Finding a box of old photographs and slides brought home the fact that I have not always been a fan of Succulent Plants (including Cacti).
Although I started at the age of 6 and continued despite house moves with my parents from The Netherlands via Denmark to England I kept the interest going, including a small collection on the windowsill of my bedroom in Great Bookham, until roughly 1970, when an interest in Drugs (if you count pints of Guiness and Rothmans cigarettes in this category), Sex and Rock ‘n’ Roll took over.
It started with the PK Blues Club Sessions, when on a Saturday night in the late 1960’s my parents would allow me to invite a bunch of spotty teenagers to visit me and play records before, round about 22:00 hrs, we’d march off to The Plough for a few pints of libation convincing the landlord somehow that we were over the legal drinking age. How did we get away with it?
Records like Can’t Be So Bad by Moby Grape received their first airing to kids raised on British Pop, Rock and Blues and became part of the set of Lofty Flake Anagram, a band formed by three class mates and named after an album by Gary Burton, a jazz vibraphonist and influence on our drummer, Adrian Randall. The others in the band were Nick Ritchie (lead guitar) and Steve Williams (bass guitar). Me? I played the record player, tape recorder and later the MP3 player and provided enthusiasm and encouragement. One afternoon, Nick tried to teach me how to play the guitar. After hours of struggling to squeeze the chords of a basic 12 bar blues out of a non cooperative lump of wood with six strings, he burst into the opening notes of Country Boy by Head Hands & Feat / Albert Lee. Aaargh! I then borrowed Adrian’s drum kit as he wanted to move on into a more jazz orientated direction. I learned that I did not have the patience for long practice sessions and with a loud sigh of relief from my patient parents, the drum kit went back. I overheard my Mum saying to my Dad ‘You see, if you had put your foot down that there would not be a drum kit in the house, he would still be forcing the issue.’ Wise words Mum and well done Dad for listening.
As the number of people who wanted to come to the PK Blues Club Sessions and we were drummer-less, our regular meetings went to the home of Helen and Alan Wright, both members of staff at our school, Therfield CS in Leatherhead, Surrey. They had a long time love for country blues and introduced us to records by Mississippi John Hurt, Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy etc. It also turned out that their son, Trevor, could pick a mean blues guitar as well as banjo. As musical trends were changing to country / folk / rock of the seventies, it did not seem to matter that we had no drummer. Bands like Crosby Stills & Nash (& Young), America, The Eagles and The Doobie Brothers proved that drums were not essential for an evening of live music. Nick brought a colleague from work, Bill Ferrier, along and Nick and Steve knew the cousin of my sister’s boyfriend (initially ‘Cousin Steve’ to me – Steve Hopkins) and Nick started going out with with ‘Cousin Steve’s sister.
The size of the people meeting at Ellen and Alan Wright continued to grow and started to take on the form of a band practice session. Time to look for larger premises, a problem that was solved by our ‘sort of local Pub’ – the Ranmore Arms, a charming country pub on lonely Ranmore Common, without neighbours requesting that the noise was turned down. The landlord was happy with the extra clientele that we brought along. As memory serves, I arranged for the players to be rewarded with free beer for the night and a good time was hed by all.
We built up quite a following and needed a name. ‘Canto’ was chosen as it reflected the close harmony singing along acoustic guitars that became our trade mark.
Trevor (guitar, banjo and vocals) writes: ‘My memory of how the name Canto came about is that our first paid gig was at the Hautboy Inn at Ockham, Surrey. The pub had some connection with Lord Byron, so I got out my copy of Childe Harold that I’d just done for A level. The book starts with “Canto the First” and everyone thought ‘That will do!’ ‘
Do come back from time to time as I will try to add images to this page or a link to a Canto Gallery elsewhere.
Canto Photo Gallery (1) – 1973 – the Ranmore Arms