Anyone calling at the New Inn in Derby Street Hanley will immediately gather that the landlord, Les, is an Elvis Presley fan.
There are more pictures of the legendary American yodelling dood on the walls of the New Inn’s back room than I have ever seen outside of books on Elvis Presley.
StringFing played that room last night as one of its regular 3rd Thursday of the month gigs there.
After StringFing had set up, we were having a drink and I was looking at the Elvis-covered walls and thinking, ‘I bet this is exactly what the inside of Les’s mind looks like,’ when who should walk through the door but . . . John Lindley.
Soz to all those of you who thought it was going to be Elvis, but he really is dead, you know.
John Lindley has a permanent open invitation to come along on StringFing nights to read for us - he’d be welcome anyway, of course. But, until last night, he hadn’t been able to get there. He’s a busy guy, John; much in demand. He would be. He’s more than a little bit good at what he does.
After StringFing's first set, in which we included a version of Matty Groves - we like to include one traditional song each time out - John did just one poem for us. And John being John, it was exactly the right poem in exactly the right place at exactly the right time: a new poem of his, a long, long poem: God Bless Elvis Presley.
I haven’t checked the title so, for all I know, John might call it something different, but that’ll do for me. That is certainly the refrain of the piece and, I tell you, it is a tour de force of writing; a magnificent, secular hymn to life and love; to earthly struggles and to triumphs of the spirit. John’s reading of it was inspired and inspiring. Breath-taking stuff.
Our audiences have been fewer these last couple of times at the New Inn. We’ve been hammering it a bit locally, and it’s start of the holiday season and those factors have had an effect on attendance. Those of you who didn’t show up, though, missed a treat, several treats, in fact.
We were one lucky bunch of doods gathered in that room.
Next up, Pete Latham played for us.
I’ve heard Pete a lot of times over the years and I don’t do the blues thing myself anymore, but when I did do it, I lived and breathed it as a self-taught blues and boogie piano player, there at the birth of the British blues.
I cut my musical teeth at the feet of its founding fathers: Alexis Korner, Cyril Davis. I’ve played with British blues legends such Tony McPhee, Eric Clapton, and John Mayall as well as some of the world’s greatest exponents like Screaming Jay Hawkins, Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. I know what I am listening to. I know the difference between the phoney and the phoned. Pete's always good, but last night, Pete Latham played beautifully; BEA-U-TIFULLY.
Pete’s laid-back rendition of How Long Blues, was the tenderest, most soulful exploration of the riches of that song since Leroy Carr recorded his version of it on Vocalion Records in 1928 with Scrapper Blackwell. I take my fedora off to you Pete.
As if all of that was nay enough, my Lynda had contacted a mouth harp player, Purcy, via FaceBook and he came down to the New Inn as well.
Our great friend, wine expert/bluesman/singer-songwriter and all-round thoroughly lovely bloke, Jimmy Gillespie, invited Lynda and I to his recent birthday party at the Leopard in Burslem. There was much music making. There always is around Jimmy. Purcy was amongst several mighty fine harp players there. It was good to see him again.
Purcy is a sharp-dressed fella and a mean, mean harp player. He and Pete had an immediate blues-brotherly rapport and knocked us out with some of the finest blues wailing ever blues wailed round these ‘ere parts.
I can’t leave out Adam and Emily either. They were at the top of their game. They always are outstanding, ain't they? They are recognised as having raised the bar for the playing of Anglo-Celtic traditional music and its off spring.
For the record, to correct what I sometimes hear said, and sometimes see in print, Adam Fenn is neither my mandolin player nor is Emily Tellwright my cello player. They are both their own people in their own independent right with complex musical lives of their own. I am fortunate that they both agree to include me in their continuing musical adventures.
My thanks to Adam and Emily. My thanks to Pete and Purcy. My thanks to John. My thanks to Les and Yvonne of the New Inn. My thanks to everyone who came along to listen last night.
Uh, huh, may your gods bless you each and all, and to paraphrase a line of John’s poem: God bless Elvis Presley, and God bless God too if God exists.
Till next time, travel safe.