Eagle flies on Friday…

It’s coming up to the first Friday of the month so we’ll be playing our usual gig at the Squirrel in Maida Hill. Last week saw Sean Taylor, guitarist, singer/songwriter performing there with a drummer whose name I didn’t catch but who was very interesting, given that he also plays in concert orchestras, so it was good to hear his technique in a different context. Steve was also on the case and I enjoyed the evening more than I had expected to do.

The bands have been changing recently but the music continues every Friday and there might be more regular nights but that’s only an idea at present. A few other excursions to pubs have included the re-opened Cock and Bottle in Artesian Road and Finch’s and The Castle on the Bello, plus the newly named Red Lemon on All Saints Road.

On Tuesday Gigi and I went down to The South Bank for a stroll. It was more of a stroll than we had expected because the bus terminated prematurely in Regent Street and not Trafalgar Square. I think I probably lost a pound or two as a result of the unintended exercise, but we enjoyed the trip. Yes of course it included wine…

Summertime blues

For the latest gig at the Squirrel, we had Neil Littman depping for our regular drummer Mel Wright. Mel will be back for this Friday’s gig there. The gig was well received and we even had a couple of extra singers with the presence of Bonnie Taylor and Carmen Carr.. Incidentally, Carmen’s band the Red Roosters are doing a gig at a wedding on the day before our Squirrel gig and she has invited me to join the band, so that should be interesting.

The last time I did a wedding gig, they were all wearing kilts…well not all, they hadn’t asked the band to do that. However that was a long time ago but I can still remember some of it. I shall not explain why I can’t remember more of it but anyone who regularly reads this blog will be able to hazard a reasonable guess.

There has been a change of management at the Squirrel with the departure of Jason to pastures new. He is moving to Dorking, to I believe the King’s Arms, so no doubt I will be down that way sometime soon. Matt from The Warrington has been supervising the transition to the new manager who is due there imminently.

The music is continuing on Fridays and we are there as I mentioned, on the 3rd July. This is intended to be a regular first Friday of the month gig. The line-up will be Alan Vincent and Jon T-bone Taylor on guitars, Steve Taylor on bass and Mel Wright drums as mentioned earlier. I personally could do without the heat wave and I don’t think drinking water is a sufficient counter to it. We’ll see.

Monarch of the bend…

Sad to see the end of another great blues career. The one and only B. B. King is gone and his place won’t be filled, that’s for sure. The original less-is-more guitarist has left a great legacy via his recordings and memories of his live performances. There will be tributes galore and well justified. He lived through great change in the acceptance of the blues outside the black community and we have all benefited. Long may his spirit live on.

On a more mundane level, there are some changes in the forthcoming Squirrel gigs with the July 31st date brought forward to Friday the 3rd and following ones will be on the first Friday of each month. However the next performance is still on June 19th. Hope to see you there.

Old-timers

The gig at the Squirrel went well and it was good to see Brian Neville again. He turned up with a couple of large photographs of me on stage at the Hundred Club on what must have been my 65th birthday bash there. The original photos were taken by Jimmy Appudurai-Chua and when the landlord of the Squirrel saw them he commandeered one for the pub. It now hangs in a frame on the wall there. I didn’t make the blues hall of fame but I am number one in the Squirrel Hall of Fame. I didn’t realise I was so good looking, (Actually I know someone who still thinks I am.)

Talking of Gigi, she and I went to an exhibition of drawings and paintings where we ran into John A Liammari from Yonkers, New York. He played in a club there back in the day on piano with Frank Sinatra. I had to leave early but Gigi stayed on and then went to the Squirrel with John and his daughter and a group of friends. The outcome of that evening was that we arranged to meet up again before John returned to the States.

The reason I left early, was to meet up with Chris Youlden and Jon T-bone Taylor at the Spread Eagle in Camden. We had a quick drink there then went on to The Jazz Café Where we enjoyed the Bettye Lavette concert. She has a great bunch of musicians backing her and as usual was well received. After the show we ended up at the Camden Eye for last knockings. No surprise there then,

A couple of days later Gigi and I met up at the 606 Club in Lots Road. There we joined John Liammari and the group from the art exhibition. There was a modern jazz piano-led trio, again an excellent group of musicians. After the last set John got up and did a rousing medley in contrast to the previous music. He is 91 and still got it. Another enjoyable evening.

