I can’t say I’m from a musical family. They say my Gran played the piano but I never heard her so have no idea how good she was or if she could even play! So it was that I was brought up listening to my father playing Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and The Ink Spots in 78 rpm format on an old gramophone with a heavy arm and a needle you could ride bareback to London on without getting a scratch.
Mine was a very God fearing family and we all had to attend Church every Sunday - so in a vain attempt to turn this to my advantage, I joined the choir and as luck would have it, my choir mistress also gave piano lessons so I learnt piano with her as well.
In a bid to learn as many instruments as I could, I joined the Pangbourne and District Silver Band on trombone, and spent many a weekend at competitions and many a cold evening at Christmas, playing carols under a street lamp.
At seven, I convinced my parents to buy me a guitar which, with the aid of chord books and song sheets, I sort of managed to teach myself. Even more amazing, at around nine, I convinced them to buy me a drum kit - which I’m sure they regret deeply, but I think that was the beginning of things for me.
Playing in various bands on a mixture of drums, keyboards, bass and guitar, I soon found my forte at that time was drums – and landed myself a job at Sun Recording Studios in Reading as a session drummer – and, as luck would have it yet again , what is now Heart but then was 210 Thames Valley Radio had just come to Reading, so I had lots of work doing various adverts for the businesses in Reading.
It was there at Sun Recording Studios in 1976, I met Alan Clayson, a man of immense talent in every way and not least in his songwriting which blew me away then and still does to this day - and the rest is, well, history!
Andy has had a diverse musical background starting with initial, sporadic, piano lessons in his formative years, leaving a trail of exasperated teachers all over the west of Scotland, then picking up the guitar as being a bit more portable! The guitar underpinned his early folk/acoustic period with highlights of 2 months busking on the Riviera and gigs at such significant London folk venues as Bunjies and the Crypt. The discovery of electric pianos and synthesisers re-awakened his interest in keyboards and led to a stint backing an Elvis impersonator round the British Legions and working men’s’ clubs of Buckinghamshire, while still plying his trade as a singer-songwriter in the folk clubs of the area. A move to Reading in the early 1980s lead to a focus on folk music both as a solo club performer and in a barn dance band - and then the formation of Scotch Measure a trio blending traditional Scottish folk music with jazz & rock influences leading to club and festival appearances all over the country, and the release of two albums. The onset of middle age triggered the male menopause and the need to recapture the excitement of his lost youth; faced with the choice of buying a motor-bike or joining a rock band he chose the safer option - and joined Clayson and the Argonauts. Not a day goes by without him remembering that decision.
Alan Barwise was born on Merseyside where he started to take interest in music. Amongst other early forays into show business, he joined Nexus, a jazz fusion ensemble together with Garry Jones, one of the Argonaut bass players.
In the early 1970s, Alan attended college in Reading where he met Mic Dover, John Harries and Alan Clayson. He played with these long time friends in various combinations and upon leaving college, he joined the Argonauts in 1977. He has played with them on and off ever since.
Alan has also played with the Aldbrickham Band, Kick Shins, Jive Alive, Kindred Spirit, Callisto and the Nina Lane Band.
Alan is a fan of many drummers including Dave Mattacks, Gerry Conway, Steve Gadd, Jim Keltner and Gavin Harrison. He plays Yamaha drums and Zildjian cymbals.
John Harries is a musician and artist. He plays sax and other wind instruments. His art and design adds style and impact to the packaging of the Argonauts recent album. His work as a musician ranges across the musical spectrum to include electronica, free improvisation jazz, rock and much more.
I listen mainly to classical music - in particular Bach choral music, Delius and English composers such as Finzi, Vaughan Williams, Warlock and Butterworth. There are no musically-inclined musicians in the immediate family other than a great uncle who was a concert pianist in his early life. However, I was motivated to learn harmonica at primary school in the 1950s when I heard another boy playing one during playtime. I also acquired a very cheap old guitar at about age ten (which had a string set up high enough to slice a boiled egg), and set to learning two or three chords from Bert Weedon’s Play In A Day manual (because that’s all there was then). Armed with these - and four noisy younger sisters to escape from - I sat on the stairs and learnt ‘Worried Man Blues’ which was in vogue on the school bus!) and much from the
Kingston Trio’s catalogue. My dad said ‘You won’t get anywhere doing that’. He was
right, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
During my teens and early twenties, I haunted the White Horse Folk Flub and other
such venues local to Reading, performing English folk ballads and songs (much in the style of Martin Carthy who I much admire), and renderings of Davy Graham and John Renbourne stuff.
In the 1970s, due to the influence of an old school friend (Jon Stockwell - who sadly passed away many years ago), I acquired a
fondness for the North American music scene at that time, went electric, and messed about playing things by The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers etc. - but my only claim to fame then was backing Marty Wilde for a couple of songs at a village fete he was opening!
For the last thirty years, I have played nearly every style and genre of music (blues, soul; jazz; rock ’n’roll, country, ceilidh, you name it) as a solo performer, in duos and as a member of groups - sometimes bass player, sometimes drummer, sometimes guitarist and I love them all.
My history with the closed order which is the Argonauts began in 2005 when Pete Cox, our eminent guitarist, with whom I had played in a band we formed in the mists of time, asked if I could provide my PA to enable the group to deliver play a ‘comeback gig’. Thus I became their sound engineer for the night. I was then promoted to driving the ‘tour bus’ and other general duties prior to acceding to a dark suit and full membership after the demise of the previous bass player, Garry Jones. A meteoric rise then!