Mitch Dal­ton’s ses­sion shenani­gans

The stu­dio gui­tarist’s guide to hap­pi­ness and per­sonal ful­fil­ment. S is for Shad­ows.

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO - For more info on Mitch Dal­ton and his Stu­dio Kings go to: www.mitch­dal­ton.co.uk

There must ex­ist an area of psy­chi­atric study that deals with child­hood influences and con­se­quent life choices. In my case I re­fer not to the patho­log­i­cally ir­ra­tional and heart­break­ing lure of Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur FC. Or the uniquely chal­leng­ing reper­cus­sions on my net worth that decades of sea­son ticket re­newals have en­gen­dered. How­ever, this emo­tional scar is but an amuse bouche on the per­sonal menu of mis­takes if con­trasted with the seis­mic af­ter­shock that oc­curred dur­ing a fam­ily hol­i­day to Bournemouth back in the mid-Juras­sic era.

There was I, in­no­cently van­dal­is­ing the ho­tel’s one-armed ban­dit, when it hap­pened. The ad­ja­cent juke box whirred into life. The room filled with a sound that might have em­anated from Ursa Mi­nor Sev­enth. What not-onEarth was this? The twangy guitar? The echo? The drums? Apache’. That’s what it was.

And that’s when I be­came a pro­fes­sional gui­tarist, in my ju­ve­nile head at least. I nagged my par­ents. I got guitar lessons. I spent all my pocket money on the works of Hank and the boys. I can con­fi­dently lay claim to own­er­ship of one of the finest col­lec­tions of mem­o­ra­bilia fea­tur­ing the UK’s premier In­stru­men­tal Combo. Yep. There’s ob­ses­sive. There’s sad. And then there’s the 11-yearold me. All of which serves to pref­ace the weird­ness that oc­curred when child­hood hero worship met grown-up re­al­ity.

It got off to a false start, to be fair. There I was, sit­ting at home be­tween mar­riages, when out of a clear blue tele­phone came the stuff of comic strip fan­tasy. “Hello? Is that Mitch Dal­ton? It’s Bruce Welch here. Could you come and play on a record I’m pro­duc­ing?” Cue the feather and a tech­ni­cal knock-down. But would you Adam-And-Eve it? I couldn’t. How could it be pos­si­ble that I was just too busy? Suit­ably crushed, I spent the fol­low­ing week think­ing I had hal­lu­ci­nated the call.

But all was not lost. Fast­for­ward a cou­ple of years: “Hello? Is that Mitch Dal­ton? It’s Hank Marvin. Could you pos­si­bly come along and play on a record I’m pro­duc­ing?” “Er. Yes it is. And yes I can. Try stop­ping me this time!”

A few days later I found my­self over­dub­bing in Hank B’s home stu­dio, un­der the watch­ful ear of my child­hood hero. Once the in­con­ve­nience of hav­ing to play the guitar was done with, I spent an un­for­get­table day talk­ing in­stru­ments and band his­tory. The great man fielded the ques­tions from my outer eight-year-old with kind­ness, pa­tience and no lit­tle hu­mour. How­ever, I noted that my new friend em­i­grated to Aus­tralia within a few short weeks of our meet­ing. Co­in­ci­dence? You de­cide.

And then, some time later, came the en­quiry “Hello. Is that Mitch Dal­ton? It’s Brian Ben­nett here. I won­der if you could play on a record I’m pro­duc­ing?”

Mr B is de­light­ful man, a great drum­mer and a fine com­poser. The nos­tal­gia fest was un­der way al­most from the start, as I lapped up the dis­play of framed mu­sic, plat­inum discs and pro­grammes on The Shad­ow­bilia strewn stu­dio walls. It came as a shock that I had re­tained con­sid­er­ably more Shad-info than he, and could spout more trivia per square me­tre than the owner him­self. But that’s fan­dom for you, I guess.

I bumped into Hank again while deputis­ing for him on Sur­prise Sur­prise. Due to the clue con­tained in the ti­tle of Cilla’s TV show it was essen­tial for Mr Won­der­ful Land to be hid­den un­til the big mo­ment. So I spent three re­verb-drenched hours re­hears­ing FBI with the house band.

And I met Bruce while play­ing at Shad­ow­ma­nia, the an­nual fest for elec­tron­i­cally tagged mid­dleaged males at The Lake­side Club. Theme For Young Lovers. On a ’62 Strat. With the orig­i­nal drum­mer. Can it get bet­ter?

The last word must go to Brian, whom I have come to know well. “Mitch. I’ve had an in­cred­i­ble time. The band changed my ca­reer path and my life. But I don’t quite un­der­stand it all.” And as I replied, “Brian. You’d have to be eight years old to un­der­stand. And by the way – it didn’t just give you a job for life. It gave me one too.” Out Of The Shad­ows* in­deed. (*Er. Sec­ond al­bum. 13 tracks. Re­leased in 1962. I need help).

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