Chris Deuchar's Music Biography
Apart from the usual toddler developmental stuff, such as banging a tin drum, my first attempt at music was when I was sent for piano lessons with Mrs Sully. This lady lived in a small terraced house, just along the road from my primary school on the outskirts of Nottingham. Initially I was quite keen, and my parents started looking at second hand pianos, but it didn't last long. I had the very basics in my head of what dot on which line corresponded with which note on the piano - but it was a painfully slow process getting any sound out.
The next step was when I was bought a recorder, for Christmas or birthday - I forget which, by a neighbour, Miss Green, who taught at an inner city primary school and often used me as a guinea pig to try out stuff she later used in her school. I got on quite well with the recorder - especially when my father bought one too and we learnt together. This greatly helped with my understanding of 'the dots'. I decided to give up the piano. Mrs Sully could barely conceal her contempt when she learned that I had changed to the recorder - but there you go!
My maternal grandfather was the only musician in the family up to the time when my father and I took up the recorder. My father had often voiced an interest in learning the trombone (probably due to us both being fans of trad-jazzman, George Chisholm) - but he never tried it. My grandfather on the other hand had (we understood) not only been an orchestral violinist but was also a very competent pianist. Occasionally when we visited he would give us 'a few bars' on one or the other instrument until someone told him to be quiet because they couldn't hold a conversation at the same time. As an aside, after my grandmother died, my grandfather became well known in the pubs on the east side of nottingham for his piano playing. Sadly, none of us ever knew until after he had died just how much he did. Anyway, I inherited his violin and this became my next instrument to learn to play.
At my first secondary school we had all been tested for what instrument we would like to learn. At the time, I was interested in trying the flute; but someone else apparently had 'a better lip' so I was passed over and, having my grandfathers violin meant that I was pushed in that direction. I continued with the violin, even after a change of school and a house move. One day however, my lesson was interrupted by a cacophany from the (sound-proofed!) practice room next door. We had another new arrival in school. This was 'Arfer' (I have forgotten his real name!) who had moved up from London. His was a whole different cultural background - not only from mine, but also from the north Notts school we had both ended up at. We therefore had a good deal in common! Arfer however, not only had longer hair than anyone (which he persistently washed!) but also played the guitar. It was his unauthorised guitar practice that had interrupted my violin lesson.
The next Christmas I got a guitar - nothing special but a nice, steel strung acoustic (a '222'?) which cost the huge sum of £10. This was the start of a whole new musical phase and something of a Life Changing Experience. I took to the guitar like the proverbial duck to water and welcomed learning new techniques. At this stage I still had the violin and recorder, and played them occasionally, but the violin lessons stopped...
So, starting out with the guitar, the first things I (and probably every new guitarist before or since) wanted to play were the hits of the day. In the 1960s, 'pop' music was a relatively new thing and 'youth culture' for the first time was departing from 'adult culture'. The 1960s saw a time of great social change as the age of 'flower power' dawned. Our family merely moved house again. For me, as a teenager, the obvious next step was to add an electric guitar to my instrument collection. This was an Egmond, I recall, not a name I had heard of before or since - but it was quite a nice instrument. I started to learn what would now be described as 'lead guitar'. Highlights of this era were playing solo lead in a school talent competition/revue where we put some alternative words to my 'House of the Rising Sun' backing. At a sixth-form party I remember playing Fleetwood Mac's 'Albatross'... but not much else! The drummer on that occasion was Graham Morgan - who will feature later in this discourse...
It was also while entering that same sixth-form common room one day that someone was playing an LP that resulted in another Life Changing Experience. The music in question was Fairport Convention's Liege & Lief album; track 1 - 'Come All Ye'. This was the epitome of what came to be known as 'folk rock'. I'd never heard anything like it before. I followed Fairport, and everything related to them music & band-wise, for decades thereafter. This exposed me to a more diverse mix of music which got increasingly 'folkier'. The more 'folky' it got, the more acoustic it got and so the electric guitar was sold to a classmate (Tyrell?) and I bought a mandolin. I was pleased to find that the fingering on a mandolin is the same as that as a violin (and incidentally a bazouki and tenor banjo) so I was able, for a while, to switch between the two. Graham Morgan & I found that we had similar musical tastes and started to get together to perform at school as a duo - me providing the music and Graham the vocals. Somehow a school folk club developed and somewhere along the way we moved out of school and had a couple of shows at a local youth club. As most of the members were about to leave school, Graham and I, in conjuncton with other new musical friends (eg Duncan & Maggie Greenaway, and Doug Wragg) formed 'Carlton Folk Club'.
