May 1, 2012

Thank you to Jimmy from Keith Caws

“Come along and Sing us a Song!”

A Thank you to Jimmy from Keith, a fellow
guitarist and friend

The Legend

The day God handed out the gift of music, Jimmy must have
found himself close to the front of the queue. Indeed, it seems to
me he could have been born with a guitar in his hand such was
his mastery of it, although in truth this was only a small part of
his genius. This was because Jimmy was one of those very rare
gems of a musician that reveal themselves every now and then –
Because Jimmy was a musical all-rounder! An incredible musical
chocolate box with a huge variety of delicious talents: singer,
harmoniser, bassist, rhythm, lead, percussionist, and the one he
was most proud of – songwriter. But peel away the top layer
and on the second layer of the chocolate box you would find yet
more varieties that were equally delightful, for Jimmy was also
a ‘giver’ and an ‘inspirer’ of music. He always encouraged others
to play different songs with different rhythms or with different
instruments, and was always very generous in letting people play
or sing a few songs at his gigs. He never saw music as competitive
in any way, and often remarked on other musicians whom he was
genuinely thrilled to see play. He only saw music as a beautiful
and magical creature to be shared by all in the pursuit of laughter,
fun and happiness.

Gigging at The Holly Tree

The first time I met Jimmy was at the half time break at a school
concert when he came up to me and told me how much he had
enjoyed my performance and soon we were talking music. During

that conversation he told me that he played at the Holly Tree in
Walberton every Sunday evening with a few friends, and as soon
as I passed my driving test I rounded up a few friends and went to
see him.

The first night I ventured into the Holly Tree I saw Jimmy and
three friends, Dick, Paul and Eddie, all sitting round a table playing
acoustic guitars and singing songs. At once I loved the sound and
the songs they were playing which all sounded so fresh to me.
Once more they could all really play! This was not a few friends
trying to learn a few chords in an attempt to get somewhere close
to the sound of a song. All of them were accomplished guitar
players, who had played for many years, and who were happy to
spend a Sunday evening relaxing and having fun by playing songs
in a local village pub whilst having a few pints of beer.

It was at some stage during the evening, en route to the bar that
Jimmy saw me.
“Where’s your guitar?” he said
“It’s at home,” I said feebly.
“Next week” he said, “Bring it! Come along and sing us a
Song!”

Having seen how good they were I was surprised at the invitation.
There was no way I could play like them! They were playing
chords and songs I’d never seen or heard before! However, Jimmy
was insistent and so being young and keen to play I took him up on
his kind and generous offer.

For many weeks I was in awe of their playing. I used to try hard to
copy their chords which were all weird and wonderful shapes, but
to try to disguise the fact that I might not be playing them exactly
right, I would play really quietly hoping they wouldn’t notice.
Some of the chords were more weird and more wonderful than
others because Jimmy, a complete lover of all chord shapes, used

to make his own up. I can remember the first day he showed me
the chord ‘crab 11th’ which involved all his fingers being wrapped
around the neck of his guitar and creeping up and down the fret
board like a crab. Within a minute he had also shown me ‘pregnant
6th’ which involved him placing his fingers on the fretboard but
sticking his thumb out through them as he played. Being keen to
learn, for a few moments I believed the chords to be proper, but
the smiles on everyone’s faces as well as the fact that they didn’t
sound too good, soon made me realise that I had just sampled a
taste of Jimmy’s humour as well as his love of chords.

Indeed, he loved to play songs with interesting chords and was
especially fond of Django Reindhardt songs for this reason.
Django’s ‘Nuages’ was a particular favourite of his at this time
along with ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ and ‘Stardust’. However,
there always came a certain time in an evening, usually about
quarter to eleven when Jimmy’s love of intricate chords left him,
as now having had a few pints of beer, he used to like to play a bit
of rock’n’roll, comparatively less taxing on the chord front, as well
as being a good crowd pleaser on which to finish.

Sitting quietly on a chair around a table I would try to remember
a new chord a night and then go home to learn it. I would
also listen to the songs they were playing and go back to my
cassette collection to find them and learn them. It seemed to
me they could just pull out great number after great number.
Jimmy in particular used to just burst into Beatles songs
like ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Something’, ‘And I love her’, ‘Norwegian
Wood’, and Chuck Berry songs such as ‘The Promised
Land’, ‘Tulane’, ‘You Never Can Tell’ and ‘Too Much Monkey
Business’. Indeed, he loved Chuck Berry songs he used to say,
because they told a story. Other songs he played in the Holly
Tree were ‘Suspicion’, ‘Route ’66’, ‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘Proud
Mary’, ‘Light my Fire’, ‘I’ll be Your Baby Tonight’,‘The Letter’
and ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’.

