Learning our craft
The history of the band stretches back to before the war with the birth of Tony (Sonny Boy) Sands. Shunning Oxbridge, the 16 year-old, public school educated, rebel SBS “ran away to sea” - or at least to Portsmouth - to study Marine Engineering for a career as a Marine Engineer Officer with the Shell Oil Company.
In 1955 Pompey, skiffle was rife and he helped to found a five piece band playing a crude form of jazz in the streets, dance halls, carnivals and even on the back of a lorry. Having a go at tea-chest bass, banjolele, washboard, trombone, and, finally, when the seafaring was over, he learnt harmonica from Lindisfarne’s Ray Jackson.
Then 55 years of life happened.
While Tony’s 55 years were happening a schoolboy started playing jug.
Born into a musical family, with his Uncle and Grandad professional oboe players, his Aunt a pianist and his mother an opera standard singer, Neil’s first public musical performance was on drums – The Shadows “Foot Tapper”. This was followed by 18 months on the jug playing and singing in local folk clubs and parties round London and the southeast with “The Old Colonial System Tub Jug Washboard Band”.
Inspired by the jug band’s twelve-string guitarist, he bought a £5 guitar from a school friend and was banished to the garage with a copy of every guitarist’s bible (Bert Weedon’s “Play in a Day”) until he could to play it.
Back on drums for a couple of years playing with friends in a “soft-rock” church band playing mostly self-penned songs in churches and coffee bars.
Then, having been allowed back in from the garage with the mission sort of accomplished, the late sixties and early seventies saw him on guitar and vocals in a two-man, one girl, folk-rock trio playing colleges, concerts and churches.
Then 45 years of life happened.
Meanwhile a 12-year old Frank was learning guitar from his older brother, and playing The Dubliners, Donovan and Dylan at school concerts. On to playing in local folk clubs, which would have led to forming his own group, but inexplicably he joined the Air Force and it got curtailed. Though he still played occasionally career, marriage and children then brought an end to any thoughts of folk groups and his musical tastes turned 180 degrees to Jimi Hendrix and Prog. Rock.
James is the baby of the band. A “Baby Boomer in a late Gen-Xer’s body”, James had his early musical education listening to his parents’ record collection. Hours of sonic pleasure dropping the stylus on to the vinyl and taping the Top 40 off the radio.
Picking up a guitar in his teens, and adding a smattering of other instruments to his repertoire, such as piano, bass, mandolin, ukulele, foot tambourine and various percussion instruments, James first began playing publicly in a band at University where he studied Psychology and, post-graduation, music production and composition.
So with guitars, ukes, keyboards, bongos and cases of harmonicas hung on walls, in garages, in lofts, at the back of drawers and gathering dust, the four paths converged at the Thrapston U3A’s Live Music Group.
“Anyone want to take it to the next level and form a group for real gigs??”
Four hands went up, dust was blown off, guitars and musical careers were “ReStrung” and the band was born.