Norman Wheatley - a musical autobiography
I came to playing guitar fairly late - it wasn't until I was 18 that a friend left
his guitar at my house and the John Pearse programme “Hold Down A
Chord” just happened to be on TV. It was nine short months to making
my first live performance (as part of a duo) at The City Arms Folk Club
in Coventry in March 1970.
My guitar style has been largely defined by learning Leonard Cohen
songs from tablature. I find nothing depressing about his songs, by the
way! As well as a few originals, my early 70's repertoire included songs
by Paul Simon, Kris Kristofferson, Donovan, Tom Paxton and Ralph
McTell. I also used to do a couple of James Taylor songs - yes, the
obvious ones: “Carolina In My Mind” and “Fire & Rain”. JT is without doubt my favourite writer and
performer - the only other artists who I've made a point of collecting every commercially available
record of are The Beatles and Steely Dan.
Starting in 1975 I presented “Gentlefolk”, a weekly folk music programme on BBC Radio
Birmingham. With regular recording sessions, this gave over 30 local performers their first chance to
broadcast and it ran until the end of 1978. For about a year, from early '79, I was in one of the very
earliest Beatle tribute groups and ended up playing 15 other gigs as The Buttles including the
legendary Boggery in Solihull and the Hare & Hounds in King's Heath, Birmingham.
When Mercia Sound started in Coventry in May of 1980, I presented “Mercia Folk”, a weekly
programme of folk, roots and blues music featuring many of the local performers in the Coventry and
Warwickshire area. After Mercia, I presented a late night programme on BRMB and that pretty much
curtailed going to folk clubs. A different job from '89 took me all over the country (and the world -
Kuwait, Nigeria, Poland…) When I stopped doing that, it allowed me to get back into the clubs which
I've done even more so since the smoking ban.
These days, my repertoire still features some good old favourites from the 60’s and 70’s which
no-one seems to do any more, the best of the silly songs I've found over the years and some of my
own compositions, including some comic monologues. In the last few years I've appeared twice at
Bromsgrove and Bedworth Folk Festivals and been the opening act for Les Barker, Sara Grey and
Martin Carthy at Warwick Folk Club. I've also been the guest at Bedworth, Warwick and Rowington