A bit more about music.
This is going to be a rather sparse one visually. I have lots of photos, but I can’t find them. I spend a long time trying to catalogue and organise my work, so why is it that the very images you want disappear? The good thing about this blog is that you can add things and edit at any time.
When I first went out with Ken he turned to me and said ‘there’s something I’ve got to tell you about myself’ I thought he was going to say ‘I’m a tranny’ or ‘I’ve got severe manic depression’ but he said ‘I play the saxophone’ I couldn’t have been more delighted. It reminded me of the time when my current next door neighbour moved in, their son aged then about 16, knocked on my door and said ‘I hope you don’t mind but I play the drums’ Of course I didn’t mind I was pleased that he was a music maker. He went on to have his own band. Later when he had his own family he gave it up and that was obviously what had happened to Ken, you give all your time to doing the best you can for your family, in Ken’s case it was running his own business. Before Ken ran the TV studio at Christchurch he had had his own white goods shop in the Longmarket in Canterbury. He was head hunted by the Vice Principal Graham Brown. Graham knew what a clever inventor he was and he knew that was what the studio needed.
Ken in his pre war dance band days.
Ken played in a dance band before the war, they played in London hotels and dance halls. He is the third from the left in the front row. When he was a boy he saw a saxophone in the window of a shop. His parents couldn’t afford it of course. He collected jam jars and drinks bottles and got the money for them. He took the money to the shop and offered it to the man who shook his head and then gave him an ocarina and said ‘make ‘a da loveley musica’ I’ve still got that ocarina. When he went to work he did save up and his father helped him to get his first saxophone, a Selmer cigar cutter, I still have that .
My drawing of Ken playing the tenor recorder.
Ken also played the flute and the clarinet. I played the guitar not brilliantly but enough to get along. I had masses of folk music, we played together then went to a folk class and club in Canterbury. Whilst we were there we met a nice guy called Des Mahoney, who played the fiddle. In the mean time Ken started to do the OU course on the theory of music, it was something he had always wanted to do. It wasn’t easy most people dropped out along the way. When he started they said he would need a piano but if he hadn’t got one they would send something that he could get by on.
Ken on Sax.
It was a horrible little Bon Tempi Organ/ keyboard, the kind that you could buy in Woolworths. It was almost offensive and we knew he couldn’t possibly use it. We went to Canterbury to the two major music stores, Kennards and one in Castle Street. We tried out all the electronic keyboards, all he wanted was a good piano sound and weighted keys. We chose a Technics keyboard. He made himself a little OU music area with all his gear close at hand. I was still working but he had retired ( more of that later)
One day at the folk club we suggested that Des should come round to our house for a music session, guitar, flute and fiddle. He came, but as soon as he came in he saw the keyboard. He put his fiddle down straight away and sat down and played jazz and swing by ear. Ken couldn’t wait to get his saxophone out of it’s box and they were away… there was no stopping them. They insisted that I join in so I played rhythm guitar using the chord structure and improvising. Unlike the other two I needed the dots.
We met regularly every week, then I saw an ad. in a national newspaper saying , would you be brave enough to busk for the red cross on a given day. It was going to be happening all over the country. We chose a pitch, outside the old electricity showroom in Mortimer Street and got permission from the council and the police. The showroom said the keyboard could plug into their supply as it was for the Red Cross. We started and it was an instant success, we got loads of money in our empty keyboard case. People were stopping to listen and singing along. An old tramp came up the road and started to dance in front of us, then he grabbed passing women and danced with them. They weren’t always best pleased when they saw huge bogeys hanging from his nose! People came up and asked for our card…of course we didn’t have a card. We got lots of gigs from that time. We were playing the good old jazz and swing standards. Though we did lots of jobs my favourite was a free one. We played at the day centre at the Queen Vic Hospital once a week. People sang (or slept, it was up to them, but the most rewarding bit was when the physios came in. They got the old people up on their feet dancing sometimes two physios to a person. To see a look of delight on someones face as they danced again was worth all the tea in China.
One of the physios was Pam Edwards, I still see her regularly and we sometimes talk about those days. We soon acquired Dennis , our drummer. The next thing they suggested was that someone had to sing and it had to be me. I haven’t got a very good voice but it was passable, I could stay in tune and in rhythm and it’s amazing what a good mike does to make you sound better, and I enjoy singing. The folk music got left behind. I was only sorting it out today, I have a good collection I want to find someone to give it to, someone who would value it. I played a few jigs and sang a few songs for old times sake.
We called ourselves The Second Time around. We played for dances, in the Marine Hotel Bar. in a restaurant in Tankerton and in the other pub half way along Tankerton Slopes. Canterbury, Whitstable and Chestfield golf club dinners etc. I found a book the other day recording our gigs and the money that we earned (not much divided between four of us) I soon switched from my guitar to another keyboard (our Technics) It happened like this, we had gigs to go to but at college, I had my hand resting on the roller press when a student accidentally started it rolling and my finger got crushed. I got taken to hospital and they saved it but I had to have huge bandages on it. In no way could I play the guitar. Ken suggested that I should put the very good guitar sound on the keyboard and play the background chords on that…so that’s what I did. I soon learnt to play all the chords with my left hand without looking and then it was only a short step to playing the melody with my right hand. I was away my great keyboard adventure had started and carries on to this day.
I am playing on our first keyboard a Technics, sadly no longer made
There was one thing that always made me laugh Des was an ex consultant from the Kent and Canterbury. People are very reverential when they hear you were a consultant ‘and what was your speciality?’ they used to say. He would clap his hands. They were either mystified or embarassed, he was a specialist in venereal diseases!
When Ken died Des and I used to go out together then when Des died I went on my own. I still do sometimes but I can’t carry the equipment. I played in the bandstand every year for a long time for The Lifeboat Fair and the Cancer Research Fair and still played in hospitals and homes. My most surprising and moving one was at the place for severe dementia cases in Bridge. It’s a lock down place to stop the wandering. In spite of their confusion about most things a lot of them could still remember all the words to the songs. The most memorable time was when I was singing and an old lady came up and leaned forward with her face about a foot away from mine and began to sing with such a beatific smile on her face. This is what the arts are for. I’m well aware of the cutting edge of painting, sculpture etc and the necessity to experiment and push forward and to do ones own work with integrity. Most of us won’t be at the top of the tree and in the mean time can’t we share what we do have to make life a bit better.
I have always sung and have always belonged to a choir of some kind. In the school choir I had a duet partner, Shirley Callaway. We both enjoyed singing in harmony and frequently sang in concerts. In art school I joined the college choir. In Christchurch I joined the student choir, recently it has been the Whitstable Warblers, Singing for Health choir initiative, A Christchurch College Research programme funded by Roger de Haan.