Growing up in the sleepy little English town of Letchworth Garden City in the 1960s, I first got interested in music while listening to the Beatles on the radio. My parents bought me an acoustic guitar when I was about 8 and I taught myself to play while simultaneously taking lessons on the recorder, piano and then later, clarinet. My music education was going along just fine until one day in 1967 I heard the Jimi Hendrix song “Purple Haze”. I had never heard sounds like that coming out of my acoustic guitar and I decided that from that day on, the electric guitar was to be the most important thing in my life. Now if only I could convince my parents to buy me one…. I eventually got my electric guitar and furiously studied the works of Hendrix, Clapton and Page, but my rock star dreams were soon put on hold when my beloved axe was burned in a fire (accidentally) set by my brother Danny. Distraught, I found solace in my old acoustic guitar which had been gathering dust in the corner. I had no idea that this incident, however tragic at the time, would prove to be a turning point in my life. I started to develop a love for the instrument, a feeling that continues to this day. Losing my electric guitar at that time proved to be a blessing - I soon found lots of inspiration in the music of Crosby Stills and Nash, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell who were all playing acoustic guitar based music. I started to carry that guitar with me everywhere I went- it became my best friend.
I knew by this time that music was my calling, and while all his friends went to college, I worked factory jobs until I landed my first musical engagement playing at an English holiday resort in the summer of 1974. After the summer was over I briefly joined a group by the name of “Principal Edwards’ Magic Theatre”, only to watch them disband a few weeks later. However, one of the members of that group recommended me to Al Stewart and I was asked to join Al’s band for a tour of England, Scotland and then the USA, starting in 1975. It was a very exciting time for me, being my first trip to America. We were opening up for artists like Linda Ronstadt, Billy Joel and Queen. To be around these musical luminaries was a great thrill for a 20 year old! That summer saw my first studio experience at the famed Abbey Road studio in London, working with Al Stewart on the “Year of the Cat” album, soon to become a million seller. This was the beginning of a musical collaboration that was to last 20 years, during which time we wrote and recorded many songs together, including Al’s 1978 Top Ten hit “Time Passages”.