8:30 - 11:00 EVERY MONDAY
Leytonstone Ex-Servicemens Club, 2 Harvey Rd E11 3DB
Admission: £2 for jammers / £3 for audience
 Blues Jam Profiles
Peter Harvie
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Peter Harvie
Are you local?

Yes - born 5 miles from the Blues Jam.

Where are you from, originally?

A council estate in Bow, E3.

What's your tipple?


What's your earliest memory?

Of the Blues? Watching a film about the Blues on TV when I was 14 years old.

What was the first record you ever bought with your own money?

Hendrix - Purple Haze. I had to buy 10 copies of the single because the record shop in Tottenham Court Road hadn't heard of him and thought they would be stuck with singles they couldn't sell if they let me order just one.

...and do you still have it?

I have one copy left. I gave the others away over the years.

Do you remember the very first gig you went to? What was it like?

Jimi Hendrix! A friend saw him play at the Dagenham Social Club and kept on about him so in 1967 we went to see him (twice) at a venue called "Sunday at the Saville", just off Tottenham Court Road, now a cinema. That first gig changed my life - I realised then that music is one of the most important things in life. Hendrix and I were the same age and I remember sitting there thinking how can he be so good when at the time I was still trying to work out the chord of G.

Worst job you've ever had?

In the seventies I found myself unemployed and hunted around for any work. I got a job as a dustman. It was a hard, dirty job but I found really genuine people there. When you know you are at the bottom of the heap there is very little ego and I made some really good friends.

My next job was the spotlight operator at Raymond's Revuebar. I lit up many a stripper. This was the seventies when Soho was very sleazy but full of characters.

After that I decided to study and became a lawyer. It kept me in saxophone reeds but, yep, it was the worst job I ever had, so now I teach law at university instead.

What's your claim to fame (not necessarily musical) ?

I don't think I have a claim to fame. I did drive George Melly around for a number of years and met many famous people including blues and jazz musicians, but I cannot claim fame.

It was at this time I acquired the nickname of "Pete the Hat", because of my liking for 1940s headgear. I've been stuck with this nickname ever since.

If you could invite 6 people (past, present or fictional) to dinner, who would you choose?

All those people I've lost.

Been playing/performing long?

Many years.

Been in any bands?

I've been in many bands but my heart wasn't in it. They were pop and rock bands but I would go home at the end of it to play my blues records.

What first got you interested in the Blues?

For me, the Blues is emotional. It was the music that touched me and made me feel better. I sought out that music and found it was called the Blues.

Sonny Rollins, the jazz saxophonist, is the person who inspired me to buy a saxophone. I heard him playing on the radio and thought if I could just once get that emotional blues sound out of a saxophone I would be a happy man. It took me five years to be able to play the song I heard on the radio in a way that sort of sounded like him. I go to his concerts every year.

Being a saxophonist is great. If you tell the bouncer at the stage door that you play sax then most artists will invite you in. I've met Sonny Rollins many times; Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Buddy Tate, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Dave Brubeck and many others. Buddy Tate is a hero of mine - I love that 1940s and 50s blues saxophone sound. Buddy Tate played the Capital Radio open air festival at Alley Pally in 1979 and I went backstage with my sax to see him. He sat me down on the grass backstage and showed me how to play sub-tone and he gave me the best advice: if you want to sound like a 1940s blues sax player you have to have a 1940s Conn "Naked Lady" sax with a Berg Larsen or Otto Link Mouthpiece. It took me a few years but I found them. Now all I have to do is learn to play like those old guys.

P.S.: If you ask I will show you the Naked Lady on my saxophone.

What other types of music do you like to listen to/play?

I do like pop. Went to see Paloma Faith just recently.

Favourite Blues artists?

There are too many to list. If its blues I like it; if it is blues saxophone I love it. Having said that, nothing can beat blues lead guitar. My favourite at the moment is Gary Moore.

Favourite artists (any other genre) ?

Sonny Rollins for Jazz. Otherwise... Leonardo da Vinci.

Ever been lucky enough to meet or share a stage with one of your musical heroes?

I've never shared a stage with a musical hero, but met many.

Favourite instruments and/or equipment?

It has to be my "Naked Lady" (see above). Most professional sax players will tell you the one to have is a Selmer Mark 6. Well, I have one of those and frankly it doesn't do it for me. It plays really easily but it has no soul. My old Conn is a bugger to play - sometimes it just doesn't do what you want it to do and is liable to squeak, but when you hit a good blues note on the Conn it is real blues. The Selmer is like driving a Mercedes, the Conn is like driving an old pick-up truck, or my old VW Campervan (which I've had for 18 years). That's a bugger to drive too.

If you had to sum up your relationship with the Blues using just one word, what would it be?


Who would you pick (past or present) for your dream band?

Can I have all saxophonists? Sonny Rollins, Buddy Tate, Lisa Simpson...

Most embarrassing moment?

The first time I played at the Blues Jam. I set off in the wrong key! It's easy to do this on Sax because on Tenor you have to transpose up. Stevie King called out "F" and I thought "I am playing in F, so why does it sound so crap?" Then I realised I hadn't transposed up to G. The last few bars were in the right key and you guys in the audience were kind enough to clap a little. Thanks, it made me feel better.

Proudest moment!

The second time I played at the Blues Jam.   A rubbish solo, but at least it was in the right key!

What do you most enjoy about the Blues Jam?

The people - really great people.

One of the best things about the jam is Vera's ear. She is able to judge who would sound best together. This makes for a really good night. I realised this recently when I told Vera I have to leave early - she explained she couldn't put me on next because my sax wouldn't sound good with who is up but she would re-arrange a set so that my sax would work in that group. It was then I realised that it is Vera who puts on a great evening.

If you could travel back in time to be present at one moment/event in musical history, what would it be?

The 1940s/50s Chicago Blues Clubs. Not necessarily to see famous musicians but to experience the clubs, with musicians and audience mixing and some great blues being played. Actually, as I write this I realise I don't need to travel back to Chicago: blues in Leytonstone suits me fine.

Who would they cast to play you in the movie of your life?

Bleeding Gums Murphy.

Marmite: - Yes or No?

No, but I did go to see Marmalade in the sixties.

If you were invited on "Desert Island Discs", which 8 records would you choose?

"Cry Me A River" - Dexter Gordon. He plays it on a "Naked Lady". I learned it note for note.

"To A Wild Rose" - Sonny Rollins. I learned it note for note!

"Once There Lived A Fool" - Jimmy Witherspoon. In the 1980s it was announced that he had died. A few years later he played the 100 Club! I went to that gig and afterwards told the bouncer I played sax and so I got to meet JW. He thanked me profusely for taking the trouble to come and see him.

"I Want My Mama" - Sonny Terry. I wrote the information sheet that was handed out at one of his gigs and so I got to meet him. We talked in the dressing room, while Brownie McGee tuned his guitar. I was listening to a lot of Leadbelly at the time and asked Sonny if it was true that he had lived with Leadbelly and that Leadbelly had killed someone. He said he did live with Leadbelly but it was a lie that Leadbelly had killed three people. "It was only two," he said, "...and I should know: - I was there when he did for the second guy". I didn't know what to say. When I shook his hand to say goodbye he ran his fingers over my face "to see what kind of guy you are".

"Need Your Love So Bad"- Gary Moore's version.

That's five, isn't it? Any other three songs by Gary Moore would suit me fine.

...and what would be your Luxury Item?

The Blues in my head.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

I've learned nothing.