Where did it all start as a guitar teacher in Taff’s Well, a Cardiff outpost famed for having the only thermal spring well in Wales?
Well… as a Pontypridd lad, I grew up with long-term Motorhead guitarist Phil Campbell who introduced me to many great 70’s rock Welsh bands which included Budgie, Sassafras and Man who regularly played in Cardiff. I took up the guitar at around 12 yrs of age having done hundreds of flawless front room rock gigs playing my mother’s Dunlop tennis racket (Slazenger never seemed to match the wood tone of a Dunlop as I remember). Phil introduced me to my first chords on a guitar and although I was playing the piano from the age of 7 - I was hooked.
We formed our first band at 9/10, he had a Gibson Les Paul and my use of cutting-edge technology extended to being the drummer utilising biscuit tins and can lids as cymbals – record industry interest was surprisingly very muted. After being considered a prodigy on the Burton's Bongos, I was promoted to bass guitar and then the six-string electric guitar. The freedom I felt on the guitar listening to early Status Quo, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Deep Purple et al made me feel that anything was musically possible but early exposure to classical music definitely influenced my creative writing and expression as I grew older and learned to play other styles.
My twenties were pivotal in terms of musical education as being a self-taught guitarist, I had ‘hit a wall’ and laid down the guitar for a few years due to a lack of inspiration and knowledge. That was to change when guitar tutor and session guitarist Iain Scott moved to Penarth for a few years after graduating and teaching at the famed GIT (Guitar Institute of Technology) in Los Angeles, USA. Iain had a huge influence on me and arrived with a great portfolio of work under his belt and he had befriended and played as co-guitarist with legendary rock/jazz/blues fusion guitar player Frank Gambale who would go on to play with the likes of Chick Corea, Alan Holdsworth, Steve Smith, Stanley Clarke, Luc Ponty, John Patitucci and Dave Weckl.
Iain Scott & GIT
Iain was the real deal and a great teacher, which meant I sucked leach-like as much information out of him as I could for three years before I attended the newly formed Guitar Institute of Technology (now the Contemporary Institute of Music Performance) in London which was run by Cardiff born guitarist Alan Limbrick (Mike Oldfield & Joan Armatrading) and where Iain was to be head of the guitar school where he still teaches to this day. I was to be influenced by so many different styles there from so many great players such as Adrian Legg, Eric Johnston, Albert Lee and Robben Ford – if you’ve never heard of them, check them out.
Regrets, I have a Few...
If only I had found a competent teacher when I was a youngster - oh well... back to reality. I've had the privilege of playing with so many talented musicians and performers over the years crossing so many genres that it's impossible to say which genre I like the best, as they all have so much to offer. Listening to my compositions being played on the TV gives me a kick just as I get a kick from seeing someone who started out with me as a novice and subsequently flourish into a 'proper' guitar player, not that I shed a tear when I see them on the big stage of course - ahem.
If you take Anything from my Website...
Music is a joy to so many, but it's impossible to impart how it feels to be able to express yourself through an instrument using the many moods we experience as human beings. It should never be about the ego, it should be about communicating through the medium of music, touching people in the way only music can. Some of the most powerful pieces ever written have been written as a response to sadness, loneliness, desperation and anger and they manage to touch parts of us that mere words alone cannot. I find musical meaning in classical, rock, jazz, blues, prog, folk, funk, new age across to medieval and pagan folk music - from Les Miserables, Gilbert & Sullivan and barbershop over to 'Three Wheels on my Wagon' and Abba - that's the beauty of music, there are no boundaries. If it's played from the heart and with conviction - it's music!
Pick your Tutor Carefully
A small amount of musical knowledge or skill does not mean you will never get the reward your guitar hero seemingly does, it's all relative in terms of the joy you experience as you improve and reach the many milestones it takes to be a competent musician. If you are serious about learning to play the guitar, find a teacher who wants you to learn and since we all respond to different people in different ways, make sure you are happy with the relationship as it could be among one of the most rewarding ones you ever forge.
I played my first public gig at 13 on a New Year’s Eve but not before the landlord of the pub threw a fit when he saw how old we were. Emotional blackmail by a driver-parent persuaded the devastated licensee to allow us to play in a second-floor room in front of two people. I was smitten!
Subsequent teen gigging all over South Wales and Cardiff in particular, coincided with my love for rugby and sport which actually took over until a rugby injury put paid to my sporting career. Returning to music, I played in several rock and blues bands during the early 80’s as well doing the hard graft of the semi-pro Welsh social club circuit where I truly learned the geography of Wales, the art of stagecraft and staying quite between rounds of Bingo under threat of death.
"The best way for a student to get out of difficulty is to go through it."