After all this carousing my penance was in the form of going without heating for three weeks due to an erratic boiler.(I’ve met some of them in my life) Apparently the fan in it was faulty but I’m still waiting. Perhaps they’ll finally turn up as promised. Of course the weather has finally improved and I’ve saved on my gas bill. It can’t all be bad.
Boiler

The blues ain’t nothin…

After receiving a number of enquiries concerning Chris Youlden I met up with him for a drink. He’s still having problems with his leg ulcers but we had a good catch-up in his local. Unfortunately he still finds it hard to travel much though we will be going to see Bettye Lavette at Camden soon.

I went to “Ain’t nothing but…” in Kingly Street the other day and caught up with Matt Radford and the Blues Legends. It’s a really cooking band and I had an enjoyable evening. I also was glad to see Rob running the place again and also was pleased to say hello to Kevin, the first time for ages. I must get down there more often.

I’m playing at The Squirrel again this Friday with the usual line-up. Al; Vincent and Jon t-bone Taylor on guitars, Steve Taylor on bass and Mel Wright on drums. We have been promised a couple of songs from jazz singer Miss Valentine who also does a session there once a month so it looks like turning into a good evening as there might be one or two other people sitting in.

Digital nemesis

I never seem to get it with Facebook. Mind that’s because I didn’t bother with it until recently. Likewise Linked-in. I merely joined these things because people suggested they were useful. They omitted to tell me they are useful if you understand how to use them effectively. My problem is that every time I want to respond to something or some-one on either, I’m constantly being asked for my password, which obviously I forget more often than I remember. There’s probably a simple solution to this but so far I haven’t sorted it. The bottom line is that I sometimes leave it too late to respond to requests and lose the chance to do so. So anyone who hasn’t received an adequate response so far, deserves an apology, but then I’d have to know my password or get another one…and I actually am in favour of the digital age, or at least until some clown on a mobile steps in front of me when I’m driving. Whilst I may possibly conceive that I would assist a suicide if necessary, I’d like to be asked first.

Well, wasn’t that little paragraph a change from my usual description of my various pub crawls. Suffice to say that I have been doing the usual rounds. Why, only the other day I proceeded on one starting at the Cock and Bottle, well almost, because when I got there it was to find it closed for refurbishment. I dread to think what will produce. On then to Finch’s in Portobello Road and then to The Castle likewise. Met a few auld acquaintances before making my way homewards via The Metropolitan and The Squirrel, where I will be playing next week, on Friday the 13th just before Valentine’s night. So all those people who worry about being unlucky on Friday the 13th will probably be just as unlucky on Valentine’s night too. That’s why we need to keep pubs viable so they have somewhere to drown their sorrows. And me a cynical optimist. Here’s no accounting for distaste…time for a drink!

Squirrel cancellation.

Had a great Christmas day with family and friends and was looking forward to the Boxing Day gig at the Squirrel. When I loaded my car it was pouring with rain so I moved it to a parking spot outside the pub early in the afternoon and walked back home, getting soaked in the process. However about seven o’clock I was told that they were trying to get hold of me.

I called the Squirrel and was told they were cancelling the gig as there was no-one in the pub and they hadn’t done any good all day.. I then tried to get hold of the various musicians, some of whom were already on their way. Eventually I managed to get them turned around and that was that.

The next day Gigi and I were in the pub and Jason, the manager apologised and gave us another gig. That will be on Friday January 16th at 9 in the evening, The band will be Alan Vincent on guitar, Jon T-bone Taylor, guitar, Steve Taylor, Bass, Mel Wright on drums and myself on vocals and harp. My apologies to anyone who turned up and I hope you can make it next time.

Yesterday I had to go to hospital to get a couple of Injections in my shoulders to ease the pain from torn ligaments…too much lifting of heavy PA speakers, I guess. I wish everyone a great New Year’s Eve celebration and hope you all have a beneficial year ahead. I might even make a resolution or two.

Hopalong to the hop

I managed somehow to get a badly infected big toe a few weeks ago so I hobbled along to a nearby walk-in, or should I say limp-in, clinic. They diagnosed an in-growing toe nail and said I should toddle along to another walk-in clinic at 8a.m. the next day, in Parsons Green, my old stamping ground from my earliest days in London. Here, after battling through the Monday morning rush hour, the diagnosis was an infection and the treatment was a dose of antibiotics. Ah the benefits of a second opinion.

