Over the years I have seen Ralph McTell perform many times and each time, there always seems to be a new selection of wonderful guitars.
I'm wondering how many guitars there are in the McTell household
The reply I received was "Honestly I can't tell you! It's not more than 35... there are 9 in this room with me now. One is always on the sofa"
I only own one acoustic guitar and can't imagine owning 35!
Ralph said "I have to justify having all these instruments, I rotate them, not as often as I should because sometimes they just stay in their cases. I always thought I have the best Gibson J45 in the world, but I had to buy a few more just to make sure. I do have the best J45 in the world, it was the first one, but I'm keeping the others anyway!"
We both agreed that Paul McCartney has always kept the first bass guitar he ever bought.
I have another artist who I admire greatly- Tom Paxton who I know is a good friend of Ralph's
Ralph appeared on one of Tom Paxton's earlier albums "New Songs For Old Friends" Tom introduces Ralph onto the stage to play with him and says "I would like to welcome an old friend onto the stage, give the guy a break, Mr Ralph Mctell."
Ralph laughed as he remembered. "A couple of times we have shared each others stage and I always try to see him when he's over. He remains one of the most decent, steadfast, truest guys you could ever wish to meet. He has recently lost his wife .A man who has written that many love songs to the same woman is a pretty extraordinary guy and it must be terribly hard for him. Other than that I hear that he's writing and working again."
There are many new and upcoming musicians on the circuit today.
Ralph told me that because his own career was so accidental in the way he drifted into it and he was motivated by the belief that music was going to change the world.He said "I think there's a generation of performers now who want to be famous for what I'm not quite sure, just to be famous. There are sincere young musicians and do see music as their way out and I hope there are dozens of them. We had the clubs and the back rooms, I don't know if they do that now. I just hope they can avoid cynicism and even if they don't get recognition that music will still be able to be inspirational and the life enhancing thing that it is for so many of us. I can't image a world without it."
"I think it's strange and paradoxical that music has stabilised me because it is demanding. It's not just making music, It's getting fit enough to travel and tour and picking yourself up when you are down and dealing with harsh criticism and tiredness and all the different things that road throws at you."
I can't imagine Ralph doing anything other than playing music and when I asked him about this, he tells me that he could not have done an indoor job when he was younger, but would have had to work outside..he personally values the freedom very much. One of his best friends in the world is Yusuf Islam's guitarist, Alan Davis who has been with him since he was with Cat Stevens and he's a great rhythm guitar player and a true and wonderful pal and he's a landscape gardener. As Ralph said "I think that might have been a way to go, maybe I'd have learnt to work a digger by now, I certainly couldn't see myself being indoors."
Relaxation is a very important part of life, gardening is therapeutic
Ralph has landscaped his own little patch. "We have quite a large area which is on a hill so I terraced it all by hand and I've got a couple of ponds. I'm not good at weeding and ironing and things like that, but I don't mind using a shovel. Gardening gives me enormous pleasure and just being out and about and that's why I love the road. The combination of travelling and playing music is just perfect for me."
Planning ahead for 2015.....
Ralph thinks it's probably time to do a national tour again."I have always wanted to go back to Australia and do another tour there. I'm about one third of the way through a bunch of new songs for an album, so I would like to get a new album out next year. So no plans to hang up the banjo just yet."
Well, that news is the best way for me to end this fascinating interview, another concert to loook forward to and hopefully more of you will be able to go and see Ralph McTell in 2015!
Thank you very much Ralph for your time and I wish you and your family all the best.
Other articles on the website which feature Ralph McTell are:-
My Review of his 2019 CD Hill of Beans. Go to the article here.
Mr review of 8 vinyl albums in which Ralph is featured. Go to the article here.
NB This interview was conducted in October 2014. I did go and see Ralph in concert in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, but sadly not this year due to Covid19.
Part 1 can be seen here.
Part 2 can be seen here.
Part 3 can be seen here.