About me

 

I was born in Horncastle, a small market town in Lincolnshire, on Friday 5th May, 1950. Dad was Swiss (which accounts for the strange name), and he was an industrial chemist for the British Sugar Corporation at their factory in Bardney - a village some 10 miles away. Mum worked part-time at the local school. I'm the youngest of three, my sister and brother both still live in Lincolnshire.

Mt grandparents had a small farm, and I spent most weekends there, playing on the land and generaly getting in the way. Mum used to play the piano, and I started in a very informal way when I was about five. I used to like sticking drawing-pins into the hammers of our ancient rosewood upright to make it sound honky-tonk - a practise frowned upon by my mum, who kept taking them out and hiding them. But I bought more. In the end she gave up.

After having piano lessons (now I am sure this isn't in any way connected, but my music teacher committed suicide years later, poor man) I got to grade 6 of the RSM exams. Couldn't get any further because I was no good at sight reading. The problem was that I had (and still have) a well-developed gift of being able to play from memory - so I didn't bother to learn to read music very well. It's too late now, of course - and anyway, it saves carrying reams of sheet music about. I sometimes wish I'd tried harder with sight reading, though - especially when I'm trying to record a difficult piece.

While I was at Grammar school I joined up with a friend who played drums, and we did regular gigs in a pub and at a lot of the RAF stations in Lincolnshire. My dad bought me a Clavioline, which was a very early synthesizer with valves, and which fitted under the piano keyboard. Used that for ages. Later, Dad bought me a small Kimble electronic organ, and I learnt to use pedals for the first time.

One day another schoolmate took me to stay with a friend of his named David Lowe, who was then organist at Bradord Ice Rink, and David invited me to have a go on the Hammond C3 there. (David and I became firm friends, and still occasionally play concerts together, which are hilarious and a lot of fun.) It was the very first Hammond I'd ever played. Compared to anything I'd been used to, it was huge - and quite predictably I made a mess of it. But a director of Mecca who was there at the time seemed impressed, and asked me if I'd ever thought of a career playing for ice dancing. I said no! Well, he said, think about it, talk to your parents, and see what they say. I did, and they were happy for me to do whatever I wanted. So, a little later, I moved from rural Lincolnshire to London, and trained at Streatham Ice Rink under the then Musical Director - a man named John Bowery - who subsequently became one of my musical idols. His style of playing was amazing, and I still try to emulate him.

I spent a year there - that was in 1966 - at the end of which John told me that Liverpool, Bristol, Birmingham and Leeds rinks didn't have organists, so I could choose whichever one of them I liked, and become Resident Organist there. I didn't know any of the places, so I literally stuck a pin in a piece of paper on which I'd written the names of the cities - and fate decided it was to be Birmingham. I took up residency there in 1967, and stayed there - on and off - until 1988.

During that time, though, I had a few leaves of absence - usually to do summer seasons at places like Skegness and Aberystwyth, and to work on the ships. I played on the Cunard liners Princess, Countess, and QE2 - did a complete World Cruise on QE2 in 1980, at the start of which I blew up the Hammond C3. Well, how was I to know it was a 110-volt organ and the QE2 has a 240-volt supply? To this very day, I can still remember that unique aroma of burning transformer...

I began playing concerts in the late 70s, taking a Hammond L103, which had been split into two for portability, and a Leslie speaker. Since then I haven't stopped. For many years I used a Hammond X5 and an even bigger Leslie, and now I play a KeyB Duo.

Motorbikes. Bikes have been a major love of mine for as long as I can remember. My brother used to be a biker, and the house was always full of engine bits, oily rags, and the odd wheel or two. My first bike was a Honda CB175, and I progressed through a large number of machines to the last one I had - a Honda CBR600F. I passed my IAM advanced riding test back in 1974, and I used to do a lot of bike instructing, but being out on the moors at 8am on a January morning - watching cold boys ride round plastic cones - became less attractive as I got older. I still adore biking, and until recently I often traveled to concerts where I was playing theatre organs (and so didn't have to take my own organ gear) on the bike. This sometimes caused amusement - I arrived for practise before a concert at St Martin's School in Solihull once and the caretaker wouldn't let this leather-clad yob in.

I live now in Lockwood, on the outskirts of Huddersfield, in Yorkshire, with my partner Dave, two dogs called Scoobie and Bach, and two beautiful cats named Basil and Rosie. I love it here and have no wish to leave - ever!

 

Scoobie and me having a rest

Bach having a paddle

People often ask me how I record my multitrack CDs, so I've written a separate page all about that, if you're interested.

However, I think I've told you quite enough about myself for the time being. :-)