When schoolboy Davey Ditchburn got a guitar from Saville’s Music Shop in South Shields, it marked the start of a long and much-loved career in music.
But as Davey, who has been vocalist and songwriter in such bands as Brass Alley, Geordie, Fogg, Talisman and Pilgrim, explained to blogger and film-maker Gary Wilkinson, getting to grips with that first guitar was not easy for a left-handed player.
“I was at the High School in South Shields,” said Davey, “and like a lot of kids I wasn’t really into school you know.
“Me mam bought us a guitar that I had been ogling for quite some time in Saville’s in the town. But the problem I always had, and still do to this day, was being left-handed.
“There was no way you could get a guitar that was left handed so I tried learning it upside down but I couldn’t do that.
“I changed the strings around and got away with that for a bit but to really learn you had to go to somebody local which I did and learned a few chords.
“At that time, skiffle was really big and I loved all those players, Dickie Bishop and Lonnie Donegan, all those people, so I got a skiffle band together. We were called The Worried Men and used to play the youth clubs and over 60s pie and pea suppers, things like that.
“That ran it’s course and rock ’n roll came round, Elvis Presley happened and that changed the whole thing. So that was the advent of proper rock ’n roll, like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, I absolutely loved that era. I used to go to see every band that I could. We played with Johnny Kid and the Pirates, Gene Vincent and several other bands.”
What venues did they play, asked Gary?
“Some of them would be dance halls,” revealed Davey, “like The Majestic on the Sea Front at South Shields. We’d play the Picture Houses in Newcastle and one thing led to another and in 62 or 63, I met Vic Malcolm, Joe D’Ambrosie and Mickey Golden, and we formed Vince King and the Stormers.
“We played the dances around the North East. Then, of course, the look was lame suits and all that tackle.
“We went on for a while like that, then The Beatles happened and the scene changed to a hippy come-rocky sort of thing.
“The Stormers were quite successful, we played with The Beatles in Middlesbrough and supported a lot of big bands at the time, at venues around the North East.
“Then I met up with some other guys and one of them was Barry Alton. The other members were some of his family and they played jazz rock. It was an eight piece with sax, trumpet and guitars – we were called Brass Alley.
“But the trumpet player, who worked in the shipyards, got crushed by a big pipe so he couldn’t play. The two sax players also left the band so that left a four-piece which became the real Brass Alley in 1972, and we went professional and made a living out of it.
“But it wasn’t an easy decision to go pro because we had wives, kids, and steady trades. But I thought if I don’t do it now I never will and the other lads were of the same mind. So we just went for it, we were young and had confidence.”
Brass Alley, who moved to London where they played The Marquee, The Speakeasy and lots of other venues, went on to record an album in Rockfield Studio with Dave Edmunds and an EP for the Hartrock Festival in Hartlepool.
They stayed together until 1976 after which Davey joined Fogg and Talisman – supporting Budgie at a seafront festival in South Shields. (Do you remember it?)
And a final word from Davey ... “I can’t imagine life without music really. It’s what I exist for I guess.”
You can read all of Gary’s blogs at https://garyalikivi.com/