Ken began playing guitar in 1963 at the age of 11. It was actually Geoffrey Ware’s older brother’s guitar, but as neither of them could play it Ken got a long term loan. With nobody around to give lessons, Ken stumbled his way around the instrument, copying what he heard on the radio and making some sense of chords through Bert Weedon’s famous ‘Play in a Day’ guitar tutor.
With the impetus of folk music being cool in the sixties, Ken, inspired by Dylan, Donovan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez et al, learnt a few songs and was actually given money for singing in pubs around Heywood , Lancashire.
As a student, Ken was one of the organisers of the JB Folk Club in Lancaster from 1971 to 1975. Here Art Lecturer Ray Haslam revealed to him the miracle of open tunings and introduced him to the music of Nic Jones and Martin Carthy. It was a kind of rite of passage – Ken’s guitars have blinked in amazement if ever they found themselves in concert tuning since then.
Ken really got stuck into folk music when he moved to Peterborough in 1975. He soon became a resident and compere of the Peterborough Folk Club. Plenty of full time professional folk musicians lived in the area where there was a thriving folk scene. It was not uncommon to be about to do a set and finding Nic Jones asking if anyone minded him accompanying on fiddle. What a man!
Ken then teamed up with Terry Warrington. The duo worked extensively in folk clubs around the East of England for a number of years before teaming up with Florence Levebre and Pete Shaw in 1980 to form the group Claudy. Claudy performed an eclectic mix of traditional English and French folk music with a fair sprinkling of funny stuff and music hall. Their biggest claim to fame was being recorded in one of their regular venues, the Ship at Stilton, to appear on TV in Nashville.
Work took Ken to Washington in 1985 and on his first night in his new house he went across to the Arts Centre to the Davy Lamp Folk Club. After becoming a resident there it wasn’t too long before he linked up with Terri and Eric Freeman and Colin Irvine to form Backshift.
In the band Ken plays finger style guitar accompaniment with some vocals. He was bullied by the others into learning how to play the 5-string banjo to get the right accompaniment to the song ‘Blue-eyed Boy’. The banjo now features on quite a few of the band’s songs. Ken’s main job, however, is to remember what the band is going to play next in the set!