The treatment worked well and the pain receded after a few days and I was able to walk normally, though the calf muscles had cramped up so much during the time when I was trying to decide whether I was hobbling, limping or attempting to emulate the funny walks brigade. I was due to return for a follow-up visit on the Monday but on Friday I was in a lot of pain in my chest and back and finally was persuaded by friends and family and a phone call from a GP, that I should go along to an accident and emergencies department, which I duly did.

They took my blood pressure which was 193 or thereabouts and decided to run me through the mill with blood tests, X-rays ECG scans, Ultrasound scans and yet more blood tests. I have a heart problem which gets checked every year, so they were pretty thorough and finally decided that I wasn’t having a heart attack or anything that necessitated keeping me in overnight, so after about six hours I was released and got to The Squirrel pub in time for the last few numbers of the band and time to say hello to Chris Hunt. Pain killers did the trick over the weekend and by Monday I was fit enough to return to the Parsons |Green clinic where they gave me the all-clear. As I went after the rush hour I was able to celebrate in the pub next door, The White Horse, another old haunt of mine.

The following weekend, I met up with Chris Youlden for a drink and we compared health notes as he had had a few incidents in his ongoing leg treatment, part of which meant limping along to an unscheduled clinic visit to get new bandages and dressings for his leg as his regular nurse was away, I also was able to let him hear one of his songs on my I-pad which has been covered by Bettye Lavette and will be released in January. Finally, continuing the music theme, I am playing every six weeks at the Squirrel (see events), The next two gigs are on Boxing Day and Friday the 13th of February. Is some-one trying to tell me something?

Save the last Dance for me

Went for a drink with Chris Youlden a couple of weeks ago. He is more mobile than he has been for a while and he only visits the surgery once a month now. He still has to do leg exercise and spends about half an hour doing the dressing on his leg which is a bit of a chore, but he is enjoying the improvement and has also shaken of the flu-like symptoms he was suffering from. I’ll be meeting with him soon.

The gig this Friday at the Squirrel pub on the corner of my road starts at 8.30pm and the band consists of Alan Vincent and Jon T-bone Taylor on guitars, Steve Taylor on Bass, Mel Wright on drums and myself on vocals and harp. Details are in the events section of this site. Looking forward to it. The Squirrel has a new manager and things are picking up again. My God I even participated in a Salsa class there. Mind, it seems to be hindering my normal way of dancing, the style I don’t do on stage. Aren’t you pleased…

Whose Party?

My birthday bash went so well that we’ve been booked back at the Squirrel again. I’d like to thank everyone who turned up and hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. The Band line-up was Alan Vincent and Jon T-bone Taylor on guitars, Steve Taylor on Bass and Mel Wright on drums. I’d had a flu jab a few days before and was expecting to be bothered with a bout of coughing every time I played harp or sang, but was relieved that it didn’t happen. Steve’s wife Bonny sat in on a couple of songs and Brian Diprose did a spot on Bass. Dave Noall was over from America where he has recently been granted American citizenship, so he sat in on a couple of numbers, one just with me on harp and the other with the whole band.

Chris Youlden had intended coming but he phoned me on the day and sounded terrible with a really bad cough. .As I’m going down to meet him for a drink and a catch-up on the coming Friday I hope that he has got over it by then. We were hoping that Mel Wright might make it too but he’s got a prior engagement so it will have to be another time for him. He’ll be playing at the squirrel gig anyway on the 14th 0f November so if we don’t get together before then, then so be it. I’ll use the same line-up for the gig. Incidentally, the Squirrel is now doing regular Friday night live music, so I won’t have to do much travelling to hear some.

Finally, for all those poor politicians who don’t know what to do about UKIP, given that party’s foreign policy is to stop all aid to third world countries, may I suggest a slogan for the main parties: VOTE UKIP – GET EBOLA.

