Thursday, 25 August 2016

Cigar Box boogie

Afternoon Strumpets,

I picked up a cigar box starter kit at the Deer Shed Festival this year from Chicken Bone John for a ridiculously cheap price, (check out his website below, it is rather wonderful).  I've tried slide before, but have never been able to get away with thinking that I was wrecking a perfectly good guitar so have held back when playing, which is kind of against the point of playing slide.  Although the kit came equipped with a perfectly good glass bottle neck I found I preferred playing with the longer steel slide I had previously purchased.

Anyhow here's a couple of demos of something I've been building.  One with my son and his mate playing FIFA 16 in the background and scoring a goal, one without.

Hope you like and please let me know what you think, either on here or on the soundcloud thingamajig.

Till the next one,

Learn something new,


Monday, 22 August 2016

Brain Teeser 1. Andrew Johnson

Afternoon Strumpets.

A couple of months ago I was thinking about the talented people who inhabit this part of the third marble from the Tolley, which in turn got me thinking about the various conversations I'd had with them over a couple of beers waiting to either go on and play or be entertained by others.  Some of the conversations had been of great depth and meaning, some were as facile as sifting sand.  I wanted a way to get these discussions onto a forum.  Hence the Brain Teeser!

My first Teeser is the rather wonderful Andrew Johnson, a gentleman who I and The Charmers (as well as the Broken Broadcast) have had the privilege to play for, with, and alongside.  He promotes local music, has been involved in Musical Theatre, and with his bands "The Southmartins" and "Cherry Head Cherry Heart" has provided many a dance and singalong for the good folks of Teesside and beyond.  Links are below.

Cherry Head Cherry Heart

The Southmartins

So, good people, let's start by asking

Laurel and Hardy or Morecambe and Wise?

Laurel and Hardy. The wit and slapstick still has me in creases and without them Morecambe and Wise, as much as I love them, wouldn't have been the same.

Except your own front room where is your favourite place to be in Teesside.

Favourite place is in a venue either watching a performance or performing myself. Failing that It'll be eating fish and chips in Saltburn

Out of all the Star Wars movies, which one and why?

I know it's cool to say Empire but it's probably A New Hope. It's the only one that's really self-contained and it was such a huge thing when I was a kid. You get older and more cynical so the darker pull of Empire and even Revenge of The Sith is there but the first one has a perfect balance of light and shade.

What do you think of the Teesside accent?

I love the Teesside accent. It's a good "piss taker" accent and I think that's what I've done most of my life!

What’s your dream gig?

I'm slowly ticking off my bucket list of gigs to see. Beck was amazing last week. In terms of a dream gig to perform at I guess it would be one playing my own stuff, either solo or as part of a band and having people sing it back to me. You know you've really created something and connected then but I like performing and making that connection even if it's not my own material. It's just as valid if people enjoy it.

Little or Large?

Hmmm. It depends on what you’re talking about. If it’s the comedy duo then I reckon they really don’t work in isolation and only just together. If you’re talking about food then I tend to aim for little but end up going large if it’s there in front of me. In terms of what I’m attracted to in the opposite sex then a little on the large side is no bad thing in my book.

What was your first public performance? 

The first that I very vaguely remember was when I must have been about 4 and I played a Santa Claus in a school Christmas production. I remember it possibly because a photo of me existed somewhere and my nan always commented on my scuffed shoes! I also remember mimicking a friend of mine and making people laugh about the same age.

Are you nicer than Bob Fisher and if so, which I doubt, Prove it!

No I’m not nicer than Bob Fischer and I can prove it.

On a scale of minus 10 to plus 10 what is your belly button?

Probably about -8 (as in 80% IN). It’s pretty cavernous depending on my fluctuating weight of course. I’m trying to get a (love)handle on that.

When was the last time you were excited about a piece of music?

I get excited about new music (or music new to me) all the time. I reckon the last time I really flipped over something was when I finally ‘discovered” Harry Nilsson. I’d bought an “Essential” collection on a whim in HMV one day and it sat in my car, unplayed, for months. I finally decided to give it a go on the way back from a gig and I was like “Why do I not know this music?!”. It’s like finding another Beatles. I tend to get a bit obsessive about acts and so I went bought a box set of every album, plus books, DVD etc etc.

 What was your first cinema experience?

The first I remember was Star Wars. Genuinely. I was born in 1971 so I was prime fodder for it. I’d never heard of it until a friend of mine brought a book to school that he’d bought at the cinema when he went to see it and it just looked so exotic and unlike anything we’d seen before. And it was. Changed my life. Helped you look beyond your own boundaries as a kid. It was like our internet.

If there is such a thing as bliss, what is it?

Bliss for me can be many things but the prime conditions are that I’m immersed in doing something I love. That can be alone or with others. I’m not sure where this is going but my mind is getting a bit carried away…

How old were you when you first swore and what was the swear word?

I remember “bum” and “botter” being early words that were used by our group of friends. I probably got told off for saying “willy” instead of tail or something. I don’t really remember. I do remember hearing the word “fuck” for the first time from one of my sister’s older friends and I laughed out loud, it was such an abrupt, unusual word.

