The greatest acoustic guitar songwriters of the twentieth cetury for me remain the ones who have stood the test of time. Right up there is the prolific Don MacLean, writer of such classics as 'American Pie' and 'Vincent'. His writing is stunningly image based with so many layers of meaning. His complex guitar finger picking and vocal dexterity reaches deep into the heart of the listener of his powerful songs. I make no bones of the fact that as a musician his work has influenced me enormously. Additionally, I would pay similar tribute to the writings and musical styles of such artists as the mega talented Joni Mitchell and Carole King. Similarly, the music of Tom Paxton famous for 'The Last Thing on My Mind' amongst other hits has given me inspiration to write my own songs, as well as the stupendous Bob Dylan with that awesome repertoire of his featuring such classics as 'Blowin' in the Wind' and 'Mr.Tamborine Man'. I should also mention the late, great Harry Chapin with his marvellous 'Cats in the Cradle' and 'W.O.L.D'. I could mention many others who I celebrate as influence, as nobody writes in a vacuum and nobody is totally original.
I should pause here to expand on my stated love of Celtic music which has more indirectly influenced my work. I have been fortunate enough to work over the years with some truly fine musicians such as Eddie 'Banjo' Hughes of Cream of the Barley fame and CelticBrace as well as John O'Hare and his multi musical wife Angie. We frequently play Irish weddings and Ceilis, thoroughly enjoying ourselves in the process. I have also recently worked alongside the brilliant keyboard player and sound recordist Ian Lewis of Whitby Sound Studios, Ellesmere Port. Mick Groves of the famous Spinners folk group from Liverpool gave me a great boost in 1978 when he recognised my song 'Mist Over the Mersey' as a song that would be tremendously successful. He put his faith in it so much that he got his group to record it. He went even further than that when he financed my first album of self penned songs, 'Young Owen' at the famous Amazon studios in Kirkby. I remain eternally grateful to Mick for his faith in my work then and recognise how his past decisions have helped me develop as an artist today. About twenty years ago Fiona Malloy, a fine singer from Derry in Ireland, organised a trip for me to play in the Irish bars of New York, Buffalo and Florida. What an experience that was, I can tell you. One time I returned to the city to take part in the Saint Patrick's Day celebrations which Fiona booked me for and the sea of green and white surrounding that week or so was amazing. I had already had a taste of working abroad as a solo artist in Norway in Bergen and Kristiansand. Also, the fabulous and sadly late Liverpool radio personality Phil Easton had given me the job of fronting Chris DeBurgh at the Liverpool Garden Festival in 1985 in the presence of about 8,000 people and the B.B.C. cameras! Has anybody got any footage of the concert since I haven't?
From this little musical journey I hope that you don't think that my appreciation of musical icons I admire is in any way exhaustive and past based. The Beatles output particularly of Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison influenced just about every songwriter let alone me. The twenty first century sees the legacy of these popular icons come through in the original songwriting work of Coldplay, Oasis, U2 and a plethora of other new singer songwriters who I think are a real antidote to the current creepy stranglehold of highly professional and lucrative but ultimately plastic pop perpetuated by the likes of Simon Cowell.