Stan Gee - Autobiography:
My thanks to professional photographer Dennis Dunning.
I was Born Stanley George Gee on September the 6th.1942 in a small town in the North Eastern corner of Yorkshire, England.
A Western Movie enthuisiast from earliest recollection, I accepted the music along with the action. The song that really sparked my imagination and got the ball rolling was ‘Davey Crockett – King of the Wild Frontier’! (I had the hat with the tail too!)
I bought my first much used banjo around age 13, but only fooled about with it until my parents bought my first guitar for Christmas aged 14. This was a 4-stringed ‘Skiffle’ guitar made of plastic! But it came with the necessary info to play basic chords. I guess I made rapid progress resulting in my parents buying me a full size 6-string ´Cello style guitar the following Christmas. I was on my way!
This was the era of a revival of Traditional Jazz with it’s counterpart Skiffle Craze, spearheaded by Guitar/Banjoist Lonnie Donegan. It was a heady mix of old Jazz songs; Blues; Country & American Folk Songs. Most importantly, it was accessible and was consumed enthusiastically! Whilst still a teenager, I played rhythm banjo with a local jazz band and made my first solo performances at the first newly formed folk music club in the next town.
The late 50’s and early 60’s was the era of the ‘Folk Revival’. Following the American trend, most British folk singers initially performed American material before diversifying into their indigenous roots. But despite these distractions, and the odd sortie into the related Mexican & South American areas, I still preferred the music that had provoked my initial desire to play. I have now unashamedly been playing American music for nearly 50 years, and havn´t heard anything yet to make me want to change!
In that time I have tried to become conversant with nearly all of the instruments & playing styles associated with the American idiom. As well as my early Jazz Band days, I have contributed to several Bluegrass & Old Time Country bands playing variously Fiddle; 5-string Banjo; Guitar; Mandolin; Dobro; Autoharp; Dulcimer; Harmonica and Upright Bass. Self praise is no recommendation I guess, so one small example of the measure of my ability was being chosen to play Lead Electric Guitar & 5-string Banjo to accompany a local Country Hero, Paul Wheater, on a National tour culminating at the world famous London Paladium!
I married at 26 to Margaret, who shared my interest in music but didn´t start to take it seriously until she was inspired by the sight of a lady playing Bass in a Bluegrass Band. I learned to play Bass initially in order to teach the basics to Maggie. As a duo we played the folk clubs for awhile before making the leap to the slightly less precarious living on the Social Club scene. This involved the quantum leap to Amplification and an acceptance of performing not only popular folk & country, but rock & pop! This provided a living for a few years until problems at home forced another change of direction. Our first Daughter Sarah-Jane was born with DeLange syndrome, a type of dwarfism with several accompanying physical handicaps including deafness. Moving out of active performing, firstly to owning a music shop for several years, then to teaching at both home & school/colleges enabled more time at home. Sarah-Jane was blessed with a beautiful nature but needed more care than we could give her at home so we reluctantly made the decision to place her in a care home. She died a couple of years later, aged 17. That was 22 years ago now but it just seems like yesterday, we miss her so much everyday. Luckily our second Daughter Sally-Anne is perfectly normal. Now 28, with her own Daughter Milly and Twin babies on the way! Stop Press! Milly flanked by two latest additions Jack & Nina.
Another three contented people, Granpa,Nina & Jack!
I survived a Heart attack in July 2000 and Margaret left home in January 2001, but I like to think we are reasonably amicable when our paths cross. She is still actively playing Bass; guitar; singing & running her own Country club at ´The Station´ Stokesley, once a month. Her tastes running more to ´New´ country,and a big Jimmie Buffet fan!
Struggling with a long & complicated recovery, I dragged myself out of the doldrums one night to visit the Cutty Wren Folk club, and met Eve! It´s pretty incredible to even imagine striking up a new relationship at 60 years old, and it put me on the road to recovery.
Until that point I had tended to think of myself as a solo performer. I tried to excel at interpreting American music in general, and Western music in particular as accurately as possible, soaking myself in the recordings; writings & films about all aspects of American music. Reasuringly I have occasionally been mistaken for the authentic article!. I like to think my performance evokes America & The West through the sincerity of my repres-entation of both traditional and contemporary American material. As well as singing & yodeling, I like to think I am a musician´s ´Musician´, always trying to include a melodic solo in my accompaniments,and something of a hallmark of my playing. Eve´s unadorned but rock steady rhythm accompaniments have provided the perfect base to indulge my desire to play the ´tune´ as well as sing the song!
Unfortunately, performance time usually limits my urge to play everything, to accompaniments on 6 & 12 string Guitars; Long-Necked 5-string Banjo, with perhaps a light seasoning of Autoharp &/or Ukulele; and a dash of Harmonica.
Over the last few years my voice has changed radically, possibly compounded by my illness as well as old age, but the result is that I sing some songs as much as a 4th. lower in pitch! Modesty forbids me from saying whether or not it is for the better, so I will simply end with a quote from John Taylor, the well known & well respected organiser of Saltburn Folk Festival & the Cutty Wren Folk Club: \"Stan Gee was the first folksinger I ever saw & heard at a folk club back in the 60´s and he just keeps getting better & better!\" Many thanks John. I couldn´t wish for a nicer comment!
Most recently,life doesn´t get any better than playing Rhythm guitar to back up the fabulous Jazzman, Keith Stephen!