1951 … born into a large musical family, on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors
1969 … left school, did various jobs; got sacked a lot
1976 … got married to Veronica; worked as a welder
1982 … during Mrs Thatcher’s first recession, moved to Scotland with the missus, plus kids Clare and Will. No work, so started making stoves
1992 … joined Scots folk band Runt ‘o the Litter as bass player
2007 … at tender age of 56, and not many adventures later, starts on solo singing career
2010 … the Obliviates gather, to graciously assist in recording 2nd album, Urchin Child
2012 … 3rd album ‘Lord of Nowhere’ under production (allegedly)
… something of a late starter, to put it mildly. On the other hand, I have been playing and writing all my life, though it’s only in the last 4 years or so that I’ve been having a proper go at it. I’m obviously too old to be looking for a glamorous career in music, and nor does one appeal to me. But the pleasure of playing out live is undeniable … it’s just bloody great fun, even if it’s just standing on the street singing your heart out to complete strangers
(busking’s something I’d recommend to anyone, young or old, starting out or seasoned; an excellent way to try out new mterial, to see how you feel playing it live … ‘battle-harden your songs under the open sky!’ It’s a good way to test your resolve as well; if you don’t fancy busking it, you’re not ready to get up on stage!)
… great way to travel as well; music, the old universal language. I’ve not done too much of it yet, but have already made so many friends and seen such interesting places, from the Baltics and Scandinavia down to the Meditarranean. And instead of being a tourist, always on the outside looking in, you find yourself right in the middle of other people’s lives, even if it’s just for a night or so.
So why risk ridicule at my age? Well, a couple of reasons, apart from the fun factor already mentioned. Aye, massaging the ego is an obvious one. There’s something of the show-off in most musicians, however obscured by neurosis. Playing in the background of a band, such as I did on bass for all those years with the Runts, is a beautiful combination of being in company and not having to talk to anyone, all the while floating on a bed of notes that you help weave. But to actually front it and put it out involves a bit of risk, but worth the returns if you get a good response.
Well, that all applies to doing it at any age. But for someone approaching the end of their working life, like I am, there is another element. All the youthful ambitions that so many of us had … I reckon we have a certain debt to our younger selves not to waste, or at least to test, those early aspirations. Also, you know how depressing it is to read most biographies of musicians … the last bit, when a good book should just be picking up the action and the drama, is nearly always about the slow decline as our heroes go all wobbly, and lose their appetite if not their marbles. We all lead pretty dull lives; must be worth pepping up the last few chapters, even if at the risk of falling on our arses. (I’m assuming of course that authors will be falling over themselves to chronicle my fascinating life)
While on the subject of obligations, as well as to our younger selves, any song you write should be given a chance. There’s a general idea of ‘the muse’, that which the singer, poet or whatever accesses; a romantic notion perhaps, but any song would seem to have a certain life of its own, independent of the writer. I’m sure that some should be put down at birth, and there’s many a case for a swift mercy killing. But you never quite know how good a song is till you sing it out in front of others. So I stand at the window of the belfry, throwing out the little songs … every now and then one stutters into flight, and is off over the horizon, free at last!
ok, that’s the bones of a fairly average life. But here are the bits that make me such a lucky fellow, and that have enriched my life … some of the other musicians in the family:
brother Tom Dowling, recently returned from Bordeaux, with his snakeskin cowboy hat and african pyjamas … his rheumy eye sees all and nothing
bro’ Huey, resident round the corner from me in the old factory at Bladnoch, SW Scotland, with ace studio, equipped for live as well as anything you need … thinks he’s a better musician than me, but being of slighter build is wrong in this as in most things
youngest bro’ Lorry, with current band Pepperjam; a lovely big-hearted singer, band leader and enthusiast; eeh, he loves his reggae!
Lu, John and Ted … siblings who foolishly resisted the call of a musical career … incomprehensible!
my dear cus’ Ewan Blackledge, still busking, a genuine troubadour, with nothing but music on his mind, with whom i first learnt guitar, aged 13
THE KIDS! … my own,
Clare, now resident in Manchester, plays with her partner Eryl as the Moot; a musician of such facility; every line’s a hook (inherited her mother’s natural ability)
Willo, in Bordeaux; won’t thank me for mentioning him; fiercely independent … a really very good lyricist and powerful singer ( … I am not in the least biased towards my children’s genius)
NEPHEWS AND NIECES:
Martha (Cecilia van Wah), neice .. should be headlining Britain, but prefers to grace the dungeons of northern britain. Kids eh? … plays with her bro, nephew
Eddie, as La la and the Boo Ya
their older sis’ Rachel now singing with her unca Lorry
… in Bordeaux, Chloe (who now prefers to nurse … incomprehensibly!), and Melanie, natural songstress (EVERY band in SW France is wasting an opportunity not having her on board!)
Jenny and Clary, talented daughters of Lorry, like himself, residents of Yorkshire
… to be continued! (the night is too short)
I have many musical friends, some really very talented, but you won’t have heard of most of them … and the ones you may have I won’t mention, for fear of upsetting the obscure ones. Anyway, who likes a name-dropper? Of course, as my path to fame progresses, I realise that it will be harder to protect the feelings of those I leave behind, but I will do my best to remain the same simple hearted fellow I always used to be when I was poor, and try to remember everyone’s names.