Eddy Grant, a Guyanese-English singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, chats with Kevin Cooper about being a founding member of The Equals, making his first guitar with the help of his woodwork master Alan Ronketty, his forthcoming autobiography and his latest album Plaisance.

Eddy Grant is a Guyanese–English singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He was a founding member of The Equals, one of the UK’s first racially integrated pop groups. His subsequent solo career included the platinum single Electric Avenue, which is his biggest international hit.

Born in Plaisance, British Guyana, where he remained whilst his parents lived and worked in the UK. In 1960, he emigrated to join his parents in London.

In 1965, Grant formed The Equals, playing guitar and singing background vocals, and the band had two hit albums and a minor hit with the single I Get So Excited before having a number one hit in 1968 with his song Baby Come Back. The Equals had five further top forty hits in the UK up to the end of 1970.

It was also during this time that Grant worked as a songwriter and producer for other artists, including the Pyramids and Prince Buster. However, in 1971 he suffered a heart attack and collapsed lung which led to him leaving The Equals. After his recuperation he concentrated on producing, forming Ice Records in 1974 and went on to pursue a solo career.

A self-titled solo album released in 1975 made little impact, as did his 1977 release, Message Man, on which Grant played all the instruments himself. His breakthrough as a solo artist came two years later with the album Walking On Sunshine. From that album he released his UK top twenty hit, Living On The Frontline. He returned to the charts in 1980 with the top ten hit Do You Feel My Love, and again in 1981 with his album Can’t Get Enough which included two further hit singles, Can’t Get Enough Of You and I Love You, Yes I Love You.

When living in Barbados he released his most successful album in 1982 called Killer On The Rampage which included his two biggest solo hits; I Don’t Wanna Dance and Electric Avenue. He returned to the charts in 1988 with his anti-apartheid single, Gimme Hope Jo’anna, which was banned by the South African government.

In 1994 he introduced a new music genre, Ringbang at the Barbados Crop Over Festival, which Grant claimed encompassed all of the rhythms that have originated from Africa.

Whilst busy promoting his latest album, Plaisance, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Eddy, good afternoon. How are you today?

I am very good my man, how are you Kevin?

All is good I am pleased to say and, before we move on, let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Not at all, it’s a pleasure.

I have to ask, just how is life treating you in these rather uncertain times?

(Laughter) well, apart from having tooth ache which I am pleased to say has now been rectified; life at the moment is in fact fairly good. I have done my turn as they say, and I am now waiting to see what is next.

Well we have to speak about your latest album Plaisance, and I have to say that I have been playing it now for a couple of weeks and I absolutely love it.

Thank you very much, I love it too.

I will be totally transparent with you and say that you have actually managed to put a smile back on my face.

(Laughter) that’s good, that is really nice.

Are you happy with it?

Listen, or else we wouldn’t be here today, I believe that it is the best recording that I have made to date. I am absolutely over the moon with the result and I know that the album is going to prove itself for being exactly that. Unfortunately, most people do not get the time to listen to a lot of things, and so being with a small record company of my own, Greenheart Music, means that I don’t have a massive marketing organisation behind me. I really do not release too much into the market. I have found over the years that the music will reach its people. Everything in the world is like that, and when you force it, you get a negative reaction, and that really would not make me happy.

I would much rather make the record, I know that I love. It has made me happy, and if it only sells ten copies, then I would honestly prefer that than wind people up with a million-dollar promotion and never know if the damn record was any good. I am convinced that this record is good. By all of my standards, it is a very good record. It has enabled me to keep a promise which I made to the people from where I came; Plaisance, Guyana, and they will be known all over the world as long as good music is being played somewhere.

Were you happy with the fan’s reaction to the album?

Absolutely. Listen, I don’t interface every day with social media but my daughter, Maria, certainly does. She is in charge of all of that and every now and again, she will say to me, “look at this” or “look at that, this is the effect that your music is having out there”. My only bitch if you like, is that they seem to want to go to iTunes and all of these other platforms in order to obtain my music. I keep on saying and maybe I haven’t said it enough, “if you want anything from Eddy Grant, by Eddy Grant, then you go to EddyGrant.com just like you would go to Spotify.com”. There are mechanical issues about a man like me, making my music and trying to sell it to the people who love my music, because they have all been indoctrinated with Spotify, iTunes, and all of these other social media issues.

