I was born in East Belfast on the 3rd of September 1947. The first time I fell in love with music was around 8 years old, listening to classical music on a big wireless - it was great to daydream to. One Christmas, when I was 14 or so, one of my presents was a plastic guitar - it was totally unexpected. It was small, half size, had six different coloured strings, and pretty good frets.
There was a TV programme on in those days, and one of the regulars on it was Bert Weedon, a very well known guitarist. Every week, he would draw a guitar chord on a blackboard, and explain how to play it. I would watch and learn a new chord each week.
The next major thing to form my interest in music was hearing, and then seeing Lonnie Donegan. A friend of mine at school, Davie Lyttle, had lots of Lonnie's records, and I would go back to his house after school to listen to them-they were magic and I never tired listening to them, even to this day. The other major influence was The Shadows, who also cast their spell on me.
Eric, Brian, Phil, Great days!!!
I was still going to Orangefield Boy's Secondary School, and one lunch break found out one of the guys in my class played drums in a Shadows-type group. Eventually I was invited up to the house where they rehearsed. Their guitarist let me play his guitar - the very first time I had ever played an electric. A week later, the group asked me to be their lead guitarist!
I stayed for six months, then joined another group, then another, until an offer to join an Irish Showband (The Bluebeats) came my way. The only reason I joined was they were professional. I said goodbye to the shirt factory where I worked, and went to live in Glascow where The Bluebeats were based. After a year and a few months later, we returned to Belfast, and went our separate ways.
I joined The Shannon Showband. Four months later and this time I had to live in Headingly, Leeds. We played working men's clubs, Irish Ballrooms, and some Irish pubs. It all fizzled out after a year and a half, and I went back to Belfast.
I joined a blues group called Shades of Blue after their guitarist had left. A young man called Gary Moore.
Through Shades of Blue, I met John Farrell, a singer from a Dublin group called The Movement. John was going to be the singer with a new young modern Irish Showband called The Dreams. He said I should go to Dublin and audition for the guitar slot. I took the chance and got it.
After a year and a few months, I left The Dreams and decided to form a group. I called it Thin Lizzy…
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