My Life: 10 key moments over 56 years, by Harrogate musician Bob Mason

2016: Harrogate musicians Bob and Denise Mason. (1610101AM1)
2016: Harrogate musicians Bob and Denise Mason. (1610101AM1)

Incredible Harrogate musician Bob Mason, 71, talks to the Harrogate Advertiser's GRAHAM CHALMERS about 56 years of ‘gigging’ - often in the same band as his wife and musical partner Denise, 67.

1 We met through music in 1970 and married in 1971

1980s: The Jimmy O Show Band including Bob Mason, front left and Derry Jones, front right.

1980s: The Jimmy O Show Band including Bob Mason, front left and Derry Jones, front right.

“I knew a few guys that worked in various Leeds Music Shops one was a friend of Denise. I mentioned that the trio I was with were looking for a girl vocalist.

“Denise’s name was given and we knocked on her door in the Roundhay area. Her Mum answered the door and thought we were Insurance Men but we explained the situation and fixed up a few rehearsals.

“Denise was very easy to get on with. It wasn’t too long before we realised we had more than music in common and nine months later we were engaged and nine months after that we were married.

“But we didn’t have our first son till 1978 and our second son in 1981.”

2 The day I got my first guitar

“When I got the guitar bug in the late 1950s and my teenage years had begun,the only help I had was Bert Weedon’s Play In A Day book,which wasn’t strictly true but you could learn the three or four chords required to play some songs of the day!

“The only way of learning a guitar riff was to buy the record and keep lifting the arm off the record player until you had it nailed.

“My first band was The Denvers when I was 15 at Harrogate Grammar School. My journey had begun. The drummer in that band was Stuart Colman who I’d known since we were both five years old at Grove Road Infant School.

“Stuart went on to play bass with Pinkerton’s Colors and Flying Machine before becoming a record producer making hits for the likes of Cliff Richard and Shakin Stevens.

“He is now back in the UK and we meet up when we can.”

3 Brush with fame in Swinging Sixties

“In the ten years from being 15 in 1960 through to 1970, I had learned to play guitar, played in many bands in many parts of the UK and supported amongst others The Beatles, Little Richard and Gene Vincent.

“I also played a Live BBC 2 TV show from The Prince of Wales Theatre in London which featured Cilla Black and Manfred Mann.

4 To turn ‘professional or not’

“Quite a few chances to turn professional came up in the 1960s, in particular, but as I had a good Civil Service job from the age of 16 which has kept me in guitars for 42 years until I took early retirement. I never followed the offers through.

“I have written a couple of songs in my time - I Like A Little Jazz and, also, So Many Guitars, So Little Time.

“I thought about turning professional but I had such a good job. If I had taken a risk I would have lost my Civil Service pension.”

5 Importance of Harrogate pianist Derry Jones

“When we started our family in 1978, Denise took some years out. I then had a chance meeting with Derry Jones that brought me into The Jimmy-o-Show, a great local function band led by the master of entertainment Jimmy Overton.

“The band could play any song in any style and for any occasion - this taught me how to be versatile and that to get regular work you have to be a crowd pleaser. The band made an album and appeared on Tyne Tees Television.”

6 The last 20 years

“Over the last 20 years I have been playing the bass with my jazz trio Swingplicity with two great Harrogate musicians - former Jimmy O Sax man Gerry Green and Mike Barnham on guitar and, sometimes, Bob Smeaton from York on Piano.

“We feature the more melodic, easy listening type of jazz that keeps us still playing for private parties/weddings/business functions and all types of receptions.”

7 Playing for Prince Charles

“When Prince Charles opened the newly refurbished Royal Hall a few years back we had the pleasure of playing at the reception in the main hall just prior to the ceremony.

“Later we were awarded a brass seat plaque in The Grand Circle saying “Bob Mason/Gerry Green/Mike Barnham for services to live music in Harrogate.”

I also played at The Royal Hall again in 2013 on guitar for the 50th anniversary concert marking The Beatles appearance here in 1963.

Most of the original members of The Apaches performed.

8 Playing music with Denise

“Music has always been our main interest and, although, I have been in many other projects and bands, we always try to involve each other when possible.

“Denise was with Harrogate’s Rock Up & Sing choir from its birth but has taken some time off it now.

“Denise and I perform together as Wynterwood, a guitar-vocal duo playing for small functions, parties, weddings and care homes, as well as various open mic sessions in the area.

“I am still gigging once or twice a week after 56 years, which is amazing.”

9 My biggest regret

“In the late 1960s/early 1970s when I supported legendary rock n roller Gene Vincent, who recorded Be-Bop-A-Lula, he only had about six months to live.

“He looked really depressed in his dressing room but I didn’t have the heart to go in and talk to him.

“I was only a young lad but I should have told him I’d bought his records. I should have told him how much his music meant to me.”

10 Bob and Denise: staying young together

“Being involved as much as we are has kept us young over the years, immature, some would say.

“We’d rather be out performing in care homes than sitting at home watching TV.

“If you’re on stage you have to entertain the crowd. If the audience has enjoyed it, then I have done my job.

“I’m waiting now for our 49th wedding anniversary so I can say ‘funny, I don’t remember breaking seven mirrors!’”