I know that I will eventually get there with them, but it will be with me doing things the way that I want to do them. It will be me getting my music out there to my people. It’s just that the other record companies are not yet set-up to deal with an artist like me and my fans. That is the cold reality of the current situation. Whenever my fans write to me, I beg them that if they want something from Amazon, then they must go to Amazon, but if they want something from Eddy Grant, then they should go to EddyGrant.com. It really is that simple (laughter). Unfortunately, that message seems to have missed a lot of people, but we are now putting that right.

I have to tell you that I currently have four go to tracks. They are Shack Shack which I think is brilliant as it never fails to make me smile.

Really, that is great to hear, so thank you for saying that. Well I have to say that there is a real story behind that particular song. That is the thing about this record; this record is what I would call a concept album, but not like any other concept album that you will have previously heard. It is possibly more like The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as against something recorded by, let’s say, Paul Simon. It has a story that once you get to know it, then you will get to love it. I have to say that you picking Shack Shack as one of your favourite tracks on the album has really surprised me, because it is my favourite track on the album.

Shack Shack really is the soundtrack to my life. It’s from when I was eight years old to when I was ten years old. Because of that fact, it will feature very large in any playlist that I will do for the Plaisance album simply because it carries a massive story that I will tell, in my autobiography.

I also love Key To Your Heart which I feel takes us back to the Eddy Grant of the late 70s.

(Laughter) that is so correct. Were you in the studio when I was recording Key To Your Heart because that is how that song makes me feel; it takes me back to the good old days back in the UK in the 1970s. (laughter).

I feel that I Belong To You is such a beautiful track.

Thank you. I honestly feel that I Belong To You is one of the best songs that I have ever written. I mean that with all humility, because that song means so much to me. That song is dedicated to my people in Plaisance, my wife and children. That song sings; it tells you just what it is. Unlike anything that I have done, certainly of late, that song speaks to me. I am prepared to put my hands on it, and say that it will be a hit, and that is why it is going to be the follow-up single to Is Carole King Here? It is a different type of song for me, and I love that challenge. I feel that I have done a really good job. I feel that I have written a beautiful song, for beautiful people and all my friends. As the title says I Belong To You.

The fourth track is the one that you have just mentioned, Is Carole King Here? What is the back story to that particular track?

Carole King features very heavily on this particular album because firstly, I am obviously paying tribute to one of the world’s finest songwriters. She might be a woman, but women have historically written great songs and Carole has proven that. Secondly, when I was coming out of British Guyana Carole King was writing great songs for all types of artists; black artists, white artists, and anyone who would sing it artists, and yet I didn’t know her name. I didn’t know who had written all of these songs. I just took them, as all people should take music, at face value. Of course, when I got over there to England, I started to get wise to music. I saw how music was presented, how there were writers, how there were publishing companies, and that there were people who were known for being first class writers especially in The Brill Building over in America.

This fresh-faced kid who was new to the UK, and who was loving all of these songs had no idea who this person was. Then one day, somebody said to me, “that’s a Carole King song” and what surprised me was that nobody mentioned her name on the radio back in Guyana. She was just another songwriter who you just didn’t associate those songs to the people who had written them. At that point, I thought that now I was a writer, I should really bring that story to the fore and exactly who had written all of these glorious songs. Carole then wrote one of my most loved songs, which is (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. She could have written that song alone and it would have been a job well done in the eyes of God.

I believe that it was karma and that it was destiny that the song Is Carole King Here? was to be written. It was written very quickly, and in circumstances that you would never believe. I was backstage, and the guy who was my business manager at the time, was bothering me and saying, “why don’t you write another number one” and so I said to him, “that is very easy to say but do you know just how many number one’s that I have written already. They are there, they are on albums; this is my sixteenth album and are you telling me that I haven’t already written a number one record” (laughter). At that point, I decided to give him a demonstration of just how a number one melody was written and how a number one song is written.

The very first words that came out of my mouth were Is Carole King Here? Why the hell, I don’t know but that is how that song came about (laughter). Where the hell did Gimme Hope Jo’anna come from; I don’t know (laughter). I just thought that God must be throwing these things at me and they become hits; people love them. They are not just another song because people love them. They are not ordinary songs, and so yes, I love that song too. In fact, I love all of them (laughter).

