It all started in the early 1960s in Stockton-on-Tees when Sandy’s mum realised that he and his brother in their pre teen years seemed to be showing far too much interest in that dreadful pop music. They mimed to Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis in the years immediately before the Beatles came along using a hairbrush as a microphone and a golf club as a guitar. So over the next few years she bought them a real Spanish guitar, a mandolin and a long-necked five stringed banjo, sat them down in front of the Hootenanny show on TV and let events take their own course.
The diversionary tactic worked perfectly. In no time Sandy was more familiar with Ewan Macoll, the Watersons, Martin Carthy and the Corrie Folk trio with Paddy Bell than he was with Jimi Hendrix or the Who. A love of traditional music was developing in him which was to affect the course of his life. By the time they were sixth-formers, Sandy and his brother had formed a folk group with two other schoolfriends and were playing semi-professionally on the north-east folk scene. The band, the Distillers, was to continue throughout University days in the seventies, only finishing as the student life came to an end and careers burgeoned at opposite ends of the country.
Sandy began teaching languages, but continued performing and playing, building a reputation as a fine singer and instrumentalist, often travelling to France and Germany in company with other well-known musicians in a band going under the name of Cleveland Connection. Alongside Nick Haigh, Tom Napper and Alistair Russell, he established a reputation for playing rousing traditional Celtic music from Stuttgart to Strasbourg. He also played guitar in the leading north east ceilidh band Stockton Hop.
Towards the end of the Autumn Term in 1977 Sandy was appointed to a Modern Languages post at Hummersknott School. News of his musical proficiency reached Fourum before he was due to start in the next term and they invited him to a rehearsal for a gig they had coming over the Christmas holidays. Sandy felt an immediate empathy with his future colleagues Allen, Bob and Jim. Their enthusiasm, energy, friendship and self-deprecating sense of humour were highly infectious. He joined them in their Christmas gig and from that time on Sandy found himself an integral member of Fourum, adding his musical and instrumental expertise to the band’s growing traditional repertoire and Allen’ unrelenting stream of ideas for new and original songs. Fourum went from strength to strength through the next decade, as their store of Swaledale songs and traditional material widened and grew, delighting audiences both at home and abroad with their entertaining blend of .music and humour.
And so it has continued until the present day. Fourum has remained a constant and important part of what has been for Sandy a very full and busy life, combining a career in teaching with family and many musical interests.
Over the years he has played and recorded with other bands, notably the Judith Haswell Band. Sandy, Judith and Frank Porter created a blend of harmony singing with instrumental accompaniment which resulted in two successful album releases.
From time to time Sandy plays his beloved Telecaster with local Blues band Vast Majority, a group of friends who enjoy playing for fundraising events in the Darlington area.
Sandy’s other big musical interest in recent years has been the Steel String Band, a high-energy five-piece ceilidh band in which his musical interests have moved from traditional Celtic music towards guitar-based Django Reinhardt style gypsy and swing jazz.
Sandy has four grown-up children and five grandchildren (so far!) and lives very contentedly with his wife Sarah in the pretty north Yorkshire village of Manfield. He’s looking forward to seeing what the next stage in Fourum’s career has in store……….
|The Early Years|
|The Middle Years|
|The Later Years|
|Gunnerside Gill- Remembered|
|Singing The Dales|
|Folk with Fourum: In Concert|
|The Dales Revisited|
|The Making of Swaledale|
|The Drummer Boy of Richmond|
|The Dales Collection|
|Rod Songs 1|
|Prices and Ordering|