In between songs he would love to talk and joke. In fact at times I
used to think he and his friend Dick used to slip into a double act.
On one occasion I remember, one of them finished a song on a
wrong note. This took them into their own version of the Goons “I
think you hit a bum note” sketch. I never laughed so much in my
life and as if by some weird and wonderful magic the conversation
led on to playing ‘The Laughing Policeman’. The laughter spread
like wildfire through the pub and I doubt there was a straight face
in the house by the time they had finished; most were just crying
with laughter. I think the thing that made me laugh the most was
Jimmy’s ability and ingenuity to be able to make a whole range of
different laughing sounds. Indeed, he had a magnificent mastery of
phonic sounds and language. Another time I can recall he sang the
same song in about four different languages, going from Russian
to Polish to Norwegian and then to French, and if you didn’t know
Jimmy, or you didn’t know how to speak these languages, you
would have probably believed every word he said. What is more,
for a verse you would have probably believed that he was actually
from that country!

After a few songs, the chatter and the laughter, Jimmy used to say
to me,
“Do a song, Keith!”
I always waited to be asked, but this was the moment I’d been
practising all week for, and I usually knew which song I was going
to sing and play. I must have led about three songs a night but I
just loved playing and due to their kindness I began to become a
better player.

Jimmy’s kindness and generosity in letting people who
could ‘play’ or ‘sing’ have a turn was not just extended to me.
He encouraged many people to do a turn all through the time
I knew him, just loving the people’s different slant on songs
or playing. Indeed, he always encouraged Carolyn to join him

with the backing harmonies when Dick sang the Roy Orbison
number ‘Only the Lonely’. Dick used to cheekily call him Roy
Orpington for comic effect, whilst Jimmy used to refer to the
backing vocals as the ‘dum, dum, dars’, and what a lovely sound
the three voices all made in harmony.

On occasions Jimmy’s older brother, Tucker, would come down
from Liverpool. I still remember the first time I met him. He came
to the pub and sat around the table too and was really appreciative
of all the songs we played. Then nearing the end of the evening
Jimmy persuaded him to sing a couple of songs. His voice was
amazing. As smooth as silk and as full-bodied as a beautiful glass
of wine, he sang a couple of Dean Martin songs, ‘A Bed full of
Roses’ and ‘Just a-Bumming Around’. In later visits I would also
hear him sing ‘Little ol ’Wine Drinker Me’ and he helped me to
foster a love of crooning songs which up until then I had had little
time for. The way he sang them was just so rich and cool, and I
just loved the lyrics.

However, it was at times like this when unknown to people who
didn’t play guitar, that Jimmy really showed his true class as a
guitarist. That night he asked Tucker to start singing and within
seconds Jimmy had worked out the key and all the chords of the
song. I found that amazing! Tucker could have started singing in
any key, A, B flat, C, D, E, E flat and Jimmy backed himself to
pick up the key and play the song. Not only that, he demonstrated
his belief that everyone in the band has to work together and play
for each other, and in this instance he was the guitarist playing
for the singer. At first I thought this skill might have been a one
off or a fluke, but throughout the years I saw him do this on many
occasions, and each time I just thought ‘Wow!’

The Songwriter

Jimmy’s love of people singing and playing music in different
styles and rhythms stemmed, I believe, from his Liverpool up-
bringing and the creative explosion that took place there in the
1960’s. He once told me that in those days people just used to turn
up to venues with their guitars and play, something that Jimmy
continued to do in Sussex for the rest of his life, and that he once
played at the famous Cavern club.

However, all of his talents came together as one and blossomed in
his songwriting. He always saw himself as primarily a songwriter
and he used to play them in the Holly Tree. I can remember the
night he played ‘I’d Rather Be with You’ for the first time, with
that wonderful catchy riff. Other songs he wrote and played a lot at
this time were ‘Try Me, Buy Me’ a song about a lonely guitar in a
music shop, ‘Nothing Ever Changes Since You Left My
Life’, ‘Joey’, ‘You and Me’, ‘Golden Day’ and ‘Baby We Can’t
Go Wrong’. It wasn’t until someone pointed out to me, that I knew
his great creativity was also wrapped up in a coating of
modesty. ‘Baby We Can’t Go Wrong’ had been a hit for Cilla
Black, and ‘Golden Day’ had been a hit for Tom Jones and had
included an invite to the ‘great man’s’ house. I had been playing
along to these songs for a while, and he had never told me. I think
he was happy for the music to do the talking, but it was also tinged
with a disappointment that he hadn’t had more recognition as a
songwriter and believed he could have had more hits. Indeed, if he
had ever told me that, I would have totally agreed with him. I
always really enjoyed playing and listening to his songs and often
wondered how he had come up with the ideas, lyrics and chord
structures. Jimmy’s love of music and of songwriting was
paramount, and he never stopped sending his work to people.
Indeed, I can recall many years later when he sent his ‘Try me,
Buy me’ CD off to George Bush (junior), the President of the