There are fourteen tracks on the album. How many did you begin with?

Firstly, I have to say that I am always making records. So, there is a period of time, like a farmer, when he must leave his field fallow. There is a period of time when he must make sure that there is rain, moisture on the earth, and nature does the rest. All that he has to do is to plant the seeds. That is what happens with me; I am constantly going through this process. That is why it takes me so long to record another record, because it is a natural process. Nobody forces me to write a song, nobody forces me to put one out, and certainly the results tell you the story of that particular record. If I take two years for a record of mine to come to the fore, then so be it. In earlier times I recorded songs with The Equals that have become big, standard pop songs now, songs like, Baby Come Back which as you know, everyone has recorded that (laughter).

But something like Police On My Back which nobody knew who had written it, and everyone presumed that Joe Strummer of The Clash had written that particular song. No one would ever have thought that it had been written by Eddy Grant. It just goes to show that people really do appreciate a good song. The Clash took the song although it is not one of their own, but they recorded it nevertheless, and it has become legendary and it is there in the annuls of the people who protest, and they love it. I think that it has been covered more times than even Baby, Come Back (laughter). Let’s just say that it has done its job, but saying that, it took time.

On the cover of the album you are photographed next to the tress in the centre of Plaisance. Are these trees special to you and also to the village?

Yes, they are, they are very special to me and they are also very special to the village. The trees are actually in the graveyard which I write about. There are bits and pieces of references, because those trees have been there for hundreds of years. As long as Plaisance has been there, they have been there. The trees are actually in a graveyard in one of the first churches in the village, St. Paul’s. It’s not obvious but I am actually growing out of the root of one of the trees. That is because I am just another tree in the yard so to speak. That has a very significant meaning to me, and everybody will see whatever it is that they want to see.

I wanted to have an image that would be there in two hundred years’ time. There is nothing in the village that in my eyes would be there in two hundred years’ time. Our country has now become an oil economy, and as such, everything will be dug up, turned over, rebuilt and whatever, but it is my estimation that the only thing in Plaisance that will outlive every one of us are those three or four trees in that graveyard.

I can’t speak to you without mentioning your forthcoming autobiography. How is it coming along?

It’s coming, it’s coming along fine. I am doing the autobiography via video. I am being interviewed by my daughter Maria, and that will be converted both into a video event and a book event. It is now so large in terms of the fact that I have been around a bit you know. I have been around for quite a while (laughter). Therefore, the experiences, and the stories, and so on, will take time. It is taking time; I have been at it for a couple of years now and there is a lot of material there and that is what will ostensibly become the book.

What time period will the autography cover?

It must start with the people from whom I came, my father’s family and my mother’s family. I don’t have any particular order of things whenever I write songs; I just get inspired with whichever story is to the front of my head on that particular day. It may even start at the Mandela concert, it may start at some stadium event which all my fans know, or what people will be interested in. So, as you can see, I take it as it comes with whatever the very first word is going to be. But alas, I just don’t know what that will be as yet.

Was the autobiography something that you felt that you had to do or something that you felt that you needed to do?

I felt that I needed to do it, because of the way that the world has gone. I think that most people write books from a template, just like a lot of the guys write songs from a template; it has got to be R&B, a Pop song or a Rap song. I don’t visualise music like that, and I most certainly do not visualise life like that. Whatever the inspiration is, I must get that down. In today’s world I think that a lot of what has been handed to us as art is plagiarism. It is not something that I am known for or want to be known for. I want to actually test my muscles as a writer, and I am currently doing that with my autobiography.

Now I have a feeling that you will say that if you tell me you will have to kill me, but do you have a title for your autobiography yet?

(Laughter) I like that (laughter). No, I haven’t but the people who know me better will tell you that I listen to everybody. It is just that it will always be me who makes the final decision. Sometimes I don’t need to make a decision because it suddenly becomes obvious. However, I have to say that the title of the autobiography could be any one of the song titles that I have written on any particular day. Or it may just become ‘Ringbang for life’, which as you know is one of my sayings. Who knows man; I don’t even know what is going to happen this afternoon (laughter).

I certainly do not know what happened yesterday (laughter).

(Laughter) let’s just say that yesterday was a bad day. Just remember that there are no bad days, there are no bad days.

