My mum played the piano, taught by the nuns in the ‘30s. My dad played theatre organ and chromatic harmonica as a hobby but was taught the cello as a youngster. My five older brothers were avid record buyers when I was growing up.
Between theirs and my parents’ record collections I was surrounded by a world of great music – Louis Armstrong, The Beatles, Brother Jack MacDuff, Larry Adler, Stephane Grapelli, The Kinks, Ella Fitzgerald, Cat Stevens, Beethoven, Leon Russell, Little Richard et al. In our lounge room there was a piano, Hammond organ, drumkit, guitar, accordion, harmonicas, a record player – I was 12 years old and didn’t stand a chance.
But I was a willing victim. Discovering how music was put together with the aid of a guitar and turntable introduced me to an inner life. It gave me a language – chords, words, tempo, rhythm, dynamics, empathy – with which I could conduct a dialogue with other musicians and, ultimately, an audience.
I believe in a social compact. The plumber comes and fixes my drain, on Saturday night he brings his girlfriend to my gig and together we take a journey.
“Music is an international language and everybody understands” – so said Louis Armstrong and he can’t be wrong, he was the King of Swing.