My introduction to playing for folk dancing was – to say the least – a bit of a baptism of fire! My Father was the guitarist in a local band known as the “Rangers Folk Dance Band” and following the death of the Accordionist Ted Wright, they were auditioning a replacement musician at our family home in Stevenage. The band leader was a guy called Johnny Conquest, he was a very accomplished musician who was just as happy playing in his local orchestra as he was playing for folk dancing. However, Johnny knew I was learning to play the box so before the audition started, he invited me to join in a brief practice session after which I made a sharp exit.
Some weeks later, I was to be completely shocked when Johnny asked me if I would like to sit in with the band at a booking somewhere in Bedford to see – as he put it – how I would get on. Well, I’ve never been so nervous in my life as up until that moment my playing experience had been the odd tune for the Offley Morris Men (playing alongside the aforementioned Ted Wright) and playing at a few pub sessions, so this was my kick-start as a band musician.
Over the next 10 years or so I was fortunate to be guided by JC and as my confidence grew so did my abilities. The band became very successful playing at many of the major festivals of the era playing for many different styles of dance and visiting many folk dance clubs throughout the country.