Jan 2016 News update
Friday, January 1, 2016
I thought you all might be pleased to hear that I'm responding well to the treatment and the 18th of last month Hilary and I got the results of the last C Scan and without going into details it is looking promising.
The powers that be want me to continue with medication for a further three months which will result in the surgery being less invasive. So, it looks as though surgery will now be in the spring with a further three months R & R.
Roger Bucknall MBE
About a year or so back I got an e- mail from a man called Mike English, a fantastic photographer who took all those amazing images for Roger Bucknall's books. He informed me that he along with numerous people were putting forward Roger's name for the honours list.
This honour couldn't go to a finer human being.
Hilary and I are thrilled for you buddy, and Moira must be so proud as indeed are we.
Roger writes: “The cantankerous old git” awarded an MBE
Well - this was a shock.
Six weeks ago I received a letter with “OHMS” and "Cabinet Office" printed on the outside of it. Very worrying, I'd just got my driving licence clean again and I couldn't remember doing anything else wrong. I'm not going to tell you where I was when I opened the letter.
Apparently, at some future date, I have to go to Buckingham Palace, where I will be told that I am a "Member of the Order of the British Empire" that's MBE to all you lesser mortals. Then I get a medal pinned on my chest, probably by The Queen. Well I never.
When I had collected myself, I accused Moira of using her many and various connections, but she denied all knowledge, and I can always tell when Moira is fibbing - she would be useless as a spy or a politician.
So after some thought, I made one phone call, and that person was pretty useless at denying it. Giggles are a clue aren't they? Uproarious laughter is a real give away.
I managed to extract the full story: It was all started by the family of one particular musician with the help of the Heritage Crafts Association. Between them they made contact with lots of other people, who then all wrote rather nice little letters of recommendation and support. The list includes young musicians and established stars from all over, people who have worked with me, and even other guitar makers. Then I had to be secretly vetted. I would have enjoyed that if I’d known but I didn't feel a thing, what a shame.
I am told the process took about fifteen months. I don't know how they all kept it secret for so long, because I found it very hard to keep my mouth shut for six weeks. I really had no idea, but thinking back, there were a few odd little comments made over the last year - things like "Have you got your Knighthood yet Roger?” Or, after the conversation had been sneakily steered, "how would you feel if you got one of those?"
It's all coming back to me now. All those little clues that I missed. I shall be having serious words.
It does feel rather weird. I know there are lots of strong opinions about this sort of thing, particularly in the music world, and I do hope this doesn’t upset any of you. From my point of view, everyone needs acknowledgement and praise to feel good about what they do and encourage them to carry on. The people who use "my" guitars get applause every night, which must be part of why they do it, but I don’t get the chance to go on stage for applause (be thankful for that), so I see this as a pat on the back to keep me going. It’s a nice feeling and I intend to enjoy it.
The award is being given "For Services to Guitar Making, Music, and Heritage Crafts". I'm particularly pleased about the "Music" bit. That's what started it all, and kept it all going for me. The Crafts bit is a real honour as well; people that actually make things need all the encouragement they can get. It does feel a bit like when an artist on stage points me out in the audience, one part of me wants to stand up and take a bow, the other part of me wants to hide under the table. Gemini again.
I did wonder if I would be granted an annual stipend, but apparently not, and I don't even get my own castle. Moira will, no doubt, get a new hat, but we will have to buy that ourselves.
So - thank you, to all those who took part in this. I truly appreciate it. I promise that I will still speak to you, as long as when you get off your knees, you tug your forelock if you have one, and use appropriate words like "your honour, sir, your lordship etc"
If any of you have further influence, is there any chance we could get a castle? I'd be very happy with just a tiny one. As long as it’s big enough to keep Moira's hats and my head.
I’ve just realised something. Stop Press! Hold the book! I need to add another page!
Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
Roger Bucknall MBE !
My new collaborator Paul Ward came and we spent the day going through material that has been recorded over the last 12 months and material set aside for a new album project. Work is still in progress but it's all looking good.
I think since being diagnosed in June I had sort of closed off my mind to creativity and future album projects, but when Paul came to the house and played me some tracks he had been working on it was a beautiful revelation for me and it was like listening to them for the first time, and was a lovely reminder of the gift that nature has given me. It truly made my day.
