Returning to my Birmingham roots in the early 80`s I joined The Steve Gibbons Band, a hit Rock`n Roll band, which took me back to recording, UK tours and TV work. I stayed with Steve for 4 years and then I took a couple of years off. I had always dabbled in antiques and my Dad, who was retiring, suggested we try our hands full-time in the antique business, which we did successfully for about 3 years with me continuing to play in local gigs at the same time.
In 1987 my friend, and fine Blues harmonica player, Simon Hickling asked me to help out on a tour he was doing with Steve Marriott which I did and ended up playing with Steve until his untimely death in 1991.
During the time I was with Steve I was approached by the legendary British jazzman Chris Barber who asked if I would be interested in working with his band, which of course I was. I continued to play in both bands for a while and on some occasions travelling from one to the other the mix of totally different styles was, to say the least, interesting! With Chris’s band I met Lonnie Donegan who was guesting with us. In his set Lonnie included a Skiffle interlude, and one day asked me if I would play washboard with him. He gave me a washboard and some thimbles and I said to him “What do you expect me to do with this Lon?” and he said in typical Lonnie character” Scratch it dear boy, scratch it!”. What he didn’t know and what I never told him, was that I used to ‘scratch’ a washboard to his records when I was a mere lad of 6 or 7 years old!
With Chris I made several CD`s, toured Europe extensively and made many radio and television appearances. I had two periods with Chris 1988 – 1990 and 1994 – 1998.
1990’s to present
On leaving Chris Barber in 1998, Lonnie called me up and asked me what I was doing, to which I replied, I’m planning on starting up my own jazz band and working with my old friend Steve Gibbons again. To which Lonnie replied, “Cancel all that… you’re with me now” so what could I say – I then became a full-time member of The Lonnie Donegan Band. Working with Lon was an amazing experience we were like a family and I was devastated when, mid-tour November 2002, he had a massive heart attack and died.
Although working with Lonnie I still found a little time for some gigs with Steve Gibbons and my own jazz project I was involved on the Birmingham jazz scene with the legendary saxophone player Mike Burney and the award-winning band Hot Horns.
In 1999 I really wanted to have a Big Band Swing style outfit. Discussing this with Mike we decided the only way we could do it at this time was a smaller version of a big band. With Mike, Roger Ray & Pete Strange doing the arrangements The Little Big Band was born, this was the 9-piece fore-runner of what is now the Swing Orchestra. The Little Big Band debuted that year at the Hundred Club in London, which was a great experience and is where I discovered the Swing Dance scene.
The band thrived on the Swing Dance and Festival scene and in 2003 I was asked to extend the band for the Savoy Ball in London to the full 14-piece Orchestra I have today.
In recent years I have been organising, writing and performing the stage shows ‘Jitterbug Joe‘ with The Jiving Lindy Hoppers and ‘We Got Rhythm‘ with BBC TV’s John Bly, Garry Allcock, James ‘boogie blues’ Bly and The Attic Cats Lindy Hop Dance Group
Including the names mentioned above here are some of the people I have worked with over the years (that I can recall):
Chas & Dave, Leo Sayer, Perfumed Garden, Clayton Peacock & Peppermint Circus, Peter Frampton, Monty Sunshine, Pete Wingfield, Terry Lightfoot, Digby Fairweather, Chick Willis , Viv Stanshall, The Flirtations, Marsha Hunt, Alan Bown, Steve Marriott , Paul & Barry Ryan, Mark Knofler, Joe Cocker, Bruce Welsh, Roger Daltrey, Chris Farlow, Chris Barber, Van Morrison, Steve Gibbons, Sammy Rimmington, Paul Jones, Zoot Money, Kenny Ball, Acker Bilk, Jools Holland, Bryan Ferry