August 2023 News Update
Tuesday, August 1, 2023
Fylde Guitars 50th anniversary
Last month I spent a very enjoyable three days with my dear friend Roger Bucknall. Rog is celebrating 50 years of guitar making this year and the birth of the FYLDE GUITAR. Rog is in my opinion the greatest guitar maker on the planet and his guitars are used by some of the finest musicians in the business including Pete Townshend.
I was there to be filmed for an upcoming documentary on the life of the great man. Whilst I was there the legendary and lovely man Martin Carthy was in attendance to contribute to his history as a FYLDE player and as these lovely photos bear witness to the joy that was shared on the day.
Here is a potted history of my life and friendship with such a special and gifted human being. I’m hoping that my memory of events is fairly accurate but if not it’s not a problem and I hope I have conveyed the essence of those wonderful early years in mine and Roger’s life.
The year was 1971.The location was the Cutty Wren folk club Southampton. I was booked to play there and if my memory serves me well I was with my bass player Alan Hall. It was either during the interval or afterwards that a very good-looking young guy came up to me and said he made guitars, and would I like to look at one he had made for himself. This I duly did, and he produced a beautifully made small classical sized body guitar with rosewood back and sides and ebony fingerboard and bridge.
Up until this time I was playing my precious John Bailey guitar. John was one of the few guitar makers around at that time along with Tony Zemaitis. I loved my Bailey guitar and judged any other guitar I played at that time alongside it and none came close UNTIL I played the guitar that was shown to me that now historical evening by a young man named Roger Bucknall! I thought at long last I have found a guitar I could love as much as the Bailey. I asked Roger if he would make me one and he agreed. This would be the start of a wonderful friendship that has lasted until this very day.
Roger at that time had graduated with a degree in engineering so he was fully equipped to know how to build a guitar with all the knowledge that entails in terms of strutting and the physical laws of stress on material especially the poundage pulls of guitar strings on a wooden body. Eventually that guitar was completed, and I guess he must have delivered it personally to my home in Southeast London. I loved that guitar to bits and wanted to share my enthusiasm with every guitar player I knew at that time like Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Al Stewart, Steve Howe, Leo Kottke to name just a few.
I remember bumping into Martin Carthy on a train down to Cornwall where I couldn’t wait to show him my beautiful new guitar. He was obviously impressed and later made contact with Rog and even entrusted him with his beloved and legendary Martin guitar to do some work on! This of course lead on to Martin buying a stunning sounding Falstaff model. I was doing a lot of teaching at this time and would be the conduit for many guitar sales to my students. Roger had now taken the plunge and formed Fylde Instruments in Kirkham Lancs.
In 1973 (pre the Kirkham days) I asked Rog if he fancied making me a twelve string with a cutaway and tapered headstock. He said that he hadn’t made one before but would give it a go. He was living in Lytham St Anne’s at the time and was working from a workshop in his garage! Once again, the guitar was finished, and this time was sent down to me in a protective hard case. I can still remember taking this thing of beauty out of its case, tuning it up and picking the first notes on this instrument. The sound that emanated was so beautiful that I started to weep and felt that I wasn’t truly worthy of such a stunning sounding guitar…I know what you must be thinking “what a big soft person I must have been at the time” …..nothing has changed in that area I’m pleased to say!
Roger very kindly used to construct the guitars he made for me with very thin tops to let the sound out because of the very light gauge strings I used at the time. Of course as time went on there was a danger that they might not stand the rigours of being on the road and later on that guitar would require some serious attention which culminated in the guitar being completely refurbished with a brand new top and re polish but this was after I sold it to a friend who approached Roger who agreed to do it although in the early days he would not have been able to undertake such work due to not physically having the time. Eventually that friend kindly returned the guitar to me and here it will stay. I used that first 12 string on my 1973 'GILTRAP' album that featured my beloved son Jamie on the cover blowing bubbles. He was a beautiful child and beautiful man and I desperately miss him as we all do since his passing in 2018. You can very clearly see that guitar on the cover where I’m desperately trying to look like Cat Stevens and failing abysmally…. grin. Later on I used it on the 'VISIONARY' album on the track 'From the Four Winds'.
I have lost count of how many of Roger’s creations I have owned over the years many of which I regretted parting with for some reason or other but you can’t keep em all or play em all! I currently own four Fylde’s and I love em. I feel honoured that my signature models are part of Roger's catalogue of bespoke instruments.