I can’t speak to you without mentioning The Equals. Back in 1965 you founded the group with John Hall, Pat Lloyd, and brothers Derv and Lincoln Gordon. Were you aware that you were pushing the boundaries being the first major inter-racial rock group in the UK at that time?

Let me put it this way, at the time I knew that we were different. It was obvious to everyone that we were different. It is also obvious just how the events took place. What I would like to say is that you have got the world today that is spinning at a rate that is unbelievable, and people are running around trying to talk about inclusiveness and all of these fancy words, and looking desperately for it because they are saying that the world needs it. But we were inclusive and leading the way when we were still children of seventeen and eighteen years old. We found it. Nobody asked us, “how did you guys do that?” Well, we did something, and we were able to pull it off.

I have to say that something is needed desperately today, and it is needed desperately in today’s world and in our society, yet nobody talks about it. It is one of the biggest secrets in the world, and if people genuinely recognised its cultural value, then why hasn’t somebody done something about it. My old and very dear friend and associate for well over fifty years now, Patrick ’Pat’ Lloyd, said to me, “‘Ed what is it, why are they treating us as if we are black” (laughter). He then said “we are half black and half white”. I just looked at him and said, “do I really have to explain that to you”.

You have mentioned Police On My Back. Being a black youth growing up in London in the 1960s, is that how you were made to feel?

To be totally honest with you, I just felt so damn lucky to be where I was. What you have to remember is that you are dealing with a time span basically between twelve and seventeen when the major damage would have been done, so to speak. I met these guys and we did something. England is known for collating information on its people and for lauding and applauding its people. For example, Shakespeare sells more books than anybody else each year. I find it so strange, and I have always told my friend Pat, that I will stay relevant just to make sure that The Equals get their right and proper credit for what has happened in the society as a result of them.

There was a recurrence of them even in the Two-Tone organisation which didn’t last simply because it wasn’t the real thing. But The Equals showed the society how to live both intra and extra racially. It really was a marvellous journey for a young man. It was far better than the army and far better than the navy. It is all about where you have come from, and it is all about your family. Whenever you speak to Pat Lloyd you get the impression that his mother and father were not racially biased at all; they were not. The same with my parents too so it comes from the home. Racial prejudice and the dislike for another race and another people, is grown like a cabbage, it is grown at home. A negative word never came out of these skies.

I am telling you this because I am living in both spheres. I am living in the sphere of the West Indian black man, and that is what I would grow up to be, and they are living in a White Caucasian British Society which is extremely proud of themselves and at that time there was a tremendous amount of racial antagonism. Society hasn’t changed; it is just that we are better at hiding it now. We have got a media that is so diverse and perverse that it allows for hiding the racial tension in the world today. People are now saying, “we want to come out of it, and how the hell do we do that”. Well we have done it; we’ve done it and let me tell you, it is eminently doable.

We have spoken about Police On My Back by The Clash. What did you think when back in 1994 Pato Banton featuring Ali and Robin Campbell of UB40 covered Baby Come Back?

To be totally honest with you I actually thought that both covers were very good. The UB40 and Pato Banton cover proved itself as it went straight to number one (laughter). Both UB40 and Pato’s fans obviously took to their version of that record. I have met the guys and I have played with them. We have toured together, both configurations of the band, including the one with the replacement brother, and I have also played with Ali when we toured throughout Southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand. I know that they like the music, and they also recorded a song that I published called Please Don’t Make Me Cry.

Again, it has got a massive story behind it, and the fact that they came along at that time and that they were prepared to record those songs, it really is a tremendous thing. When people are fighting for the song, ‘who is going to write that’ and ‘who is going to do that’ they just decided that there were just so many beautiful songs out of the Caribbean, that we could just keep on picking songs and getting hits, and that is just what they did (laughter). They were rubber stamped out of the mould of The Equals, and in all honesty, you have to look at The Equals band history, discography, and its way of life, because The Equals life, as a band was a way of life for the community; the wider community in this world.

So, it is up to whomever, because I know that they hand out awards for this and awards for that, and I was thinking, ‘this is so bloody unfair’ and I can say that now because I am not in The Equals; I am Eddy Grant and I can say that as Eddy Grant. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to give me an award; I am happy as I am. What does it say about the community, what does it say about the people, what does it say about the country, something is amiss? They have got it all wrong there. I feel that I have to say it, or else it will just continue going blindly along and there will be more antipathy within the community, other than there needs to be.

