At five years old I attended Olive Hill Primary School near Blackheath, Birmingham and went from there to Halesowen technical school, when I was eleven. As a youngster I enjoyed art and sport and played a lot of football (soccer) but also had a great interest in wildlife and birds.
I had a happy childhood. We weren't a wealthy family but my Father always provided for us and we enjoyed some great holidays and I was close to my brother, all my uncles, aunts and cousins (and still am). I have magic memories of those times, it seems like a different life but will always remain such an important era where I established all my values. Values which helped me keep my feet on the ground through the years to come.
When I left school at seventeen I worked for British Steel at Coombes Wood, Halesowen. This was in the Black Country in the Midlands, the heart of 'Heavy Industry'. The factory I worked in was a massive Steelwork labyrinth, riddled with polluted canals, massive grimy workshops, foundries and steam hammers. As apprentices, we were given all the worst jobs and that included having to climb into large boilers and clean them out with rakes and acid. There were no safety regulations and many things we were asked to do would never have been allowed today. Strange though it may seem I would never change a thing. There were a lot of young guys there, we were all good friends and had so many experiences and laughs together. More importantly those years served to instill in me a need to search for something else in life and that something else was to pursue a musical career.
I started playing the guitar quite late, around the age of nineteen. My mother and my brother were the reason that I started playing the guitar. My Mother, Olive, was a piano tutor and so the house from a very early age was filled with music. As a boy she tried to teach me the piano but although I loved music I didn't really like lessons and never really practiced as much as I should. It was my mother though who I inherited my musical instincts from.
In addition my brother Gary was a guitarist in a band called the Atlantics which were very successful locally. When he wasn't around I used to sneak into his room and play his guitar. I have always had great admiration for Gary we have never once fallen out and as I was definitely the annoying younger brother, he was always very patient with me. I have a lot to thank both Gary and my mother for because if it hadn't been for them I would probably never have started playing the guitar. As for my Dad (Doug) he gave me the love of the countryside and taught me to fish and enjoy the outdoors, and I remain a fisherman today and still get away from it all with my dogs on the riverbank whenever I can!
My first guitar was a Hofner acoustic which I added a pickup to and after that I progressed to a Rickenbacker short scale kneck. It played beautifully but didn't sound that great. Eventually I managed to save up and borrow enough money to buy a Fender Stratocaster.
It was a great musical scene around then and you could always see bands like Taste, John Mayall, Chicken Shack, the original Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer or even The Cream and many other bands that went on to become very successful. It was a time when great songs were written and many talented artists emerged and progressed from blues into their own form of music in their own unique ways. There were many venues and opportunities for musicians just starting out to play and gain experience and confidence although you didn't get paid much, if at all on occasion. That wasn't important though and I certainly wasn't alone in being totally committed and dedicated to the guitar and my music regardless of success or money.