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Michael Chapman in his own words


"I had an art college education and on a rainy night in 1967 I went into a pub in Cornwall, but I couldn't afford to pay to go in. So I said, I'll tell you what, I don't want to stay outside in the rain, I'll play guitar for half an hour for you. They offered me a job for the rest of the summer and I've been at it ever since."

"I've never called myself a folk singer. I call myself a songwriter and guitar player, but in them days folk clubs were the only place where you could play an acoustic guitar."

"When you do your first album you don't know anything and you're green behind the ears and you go with other people's suggestions..."

"I've never been fussy about where I play and that's what a lot of folky people can't handle about me, 'cos I will play anywhere. I was one of the first people to go out with just an acoustic guitar supporting rock bands with 10,000 people a night, when folkies were terrified. I just love to play and I don't care. I play a bar in San Francisco called the Plough and Star, which is an IRA bar. I'm the only Englishman allowed in there and I play there for two nights. So I mean I'm not fussy, if they like music, I'll play it to them."

live with hat

live on stage

How did it all begin?

"I started off basically because I had noticed that guys who had guitars were accompanied by girls who were a hell of a lot better looking than the ones I was getting, if I was getting any at all. From guitar players I've talked to, that seems to be a universal reason for wanting one."

What were your early musical influences?

"There wasn't really anybody to listen to. I couldn't pinpoint why, but guitars just absolutely seemed to fascinate me. I would walk in to the middle of Leeds just to have a look at one in a shop window... My Dad had just got a television and if there was anyone on who was just holding a guitar, I'd watch."

When did you decide to turn professional?

"Not for years. I went to Art College and became exposed to a lot of jazz. You see I was in Leeds, and Leeds has always been a police state. In 1957 the police had already made the decision that they weren't going to allow rock'n'roll and Tetley's Bitter in the same place, which is why there have never been any great rock'n'roll bands coming out of Leeds. So this is why there was a lot of jazz that came out of Leeds because the police would allow them to sell beer at jazz gigs."

drury lane 1976 click to read review

So it was the jazz world that had a primary influence?

"The main influence on me was a guy called Ed O'Donnell who was a trombone player with Ken Colyer and who actually made a record. Now to stand next to a guy in the pub who was not only a musician but who had also made a record was amazing. We thought that records came from a parallel universe. We had no idea that people like us made them, like I had no idea who wrote songs at that point -they just kind of appeared on the landscape. But Ed had made a record and was very much into the New Orleans, Kid Ory thing and he had a great band with an almost modern rhythm section of bass and drums.


I used to borrow his rhythm section and go out as a modern jazz trio. But Ed was a major influence because I'd go back to his house and he'd play me Jimmy Rodgers and Leadbelly records, which was astonishing because this whole new world of music suddenly opened up to me."

television appearance Plymouth 1980


Another blessing:

"I had this deaf grandmother. When my Dad bought a television, there was no more radio in our house, so I used to walk four miles up to my grandmother's to listen to The Goons. She hadn't got a clue what I was listening to, so I'd flick the dials and finding all these long wave stations from Europe. A lot of them were especially for the American services and so you'd get Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Hank Williams and I just fell I love with it - especially if it had a guitar in it. I've remained the same ever since - I don't just listen to one style of music, I listen to all kind of stuff.

Meanwhile back at art college:

"I paid for my education with the guitar because me and my parents fell out about me wanting to stay in education. So I would play with jazz bands and I would play with country and western bands - any kind of band there was, I didn't care. I was playing four to five nights a week with anybody, particularly this dreadful dance band which was made up using every drunk musician who wasn't working on that particular night."


"Then I went into teaching. I did fine art at college and photography as a post degree course and went to teach photography at a college in Bolton and stopped playing for three years because I was serious about teaching. Finished up managing the art college band, of course, as you always do - it's compulsory for an art college to have a band and someone like me managing it. Then I fell out with teaching and ended up in Cornwall and walked into a place called The Counthouse at Botallack.

It was pissing down with rain, I had no money to go in and just enough petrol to get me back to Bolton the next morning, which was Plan A. I just wanted to get out of the rain and so I said to them that I didn't have enough money to get in but I'd play guitar for half an hour because it was a folk club. At the end of the night the guy asked me what I was doing for the rest of the summer, because they needed another resident. The do was that, at the end of the week, you got a share of what they took at the door. I got more than I was for running a department in a college of further education! So I thought I like this - lie on the beach all day, play a bit of guitar for an hour a night and get paid. I love it. And I've been at it ever since!"


ok so this is from 1908 not the 1960's, but  if anyone has photos drop us an e mail

photo copyright Pendeen Community Heritage


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