Music had always been a hobby. But today my hobby has become my work and travel the UK and Europe doing it. How did that happen? I've been playing jazz since I was 15. Over the years I've been fortunate, as a semi-pro, to work with a number of excellent bands, but always as a paid hobby.
Me as a yougster
I was especially lucky, when I went up to university, to land in the guitar/banjochair of the university jazz band. That was down to luck more than talent, but it bore out a truth many musicians will recognise: Always play with people who are better than you.
That's the route to improving your skills, your judgement and your repertoire. It's my motto today, over 50 years later
My good friend Vo Fletcher playing along with me
As my job in the real world moved me around the UK, I found myself playing with different semi-pro bands over the years, and becoming familiar with different styles and philosophies of jazz. More than anything that taught me not to be narrow-minded about the music: It's an unfortunate truth about jazz that many of its adherents are deeply conservative.
The Frenchman Street Jazz Band
I find today that my work with different strands of the music and its musicians has stood me in good stead. That's because, when you're parachuted into a strange rhythm section to deputise for someone at short notice, the other guys rightly expect you to do it their way.
Or you don't get asked back! For work and family reasons, I had long periods out of the music., but I played at home, keeping my hand in
Happy playing my guitar
When I moved to the Malvern area, I found myself in touch with friends in the music that I hadn't seen for years, and before I knew it (due to their kindness) I was plugged into a network and the gigs started coming in.
How some of them tolerated my rusty technique I have no idea!
I was still working full time and had no intention of music being more than a creative hobby, as before.
Ruth Frith accompanying us
Then, came retirement at 60. I played golf, I did stuff for the church. I did gigs. And slowly but surely, the devil's music took over from the worthy pursuits and today I am travelling 20,000 miles a year on business, getting home at 3.00am on cold Winter nights, and ignoring the protests of a warm and sleepy Mrs Probert.
Introducing a number
I still get to play with musicians far better than me, and of all the benefits that brings, the greatest is this: I'm still learning at nearly 70. Working with colleagues who, unlike me, are life-time professionals, I am always conscious that they got where they are by hard work and tenacity.
Getting into the groove!