The Usual Suspects
In 1993 I returned to Cambridge from Bern. I had a place at Homerton College to do a PGCE teacher training course, with Music as my main subject. (I had finally taken the fateful decision to make music my main living, rather than try to do a completely different day job).
By complete coincidence, some of the old members of “String Swing” had recently reformed into a new Hot Club style band called “The Usual Suspects”*, under the leadership of Grant Baynham. It was not long before we were all gigging together again. The line-up was Grant Bayham, myself and Brian Cleary on guitars, Tom Ling on violin and Lynne Olney on bass.
Like String Swing, we played a lot of Django Reinhardt tunes, but never felt that we had to stick entirely to that style. We could all sing, so there were lots of vocals and vocal harmonies mixed in with the Hot Club instrumentals. This appealed to a wide mixture of audiences, from folk clubs and folk festivals through to high society bashes. A friend reminiscing about the Usual Suspects told me recently
“No-one ever knew exactly what kind of music you were playing, but they liked having it around”
Eventually that era drew to a close when Tom had to step down due to pressures of work, in 2004. We were lucky enough to make contact with another fabulous violinist, John Francis, who took over Tom’s seat and gave the band a new lease of life for a couple of years, with our staple gig being a very nice residency at the Arts Theatre Roof Garden restaurant. Eventually in 2006 though, I had to take a break from active gigging myself – crumbling under the pressures of being a 45-year-old first-time dad! – and the band broke up shortly afterwards.
We made two CDs, “The Clock That Laughs” (also featuring Bert Santilly on accordion and Johnny Rodgers on clarinet) and “As Crime Goes By“. I’ve put a short playlist on SoundCloud with one or two of my favourite moments – this is very much how I remember this band.
I still have a couple of boxes of these CDs in the attic somewhere so roll up, roll up …
*Believe it or not, the expression was not in common use at the time – we used to have to explain to people about that blase old police chief from “Casablanca” giving the order to “round up the usual suspects”. Then came a cult movie called, guess what, “The Usual Suspects”. The phrase became a cliche, and everyone assumed we were named after the film .. 🙁