BKJ Biography - Part 1

BKJ was born at a very early age (yeah, the old ones are the best!) - he was surrounded by music: his parents enjoyed listening to music, either playing records (round, flat black plastic discs played with a diamond needle - just in case anyone doesn't know!) or listening to the radio. At school, he enjoyed listening to music and grew to love a very wide range of musical styles. He also dabbled with playing the occasional musical instrument, but it wasn't until he was 17 that he got hold of his first guitar, an old acoustic guitar given to him by a friend. It needed a lot of work doing to it to get it into a playable state, but that set him on the road.

He played his first concert at Bilston Sixth Form Centre (in the West Midlands) to about 300 people in 1977. He had organised a Sixth Form Revue and not surprisingly got involved in several aspects, including being the opening act. He was performing with good friend Lesley who played the piano, whilst he played a borrowed electric guitar (not having his own at this point) and sang. Two songs were performed: "Pinball Wizard" and "Music", and they were introduced as the group "Fragments" - this name was chosen as other people had offered to assist in the performance but then didn't, so there were only fragments left of what had been planned. Despite this, the audience clapped and cheered, and BKJ got the 'show biz bug' - it was an amazing feeling, and one which he has hankered after ever since! This performance was recorded on audio cassette, but in comparison to current standards, it is awful - BKJ couldn't even play guitar chords at this point, and trying to sing and play the guitar resulted in the singing going out of tune. It was rough (the piano playing was great in comparison!) but he had only been playing for 6 or 7 months or so. Never the less, he couldn't wait to perform again.

The next step was to get an electric guitar, since most of what he wanted to play at that point needed one. However money was in very short supply, so he had to content himself with a cheap guitar and a very ropey amp. You can see that first electric guitar over to the right. Because he had to get cheap stuff, his earliest playing was subjected to radio interference and a nearby neighbour had a CB radio setup and could frequently be heard coming over the guitar amp! But he was able to make progress, and his playing started to improve.


Don't laugh! Yeah, this is what I looked like in 1977!

His second performance came whilst he was at Aston University. Aston ran something called "Complementary Studies" which gave students a chance to do an activity not related to their main degree subjects - not surprisingly, BKJ opted to do the Music option, which included free classical guitar tuition from Birmingham School of Music's classical guitar tutor, so this enabled BKJ to learn to sight-read music and also improve his acoustic guitar playing. He was awarded an A+ grade for his progress, and performed a tricky Spanish guitar piece, originally written and played by guitar legend Steve Howe, called "Mood For A Day". He also had the chance to use a VCS3 synthesiser which the arts centre owned, which resulted in an enduring love of synthesisers and electronic music. He performed a medley of Rick Wakeman pieces using the VCS3 and finished off the performance with a cover of "Time" by Pink Floyd. It was very ambitious but that never stopped him. The sympathetic audience still applauded! However, it was time to get a better guitar as he was being held back by the quality of that first electric guitar.

To that end, BKJ checked out prices and deals in the local shops and eventually found a good deal on a Satellite Les Paul copy. This guitar looked more like a "proper" guitar, and he always had a hankering for a Les Paul shape guitar. This particular guitar turned out to have faulty machine heads (the keys that are used for tuning the instrument), but since it was still under warranty, he was able to get them all replaced and it was right as rain from then on. The guitar was used endlessly in all manner of gigs, and BKJ made a number of improvements/modifications, including filling the pickups with epoxy resin (which reduced microphonic feedback) and rebolting the neck to the body of the guitar, which helped with sustain. This guitar was BKJ's main instrument from 1978 until the Summer of 1983, and allowed his playing to improve a great deal.


Another ye olde photo, with Satellite Les Paul copy

Once again, BKJ found that his playing was being held back by the guitar - his Satellite Les Paul copy had a number of deficiencies which became increasingly obvious after the years of playing (such as tuning stability and susceptibility to interference, as well as the playability of the neck in the higher neck positions). It was time to get a professional quality instrument and he decided that it was time to turn his dream into reality: he decided to buy a Gibson Les Paul Custom, one of the iconic instruments used by professional guitarists the world over. By this point he was working as a secondary school teacher and had regular income, but he still needed a bank loan to secure his dream guitar! Back in 1983 it retailed at £1050, although the shop ("One Way Music" in Wolverhampton - brilliant guys!) gave him a £200 discount since he wasn't using credit. This guitar has been with him ever since. It has been used in thousands of gigs all over the UK and Europe. It was the ultimate instrument, with a solid mahogany body, ebony fingerboard with mother of pearl block inlays, gold-plated hardware (even the screws in the guitar were gold-plated!) and it played like a dream. Mick in "One Way Music" set it up for him and it has remained that way ever since. It is still the most awesome guitar he has ever owned, and has been used for recordings and concerts right up to the present day. Now the only restriction to his playing was his own ability...

Click here for Part 2

The real deal - the Gibson Les Paul Custom!