On the subject of awards, back in 2005 you were honoured with a postage stamp featuring your likeness and the Ringbang logo by the Guyana Post Office Corporation. How did that make you feel?

(Laughter) I feel that I have to correct you Kevin as it was actually four postage stamps. Two were for a period of time and two are everlasting. It recognises not only me, Eddy Grant, the person, the personality, but it recognises my brand Ringbang which, as you know, is a whole new philosophy for us, the people of the Caribbean. The Caribbean has not had a philosophy or ideology of their own for a very long time; not since the days of Marcus Garvey. Ringbang offers the most concise and comprehensive lifestyle. Any people who cannot find it within themselves to love themselves are on the way down and out.

I felt that really was the most positive thing that I can contribute to this world, not just by writing the songs but by having a philosophy upon which everything that we do can be based. And the first of those things is that we have to learn to love ourselves. If you cannot love yourself then you cannot love anybody. Even the bible, which people subscribe to so blindly, makes a tragic mistake in saying, ‘you should love your neighbour as you love yourself’. Well, hang on, how can you do that if you can’t love yourself (laughter). So, these are the things that I think about and from time to time bore people with, because it is scripture and therefore, we can make it true.

Staying with the subject of awards, in 2016, you received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the government of Guyana. That must have made you smile.

Well, what can I say, I have received a number of those, in fact, I have even received one of those from England (laughter). Many years ago, a small newspaper called The Caribbean Times, a very important newspaper in the Afro-UK community, and I recall that they were writing about me, Marcia Barrett from Boney M, and the late, great Sir Norman Beaton. I call him Sir because nobody else does. He really was the best actor for his period in the UK. He was awarded that accolade, which I personally felt was timely, because he died not much later. He really was an awesome actor. When they look past people like Sir John Gielgud, Sir Ralph Richardson, Sir Alec Guinness, Sir Richard Burton, and call Norman the greatest actor in Britain, now that really is serious.

It’s great because they didn’t say “the greatest black actor in Britain”, they said “the greatest actor”. Today we have got the great Rudolph Walker who, in some respects has taken Norman’s place. However, with all due respect, I think that even Rudy would say that there is nobody that could replace Norman. Norman was a giant, whilst Rudy is the giant of today. Rudy would gladly tell you about the stretch of Norman’s capacity as an actor; it’s fantastic.

Wasn’t it Norman who got you into acting?

Yes, it was. He taught me so much about acting, whilst I was working in the theatres in an amateur capacity really but still, I worked at The Royal Court, and places like that. Norman managed to get me some acting parts in things such as The OnedinLine, when they wanted someone who they could dress up as an Indian. It was all useful front of camera experience for me and I owe it all to Norman Beaton.

Was there ever a time when your path could have led you into acting and not music?

Listen, whenever Norman tells you that you are a ‘fine actor’ then you sit up and listen. When Anthony Simmons, the director of the 1986 movie Black Joy wants you to play Noman’s part, that is the greatest accolade that you could have thrown to Norman first of all because Norman taught me. And then, it just made me angry that the director could see fit to cast me in Norman’s part. I can act, I know I can because I have done it, and every night that I am out there on stage is an act. It is something that I wish that I had done a little more, but the waiting between takes is interminable. That simply doesn’t attract me as much as making records does. Don’t get me wrong, making a record can be just as interminable in terms of the amount of time that it can take me to finish one. Oh yes, I know all about that (laughter).

(Laughter) well you bought it up. There was an eleven-year gap between Reparation which you released in 2006 and Plaisance which you released in 2017.

That comes from talking too much, that’s the truth (laughter). Hands up, yes, I do take a long time, but they also last a long time.

Staying with the subject of time, when will we be seeing a new studio album, the follow-up to Plaisance?

Being totally honest with you, the next album coming after Plaisance will be a long time coming. Don’t get me wrong, it’s finished, and all that remains is for me to do the packaging. However, the Plaisance album is such a deep album, in my eyes, and it would be a shame to let it go the same way as the others. People are now starting to find out things about my music, so many albums have gone by and for those people to say, “I don’t know where to find it” or because I am a small independent label, it just seems such a shame. Once we get Plaisance firmly locked in place in the hearts and minds of the people who love my music, and there are millions of them because I have sold that many records.

