Brian generously contributed to my ‘Make Your Own Electric Guitar’ Book. The ‘Red Special’ he made with his dad features in the book with many detailed images photographed in Brian’s garage. It was a delight for me to play the guitar, but challenging due to the short scale and very light strings – however it works well for Brian - no personal ‘set up’ is ever the same! Brian also contributed a foreword to the book – enjoy!
Tony Iommi – ‘Old Boy’ and other SG’s
Tony generously allowed me access to his many SG’s including the first road worn ‘Old Boy’ many times revived by its original maker the wonderful luthier John Diggins of ‘Jaydee Guitars’. I was John’s willing apprentice and I’m still learning from him. Tony makes a fine cup of tea and is no slouch on the guitar front. He provided a telling foreword to my SG Manual.
Bob is obsessed with woodwork and disappeared during our interview at BAFTA. I found him under the antique boardroom table examining the mortice and tenon joints! Bob is also enthusiastic about good live acoustic guitar sound and worked with my hero Rupert Neve on achieving his wonderful onboard pre-amps – a great success story. Bob and his fabulous guitars feature in my ‘Acoustic Guitar Manual’.
Andy Fairweather Low
We are pictured backstage at one of his recent gigs jamming the blues on Judy Collin’s wonderful 12 fret Dreadnought (the best I have ever heard!) and he’s playing a wonderful early Gibson archtop I found for him. A lovely guy and a consummate musician.
Sir David Attenborough
David is ‘Mad about Music’ and made many music programmes in the 1950’s with Alan Lomax and Pete Seeger. He was intrigued by the National Resonator and also my renaissance lute. He remains as curious as any teenager and asks a lot of questions – the secret of his genius? – always learning! He calls me an ethnomusicologist and I’m very flattered. We worked together on the environmental film ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’.
Nigel Kennedy and John Etheridge
We all worked together on my film ‘Stephane Grappelli ‘A Life in the Jazz Century.' This film includes all known footage of Django Reinhardt – with mind blowing virtuosity . In the film Nigel played like an angel and John contributed fabulous anecdotes to my book ‘A Life In the Jazz Century’ (Music Sales). John and I played together at the films BAFTA premiere alongside the legendary Coleridge Goode of the Hot Club Quintet of France and Martin Taylor (what a gig!)
I interviewed Yehudi at his London home for my Grappelli /Reinhardt film. He was genial and modest, apologising profusely for not being able to improvise like Stephane. I pointed out that Yehudi had performed Elgar for Elgar! He told me ‘Music is Magic’ – correct!
Brendan founded the International guitar Festival of Great Britain which is still running. Being my teacher in the 1970s, Brendan sent me to meet Andres Segovia and John Williams. He also introduced me to the transcriptions of Emilio Pujol (with whom he had studied in Spain). This enthused me to learn the vihuela. Brendan was also Julian Bream’s ‘stand in’ for all the Aldeburgh filming of Julian Bream. This meant Julian could rest whilst we framed all the ‘shots’ for the two camera filming. Importantly Brendan gave me Les Paul’s home number! Which I rang and achieved the interview for my ‘definitive’ Les Paul book. Lester gave me a signed copy of his book – a treasured possession.
Julian asked me to film his life story after seeing my Grappelli film at its BAFTA premiere. It was a challenging but exhilarating labour of love. The actual filming took Julian back to Aldeburgh with all it’s memories of Benjamin Britten and so many other musicians and friends. I’m placating him in the pic as another ‘take’ is spoiled by a helicopter hovering over the Snape Maltings. Julian was delighted with the end result and showed the full 3 hours to all his visitors!
Stephane Grappelli at home in Paris
Stephane lent me a flat in Montmartre to research his biography and film. This gave me access to a treasure trove of photographs and records. He was a wonderful musician and loved to play Bach at home on his ancient piano. He still had his first ¾ size violin - given to him by his father in the 1st World War. I miss him.
Lighting up ‘Coronation Park’ with a Royal Beacon
I took a lead from Brian May and played the National Anthem mega loud on my lovely ‘Gold Top’ . I offered to do the Buckingham Palace gig but Brian did a better job!
Peter Green's resonator
I first encountered Peter at the Nags Head pub in Battersea in 1967. I was a schoolboy obsessed with the blues and Peter’s playing and singing was astonishing. To play his 1931 Duolian resonator in 2023 was to revisit my love of all Peter’s music – especially ‘Oh Well’ which I suspect was recorded on this guitar in 1969.