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John was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1946, (nine months after the end of the 2nd World War), growing up in an environment where Jimmy Shand's music reigned supreme, and from an early age he had a desire to play the accordion. Two of his uncles were box players and an aunt who lived next door to Jimmy Shand had regular visits from young John seeking a glimpse of the great man himself. However, accordions were scarce and expensive, and since the family already had a piano it was decided that John at the age of eight should become a student of that instrument.This was a bad choice, for John being a stubborn young lad refused to practice an instrument that wasn't an accordion, and after two years of frustration for all parties concerned, the teacher sent for his mother and said 'take him away, he'll never be a musician'. This combined with his expulsion from the school choir at the age of nine (for singing as flat as a shit carter's hat) should have been the end of any possible musical career.
Between the uncles and Jimmy Shand, John's interest in the accordion was kept alive, and his maternal grandmother, a close friend and work mate of the legendary Mary Brooksbank, introduced him to countless house singing sessions where the order of the day was traditional Scottish songs with a strong emphasis on Dundee songs.
However being a 'normal' young lad he became more and more interested in pop music, and after much saving of earnings from a newspaper round purchased a guitar and by the age of fourteen was playing in a thriving four piece skiffle group comprising two guitars, a tea chest bass and a washboard. This led to a performance at the Dundee Folk Club where John met all these 'normal' people, (just like him) who were singing what they called folk songs, many of which were the very songs he had learnt from his grandmother and her cronies. Guitars were very much the order of the day in the then folk scene with the very occasional banjo, but certainly no accordions, fiddles, flutes, concertinas, etc.
John's involvement in folk music (playing guitar and singing) continued through his teens, but moving to Birmingham at the age of nineteen changed his life. 'The Jug Of Punch' folk club became a regular weekly haunt, the house band being the Ian Campbell Folk Group including none other than Dave Swarbrick. The turning point however was a guest appearance by The Yetties who had a piano accordionist in their line-up. By an act of sheer fate, the very next day John was offered the opportunity to purchase an old beat up piano accordion for the princely sum of ten shillings (one dollar) and at long last fulfilled a boyhood dream of becoming an accordionist.
Birmingham had a strong Irish scene and John played in a ceilidh band until returning to Dundee to complete a degree in Computer Studies. During this time he changed from piano to button accordion.
In 1971 John was recruited by the Reserve Bank of Australia to help design a model of the Australian economy and came to live in Perth WA, moving to Canberra in 1976, where he eventually saw the light and decided to make music a full-time career. Countless gigs and bands later he moved to Brisbane in 1981, joined the QFF, became a committee member and in 1982 co-ordinated the QFF Bush Orchestra, with a line-up of 35 musicians, playing for the very successful Commonwealth Games Bush Ball at the last function held at Cloudland.
John was awarded Queensland Busker of the Year which led to full-time day work at Dreamworld for three years while gigging with numerous Brisbane and Gold Coast bands in the evening, and for a time he was Musical Director at La Boite Theatre.
He then teamed up with Dave 'The Bloke' Ovenden to form 'The Gumnuts' which proved to be a very successful duo touring throughout Queensland and NSW, supporting a multitude of international acts as diverse as Dr Hook and Arlo Guthrie, and ended up as the resident group at the Australian Woolshed for three years playing mainly for bush dancing, followed by a stint with Bullamakanka, and a season with The Lyric Opera Company. He has developed several roving musical characters, a Children's Australiana Show, and for a few years played Old-Time and New Vogue Dance Music and now feels he has acquired enough experience to perhaps consider himself a Dance Musician.
These days John plays a MIDI accordion and works on an ad hoc basis performing both solo and with numerous duos and bands, and is happy to play wherever he fits. He enjoys putting scratch line-ups together for specific events, and is in demand as a session accordionist on other people's albums and jingles. He also enjoys his annual pilgrimage to The National where he sometimes performs or presents workshops on such diverse subjects as Dance Music, Dance Composition, MIDI for Musicians, The Jacobite Rebellion, Dundee Songs, etc. He has a modest digital recording studio at his residence in East Brisbane and offers his services producing CD recordings and CD-ROM presentations for other performers.
His main current project is recording a CD of Scottish accordion music (Jimmy Shand style) which is to be promoted as a TV special this coming Christmas by a large distributor, and his goal for the future is to continue to feel absolutely marvellous every day and to not harm too many people.
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