereby young sailors travelled around the globe and re-traced Drake’s journey.
The piece was eventually performed by the LSO in 1980 with the late Vernon Handley conducting; the piece was also performed by The Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra at my Symphony Hall concert a while back.
The Eye of the Wind is a beautiful sailing ship that this year celebrates its 100th birthday, and Hilary and I were invited to be part of the celebrations held in Weymouth where the boat was docked for a few days.
My daughter Sadie lives in Weymouth so it was a great opportunity to see the family and go on board this wonderful boat. We met crew members and their legendary captain Tyger Timms who was at the helm of this boat during Operation Drake all those years ago.
It was great to see Ina Koys, one of those who have experienced being a sailor on board this stunning old Brigantine. Ina travelled all the way from Germany to attend my Symphony Hall concert.
The crew who were there during Operation Drake have fond memories of the music that I wrote, and still relate to that special time in their young lives.
The only down side of our trip was the fact that my car was driven into at a secure 24 hour car park adjacent to Sea World at 4am in the morning by a security guy who was driving round the car park to make sure all was well. What an irony! At this point in time our poor old Volvo is in a garage in Yeovil awaiting parts. At least it wasn’t a write off, which could have been the case bearing in mind that the side of the car was seriously dented and the suspension was completely out of kilter due to the force of the van hitting it and moving it three feet from its original parked position! At least I wasn’t in it.
Since then Hilary and I have been driving round the country in a brand new BMW, which is nice but has a pathetically small boot, forcing me to leave a couple of guitars at home. We look forward to getting our old battered Volvo back!
This month’s guitar is a bit special!
About seven years ago I was playing a club in Wales, and the organiser Andrew Hawkey asked me if I played Fylde guitars. I of course replied in the affirmative. He then said that he had a very early Fylde, made by Roger Bucknall in 1973, and would I like it! I was of course gobsmacked and gratefully accepted this lovely gift. Andrew said that he had been storing it in damp Welsh cottages for years, and that it need some TLC, which it did.
I took it to Roger Williams who fitted a new bridge and thing called a Bridge Doctor to straighten out a rather warped guitar front (table). The guitar was beginning to come back to life again.
I had it for a couple of years and then decided to gift it to Roger. Recently whilst staying with Roger and the lovely Moira, I noticed this guitar gathering dust in Roger’s lounge. It was obviously not the ideal instrument for Roger who favours heavier strings than the very light ones fitted to stop the neck from bending even more. I asked Roger if I could get it back home and give it a bit more TLC. This I have done and have indeed recorded a new piece on it for a future project, but more of that in later newsletters.
Since re-stringing it with slightly heavier strings, this beautiful old 1973 pre-Fylde guitar is coming to life again and sounds uniquely beautiful. With a tad more work doing to it I believe this lovely old beast will ‘sing’ once again.
This guitar really is a VERY early example of Roger’s work and testifies to the fact that he knew what he was doing way back then in 1973, bless him.