Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Britain is a country for and says "Congratualtions" to an old knight called Rod Stewart, born a humble lad from Highgate

Rod Stewart, who is 71 years old and in a career in music has sold over 100 million records worldwide and is one of the best selling artists of all time, yesterday received his knighthood for 'services to music and charity', at the hand of Prince William. He said : "I just wish Mum and Dad had been here to see it."

The mum and dad in question were responsible for the conception of Rod in the spring of 1944, the last year of the Second World War and in his own words, he was 'obviously a mistake', since his mother at 39 and his father, 42, already had four children with the youngest at 10.

While being 'carried' by his mother before he was born, he was taken into the family air raid shelter, which was embedded in the ground in the garden and used during German bombing raids in the early hours of the morning. It was here the family slept in narrow bunk beds. 

Rod was born in a small bedroom on the top floor of the rented terraced house in Archway Road in Highgate, half an hour after a German V-2 missile fell on the local police station. In fact, the windows of the room had been boarded up by his father after repeated German bomb blasts had blown in the glass.

On the day he was born in January 1945, the wind was blowing gently from the southwest and the weather became cold with sleet and snow and towards the end of his first month, cold and frosty with some freezing fog.

Rod's Dad, who was a Scot from Leith, north of Edinburgh, was born before the First World War and after a spell in the Merchant Navy, had followed his bothers to London for work and met his mother, Elsie, from Holloway, in the 1920s at a dance in Tufnell Park and in 1945 was working as a plumber.

Elsie, who occasionally with Rod's older brother, Don, played on a baby grand piano in the dining room while his father organised a weekend football club, 'Highgate Redwing' in which Rod's two brothers, and eventually he, would play. At about the age of  9 in 1954, Rod was taken to see Bill Haley and the Comets at the Gaumont Cinema in Kilburn High Road where 'the rhythm, the brightness of the clothes and the reactions of the crowd' all affected him and "maybe a seed was sown.'' 

Al Jolson, an American baritone, popular in the 1930s, became his favourite singer when the family would gather round the piano and sing his hits. When he was older, Rod read books about him, collected his records and hi performing style remained a lasting influence on him.

At the age of 11 in 1956, Rod failed his 'eleven plus' exam at school and went to the William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School in Hornsey and 'football mad' and a strong supporter of Arsenal Football Club, became captain of the school football and cricket teams and played for 'Middlesex Schoolboys'. These were the years he went on family holidays to Ramsgate on the Kent coast and remembered : 'all of us Stewarts on the beach in the freezing cold in the traditional British way.'

Here he is with Mum and Dad and brothers and sisters in 1957.

He couldn't get on with 'music' at school where Mr Wainwright made him sing in front of the class and recalled in his Autobiography that 'he would haul me up to sing a few lines of a song, with him on the piano at the front and I would quail and quiver and grope for the notes and feel more uncomfortable than I had ever felt, anywhere, in any circumstance.'

The first record he bought was Eddie Cochran's "C'mon Everybody" when he was 13 in 1958 : and 1950, for his 15th birthday, he was disappointed when his father gave him a Spanish guitar when he wanted a Triang model railway station to complement his model making hobby which was inspired by the view from his house of the steam engines running in the marshalling yards and on the Euston line. 

In his teens he went on Aldermaston 'Ban the Bomb' marches with his guitar and busked playing scraps of American folk music from Dylan, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Woodie Guthrie and enjoyed intimacy with girls engendered by a sleeping bag at night and said in his autobiography : 'Those marches were really the beginning for me, of performing, of taking what I had learned in the backyard when I should have been minding the shop and making it public', referring to the family newsagents shop in Archway Road.

Rod left school at the age of 15 in 1960, joined a skiffle group called the 'Kool Kats', playing Lonnie Donegan and Chas McDevitt hits, He worked briefly as a silk screen printer and then signed on as a football apprentice with Brentford Football Club, but left after a couple of months saying later : "I had the skill but not the enthusiasm. Well, a musician's life is a lot easier and I can also get drunk and make music, and I can't do that and play football. I plumped for music."

Over the next few years Rod began busking at Leicester Square and other London spots with folk singer Wizz Jones and took up playing the harmonica.  They took their act to Brighton and then to Paris, sleeping under bridges over the River Seine and then to Barcelona and were deported from Spain for vagrancy. In 1963, Rod adopted the 'Mod' lifestyle, saw Otis Redding perform in concert, began listening to Sam Cooke records and he became fascinated by rhythm and blues and soul music.

Rod's big break came when Long John Baldry invited him to sit in with the 'Hoochie Coochie Men' and offered him a job for £35 a week after securing the approval of Rod's mother.

'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl' came when he was 19 in 1964 and his long 52 year career had begun :

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