Davey Graham

On Saturday 26 November just past I went with a friend on a brief pilgrimage to attend the ceremonial unveiling of a blue plaque to Davey Graham. Evacuated from London during the Blitz of WW2, his mother gave birth to him at Bosworth Hall, Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, then a hospital and now a hotel.

In my youth you were measured as a guitarist by how well you played Angie. It was iconic.

I met Davey by chance on a tube station in London in the winter of 1978/79 while waiting for a train. He was friendly, pleasant and humble and never seemed to mind me dropping round to see him uninvited from time to time.

I don’t remember much about those meetings. They belong a period in my life when I was overdoing the good times and was rarely in a normal state of mind. But they were enjoyable, unrushed and full of music.

A friend of mine and I put on an evening at London’s Troubadour folk club that winter and Davey was the guest. I was on just before him and it was my pleasure to introduce him at the end of my set.

Liking to put on a show I decided to tell a story to lead up to calling him on stage. My own set had been classical guitar pieces, mostly Spanish and South American – Villa-Lobos, Moreno-Torroba, Albeniz and so on. I decided to tell a story about the great guitar maestro Andrés Segovia.

I explained that I had recently performed a series of recitals in churches in the English West Country and the Lake District and that churches are wonderful venues acoustically. Nothing like the vast concert halls which Segovia played of course. And with only the altar behind you, unlike the orchestra stalls at Segovia recitals, packed as they were with people too and all looking at his back.

Then I described how, at the end of the concert, the great man would pick up his footstool and turn to sit facing the other way, to play for those at the back. As he did so he would say to the main body of the audience “Now I play for them.” What showmanship! What style! The stuff of standing ovations.

So I continued to relate how I had been playing this particular recital at this particular church and right at the end I had done something I shouldn’t have. In an irrepressible fit of silliness I had picked up my footstool and turned to sit facing the altar, proclaiming as I did so “Now I play for him!”

The sky turned black. The wind raged. Thunder shattered the peaceful summer’s evening. A blistering bolt of lightning seared through the leaden roof of the little church and burned a sulphurous gash in the chancel stone at my feet. And a big deep voice rang out “Can you play Angie?”

Then I flung out a hand to the wings and said “Ladies and gentlemen, Davey Graham!”

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