"Well, that's one way of playing it!"
"Win" Winstone was responsible for getting a great many musicians started on the road to "playing for the Morris". One of his great skills was in enabling non-music readers (like me) to play the tunes with some degree of accuracy and consistency. I had the great good fortune to spend many happy hours on a Friday evening sat in his front room playing tunes together.
With each new tune he introduced, I'd stick a digital recorder in front of him and, completely unphased by the "pressure", he'd play the tune slowly for me to give me a fighting chance. By the time of his death in 2011, I'd "collected" well over a hundred and fifty tunes. Quite a few people have asked if we have any recordings of Win playing so I'm very happy to share the ones that I have; they're not performances, just an old-timer of 96 helping out a youngster half his age! I hope you enjoy them.
Meeting Win for the first time by chance in a local pub (where else?) is certainly an event that sticks in the mind. After hearing him play a load of tunes I asked him to play one again in particular - which he did. It's not the tune that's memorable but, rather, the fact that when he'd finished, he rummaged in his pocket and, finding a pencil stub and a scrap of paper, wrote down his 'phone number… "If you'd like to give me a call, I'll teach you to play".
Now that's not the sort of offer you turn down but I straightaway 'fessed up that I didn't read music and wasn't very musical. "No matter" he says, "we'll find a way"! And so, these recordings are a record of the way we devised to get the tunes into my head and out through the fingers.
My playing at first (and for many months) was truly awful. Always the patient teacher, he was always prepared to repeat phrases endlessly until somehow they would go in and stick. He had a very gentle way of letting you know that the tune wasn't quite right and needed more work - "Well, that's one way of playing it" was often his response.
Along with learning the tunes came an introduction to Kemp's Men. I do remember very well the first tune he was happy for me to "play out"; William and Nancy - great tune and one of my absolute favourites.
I had thought at first that I must be one of the lucky few who had the opportunity to learn tunes from Win. I did not appreciate until much later that I was just another one in a long line of musicians and dancers who have been given a timely shove in the direction of the Morris. Certainly there are many, myself included, who would describe meeting Win as a life-changing experience. The tributes that poured in when his death was announced speak volumes.
For me, it has meant a whole new set of friends, travelling with Kemp's in the UK and abroad, playing pub sessions with new mates and a rapidly expanding waistline due to the amount of beer I'm "forced" to drink.
One final memory to pass on about Win's teaching method… he would always pick a "next tune" that sounded impossible to play. I'd be left with that "not a cat in hell's chance" feeling then he'd proceed to break it down for me. "It's called Dingle Regatta and it's not difficult at all". Yeah right Win… but I can play it - just!
These simple recordings are included here as a small acknowledgement of Win's legacy and, you never know, they might just give someone else that helpful nudge in the right direction that he gave me... and remember… "It's not wrong, it just the way YOU play it!".
PS... Way, way before my time, Win had recorded 3 volumes of Cotswold Morris Tunes played on harmonica or melodeon and recorded onto cassette tape. As we entered the modern age, Paul Gooding (now of the Kemp's diaspora) created digital copies of Win's originals. They're in no particular order but, if you're stuck for how a tune goes, it's probably in here somewhere!