This month we're in for a fretting hand feast as Paul Bielatowicz tunes his prog radar into the guitar style of Francis Dunnery from It Bites.
Francis ‘Frank’ Dunnery was born on Christmas day, 1962 in Cumbria, in the north of England. He grew up in a musical household; his father was a musician and his elder brother Barry would go on to be a successful guitarist, playing with Ozzy Osbourne (preceding Randy Rhoads) and members of ELO. Francis cites Barry as being his biggest musical influence.
From an early age, Dunnery showed a keen interest in music, displaying particular promise as a drummer. Both his parents struggled with alcohol addiction, so music became an escape for young Francis – not only in a psychological sense, but also in a very practical way; he began his professional music career at the age of 11, playing drums in a duo, opening up for main acts in local cabaret clubs. Not only did this allow him to escape the family home when his parents’ addiction was at its worst, it also provided him with a small income that enabled him to be more self-sufficient.
Not satisfied with being confined to the drums, Dunnery soon added guitar and vocals to his musical talents, while he continued to make an income playing in local bands. In 1982, still in his teens, Francis formed a new band - It Bites. He was the front man, singing and playing guitar, with three of his school friends backing him on bass, drums and keyboards. It Bites played the local pub and youth club circuit for about a year, before Dunnery decided to move to London and the band temporarily split. Eventually, the other members decided to join him in London; It Bites reformed, secured a record deal with Virgin Records and released three studio albums over the course of the next four years. In 1990 It Bites were in LA, due to record their fourth offering, but never made it to the studio – tensions within the band led to them splitting up before they recorded a note.
Following the break-up, Dunnery stayed in LA where he recorded his debut solo album the following year. This period of his life was plagued with drug and alcohol problems, but by 1993 he’d cleaned up and returned to England.
Back on home territory, Dunnery took the position of guitarist for Led Zeppelin's old front man Robert Plant. He recorded on Plant’s studio album Fate Of Nations and accompanied him on the subsequent world tour. The following year Plant returned the favour, recording vocals on Dunnery’s second solo album Fearless. Francis continues to enjoy a successful career as a solo artist to this day.
One approach Dunnery uses to great effect is playing the same note on two consecutive strings.