United States of America, and got a reply thanking him for his gift
– signed George Bush. He was very proud of that!
Continuing to be the great inspirer to me, he used to encourage
me to write my own songs. I never thought they were any good,
but he would always encourage me to keep writing until a few
gems appeared. At times he suggested that I write a story for
the children in my class and then write the songs to go with it.
With his encouragement I kept writing, and just as he said, a few
gems came. Maybe they will never be hits, but they are songs that
children have sung and enjoyed and I just can’t believe it was me
that wrote them. It was as though they were floating through the air
and I was lucky enough to be searching my guitar for a tune at that
time, and I reached out and caught them and became the owner of
those songs. So thank you Jimmy, for without your enthusiasm,
encouragement and guidance, songs that I am very proud of such
as ‘Stargazer’ would never have been written.

Gigging at The Black Horse

After a while, Richard the Landlord of the Holly Tree, moved up
the road to run The Black Horse at Binsted. He invited us up to
his new pub, to continue our Sunday night jamming session, and
things just carried on as before. We still even sat in the same seats
around what was now of course a different table, with Jimmy being
at the head, and with Dick sitting to his right hand side. As far as
any studiers of group dynamics were concerned, they would have
probably deduced that Jimmy was the leader of the band. This was
never said and he himself would have probably dismissed such
a deduction as ridiculous but without doubt he was the one that
everyone looked up to as a musician, an enthusiast, a character and
a person. Therefore, certainly in my opinion, he always sat in his
rightful place – at the head of the jam.

Jimmy was always very keen to impress on me the importance of a
venue as a musician.

“Always have a place to play!” he used to say, inferring that a
musician is a metaphorically dead musician unless he has a place
to perform, nurture and share his talents. After about ten years at
The Holly Tree and The Black Horse combined, Jimmy moved
on to play at The Murrell Arms in Barnham. They were looking
for someone to play each week on a Thursday, traditionally their
music night, and through a friend Jimmy was recommended to the
landlady and taken on.

Gigging at The Murrell Arms

It was a wonderful old pub, totally unique, and untouched by
modern day life. It prided itself on good beer, good conversation
and character! The walls were full of old bottles, paintings and
drawings of local people and places, gardening tools, brass pots
and pans, ornaments, a stuffed duck, plaques listing the chronology
of the pub, and even a Winston Churchill corner. The tables were
converted wooden beer barrels and on them were lit candles
providing a touch more light. And in the corner of all this Jimmy
sat on a stool and, without any amplification at all, sang his songs
and played his guitar. It was a small bar, which even with twenty
people in seemed full. Two hundred years previous, it had been
used by the customers of the pub as a place where they could keep
their horses but it now made a wonderful setting for a pub music
night, and Jimmy was in his element.

Many a happy night I spent in there, where Jimmy’s music and
humour created a wonderful atmosphere. Songs I remember him
playing at this time were ‘Georgia on My Mind’,’ I’ll See You in
My Dreams’, ‘Vincent’ and a song called ‘Honky Tonk Moon’
when he used to stop on the line “somewhere a dog barks”………
and wait for Brian, a regular customer and lover of ale, to perform
his exquisite impression of a dog bark, which made everyone
chuckle. Jimmy was also a keen admirer of the 1940’s/50’s
country star, Hank Williams, and played many of his songs as well

as encouraging me to listen to his work. Jimmy used to do his own
fine renditions of ‘So Lonesome I Could Cry’, ‘Setting the Woods
on Fire’, ‘Honky Tonk Blues’, ‘My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It’
and ‘Hey Good Looking’.

Jimmy also played many of his own songs: ‘We Never Loved
Enough’, ‘The Black Box’, ‘Mersey Moon’, ‘I Don’t Need No
Doctor’, ‘The Human Race’ and ‘Come to the Circus’ to name a
few amongst many. In fact one night a lady from the PRS came to
listen to Jimmy and to write down all the songs he played so that
she could report back a sample of the songs he played in order that
the writers of the songs could receive their entitled royalties. After
every song she asked him the same question,
“Who wrote that song?”
And every time she got the reply,
“I did!”

This went on for hours. Jimmy playing his songs, and the lady
writing them down in his name. Nearing the end of the night he
decided to slip in his own version of ‘The House of the Rising
Sun’. Again the lady from the PRS asked,
“Who wrote that song?”
And again she got the reply, though somewhat cheekily,
“I did!”

Whether she picked up on the joke or not, I don’t know, but a few
weeks later, Jimmy received a cheque from the PRS for having his
songs played.