Once they get on board, they know where to find me, and I am happy with the million sales of the album, and today people don’t sell millions they sell thousands. Those artists who used to sell twenty million copies are now selling twenty thousand, and that is all down to the nonsense that has taken place within the record business. Once I can satisfy myself that I have made contact with the people who love my music, I will then, and it really doesn’t matter to me when, I will then bring out the next album which is going to be called Essequibo after the longest river in my country. It is another reference to something that is great in my country.

I have a home there, and the people there are special too, and the album contains special songs again. I don’t treat my music lightly; my music means a lot to me. It is not about money; it has never been about that. I make my money in order that I may satisfy my soul and the fact that I have done the best job that I can because one day soon I will be gone.

Will we ever see Eddy Grant back out on the road touring?

It’s a bad time for you to be talking about touring man. There are so many people feeling the pressure through not being able to tour. Having said that, I am fit and so I could tour at any time. I just need enough time to get the band back together, and then touring it will be. I will most definitely tour again, before I have to go in the lift (laughter). God willing and God is great, so I know that he won’t allow me to leave my fans and friends without playing a number of those shows.

I know that there have been many over the years but, putting you on the spot, what would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

Well, as you say there have been many, many highlights over the years. I could say that Gimme Hope Jo’anna was a highlight because of its content. When nobody wants me, and that has happened a number of times in my life, when nobody wants me, and I am called upon, within myself, to back myself, finding the strength to once again go out on my own after being turned away by many, and succeeding; those are the moments that I cherish. When looking back retrospectively upon my long career, my long life thank God, and I think that just being able to stay alive and just do it, is the most important.

What can you remember about your first appearance on Top Of The Pops?

For me, it was very exciting. What you have to remember is that the first time that I would have appeared on Top Of The Pops would have been with The Equals performing Baby Come Back. The excitement of being young, and the times, man the 60s, god if anyone has lived in the 60s they must be feeling terribly dull at this time because the 60s had so much creativity. You can go back and look at what was happening, you can hear the sounds of the songs, the great records that were being made, together with the mark of experimentation that was being done. Top Of The Pops reflected the high points of television for music at that time. Prior to that, you had things like Oh Boy! and Thank Your Lucky Stars, but they didn’t have the same energy.

Rock and Roll had just found its way into England via Oh Boy! but it still didn’t have the same energy, impact, and social interplay that Top Of The Pops had. Ready Steady Go was nice because it featured more live performances at a time when people didn’t play live on television, so that really did have an energy. However, it was always Top Of The Pops that had the results because whenever you appeared on Top Of The Pops you would have to have a really duff record in order to not have a success. With The Equals, I played a number of shows for Top Of The Pops and then, of course, when my solo career took off, I could never have dreamed that I would become a more successful artist than The Equals. It’s ludicrous but that’s what happened. I just happened to have the right songs at the right time.

What was the first record that you bought?

Wow, that is always one of those questions that will give me a few problems because it’s not that I can’t remember but I can’t actually remember the fine print of it, in other words who actually bought the record. The very first record that was bought by me would have been Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow? by The Rolling Stones. That is a record that not a lot of people talk about, but when you listen to it, it has got tremendous rhythmical interplay between the lead voice and the horns. It was very strange for The Rolling Stones to make in any case because, at that time, they were recording covers of Chuck Berry songs, as were The Beatles and everybody else.

So, the actual first record that came into my possession was bought for me by my mother and it was You’re Driving Me Crazy by The Temperance Seven. They were a Trad Jazz band and at that time I was heavily into Trad Jazz. Subsequent to that, I bought the sheet music to Midnight In Moscow by Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen. At that time I didn’t have a lot of money, in fact, I didn’t have any money so I would have to beg my mother to go into Woolworths who made cover versions of records which were fairly cheap, 6/9d and 4/2d which was still a lot of money for a nurse. So, as you can imagine, I didn’t have many records. I was actually given some of the more influential records in my life.

A girl I knew, a Greek girl, and I say that because Greek girls were not known for rushing out and buying records for little black guys. We were all new in England; we were Captain Bush, we were creating a path. Not just The Equals but people in their individuality, were adding to England’s composite. So, when a Greek girl walks up to you at school and says, “here you are, I can’t take this home, because my father won’t like it” and it was Muddy Waters Plays Big Bill Broonzy and all that I could say was thank you, and guess what, I didn’t even have a record player (laughter). In order to listen to it I had to take it to school to the music class. Another girl bought me Chuck Berry’s Greatest Hits, and by then I had learnt that Chuck Berry really was the king.