This was a time of great development, and great fun. The early 1970s were a burgeoning time for the 'folk revival' and many people 'found their voice' - and, of course, musicianship. Graham and I initially called ourselves 'Fug' and then 'Ozark' before finally setling on 'Pendragon' - a name which lasted. We wrote many songs and peformed these and those of others, old and new, and developed quite a following.
It was through the youth club that we were invited to participate in the 'National Association of Boys Clubs' music competition - which culminated in a final at the Royal Festival Hall in London. I only vaguley remember the auditions which led up to that event. We had a huge mirror-walled dressing room to ourselves and our 'backing group' was the Band of the Irish Guards. We didn't like the idea of a backing group; much less that they would intrude on a 'song wot I wrote' so, in between the dress rehearsal and the actual performance, we changed key by a semitone! It wasn't until the last verse of the second of our two songs that they found us again and joined in - which actually worked out quite well. It was all quite an experience. We met both compere, the DJ: Ed 'Stewpot' Stewart, and star: the late Roy Castle. A very sad post-script however is that a number of the guys we met in the Band of the Irish Guards died a few months later in an IRA bomb blast.
Carlton Folk Club inevitably moved to a pub. Ours was the Windsor Castle in Carlton - since demolished and replaced by a Tesco - but the club survived. Graham, Duncan, Maggie, Doug and I were founder members along with a few others - such as Pete Dillon - we had met along the way. The club proved very popular and we had guest 'stars' each week preceded by the usual 'local talent' and a smattering of visitors. This was the way folk clubs worked in the 1970s. Some still do, but most seem to vary between the occasional guest and 'sing-around' sessions. Briefly I decided to have a go at learning the piano accordian. A colleague of my father lent me a huge, but magnificent, instrument which I was offered at a fiver. It was a bargain but not what I wanted for an accompanying instrument, so reluctantly I decided to sell my grandfather's violin to buy a smaller squeeze box. Regrettably, I couldn't get on with a piano accordion any better than I had done an upright piano a decade and a half earlier, so I gave up my grandfather's violin in vain - a decision I have regretted ever since! (If anyone finds a violin with my old initials written inside one of the f-holes - I might consider buying it back...) So, in the end I traded in the accordion for a 5-string banjo - because I was acquiring a taste for 'bluegrass' music at the time.
By this time Pendragon had gained a third member. Dave Ball joined us primarily as a guitarist but later picked up other instruments such as the mandolin. In this guise we spent several happy years playing folk clubs and pubs around Nottingham.
The photo on the left was a bit of a composite with all four of us posing for a local paper for some youth-club and folk-club connected feature about the local folk music scene in general. I still have the whole feature which tells me it was 'Friday June...' - so am unsure of the year!
Unfortunately, it reached the point where our career paths were diverging and I ended up leaving to go to teacher training college and decided to 'go solo'. In retrospect this was another mistake and I could have 'managed' my departure better (sorry guys!) but we remained friends and even met up occasionally. We had had another occasional member up to this point, Stephen Gee, who now became permanent following my departure. All four of us joined back together in the early 1970s to make our first recording on the 'Folk Nottingham Style' album which showcased most members of the local folk scene (and original vinyl LPs currently sell for about £200!). We recorded 'The Rime' which was a song Graham and I had written some years before. Normally our writing process was for Graham to come up with some words and I would fit some chords to it and thence the tune would 'develop'. The Rime was different. It had been unique in that I had written a short tune for the mandolin (I recently found the piece of paper!) which I had played to Graham on the same day that he had written some words. The two fitted perfectly.
It was at this point that my music career faltered. Starting morris dancing inroduced me to yet more music and I learned to play a passable anglo concertina. I had bought a rather poor Jones concertina in the mid 70s (see left!) but then a family friend gave me an old (1907) Lachenal which I am very fond of. Its box has an old hand-written label inside the lid, revealing the date and place of purchase, "Bought at Murdoch's High Street Chatham July 1907".
Marriages, children, jobs and DIY got in the way for the next couple of decades, so it was not until the last few years that I have started playing anything again. This was after I joined Black Pig Border and I helped out, filling in some musical gaps, on a couple of CDs with them. Visiting bike rallies (with Black Pig & others) and local pubs' rock nights, have pointed me back to my electric youth - almost back to the beginning in fact. The result is that I have now picked up another instrument - the bass guitar...
So, then we had The Undercovers! This has lasted some eight years and gone through 6 different line ups - rather too many for stability. Anyway, recently as half the band decided to go and do their own thing (it was always predictable with an age range of 43 years!) the rest of us - including some former members have been meeting in up in unadvertised locations to do other stuff.
I like to think of it as 'The Undercovers - Unplugged'. Long may it continue...
In a more 'plugged-in' way though, I am now part of Americana band: Cottonmouth - a bit different from your usual rock and roll or blues...