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Our younger daughter's wedding

Saturday, June 19, 2010

We have just come back from a wonderful two weeks in Andalucia, where our daughter, Ruth, lives in a town called Jimena de la Frontera.  This is about 20 miles  north of Gibraltar, where she works.  The highlight of our trip was, of course, her wedding to John - a terrific, very laid-back Australian guy she met during her travels in Africa.  She had a legal, civil wedding in Gibraltar followed the next day by a non-religious ceremony of promises and exchange of rings.  This took place in the open air at a wonderful hotel high in the Andalucian mountains, with stunning views over the valley below.  It was incredibly moving and there were many moist eyes during the ceremony.  Many of John's family and friends had travelled from Australia and from the UK for the event and we met them for the first time but, hopefully, not the last.  My proudest moment was walking our beautiful daughter down to the ceremony to the music from a brilliant flamenco guitarist.  I have put some pictures of this wonderful event in my Photos section.

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Genre: Bluegrass
Playing Style: Bluegrass (Scruggs)

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Playing Style: Bluegrass (Scruggs)

Genre: Popular
Playing Style: Bluegrass (Scruggs)

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Playing Since: 1960
Experience Level: Purty Good

[Teaching] [Jamming] [Socializing] [Helping]

Occupation: Retired

Gender: Male
Age: 79

My Instruments:
Huber Roanoke
Deering Deluxe
Cripple Creek 100OB
Ibanez Artist

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Visible to: Public
Created 11/12/2003
Last Visit 1/9/2020

I started playing four string plectrum banjo after someone gave an old English zither banjo to our Church skiffle group, when I was about 14 years old. Knowing no better, I tuned it like the first four strings of a guitar (just like Lonnie Donegan!). Later, while at University, I puzzled over the fifth string which disappeared under the fingerboard at the 5th fret and emerged at the peg head. So I bought a set of five strings and the Pete Seeger banjo tutor and set to work (at the same time annoying a good number of fellow students in my apartment and others nearby). I learnt Pete Seeger's method of "up-picking", which has a similar rhythm to clawhammer/frailing but uses an up stroke with the ball of the first finger to make the first note of each bum-diddy pattern. Apparently Pete Seeger developed this after hearing old banjo recordings, trying to copy the sound without having seen how the instrument was played. It was only later that he adopted the frailing style himself. However, up-picking completely ruined my ability to frail and I've never been able to do it. Anyway, I started to learn Scruggs style from the tabs in the Seeger book and bought my first bluegrass LP (The Original Sound of Flatt & Scruggs - which has all their best Mercury recordings). Unfortunately, when I was a student almost everyone was into Bob Dylan and no-one had any understanding or interest in bluegrass, so I was on my own. Fortunately, in my first job, in Cambridge, I met a guy, Mike Scott, who was a great guitarist and a leading light of the Cambridge Folk Club, which was heavily into bluegrass and old timey music. I developed my playing and became more confident in playing to an audience and playing with other musicians. I was in several, relatively short-lived, bands but did the most gigs with The Eagle Mountain Boys (who nobody will have heard of). Our guitarist was Nick Barraclough, who later hosted the weekly country music programme on Radio 4, after a musical career with a number of bands, including "Telephone Bill and the Smooth Operators". I met my wife, Dorothy, who was usually in the audience when we were playing at the Cambridge Folk Club. My only claim to fame is having played on stage with Bill Clifton at the Cambridge Folk Festival one year. After we married, work and family got in the way and my playing diminished to almost (but not quite) zero. We had a reunion of the gang from the Cambridge Folk Club at the 25th anniversary of the Cambridge Folk Festival and I did a double act with Nick, including, I recall, "Are you from Dixie?" Fast forwarding now, about a quarter of a century, I retired in 2004 and have spent a lot more time playing, learning new tunes,songs, licks and, very occasionally, playing with others. I got interested in playing classical music on the banjo and now play some simple Bach pieces. We moved to Herefordshire in 2005 and I have occasionally been to the monthly jam session in the city, but have stopped going for reasons I won't write about here. I have a good friend living in the county, who is also a bluegrass enthusiast, but he doesn't play to any great extent. We've been to the US (N Carolina and Tennessee) together to visit several bluegrass festivals, including Merlefest, as well as several UK festivals. I would very much like to play more with other musicians, but so far have not found the right group of people - but I'm still looking!

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