Here's a bit of background information about the various instruments I use in the band.
- Harmonica Harness
- OK, the harness isn't an instrument, but it is instrumental in allowing me to suck, blow and hum into various things. The harness is worn round the neck. I made it from some wire bought from a hardware store back in the 1960s. For the first few years the two bits of wire that hold the harmonica in place were squeezed tight with elastic bands. Then I actually found a shop that sold springs. This was in the days before large DIY stores in out-of-town retail parks. I bought the two small springs I still use, just enough for the job. These days I'd probably be forced to buy two packs of ten assorted springs, in order to get a pair of the right size. Don't you just love modern retailing?
- The Harmonicas
- These days I use Hohner Blues Harps. I keep a stack beside me in the keys of A, B♭, C, D, E, F and G. I have a Hohner harmonica belt as well, but normally only use that when playing with other musicians and I don't expect to be seated on my stool. Way back before I formed the band I used Echo Super Vampers. They used to cost me 10/6d (52.5p, for those not old enough to remember the days before decimal currency!). These days you have to pay approaching £30. It makes me feel old!
- I can't remember when I acquired the kazoo shown in the photo. It's metal with a now fading brass finish and certainly the same one I used when I first formed the full band in 1975. I probably bought it between 1963 and 1964 or 1965. These are the dates I first started playing guitar and harmonica together (after hearing the first Dylan LP, just before the release of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan") and after buying the Jesse Fuller LP "San Francisco Bay Blues". In 2014 I finally bought a replacement from "The Range" at Longwater Norwich.
- Plastic Siren
- I only use it for special effects in a couple of songs but, like the kazoo, it's always there in the harness, held in place with elastic bands. It came out of a Christmas cracker, probably in the early 1970s. Can't remember more than that.
- Faith FV12TB Guitar
- This is my third 12-string guitar, bought in 2012 in Norwich, and my most expensive instrument.
- My previous 12-string, an Epiphone "FT-160 Texan-12" was bought in Kings Lynn probably in 1978. It was ordered especially for me, but there was a mistake in the order and the model that arrived had the sunburst "Texan" finish, which is not what I expected. In spite of that, I took it and learned to love it. It appears in my poster and a newspaper photo of me appearing at a folk club in the year I bought it. I'm looking for a buyer for it. Make me an offer!
- My first 12-string guitar, an "Arnold Hoyer Model 9176", was sold while I had a residency at "The Castle", a pub in Downham Market, to one of the group of guys who used to come and see me play every week. I had bought that one while a teenager living in Crawley Sussex. For some time it had been in the window of the big department store at one end of Queens Square, and for the first time in my life I dared to ask for a discount on the grounds that it was old stock and not selling - and got one!
- Yamaha Pacifica 112V
- This replaced a £10 Stratocaster copy bought from Argos for slide work with the Muddy Broad Blues Band. Until I bought that I had been using an old acoustic that was disintegrating that I used for bottleneck playing.
- Officially, the price of the Argos Strat was £60 but Argos allowed you to add a bag (£20), stand (£15) and tuner (£15) to the order at no cost. On getting the package home and opening the small box that contained the tuner it was clear that what had been supplied was a significantly inferior substitute no longer found in the current catalogue. I complained, returned the tuner, and was given £15 back. Logic determines that if I had found a good reason to send back the rest of the extras I would have been left with a true £10 guitar. As it turned out, within six months the body split and the bridge lifted at a crazy angle and I returned the whole thing and bought a sensible instrument instead.
- I've made a number of adjustments to my Pacifica. The tremalo arm is gone and the bridge adjusted to remove the camber and raise the outer strings. I've also fitted Ernie Ball Beefy Slinky strings to cope better with the open-G tuning I normally use.
- Epiphone Dot
- This was bought as a Christmas present in 2012 by my new lady, now wife. She had wanted to buy me a banjo but I feared that would be difficult to learn so I persuaded her that a guitar suitable for work with the Muddy Broad Blues Band, with whom I had been playing for a couple of years, would be far more useful.