The piece was called This Fathers Love, and when Roger over there in the States reads this please give our love to Ethan, Austin and Shannon and give a heartfelt thanks to her for commissioning this piece, which for me has everything. A beautiful recording, a performance that I'm proud of and additional parts from Paul that truly bring something special to the piece.
We are currently seeking a label to release the album and I would be proud to submit This Fathers Love alone to secure the deal. As you can tell I'm very proud of the piece and it isn't finished yet! Those of you who know me well understand that I have spent my musical life trying to achieve perfection and am my own harshest critic, so it makes a nice refreshing change to be delighted with something I have written and recorded.
Guitar of the Month
Isn't the internet a funny old thing!
Both Hilary and I have been complaining of late about the fact that it is getting harder and harder to find a supermarket that stocks one cup tea bags. Sainsbury's don't stock them neither do Waitrose. We went online to see what was there. I tried good old EBay and low and behold there they were so I bought a huge bag that will probably last us years, but in so doing a nice little guitar popped up for sale. There was about eight minutes to go on the bidding and the price for what it was ridiculously cheap. I thought "blow it" for a bit of fun let's go for it. You know what's coming next. Yes, I won it!
Here it is, a brand new small bodied Tanglewood guitar with AAA Engleman spruce top Lacewood back and sides, good machine heads and a nicely bound rosewood fingerboard. It was a shop that was selling it and I would guess that they didn't make much of a profit if any at the price I finally got it for.
Within a couple of days it arrived in its brand new packaging. Since owning it I have done some serious setting up! I have tweaked the truss rod, lowered the action at both ends, top nut and bridge, made a couple of mistakes with the action height and cut the top nut slots in a couple of places a bit too deep, so out comes the superglue and junior hacksaw blade again to correct these. Finally polishing and smoothing the frets.
It now plays beautifully with a new set of 11-to 52 Martin strings. It sounds lovely and is a cracking little guitar to practise on. Obviously played alongside a Fylde or an Avalon or my Vintage GG guitars it doesn't quite make it, but for the price it really is a cracker! Tanglewood are well known for producing nice midrange guitars that sound sweet and suit beginners and seasoned players alike.
This guitar is what I describe as a sofa guitar because you can really wrap your arms around it and the size is comfortable to play whilst sat in front of the TV, which really doesn't work with a larger bodied guitar. I have a beautiful little 1963 Guild that suits that purpose very well.
Like all the guitars I have owned throughout the years, I play them for a while until I decide that they aren't being played enough then I sell them, but this one I might just keep as it didn't break the bank and could even be a "holiday" guitar. You know the sort of instrument that you can throw in the back of the car in the full knowledge that it didn't cost a fortune and if was somehow damaged or stolen it wouldn't be the end if the world!
This leads us nicely on to guitar sales, which I know I mentioned last month, but since putting a posting on Facebook and my thoughts behind selling certain instruments I thought it deserved to be spoken of here in these hallowed pages and expanded on a little more.
I have always been open and honest about the guitars I sell and the reason for selling them. Obviously the main reason is for financial gain which is even more significant now in the light of current health problems. Unlike many artists that achieved a certain degree of commercial success in the past I have never made a fortune out of music, certainly not enough to retire on and live comfortably for the rest of my life. For the immediate future we need to have funds to carry us through this fallow period until I can (all being well) start earning a living again.
I have a superb new agent in place who fully understands that I have no desire to be flying round the country like before doing low profile gigs just to pay the bills. This new representative will be seeking a smaller number of quality concerts where the geography is planned and less taxing on my health. He already represents a stable of established world class artists and has told me that he would be proud to represent me. When the time is right I shall introduce him to you. All being well the live shows and my teaching should put me in good stead for the future. Let us hope so eh!
Back to the guitars
Many of the guitars I thought I would never part with, and a few of them represent a huge part of my recorded and concert history. Although they have brought me joy in the past some of them represent bad memories and are to a degree "tainted" by those memories, so much so that I had no desire to ever play them again!
It gave me great pleasure to see them go to good homes where hopefully "good" memories will be created in the hands of their new owners. I sincerely hope so.
The picture above is of a happy customer, Mark Guyatt with my Steve Toon custom.
Here is another ancient drawing from the pencil of GG for your delight.
Wood Sweat and Tears (extended)
The fabulous new edition of Roger Bucknall's book is now out there and I received my copy a few weeks back. It looks great and I'm proud to be associated with the book. For all you guitar lovers this is a must have and has got to be the ultimate coffee table book for those that love beautiful creations that sound stunning.