A leak in time…

I will be having my seventy-seventh birthday bash on the evening of Saturday 4th October at the Squirrel pub on the junction of Elgin and Chippenham roads in Maida Hill W9 2AF. The band will be playing between 9.30 and 11.30 though undoubtedly we will have to break for the occasional drink. My actual birthday is on the Thursday before, though I don’t have any plans to spend the two intervening days in any particular celebration, well maybe the odd pint or two…

Dave, who used to book us at the Inn On The Green on Portobello Green, celebrated his birthday too recently and I was all set to join him and his guests when the roof fell in. Actually it was the ceiling in the toilet which fortunately no-one was using at the time. I had to wait in for hours until someone was able to come and make the ceiling safe, then a further wait, by this time in the dark, for an electrician to make safe the light and switch etc. So, no party then.

Actually that collapse was caused by a small continuous leak from the bathroom upstairs. I’ve waited for two weeks to get the leak fixed. Today someone was supposed to come and sort it, but of course I’m still waiting. They didn’t turn up, so another week or so then maybe another wait for the ceiling to be replaced, then perhaps another week or three before the electrics are sorted. Ah the pleasures of not being in control.

Day Tripper

I’ve had a busy week for a change. It started with a visit to Round Midnight where I enjoyed Rollo Markee’s gig with some tasty harp and vocals. The following day, as Gigi had a few days off, we decided to become tourists to London and visit places I haven’t got a round to seeing in my fifty-odd years of living here. Not that most of them were actually here fifty years ago.

First off, we took a tube to tower Hill and visited the Tower of London poppy display in honour of the first world war troops from all over the commonwealth who died in that war to end all wars. The post war carve-up of land of the Ottoman empire, the Levant and middle east, of course, led to the continuing conflict there to this day. Also the ridiculously severe punishment of defeated Germany led to the rise of Hitler and world war two. Any lessons learned? Look at Ukraine and Russia…as Homer Simpson would say…Doh!

After viewing and photographing the display, we decided to walk along the river, The River Walk has a few small detours but is well laid out with great views of the river, the riverside developments and the bridges. Lots more tourist photography ensued. Finally we reached the Millennium Bridge and walked over it for the first time. I think it might have been interesting if we’d done it before they fixed the wobble, but it was still another tick on the tourist box. We ended the day by visiting the Matisse exhibition at the New Tate Gallery. A satisfactory end to the day.

After all the previous day’s walking, day two of the tour started later than usual with a visit to Rupert Street in Soho, starting with a drink in the Blue Post and the a meal in the nearby Palomar restaurant, a hive of activity. The place is extraordinarily welcoming, the staff enjoy a laugh and whilst the place can seem hectic, it actually is great fun. A member of staff named Tom made us feel immediately at home and most businesses could learn a thing or two about interplay between the staff making the place buzz and extremely encouraging to the customers.

After that we called in at the Ain’t Nothin’ But blues bar for a half hour . It was jam night and the house band were sounding good, but we had overdone it with booze, surprise, surprise, so we made our way home. After all, the next day had already been planned.

Back to the river again for a trip on the Thames Clipper to North Greenwich. Whilst being on the river was nothing new, the fact of using it for transport rather than pleasure had a certain interest. As ever, a river trip always brings some spectacle or other, even though it may only be from the clouds and the weather. Nevertheless, it was pleasurable too. And so to Emirates Airways…the cable car trip over to the other side.

This was one of those occasions when I didn’t have to wait for fifty years before I deigned to investigate. We took our place on the continuously moving car, a bit like getting on a ski lift but much smoother and easier and more comfortable. The crossing was effortless and full of viewing opportunities of the historic dockside part of London’s working river. Time for more touristy photo shoots. Once on the other side at Royal Dock, we did a bit of exploring but ignored the various bars and eating places and settled on a small kiosk selling Chinese food. We were directed to a nearby outdoor table to await our order, expecting it to arrive quickly, but were surprised and pleased that the food was cooked from scratch and so took longer. Another nice little touch of good food and good service.

We then returned via cable car to North Greenwich, though strangely, we ended up in a car which swayed continuously, unlike all the others we passed, then took the river bus back to Embankment. This journey, being in rush hour, was much quicker than the midday trip, with the turnaround at the various wharfs, very slick and impressive. After disembarking, we had the essential visit to a nearby pub, in this case the Ship and Shovel, before the journey home. Ah, the tourist life…and to think it’s carnival time this weekend…