Whilst filming I was asked to sum up in a few words what Roger Bucknall and FYLDE guitars mean to me. My reply was “FYLDE guitars have a quintessentially English sound” and my comment about what Roger means to me was “A lifetime of friendship”
On a very personal and heartbreaking note... In 1979 Roger and his then wife Ann lost their beloved daughter Alex. I received a phone call from Rog telling of the tragic news and asked me if I would be one of the coffin bearers. I was deeply touched and honoured to be asked and was there on the tragic occasion. It was one of the hardest things I think I had done in my life up until that time. When my son Jamie passed away in 2018 I sold a FYLDE to pay for the funeral. Roger didn’t know this until this last visit. I think he was deeply touched that his guitars still carry a high premium and that’s what helped my daughter in law with funeral costs.
Rog has a been a constant friend throughout these past 50 years and at times I have felt a tad unworthy of his friendship for very personal reasons and also because us guitarists are a fickle lot always chopping and changing guitars trying out other guitar makers etc but none have come anywhere near as close as Rogers guitars for their noble beauty and consistency as well as superb attention to detail and playability. As I said at the opening of this paragraph Roger has been a constant friend.
I still chuckle when I see a grinning Gordon Giltrap on Top of the Pops playing a beautiful Tree of Life FYLDE now owned by Sir Cliff Richard. Heady days indeed!
Little did I know on that eventful evening way back in 1971 that the good-looking young man standing before me would become recognised as one of the greatest guitar makers in the history of the instrument.
I congratulate you Roger on your 50th year in still creating such beautiful and inspiring instruments but not only that but having the courage and determination to rise above the troubles that life has thrown your way to keep moving forward seeking perfection and excellence on your chosen path as a great creative force and an inspiration to all who have the privilege of knowing you.
You can read this month's Fylde Newsletter HERE
Exciting New Label
On Thursday the 30th of last month Paul Ward and I signed a contract with Wrecking Ball Music a small record label in Hull. I don't want to give more information at this point except to say that the first release with the label will be on Friday December 15th and the launch will be at the venue The Wrecking Ball in Hull City Centre.
Information and tickets HERE:
The venue is in fact a vinyl record shop, book shop and cafe on the ground floor with a beautiful 130-seater venue on the 1st floor which regularly promotes concerts with name artists such as Debbie Bonham, Wishbone Ash and Bob Harris. Carrie Martin launched her album there a few months ago.
All concerned with this initial release are quietly excited by it and it will be I believe a real surprise for followers of my music who I just know will love what will be on offer.
Here is a nice selection of photos taken on the day with Carrie Martin, Paul Ward and Gary and Shane from the label. Hilary would be proud!
Last month I attended two unlikely concerts for me. The first was in Manchester with The Black Keys and the later was Iron Maiden in Leeds.
The Black Keys one was because my beautiful daughter Ruth had booked tickets months ago and wanted someone to go with her. I said, “can I come?”. The visit was special because it was my grandson Tom’s birthday and so we celebrated the day with him and his lovely girlfriend Michele. I love Manchester but it has been many years since visiting the city, in fact the last time was when I was in Heathcliff way back in the mid-nineties. The weather was good that day and we had lunch together and then the company indulged me in a visit to Johnny Roadhouse Guitars, a great little shop that I hadn’t visited in years. Whilst there I was almost tempted to buy a guitar (I need another like a hole in the head) anyway, I resisted temptation.
The guitar shop visit was nice and when the staff knew who I was they wanted a pic taken but one of the staff was a bit naughty because he filmed me playing one of the staff members guitars which he later asked me to sign. This of course is all very ego massaging but who’s complaining at my age!!!!
In the evening we attended the concert. The problem with concerts in these huge stadium like venues is the sound. The band are inevitably too loud, and the sound is just a wall of distortion. The same applied to the Maiden gig. I was pleased to get nice tickets and backstage passes for the Maiden gig for my dear friend Carrie Martin, husband Darren and son Ben, sadly Ben was poorly but he was able to attend the 02 gig a week later. My main connection with Maiden is a social one as Nicko the drummer and Dave Murray one of the three excellent guitarist are friends of mine so that was nice, and it was great to catch up later at the hotel where the band were staying. Once again too loud…I’m obviously too old.