I finished school at the age of 15, I talked to my Dad about being a musician, but it wasn’t taken seriously and took an engineering job as an apprentice in the Glenfield and Kennedy in Kilmarnock in August 1966. Once again I was somewhere I didn’t want to be, one thing I did learn in the factory, was how to grow-up fast. I could tell you so much about my years in the factory but I will concentrate on how I kept on progressing with my music career.
In the factory I met my best friend Brian Sloan, a fellow apprentice, we hit it off right away because we both played the accordion, and we started to practice together at his house. We were asked to play at a local wedding held in a community centre, and we played dance music the whole night on the accordions, it was a long gig about 3 hours, and we had to repeat some of the dances in the first set, but nobody seemed to mind. When we did the next practice at Brian’s home I took my guitar, and he was totally up for this, because we could mix the sets with me on guitar and vocal, this would avoid any repetition of numbers being played at a gig. We also added a drummer about this time but he didn’t work out, and found another who did the job. Weddings seemed to be what we would be doing, but life is not as simple as that!
I was still practicing about 2 to 3 hours a night, and I was progressing fast, I now added Farfisa keyboard, and taught my self to play it, I also bought an electronic accordion called a Transicord. In 1967 I was working in the Plough Inn, Ayr Thursday nights, and Tuesday nights in a lounge in Kilmarnock. I was also offered a one year contract in the Cinderella Hotel in Hurlford for one year, which was, Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday afternoon and Sunday night, which was six regular gigs a week. I was now earning more money from gigs than the men were earning 40 hours a week in the factory, I gave my mother my wage from the day job. This all sounds great, which it was for me, but Brian and especially his family saw this as disloyalty, which I didn’t agree with at the time, but can understand now that I’m older and wiser.
The Beatles were at their peak, about this time, and I had learned some of the songs, but I found it difficult to sing as high as they could and simply changed the key so I could sing them. I now know that I’ve got a tenor vocal range, and Paul and John would also go into falsetto, which I discovered much later. It is very difficult to impress on the generation now just how influential the Beatles were, they were a global phenomenon, but in the UK we saw them as belonging to us or to our generation. The urge to be a songwriter happened at this time, and I took my first steps to be a songwriter, it felt good, but I new I had a lot to learn .
This was my point of no return, I was going to be a musician and a songwriter, I just had to serve my time as an apprentice.
I could only find one photo when I was about this age. I can guess my age because of all the hair! Sorry its not a great pic.
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