Sunday, 13 October 2019

A Life in Music: Steve Ajao. The deeeeepest voice in Brum.

A proper Renaissance Man, is Steve

A stalwart of the Birmingham music scene, Steve has been laying down greasy guitar blues and elegant cerebral Jazz sax in equal quantities, for generations. Oh, and he builds guitars, beautifully... and he's completely self-taught. And he's got the deepest voice in all Birmingham. His Blues trio can be found playing live in all the best joints in the Midlands and beyond. They are astonishingly relaxed and extremely tight - something that comes from decades of playing together. 

On top of this, Steve Ajao's facebook feed carries all sorts of other titbits, such as recipes for homemade Sauerkraut, gardening tips, and more. He's into loads of stuff :-) Gourmet, gardener, guitar restorer, blues shouter, cool saxman. I'm sure there's more.

We talked for ages at Steve's place for the Lives in Music interview. 
The podcast has just been published: go here to listen, subscribe and/or download or go to the player at the bottom of this post. 


The theme music for this series comes from Big Q Fish, a seriously uncompromising Birmingham band that I suggest you check out. The song is 'Boksburg Jive Toon', written by guitarist Brian Neil. There's plenty more to listen to if you follow the link. They're also on YouTube.

On top of this, you'll hear Steve play an improvisation on Steel Guitar in the podcast itself, as part of the interview.


Steve Ajao's Blues Giants website
Steve Ajao's Blues Giants on Facebook
Steve's Club Bebop on Facebook: currently a weekly Wednesday residency at Fletchers Bar in Kings Heath, Birmingham.

And there's a ton of stuff to check out on YouTube, both Jazz and Blues.

Podcast Player

Also published in Lives In Music 

1 - Ruby Turner: show notes here; download / subscribe / stream podcast here

Lives in Music celebrates people who have spent a lifetime in music. They may be famous; they may be people who have spent their lives working in the background for the love of it. They all have stories. Lives in Music is a Radio To Go production.


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Monday, 7 October 2019

A life in Music: Ruby Turner

She's only been knocking the ball out of the park for four decades

This is a companion blog post to accompany the first episode of my new podcast series: Lives in Music

The podcast has just been published: go here to listen and/or download or go to the player at the bottom of this post. 

The plan is for the series to appear everywhere podcasts are to found, but it’s early days.That link should get you started. 

Romantic notions? Pah.

I had a theory that there must have been some sort of genius music teacher in Handsworth back in the seventies. Because for three years straight, that mixed and punchy Brum inner city suburb delivered an act each year that went on to shake the foundations worldwide: Steel Pulse, Apache Indian, and Ruby herself. 

And, face it, kids like Robin Campbell of UB40 and Ranking Roger of the Beat were hanging out at the shebeens, soaking it all up. Handsworth did a lot for popular music back in the day.

I put that notion to Ruby during our Lives in Music chat. She, as you'll hear, slapped it right down as my being romantic and fanciful.

There's not a lot of music in this podcast: copyright regulations prevent that. Any music has to be podcast-friendly. So no copyright infringements, and anything used must have the agreement of the performer. So there are no clips of Ruby to listen to, apart from when she bursts into song in mid conversation. That's a shame, because the stuff she does with Jools Holland and with her own band is bloody marvellous. But skip down to the links list, and you can explore to your heart's content.   

The Lives in Music Podcast Series

There are ten episodes in this first series of Lives in Music. They will appear weekly from October until early December 2019. I'm now working on Series 2. The central thrust is to honour and highlight those people who have, literally, spent their lives in music, whether it's making music or empowering those who do. 

Also now published:  

2 - Steve Ajao: show notes here; download / subscribe / stream podcast here 

Links and credits

Download (and share) the podcast here: Lives in Music: Ruby Turner 

Or stream here:

Ruby Turner's website
Jools Holland's website
Find out about Fado music
Handsworth Evolution: a documentary I made in 2010.
Ruby Turner on YouTube

The theme music for this series is by local band Big Q Fish. 'Boksburg Jive Toon' was written by Brian Neil, and recorded at the Jam House, Birmingham, in 2017.