Worst gig experience?

Anything dull, tuneless or wrapped up in its own musicality. I did see a local act at a Stockton Weekender in the last couple of years of it that I found achingly boring and wondered why on earth they were there. Clearly good players but the quality of songs was turgid. Can’t name them though

What would you tell your 16 year old self if you met them in a pub back then?

 “Just fucking do it!”

Would you tell a friend they had a bogey showing whilst talking to them?

Yes. For my own benefit. It’s hideously hypnotic to have to look at, as is food.

What would you rather lose?  Sight or hearing? 

Argh! I’ve had damaged hearing for years now really from dancing, deejaying and rock’n’roll so I can kind of handle that but if it went totally I’d be gutted. I’ve always had pretty much 20/20 vision and I’m a decent artist, particularly portraits. It’s just starting to go a little bit so that’s affected me as I expected it to always be there so even though I’m more involved with music I accept that hearing is going to suffer but the eyes! Not the eyes!

Where are you playing coming up?

All over. Hartlepool Town Hall with The Southmartins then on to our tour of o2 Academy venues in Glasgow, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Birmingham and Islington. With Cherry Head, Cherry Heart we’re doing a very, very special local album launch on 14th October (full launch next year). It’s a gig at an amazing secret venue, never before used and the audience won’t know where it is until they’re taken there (tickets from Very exciting and the album is sounding amazing too.

Who would you like me to ask to be Brain Teesed next?

Rob Nichols.

And that's it.

I hope you have enjoyed reading the Teeser and until the next one,

learn something new,


Saturday, 20 August 2016

Back to Life, Back to Reality.

Afternoon Strumpets,

Apologies for lack of posts over the last couple of years, it would be very easy to blame life situations, work commitments, busy schedules etc, but the truth is I felt like I'd bored the living bejesus out of you all.

A couple of weeks ago my Dad passed away after a long battle with dementia, and a bad fall.  I've had so much love and support from family and friends which has really helped and one of the things I was working on before his final battle was a questionnaire which I asked local musicians from the Teesside area a number of random enquiries.  I was going to set up a new blogspot when I thought hang on, I already have a perfectly good one in place already.

So I'm back.  The first Brain Teeser (see, see what I did there), will be going on over the next couple of days so until then,

learn something new,


Saturday, 2 August 2014

That's all Volks!

Evening Strumpets,

Jesus it's been a while hasn't it.  There's been loads going on in the Charming world of the Strum over the past couple of months, and at some point in the next couple of days I'll be updating you regarding all of it.  In the meantime, here's a couple of vids from a Festival in Redcar we played a couple of weeks ago, where we headlined (or went on last, as Carl puts it) The brilliantly named "Tent of Quirk".  We get a conga going at one point led by my boy Hal Charmer!

Hope you like them. Rougher than a Brickies palms, but then when have we ever been anything else?

Till the next one, learn something new,


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

My Old Heart.

Evening Strumpets,

Tightening this up a bit.

Let me know what you think!

Till the next one learn something new,


Monday, 17 February 2014

My Old Man and Nouvelle Musique Radio show.

Evening Strumpets,

Last week the good men who are behind That Nouvelle Music Show on Ignition Radio, Matt Speight and Daniel Cook, had me on as a guest.  I rather enjoyed myself and played a couple of Charmers Songs acoustic like as well as a rendition of a Stranglers song on the banjo.  Thanks to the chaps for having me there.

I am taking advantage of having an empty house (Wife and Thing One in London for birthday treats, Thing Two at Nana's) has allowed me to write something on the Cumbus, which is starting to sound a bit like it should, though still very rusty.  Curse the fretless neck!!!!

As usual just throwing sounds at the tune so words may well be changed.

Till the next one, learn something new.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Jimbush City Limits.

Evening Strumpets,

I had the good fortune to see three rather excellent bands last Saturday night at The Georgian Theatre in Stockton.  John and the Ragmen, Paris XY (my new favourite band) were supporting The Purnells for the launch of their spanking new CD "A half step in the shadows".  I got chatting to Stu who is the frontman for The Purnells, and he happened to mention that he had a Jimbush that he was looking to sell.
I had no idea what one of these things were but when he mentioned it as being "a banjo with a bucket on it"  well, I just had to have it.

This is the bucket part of it.  The  cümbüş (to give it it's home name) is a Turkish instrument and the names translates into English as "fun" or "revelry".   My wife and children would disagree with this.  It was an absolute nightmare to restring (four strings snapped in the car on the way home).  It has 12 strings and tuned to ABEABG.

That is a peg which you can twist to bring the fretless neck closer or further away from the strings.  I'll let Wikipedia take over for a bit.