- It would be good if there was an interesting story behind this guitar but, so far, I can't think of one. It's just a reliable workhorse of an instrument, that produces a great tone, even through the crude PA amplifier that I bought when the one man band re-formed. (Sounds even better through the thirty year old Fender "Stage 185" amp I use with the Blues Band!)
- Gretsch Broadkaster Special G9410 Banjo
- This is another case of an instrument that's not yet been played at a One Man Band gig, but the story behind it is simple.
- After getting my Epiphone Dot for Christmas 2012, when Christmas came round again, once more a banjo was offered. This time I couldn't think of a way to refuse politely.
- Over the summer we had seen one which I had quite liked. However, a return to that shop found them without any banjos worth looking at. We moved on to another store and this time we found a couple I thought were worth considering. I have never liked the Gretsch guitars that I have played, finding their sound lacking depth but this instrument offered the volume and punch that I expect from a banjo.
- I rapidly found that I enjoyed playing it, though as a result of my other musical commitments, I still don't use it as much as I feel it deserves. One unexpected benefit was that it taught me more about Open-G tuning on a guitar and as a result of learning the banjo my slide guitar work has changed and improved.
- Kent Ukulele
- I bought my banjo ukulele second hand, in the mid-1970s, after forming the band, from a shop in Exchange Street, Norwich. As I recall, it was principally a piano and organ shop, opposite Jarrolds department store, a few shops up the hill from where Games Workshop now have a store. The instrument itself is a bit of a mystery. Apart from the makers name "Kent" on the front of the head and a "Made in GDR" sticky label of the back of the head, there are no other identifying marks, not even a model number.
- The washboard is another addition to the band, made in April 2012, around the time the band was re-formed. It is often handed to members of the audience who appear to have a sense of rhythm and a desire to join in.
- It was custom built for me, signed by the maker at the Columbus Washboard Company, Ohio, and imported specially. There's quite a tale about My New Washboard so it has a page all of its own.
- The board has been fitted with a cowbell bought new, especially for the board, and something that pretends to be a small cymbal, bought second hand via eBay. I have also added a display box that originally contained a bottle of wine as a substitute wooden block.
- Elka SGP 150 Bass Pedals
- I bought these, via eBay, in 2014, my third set of bass pedals. They replace an earlier set of Elka pedals (Model 144), also bought through eBay, when the band re-formed. The earlier set had a minor fault in them and lacked some of the facilities of my latest pedals which include variable sustain and a wider range of voices that can be mixed.
- My first set went under the name "Dewtron Mr Bassman". They ceased functioning nearly 20 years ago but elsewhere on the web I find that people have an interest in them, so I added a page to record what I remember of mine.
- There are two significant differences between the Mr Bassman and both the Elka pedals. The Elka is mains powered so, at least, there's no danger of me fitting the wrong battery and the pitch adjustment is operated by a small screw on the rear of the instrument. The Mr Bassman pedals had an easily reached control on the top of the pedals with which you could change pitch by almost an octave, which I would use as I would a capo on a guitar. With the Elka pedals I have had to learn the patterns needed for all the keys that I play in. It was so much easier as I could cheat when using the old pedals!
- High Hat and cymbals
- The stand and pedal was bought when I first formed the band. The same salesman that sold me the Mr Bassman, told me to meet someone he knew in a car park. This I did. Money changed hands and the high hat and drummer's stool that I have used ever since moved from the boot of his car to mine. For the first few gigs, while I was wondering what to do about some cymbals, I used an empty coffee tin, in which I kept plectrums and finger picks, as substitute cymbals. I punched a hole in the bottom of the can and fitted it to the high hat. The cymbals, which were acquired a couple of months later, are marked "Krut". I am sure a proper drummer would say, with a minor change in spelling, the name might correspond to the quality. I can't recall where I got them.