Thursday, 5 May 2011
on the road
"The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream."
- Jack Kerouac, On the Road.
It’s almost time for me to be on the road again. I will be heading North West next week to begin the first of the Fair Days Pay For A Fair Days Work gigs. I am looking forward to playing for my patrons and meeting their people. I know they have gone to considerable lengths to make my stay a special occasion.
I have been rehearsing what I hope will be an interesting and entertaining collection of material which includes some parts of old songs and the usual suspects such as Hotel Room, Evening over rooftops, Poppy, Green lights, Side by side, Speak down wires and a medley of bits and pieces. I will also be performing new material some of which I will be performing for the first time. I will be improvising around the themes of the songs and joining sections together to make each FDPFAFDW show unique. I will be recording each show.
I have been rehearsing on a nylon strung classical guitar, a steel strung acoustic and my lovely Squire Stratocaster. Which one will I be using? The answer is that I am still not sure. I’ve been thinking I should probably use an electric guitar for my show with Luke at Glastonbury and we might be jamming with the house band. Having said that, different things happen on the acoustics. The nylon strung classical job seems to respond more dramatically to different rooms than my other instruments and well, I’ll have to make a decision soon.
Many years a go, during a warm summer Vic Unitt and myself headed west to Devon with not much more than a sleeping bag, some basic cooking utensils, clothing and a harmonica. We probably had about twenty or thirty pounds between us. We hitch hiked everywhere in those days before the fear came to kill off a great way to meet folk and get around. We didn’t mind the long waits too much though some times it was a very long wait for a driver who wasn’t put off by our garb and long hair. During these hold ups we would improvise on a blues theme. Vic would play his harmonica and I sang. I usually made up it all up as we went along though occasionally we would do a Sonny Boy Williamson plus one impersonation.
On a lovely summer evening we strolled into the Golden Fleece in Barnstaple after hours on the road. We were moving around the Barnstaple , Bideford, Westward Ho area and had discovered the Golden Fleece had a folk club. I borrowed a guitar and Vic and I performed a few improvised blues songs to a very warm and enthusiastic folk crowd. At the end of the evening a local headmaster invited us to stay with his family for the night. They looked after us very well and I think we stayed another night. Later that week we made friends with Noel Murphy the folk singer at the Lobster Pot in Appledore. He was performing there and we did a floor spot. It was great fun. Back then we would play any where and although we didn’t know it yet, the rock n roll days were just ahead.
Those were heady days and memories of our Kerouac-esque adventures are very special to me. This was the first experience I had of singing for my supper and a bed for the night. It was an exciting and valuable stage of our performing apprenticeship. I remember that we resolved to re-double our efforts to get out on the road on a full time basis.
Since those days I have pondered how I might get to re-capture some of the feelings of those early performances and I think my trip to the North West next week will be a step in the right direction. A minstrel I would be…….