A Multi-Talented Free Spirit
The first instrument I played was a ukulele, at age 8, in grade 4 at Newmarket State School, Brisbane, Queensland Australia. I learnt to strum using a little green plectrum while forming chords, understanding that you really only need three chords to play a whole stack of tunes such as, Way Down Upon the Swanee River, Little Brown Jug and Waltzing Matilda. Tuning the ukulele taught me pitch, as I tuned by ear singing the four string notes to My, Dog, Has, Fleas. By the end of the year, I was into solo performances in class and at church socials. However, this wasn't something that I maintained.
At the age of 15, I decided to get into harmonica playing, starting off with a Hohner Marine Band, playing by ear, melodies and simple little tunes I created. A couple of years later I was inspired by a mate, Rob Davies, to get into the shorter, Hohner harmonicas. This gave me the opportunity to use both hands to cup, waiver and bend notes. I bought a few different keys so I could play along with some of my favourite records such as Neil Young, John Mayall, the Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band and Bob Dylan. I had no real understanding of how it worked, I just knew that some keys worked with different songs, so I wrote the key next to the song titles on the albums. I used to love taking a harp out of my pocket and playing whenever I felt the urge, especially when the acoustics were excellent, such as in rail tunnels.
I have always loved playing with other musicians, but they’re not always around. I figured the best thing to do was to get one of those harmonica holders and play along with my own guitar work. Around about this time I started teaching myself to play three chords on my eldest brother Derek's acoustic guitar. I can't recall playing any particular songs, just tunes I created that allowed me to sync guitar with harmonica. I created my first song, Gonna Go Out Bush and recorded this on my reel to reel tape recorder.
All this went on hold when I started teaching. However, I had the opportunity to teach myself to play bass on a second-hand Fender Music Master, which I purchased, along with a new Kustom II bass amp, in 1980. This was the Free Time Band, formed in St George in 1980. I co-wrote and sang, You're in the Free Time Band and What If You Just Don't Care.
It wasn't till I was married to Trish, that I picked up her acoustic guitar, got a Neil Young Songbook and started playing again.
The next band opportunity arose in 1989, when I was helping out some students at Monto State High, who wanted to form a band. I provided bass, harmonica and vocals for Nomadics until I moved to Townsville in July 1990 to finish off my post Graduate Diploma at James Cook University. Here I played the harmonica with a bunch of fellow students in a band called Hegamonics. The following year I moved to Yarrabah where I taught at the high top. Here I played the harmonica for the Guyala Band. I also had the opportunity to rekindle my friendship with Barry Cedric, who soon had me playing guest appearances on harmonica for his band Pituri. Later, I assisted Barry as manager, harmonica player and backing vocalist for The Dreamtime project. After I left Yarrabah at the end of 1993 it wasn't until I moved to Cherbourg State School in 2000, to become the music teacher that I linked up with local musicians again.
In 2004, I finally teamed up with Steven Hart to support him on harmonica at the Woodford Folk Festival. One year later I arranged for my eldest son, Mathew, to play bass in The Steven Hart band. We have played pretty much every second year at Woodford since then. In 2018 we recorded an album of 12 songs at Josephson Records, Yeronga, Brisbane. At the same time, I recorded another 12 songs which became my solo album, Nurtured in the Wild.