As I entered my teens, I knew I was going to be a rock guitar god when I grew up. That or an astronaut. I had started to suspect there wasn’t likely to be much call for a sword-wielding barbarian warrior in late 20th century Britain, which had been my other desired career path only a couple of years earlier.
I remember in my early 30s waking up one morning and realising I’d missed my chance to be an astronaut, and commercial flights and holidays to the moon weren’t likely to be happening any time soon. I experienced a distinct pang of grief and moped around the house for several days.
A few years later I realised I’d also missed my chance to become a rock star. I was married, had children and was so busy running my web design business I hadn’t even lifted up my guitar for a couple of years. Indeed I didn’t start playing any instruments again until several months after I’d sold the business and we’d moved to SW Scotland and the chimney sweep noticed my dust-covered mandolin sitting in the corner of the room [see Blistering Fingertips].
For a couple of years I would take my mandolin, and then my bouzouki, along to The Storytelling Café – a monthly event led by singer and storyteller, Tony Bonning. When he strummed his guitar he would insist I joined in, and periodically would talk about putting a band together. It took him a couple more years, but eventually he invited me along to join him with bass player John, and guitarist, Richie, on Tuesday evenings, and we started to work out arrangements around some of Tony’s favourite songs – mostly ‘60s and ‘70s covers.
However, Tony is a busy man and with growing frequency he was elsewhere on a Tuesday evening, so Richie, John and I started playing around with our own tunes – each of us would periodically bring along chord sequences, guitar riffs or bass lines that we’d made up and see what the others would put with it. Richie was already a singer in his own right so took over the role of front man when Tony eventually bowed out altogether. John’s daughter suggested Scruffy Buzzards for the name of the band, and it stuck.
John and Richie both knew Bruce – a singer and guitarist who also played drums. He still does his own stuff away from the band, but with Scruffy Buzzards he decided he’d stick to percussion, and in keeping with the more acoustic sound he bought himself a cajón (pronounced ka-hon – emphasis on the second syllable – it’s a box with wires inside so if hit in different places, it creates different percussive sounds). We were now ready to start tidying up some of our songs and presenting them to the public.
One of those tricky photos I had to take and be in at the same time
We tested the water by having a sort of practice session in the back room of The Masonic Arms in Kirkcudbright to an audience of about 6, which I got my son to record on my camera.
Since then, we’ve set up the Facebook page (facebook.com/scruffybuzzards), gained over 300 “likes,” played half a dozen local gigs and are thoroughly enjoying ourselves.
Although I haven’t become the rock guitar god I envisaged as a teenager – indeed, I’m not even playing a guitar in the band – and we’re not likely to become chart-topping megastars, it is a great deal of fun. For brief moments we get to pretend we’re playing to stadiums of 20,000 people even if there are only a few dozen people in the audience. But so far each time we’ve played, the few dozen watching have been responsive and appreciative, which is really good for the soul.
If anyone either side of the Atlantic (or Pacific) wishes to book us for a gig, we'll do it for travel, food, accommodation and a bit of pin money (and I'll throw in a photoshoot as well).