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Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Lives in Music: a new Radio To Go Podcast series

When you've played for ever, you've got stories to tell

    I'm launching Lives in Music, a podcast series. The first episode drops this Sunday, October 6th.

    I've been working on this for some time; I've thought about this for even longer. The series will feature musicians and music workers from our patch who have put in some serious time. These are people who have literally spent their lives making, or supporting the making of, music. Some are very well known; others less so. But they're all pretty damn fabulous and/or interesting. After hundreds of gigs - maybe even a thousand or more - which have brought me great pleasure, I want to try to give back just a bit. Hence this series of interviews. It's a tip of the hat. And the stories I'm hearing are amazing.

    So many people, so little time. 

    I have a list as long as your arm of people to talk to. I've recorded quite a few, aiming to complete an episode a week. That doesn't mean I'll be able to drop a podcast every week. There's editing, polishing, illustrating, and all the podcast gubbins to do. That takes time. So Lives in Music Series 1, kicking off this Sunday, will be a ten-parter, with an episode dropping each week. Lives in Music Series 2 will kick off after Christmas, all being well.

    Nailing some people down can be a challenge, too: after all, some of our outstanding musos are out playing five or six nights a week with different outfits, making money – at last - through their versatility. You can't begrudge them that when some were barely scraping a living forty years ago. 

    Free your mind and your music chops will follow

    I've long felt that musos can go in one of two ways in terms of creativity and craft as they get older. They can stick with what they know, playing the steady, the safe and the familiar; there's a market for that, and good luck to them. 

    Or - and this is where it gets interesting and wondrous - they expand and blossom as they grow older, embracing more styles and experience, for the love and the exhilaration of it all.  Often you find those guys tearing it up with huge smiles on their faces, in tiny places. Those guys interest me, and they're the ones I want to feature.  

    Not forgetting the enablers

    But there's also a host of people who work in and around the industry, who love the business of making music: promoters, instrument makers, managers. They also help to make all this possible. I'm talking with several for the series; several more have agreed to chat. 

    The joy of small venues where the magic happens

    These days, I spend more gig time in small venues, close up to the artist, than ever I did in enormodomes back in the day. The attraction? Well, apart from cheaper drinks and free parking, it's the music and the musicians, naturally. Especially the sheer craft of people who have been playing forty years or more. 

    I get more out of it, whether it's places like the Hare and Hounds in  Birmingham, or the Kitchen Garden Cafe across the road for Jazz and Folk, or any of the venues where the peerless Lisa Travis has been in charge, including her newest perch, the Prince Of Wales. There's plenty more - space prevents me listing everywhere. But I should mention, and give a tip of the hat to, the wonderful Paul Murphy. Paul ran his second Songwriter's Cafe for several years from his treehouse venue; I did online continuity for him. He was one of the people who showed me just how powerful great music, crafted from deep experience, could be in a tiny intimate venue. He was in no small way responsible for my thinking in this area, especially since he passed on.  

    So... who's on the menu?

    Ah, that would be telling. Series 1 will be an interesting mix. I'll have a fresh blog post, with all the relevant details, to go with each podcast episode. You'll be able to keep across who's in the series by following the Lives in Music podcast once the first episode drops. On top of that there'll be the usual Facebook and Tweetage. 

    But there is one stalwart, who I recorded with, who won't be going up as a podcast. Sadly, the audio quality just wasn't good enough. But not all is lost; I will transcribe, and it will be worth it. Steve Gibbons and I talked for two hours straight about growing up in Brum, where his first gigs were, who looked after him, and how he got started. He was meticulous. So that episode will see the light of day as a Radio To Go blog post... and I will be spending a lot of time researching pictures of the locations. It's making for brilliant Birmingham rock history. 

    It all starts this Sunday. Watch this space for a specific blog post, or check feeds on Facebook and the like. I'm very excited. 


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