JSL’s early musical influences, like those of so many other aspiring guitar heroes, were Buddy Holly and The Crickets, Hank Marvin of The Shadows, and the most influential of all, Chuck Berry.
JSL’s early interest in blues was sparked by Alexis Korner’s TV appearances; the legendary Granada TV Blues package in May 1964, featuring Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, the amazing Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Muddy Waters and other greats; and then by listening to The Yardbirds, The Animals and the whole “Chicken Shack, Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall can’t fail” Blues explosion of the late 1960’s.
He had dabbled with numerous ‘nowhere’ bands from his schooldays onwards, spending far more time rehearsing than performing. Meeting Nick Foster at Edge Hill College (now University) in 1967, JSL was impressed by his flatpicking style and knowledge of such esoteric areas as Talking Blues. He remembers sharing just one acapella vocal session with Nick.
JSL achieved considerable satisfaction gigging regularly with his band ‘Reflex’ in the early 80’s, with Steve Murgatroyd on Drums. The band played original songs by Paul ‘Bart’ Bartholomew with songs, composed by JSL with band member Rod Wheldrick, being added later to the Reflex repertoire.
JSL played with several other bands through the 1980s, a highlight being an appearance of ‘Sod the Dots’ at the British Aerospace ‘Air Aid’ event in 1985. It was during this period that JSL met and played with a talented musician and songwriter, Ged Turner.
Eventually JSL sold off lots of gear and ‘retired’, though he soon became involved with friends in cellar recording and improvisational playing sessions. The usual percussionist at these jams in Bart’s cellar was a certain Geoff Sidebottom.
JSL came back to public appearances in the early 1990s as guest guitarist with Tony and Sandy Surdevan’s ‘Hard To Please’ Blues band. He was challenged by Bart’s other half, Debbie, in 1996, to break away and form a new Blues band of his own before senility set in.
JSL and Bart began by recording a low-cost cassette of six ‘JSL-original’ Blues songs, featuring some reasonably good guitar work but extremely tentative vocals, entitled ‘Falling Through the Front Porch Blues’. This is now regarded as a collector’s item, though few collectors seem to be party to this information. The sleeve notes referred to JSL having “Learned to play the Blues on his mother’s knee before switching, perhaps less melodically, to the electric guitar”.
The original ‘new band’ concept was variously called ‘Pig Pen’ or ‘Pigpen Plays the Blues’, and prominently featured the sounds of Blues Harp and slide guitar.
Go The Hog