There were also songs that Jimmy used to change the odd few
words to, which when I hadn’t heard them before, used to make
me burst out with laughter. Lines in The Beatles classic ‘When I
Saw Her Standing There’ were changed to, “So how could I dance
with her mother Ooooh, When I saw her standing there!” And the
word ‘whisper’ in The Herman’s Hermits song ‘There’s a Kind of

Hush All Over the World’, was changed to weeing, just to make
sure he knew who was really listening to him. The song now went
“And the only sound that you will hear is when I’m weeing in your
ear”, according to Jimmy.

Jimmy loved to play, but he also loved chatting to his audience
and was never afraid to ask questions or tell jokes. Once he even
invented a new audience member! The door to the bar opened and
the bell at the top of the door rang……. But nobody came in! To
everyone in the bar it was obvious that the door had been blown
open by the strong wind blowing outside, but to Jimmy it heralded
the arrival of…….. ‘The Invisible Man!’ From that moment on
The Invisible Man became a frequent visitor to Jimmy’s Thursday
Murrell gigs……. Or was he? Yes, and the jokes and the puns
began to bounce around the room, with Jimmy at the helm totally
revelling in this type of wacky humour.
“The Invisible Man hasn’t been here for ages!”
“Yes he has, he was here last week! Didn’t you see him?”
“No I didn’t see him!”
“At least I think it was him!”
“No! I think that was his mate!”
“They were both in having a drink last night!”
“I think he’s a shallow character anyway! I can see straight
through him you know!”
“Sssh’s he can hear you! He’s sitting in the corner!”

As time went on the bell on the door lost its ‘dinger’ and that
seemed to signal the end of ‘The Invisible Man’ visits. Jimmy
kept on playing, always seeking the invention of the unbreakable
string and the string that tuned itself, as he went through periods
of having many breakages. He used to use big thick plectrums and
at times really gave the strings a good thump to create the kind
of rhythm he wanted, which might well have contributed to them
snapping. However, he found a supplier that produced hand-made
strings that seemed to cut the breakages down.

Always before he took a break he would remark,
“I’m going to take a short break! Don’t go away! The best is
yet to come!”

Then he would put down his guitar and make his way to the bar,
where he would scare any new or young bar-maid by ordering
a pint of beer with the head at the bottom of the glass, or try to
confuse them by asking for a large pint of beer. He was always
very sociable and loved going round talking to people in his
breaks, before starting the second half.

When the bell rang in the Murrell for last orders, Jimmy would
always call out,
“It’s Last Orders at the bar, and it’s your last chance to buy the
band a drink!”

And when the final number had been played he would often say,
“Thank you! You’ve been a beautiful audience! Goodnight!”
Although there were occasions when he would follow it up with
something humorous such as
“Next week, it’s ‘The Spice Girls’!”

However, many times he would invite me to sit on his stool and
play for the last 20 minutes or so.
“Give it some stick!” he used to say to me as he handed over
and promptly sat down and began to join in with me with a variety
of percussion instruments including shakers, tambourines and the
use of his guitar case as a drum. Jimmy had a tremendous sense
of rhythm and loved experimenting with all different variations.
Indeed, I remember at the Black Horse many years before, the
fantastic duo of Big Jim Sullivan and Little Willie Austen were
playing and during the last song of their gig, ‘Johnny B. Goode’,
Jimmy appeared behind them playing the tambourine. This
was much to my amusement and to those who knew him. Then

suddenly they started playing the song with their guitars behind
their heads and turned with their backs to the crowd to show
their great skill. The crowd were delighted but not to be outdone
Jimmy, now standing just behind them but in a central position,
also turned round so his back was facing the audience as well and
played his tambourine behind his head! My friends and I couldn’t
stop laughing! It was Jimmy at his comic best but his tambourine
rhythms throughout were also of the highest quality.

“Keep going Keith,” he used to say to me.
“You’re killing them!”

These, tongue in cheek words, were of encouragement, and at the
end of an evening he used to like me to play my Little Richard
medley of songs as a bit of Rock’n’Roll to end the night.

Thank you Jimmy!

For over twenty years I saw and played music with Jimmy. It was
a privilege and an honour but all in all it was just great fun! And
I think that was one of his great secrets. He saw music as fun and
if it wasn’t, well change it so that it was, for what was the point of
music if it wasn’t fun. I undoubtedly became a better guitarist and
singer as a result of his influence, as many who met him did, and
for that I will be forever grateful to him. If there is a jam session
going on in a bar in heaven, there is no doubt he will be there and
the music will be all the better for his playing and the people there
will be smiling and laughing more because of his personality.
Heaven’s gain though is unfortunately our loss. We are left with
memories, but oh what marvellous ones! And of course he left us
his songs. Some linger fondly in the memories and some can be
heard on his CD’s. Jimmy’s music lives on! And one day, I hope,
when my time comes, I can take my guitar and join him playing
in that great heavenly gig in the sky and re-live the music, the
laughter and the fun all over again.

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