"The cümbüş (/mˈbʃ/Turkish pronunciation: [dʒymˈbyʃ]) is a Turkish stringed instrument of relatively modern origin. It was developed in 1930 by Zeynel Abidin Cümbüş (1881–1947) as an oud-like instrument that could be heard as part of a larger ensemble.[1]
The cümbüş is shaped like an American banjo, with a spun-aluminum resonator bowl and skin soundboard. Although originally configured as an oud, the instrument has been converted to other instruments by attaching a different set of neck and strings.[2] The standard cümbüş isfretless, but guitar, mandolin and ukulele versions have fretboards. The neck is adjustable, allowing the musician to change the angle of the neck to its strings by turning a screw.[3] One model is made with a wooden resonator bowl, with the effect of a less tinny, softer sound.
After the Turkish War of Independence Zeynel Abidin Cümbüş wanted to create a new instrument to embody the ideals of peace, an instrument for the masses. He switched his company from dealing with arms to manufacturing musical instruments for "the support of peace through music." In a meeting with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, he showed one of his new inventions. It was "an inexpensive instrument easy to transport and hard to break, capable of playing both Eastern alaturka music and, with a quick change of removable necks, Western alafranga music as well." A modern instrument for a modern country.[1]  After the Turkish War of Independence Zeynel Abidin Cümbüş wanted to create a new instrument to embody the ideals of peace, an instrument for the masses. He switched his company from dealing with arms to manufacturing musical instruments for "the support of peace through music." In a meeting with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, he showed one of his new inventions. It was "an inexpensive instrument easy to transport and hard to break, capable of playing both Eastern alaturka music and, with a quick change of removable necks, Western alafranga music as well." A modern instrument for a modern country.[1]
The cümbüş was inexpensive and was bought by people who couldn't afford a more expensive instrument; as a result, his dream the masses accepting it was marginalized. The instrument became a folk instrument of the poor and of ethnic minorities in Turkey, including RûmArmenians,JewsKurds, and Romani, "playing indigenous folk music or repertoires shared with ethnic Turks." It was excluded specifically by classical musicians of the era, being seen as lower-class or ethnic. A perception grew of it being "other" or ethnic or different or lower-class, and Turkish society did not adopt the instrument widely. By the 1960s, use of the cümbüş declined among these minorities, except for Román professional musicians. They adopted the instrument because of its ability to be heard alongside the other instruments they played at weddings and parties."

I have to admit that it had me confused for a while.  The tuning is not like anything I'm used to, and the fretless neck is a bit of a bugger to get to grips with.  However perseverance led to a little ditty which you can hear below, with mistakes intact.  It's always good to hear what you sound like when you first pick up an instrument.

Finally here's a picture of the mad old sod who invented it.  I think he looks like Jack The Biscuit!

Till the next one, learn something new,


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Fischer Thing.

Afternoon Strumpets,

The Alice Charmers were played on the rather excellent Bob Fischer's Radio Show last Saturday night on BBC Radio Tees.  We are on right at the very end, but we will be on the show playing live and talking about all sorts of stuff on the 1st of Feb!


Till the next one, learn something new,


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Marmalade Au Marsellaise!

Evening Strumpets,

Just noticed that this mental old blog has recently passed the 20,000 visits from places as far apart as Thirsk to Northallerton, Amazing. But really, what an amazing year.

We've managed to get regular paid gigs.  Have songs played on Local Radio and BBC Local Radio. Record a 4 track EP which we personally think is amazing.  Have the CD played at our workplaces when they didn't know we were in there. Have a CD Launch night headlining with the most amazing bands and artists in Teesside.  Have an X Factor Finalist support us at a gig in Boro (aw what the hell, it was Abi Alton about three months before she went on and frankly should have won, as well as headlined the night we played)!  Be on iTunes.  Have our kids come to a Festival we played, at which I camped with my boy Hal for the first time ever and for that reason for me was the best gig of the year.

More importantly as I was reminded by that most Grumpiest of Charmers, Carl, the other night, We've just had the most fun playing our own songs with our oldest mates and usually to our newest mates (Simon Mason, you are an obvious exception which makes the rule).

Thanks must go to:

The Charmer's Wives and Families; We have put you all through so much that you must really love us, though you always lead the dancing when you come and see us.

Steve Hoggart who was patience personified throughout the recording of the EP.

Leon Pape, Matt Speight and Daniel Cook for their relentless support, encouragement, and work in getting us to play live supporting the finest music I defy you to find anywhere in this Land.  Mint, boosh, and Nirvana to the triptych!

Angie and John Taylor for having confidence in us.

Snowy for providing the perfect template that we can give Sound engineers whenever we turn up at gigs with our proverbial banjo's in our hands.

EXNE and, particularly, James Poppleton (who is 47), Cat McGuinness, Paul Bradley and Paul Mcquade for being the Trampagne champions of the year.

And finally, Ian, Lily, Tommy, Dave, and Mary for being the reasons we are who we are.  They'll be playing the Ep up there, but Tommy will be looking in the celestial wardrobe to see if anyone is hiding in there, whilst Dave is booking the Monday night turns!

Thank you all, you lovely bunch of Strumpets, here's the last vid from the O'Connells gig which may well be one of our highlights of playing live, for this year.  As the Gentleman likes to shout at the end "ONE MORE SONG!!!!!"  if you can leave them shouting that, then you must be doing something right.

Till the next one, learn something new,


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Longlands live at O'Connells.

Afternoon Strumpets,

Here's one of our favourite live songs.  We enjoyed playing it so much we cheered louder than the crowd!

Till the next one learn something new.