8:30 - 11:00 EVERY MONDAY
Leytonstone Ex-Servicemens Club, 2 Harvey Rd E11 3DB
Admission: £2 for jammers / £3 for audience
 Blues Jam Profiles
Ken Cumberlidge
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Ken Cumberlidge
Bass player and Blues Jam maitre d'web. Has also been known to sing.
Are you local?

I used to be a 15-minute walk from the Blues Jam. My other half and I moved to Norwich in October 2011. I can't make it to every jam nowadays, but I get down here as often as I can.

Where are you from, originally?

I was born in Birkenhead, not far from the Tranmere Rovers ground.

What's your tipple?

Real ales in general, but nothing on earth beats Adnams SSB, Gun Hill or Broadside, straight from the wood. Now you know why I moved to East Anglia!

Other favourites:

  • A dry Oloroso
  • Schnapps
  • Really good Champagne (provided you're buying, like)
What's your earliest memory?

As a toddler, I was out for a walk with granny. Along the side of the path was a ditch, half full of water. "Keep away from the edge," she said, "...or you'll fall in." "I know!" I said - and fell in. Story of my life, really.

What was the first record you ever bought with your own money?

The Rolling Stones "Five by Five" EP. Not bad going for a 6 year-old, eh?

(Click a thumbnail to see full-size images of the EP sleeve)

  • The Rolling Stones - Five by Five
  • The Rolling Stones - Five by Five
...and do you still have it?

Yes, and it still gets played.

Any hobbies/interests?

Electronics and Audio/Recording gear:  My dad was a Radio Ham who built his own equipment and ran a radio shop in the 1950s, so I grew up surrounded by valve equipment and the smell of hot solder. No wonder I've ended up servicing valve amps.

Art, Theatre and Cinema, especially old British films. Powell & Pressburger, The Boulting Brothers etc.

Writing:  I've always written stuff - song lyrics, short stories and poetry.

Do you remember the very first gig you went to? What was it like?

Soft Machine 1971 concert ticket

January 1971 - and I've still got my ticket! I was 12 years old, and a huge fan (still am). Because I was so young, my parents insisted that my big brother - who HATED their music - had to accompany me. It was the final blossoming of their most creative period, when Robert Wyatt was still on board. Both the music and the lightshow blew me away. Unforgettable.

Worst job you've ever had?

On leaving school, I wasted the best part of five years working in retail menswear. I'd intended to train as a tailor, but somehow ended up in sales. The only good thing to be said for it is that it cured my childhood stammer. It was like being trapped in an endless episode of "Are You Being Served?" - WITHOUT the laughs.

Fortunately, in 1979 I escaped and trained to be an actor - a career I loved and managed to keep going until the late 1990s.

What's your claim to fame (not necessarily musical)?

I am Pingu's stunt-double.

If you could invite 6 people (past, present or fictional) to dinner, who would you choose?
Been playing/performing long?

As a kid, I used to go round to my Auntie Ethel's house and commit acts of musical vandalism on her Steck player-piano: making my own piano rolls out of wallpaper, sticking metal objects to the strings and recording the results on tape. Very John Cage...

I started playing Bass as a teenager, but continued messing around with all sorts of instruments. In the 1980s I recorded a number of song demos, which now reside here:  soundcloud.com/steaming-audio

Been in any bands?

Just the one. We were called "English Electric" and we only lasted a year, from 1980-81. Nothing to do with blues at all - we were a curious mix of New Wave and Electronica. Think Kraftwerk meets Talking Heads, and then they have a custard pie fight. We recorded 3 demo tracks at Cargo Studios in Rochdale. We chose Cargo because Joy Division had recorded there and I think we were hoping that a bit of their magic might rub off.   It didn't.

What first got you interested in the Blues?

Uncle Eddie's record collection - some LPs, mostly 78s - which I'm proud to say I still have and can still play. They're a rich mixture of blues, jazz, boogie-woogie and swing: uncle Eddie would play them as loud as possible on the radiogram up in his room. He'd sit up there with a bottle of Brown Ale, thumping out the rhythm on the floor with his walking stick and stinking the place to hell with his pipe, which was filled with the cheapest, most awful tobacco imaginable (I think he gleaned it from other people's dog-ends).

Uncle Eddie got polio when he was very small, which disrupted his schooling and left him with one leg in a brace, so for the rest of his life he limped around with a stick and a surgical boot. Even so, as a young man he taught himself to play the drums. His lack of education left him unable to read, but he could identify by ear pretty well every musician on those records.

What other types of music do you like to listen to/play?