Steve Pilkington and I are steadily moving forward with the book and what a challenge it is for me trying to remember minute details from the past. Thankfully many of those memories are still intact. We thought we had a publisher in place but sadly he decided to pass on it for reasons of finance being just a husband and wife concern. Rejection has been a constant in my career for many years, but you just learn to cope with it and move on. When you think of great masterpieces of literature (ours isn't in that category of course) that were rejected time and time again until the right publisher came along it truly boggles the mind. To Kill a Mockingbird being a shining example.
Our pal Carrie is still battling on with her career and seeking representation. She is a great talent and deserves it, but I echo what I wrote above about rejection and even after almost fifty years in the business it's still happening, not that it's any consolation to her, but just the way it is. If anyone out there is an agent and would like to represent her then do let me know and I shall pass it on.
Hilary took this beautiful photograph of Carrie on the steps of Oriel Plas at the Llyn festival.
Hilary and I had a super time at West Hallom when I was invited to turn on the Christmas lights. Truth be told I don't think anyone really knew who I was but it didn't matter a jot because the turnout was lovely with free tea and coffee and hot minced pies. Yum Yum. A big THANKYOU to the committee for making us so welcome and the lovely gifts.
Witold Zuromski - Shady Tales
Our dear friend from Poland Piotr Wargan, told us about this lovely version of my composition Shady Tales performed by Polish guitar virtuoso Witold Zuromski. It gives me great pleasure to share this clip with you. Sadly it hasn't had many views over the years but hopefully more will see it as time goes by.
When I started out as a composer for the guitar it was always my dream that another player would think one of my compositions worthy of spending time on and performing it in public.
Over the years of course quite a few players have deemed my pieces worthy of their time to learn, perfect and then either commit to record or YouTube or perform in public.
It still gives me a great thrill when I hear another player perform one of my tunes and often bringing something of themselves to it. Here is an example of a truly great player executing Shady Tales. This was never an easy piece to play, and for someone such as Witold to play it so superbly brings joy to this old heart of mine.
I mentioned earlier about my Facebook posting about the recent guitar sale. I received a lot of lovely postings from folk and one in particular was very special from Martin Pleass whom I met a few years back at a guitar show. He is a fabulous guitarist and discerning musician and I thought it would be nice to share his words with you here...
There is no way a comment from a fan here holds a candle to the influence of your music and professionalism over the years. You are one of the great Statesmen of English guitar. Your compositions and virtuosity stand as testament to a Golden Age created by artists with no pre-conceived formulas. We'll have statues of the lot of you one day, there will be one of Renbourn, Legg and Jansch too. You put your feet up, relax and get well knowing your melodies inspire and soar above us. Remember, there will be young musicians wondering what the hell your pick and little finger are doing for a long, long time.
Dear Martin. I remember seeing play at some guitar festival years ago and was blown away by your wonderful plectrum technique. You were playing a piece by a major composer. We have met several times and each time has been a joy. Your posting just touched me VERY deeply as have all the other postings. Can’t thank you enough for your kind and indeed profound words. I look forward to the next time we are in each other's company. Be well and THANKYOU.
Happy New Year
Well when I was putting up the Christmas tree in December 2014, I had no idea what 2015 had I store for me! The good news is that I'm still here and consider myself very fortunate to be so. A few years back I did a funny little gig in a cowshed in Wales and the following day gave a guitar workshop in the very same shed. A lovely chap called Dan Murray attended and we got on well. He told me that I had been a huge influence on his playing, and he asked me to play Roots which I did. He then played and sang some of his own songs and they were really good, and his voice was great.
We communicated for a while on Twitter. I then heard from a friend of his via a posting on FB that he had died. I was both shocked and saddened by this news because he was a relatively young man. He has left behind a wife and young children. My heart goes out to his friends and family and the many whose lives have been cut short by this damn thing called cancer. There are a few clips of Dan on YouTube playing his lovely slide guitar.
So we all try to live the day and focus on what is truly the important things, and we all know what they are.
Hilary and I wish you much love and good health for 2016.P.S. I'm so pleased that my lovely daughter Sadie has returned home safe and sound after her three month trip to Thailand. As parents regardless of our children's ages we still worry about them don't we!