Generations of his family, older and younger, have been and still are professional musicians. When, in 1919, his grandfather, an orchestral percussionist and drummer in a ‘society’ dance band, took the time to attend The London Hippodrome for a performance by ‘The Original Dixieland Jazz Band’ he started a family interest in Jazz and Blues that persists to this day.
Like the kids that started punk bands, having heard the Sex Pistols perform, Grandpa immediately started, and lead one of the first Jazz Bands in London. Playing dance music in exclusive hotels, clubs and for Debutante balls, his career spanned the Jazz age. Between the wars he met, played with or befriended most visiting American jazz musicians, both Black and White. He also also amassed a vast collection of 78rpm recordings.
Although the Big Band jazz and swing was his idiom, Percy’s dad was infected with that same musical collecting bug, and from an early age brought home first shellac, and then vinyl, on a weekly basis. He married a dancer who had a taste for swing jazz and country music. By the late 1950s Percy’s elder brother, the bassist in a skiffle band, had a collection of records which included ‘Classic Blues’, and Modern Jazz along with the Rockabilly and Rock and Roll of his era.
As a result Percy grew up, in a home containing at least one phonograph, and three or four record players. It was unavoidable that he heard if not listened to recordings from the the entire span of recorded jazz, blues, country and rock music. By the time that The Beatles made their presence felt on the radio waves, Percy had already started his own collection of Blues recordings. Recordings of the British beat groups joined those of Tampa Red, T Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker, which he had bought with money from his paper round, and those by Muggsy Spanier, Fats Waller, Dizzy Gillespie, Chuck Berry, Django, Elvis and the MJQ that he had purloined from other parts of the house.
But the obsessive side of collecting didn’t really bite until he managed to get his first guitar and really needed to listen……
Knowing that John Lennon wasn’t the first person to record ‘Twist and Shout’ made listening to the Isley Brothers an imperative. But that music wasn’t on the radio. The only possible way to hear it was to buy it. Smokey, Barrett Strong and Arthur Alexander too. All from the same Beatles album! Sometimes it took years….