I’ve been surrounded by music all my life, from my parents love of Mahler and Rachmaninov, my father’s claim to be able to play every song in the hymn book, through piano lessons from the age of eight and the weirdo who studied music at school where the only icon was the rugby ball.
My passion was initiated by my brother Ian. When I was around 11 he taught me the rudiments of the House of the Rising Sun and Jerry Lee Lewis’ What did I say. Critically he taught me the “blue notes”; so contrary to everything I learned playing Beethoven and Bach. Ian, a world-class televisual engineer, fabulous guitarist and now in retirement a much sought after luthier.
By 13, I had formed what would become a life-long friendship with Peter Baikie, the son a renowned Edinburgh band leader Jim Baikie, and at that time we serenaded a bunch of American students whose enthusiasm for dancing must have been inversely proportionate to the quality of our noise.
During freshers week at university I found a jazz society, and was roped into “Pork Pie Hat” an ensemble of eight what would turn out to be outstanding musicians of whom I was by far the least talented. Two nights a week, we had a packed-out residency above a strip club, and would play around what was then a lively jazz and folk scene.
As I moved on from university, to a job at The Guardian in London, I left behind what was undoubtedly my musical highlight, one of the happiest, most exhilarating periods of my life to never play regularly again.I was 19.