I thought Jesus! Literally, Jesus. This guy is the Alpha and Omega. How could somebody be so great?
Learning to play Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen’s Midnight in Moscow
Prior to having seen Chuck Berry perform, I was very much into traditional jazz. My father was a great jazz player, a great trumpet player, and he made me into one. So before I was ever a guitar player, and or anything else, I was a trumpet player.
There is something very surreal about Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen playing Midnight in Moscow. I learned it and I played it in with my little school jazz band. It had distinct impact on me as a trumpeter.
Since I started playing guitar I haven’t revisited the trumpet. I wanted to when my father passed. His trumpet was the first thing I looked for, hoping that it was still there under the bed. But somebody had nicked it, as they nicked my first guitar.
A backstage meeting with James Brown
My next mentor was James Brown –the greatest stage performer in history. He is the man who said, ‘Say it loud. I’m Black and I’m proud’ when no Black man was proud to be Black.
When James Brown came to England in 1966, he played on [ITV programme] Ready Steady Go! It was like I saw God. If Chuck Berry made me say ‘Jesus’, then this was God. Once I’d seen the light, I had to getto the Walthamstow Granada, which was the next place that he would play. I managed to get there just before he went on stage. But I had no money. So I walked up to the guy at the door. And I said ‘Edmund Grant, Daily Worker’ [pretending to be a journalist]. He let me in! I was in the lap of the gods, in the backstage area.
I got a chance to see this genius at work on stage. I made notes in my mind –this is what I’m going to be like when I become successful. But it was going to be hard work, because James Brown worked hard.
I was lucky enough after the gig to go with the guys to their hotel. Mr Brown came across to the hotel, and he spoke to me. It’s just one of those moments. I’ve never lost that programme. I’ve never lost that autograph.
Phoenix City by Roland Alphonso
This is the motherlode of Jamaican music and Jamaican culture. Phoenix City is the epitome of great ska. This is the music that educated me.
Louis Armstrong’s performance on What a Wonderful World
I got one more for you that will take your head off: Louis Armstrong, What a Wonderful World. As a song, as a sound, as a complete musical entity, I don’t think you can go much further or greater than Louis Armstrong, who everybody in this world would say is not a singer. But the performance of that song is so indelible, in my mind, and in my heart and in my creativity and everything. Louis Armstrong is my mentor when it comes to trumpet playing. He set the standard by which trumpet players all over the world will be judged. I don’t think we could end on a much more beautiful note than this.
I Belong to You by Eddy Grant is out now via www.eddygrant.com along with his entire catalogue of recordings.
See more of The Music That Made Me including Aloe Blacc & Fran Healy