I was always talking about Chuck Berry and I was totally obsessed with everything Chuck Berry. It was probably the girls plan to buy me the album in order to shut me up, I’m not sure (laughter). Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon where my wife is at the time, to have most of the things that I have been given that have changed both my music direction together with my life, have all been given to me by girls and women. I am extremely glad that that has continued through all of my life. Most of the people who work for me or do anything for me, are women. I find that it is because men are jealous, men are greedy, and so I am glad that I came along my chosen route because it directed me. Muddy Waters Plays Big Bill Broonzy is large in my life.

Who did you first see performing live?

That’s easy, it was Chuck Berry. At that time I liked good music and as Quincy Jones would say, “there are only two kinds of music, good and bad” and I just happened to come over to England at a time when the young guys like (Paul) McCartney, (John) Lennon, (Mick) Jagger and (Keith) Richards were all learning their trade. The template for each and every one of them was Chuck Berry. The Beatles later went along another path when they looked towards Smokey Robinson for their inspiration. All of that kind of music was so very new over there in England and I just came over at the right time as it was becoming very popular.

I found that I could move very easily within the kids who were from the St. Pancras area or the Burghley Road area. Everybody was playing something at the time, and it was here that I came to play the guitar. I had previously been playing the trumpet and then suddenly I found that everyone else was playing the guitar. I thought, ‘I can do that’ and set about getting myself a guitar. I went with my father expecting him to buy a guitar for me, but he said, “you have got to be joking. A guitar costs a lot of money”’ (laughter). But then, as usual, my father and I did a deal. He said, “listen, why don’t you make a guitar” because at that time I really was an excellent carpenter if you don’t mind me saying so.

I had come from a background in Guyana where there were many great builders in wood because we are very much a wooden people in Guyana. We also have some of the greatest hardwoods in the world, plug, plug (laughter). So, because of this, the saw and the hammer were not strange to my hands. I could handle myself, but I honestly needed guidance, and that guidance was provided to me by a gentleman called Alan Ronketty who was the woodwork master. He drew up the plans of a guitar and I set about making it thanks to his intervention. When I had finished making my guitar, it was then that my father bought me the amplifier, and so from that point I was on my way.

I have since that day spoken to Mr Ronketty. He got in touch with me after many years, and most of our chat, I have to say, was all about that guitar (laughter). I feel that it is marvellous for the two of us to have made that sort of contact once again after all this time. It was wonderful for us to have made that kind of contact once again with a teacher who has played such a seminal part in what became my life. I won’t bore you with all the details today, but the whole story will be in my autobiography.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Wow, what a question. Let me think. I think that the last piece of music that made me cry was also the very first piece of music that made me cry. Somebody the other day asked me to fill in a form and on that form was the same question. I traced it all the way back to 1957 to the day that my father left Guyana. At that very moment playing on the radio in the distance was a song by Ricky Nelson called Never Be Anyone Else But You. Me and my father had an interlocking relationship; whilst I can share the love from my mother, my father really stood out very strongly in my life. Seeing him board a ship of dubious capacity, sailing off the shores of Guyana to go to England, leaving myself, my three brothers at the time, and my mother who at that time was with child, and seeing her standing on that wharf in George Town, seeing my father who was a famous trumpet player in Guyana, he picked up his trumpet and he started to play.

That simply broke me up. So, the other day, when I had to write it, I found tears coming out of my eyes, as I remembered my father who has now passed. I remembered that singular occasion. I’m a big softie at heart you know. Anything can make me cry just as long as it has got enough emotional content (laughter). I saw President Obama cry at his inauguration, at The Kennedy Centre when Aretha Franklin was singing the Carole King song, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. Funnily enough that song always makes me cry; it will bring tears to my eyes every time that I hear it. It is such a beautiful rendition of someone else’s song; it’s marvellous to have an artist interpret a song that you have written, with that much love and care. It is wonderful.

On that note Eddy, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been both a pleasure and an experience.

Thank you Kevin, thank you very much and thank you for your time.