Gosh... how long have you got? Very fond of Ska/Reggae/Dub and 60s Soul - especially STAX, which is a big part of my bass practice repertoire. My other big passion is for Early and Baroque music - particularly Henry Purcell. Then there's the theatrical stuff: Coward, Cole Porter, Gershwin, Sondheim... But we're scratching the surface, here. There's too much to list!

Favourite Blues artists?
  • Little Walter
  • Blind Blake
  • Robert Johnson
  • Aretha Franklin  (Yes, I do mean as a blues singer)
  • Jimmy Reed
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Gospel)
  • Cream
Favourite artists (any other genre) ?
  • Carl Perkins
  • Bob Dylan
  • Art Tatum
  • Django Reinhardt
  • Ben Webster
  • The Zombies
  • The Small Faces
  • Kathleen Ferrier - A unique voice: there'll never be another.
  • Elvis Costello
  • Ijahman Levi
  • The Jam   (Why d'ya think I play a Rickenbacker?)
  • Sam & Dave
  • Somebody stop me...!
Ever been lucky enough to meet or share a stage with one of your musical heroes?

Yes - lots of them. Whenever I play at this Blues Jam.

Favourite instruments and/or equipment?

My beloved Rickenbacker 4003. Wanted one since I was a teenager and finally got it at the age of 47. It was worth the wait.

Favourite bass strings: Thomastik Infeld Jazz Flats and Rotosound 66s (I love the sound, but they don't half wreck your frets).

If you had to sum up your relationship with the Blues using just one word, what would it be?


What made you choose the bass guitar as your instrument?

Jack Bruce. Listening to those long Cream improvisations on headphones, I was always more interested in what he was doing than in Clapton's solos.

Who would you pick (past or present) for your dream band?

Oh cripes, here we go. Another list...

  • Vocals: Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin
  • Lead Guitar: BB King, Django Reinhardt and Rory Gallagher
  • Rhythm Guitar: Steve Cropper
  • Harmonica: Little Walter
  • Keyboards and even more Vocals: Georgie Fame AND Steve Winwood
  • Horns: The Mar-keys (STAX horn section)
  • Bass: ME, OF COURSE! You don't think I'm missing out on this gig, do you?
  • Dep Bassists if I'm indisposed: James Jamerson, Duck Dunn, Jack Bruce and Norman Watt-Roy
  • Drums: Al Jackson Jr.
  • Dep drummer: Ginger Baker - as long as he agrees not to fight with Jack Bruce. Or anyone else.
Most embarrassing moment?

In 1982, arriving home from hospital after an operation, with my body still steeped in general anaesthetic residue, I cooked a veggie burger laced with *ahem* herbal substances, then trotted off to join my friends in the pub. Halfway through my first pint, I realised that although people's mouths were moving, I couldn't make sense of the noises coming out of them. "Ah..." I thought, "time to go home." I stood up ...and watched fascinated as the entire pub cartwheeled ever so slowly upside down. People gathered round, concerned faces looming over me. I lay on the floor, glassy-eyed and grinning like a fool, unable to speak or move.  It was granny and the ditch all over again...

Proudest moment!

I try to avoid proud moments: they usually have ditches attached.

What do you most enjoy about the Blues Jam?

The limitless opportunities for casual sex.

What's the most exciting opening track on any album you own?

"I Saw Her Standing There" on The Beatles first LP "Please Please Me". From MacCartney's count-in, it makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck every time.

If you could travel back in time to be present at one moment/event in musical history, what would it be?

Backstage at Leo's Casino, Cleveland, Ohio. December 9th, 1967 - to tell Otis Redding and the BarKays that all flights have been grounded and they'll have to get the train.

Who would they cast to play you in the movie of your life?

I'd prefer Robert Donat or Roger Livesey, but knowing my luck they'll cast George Formby. And they'll be right.

Marmite: - Yes or No?

Ooh yeah, baby. All over. Mmmmmmmm...

If you were invited on "Desert Island Discs", which 8 records would you choose?
  1. Do Shrimps Make Good Mothers? - The Two Gilberts
  2. Absolutely ANYTHING by Art Tatum
  3. Good Golly, Miss Molly - Little Richard
  4. Sad Hours - Little Walter
  5. I Know Where I'm Going - sung by Kathleen Ferrier
  6. Are We A Warrior? - Ijahman Levi
  7. Sea Song - Robert Wyatt
  8. "Crossroads" - Don McLean (no connection with the Robert Johnson song)
...and what would be your luxury item?

A magic, never-ending barrel of Adnams SSB, please.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

All things must pass.

Go on - tell us a secret!

I'm much shorter in real life.