Why Merseyside Can Feel Proud Of The Lasting Legacy of Brendan McCormack … John Lennon’s Favourite Guitarist.
In November, fans will be gathering to witness the eclectic mix of jazz, folk, blues, and classical musicians who will be performing at the International Guitar Festival of Great Britain. An event which has been held on The Wirral since 1989.
But along with the established legends on this year’s bill, you’ll also find a healthy sprinkling of lesser known artists, some of whom will have been given their first chance to impress a wider audience. This worthy tradition of giving new talent a platform at the Festival was the legacy of one man; its former Musical Director from Wallasey, Brendan McCormack, who passed away in 2009.
Brendan grew up in Liverpool in the early sixties and lived above his parent’s pub in Scotland Road. He left school with no formal qualifications; calmly informing family and friends that he intended to earn his living from music. His first group, Ricki & the Redstreaks performed alongside The Beatles on numerous occasions and it was Brendan’s prowess on guitar which apparently first attracted the attention of John Lennon who was later quoted as saying that Brendan was his favourite player at that time.
During his eventful musical life, Brendan worked with many star names. From Julian Bream to Chuck Berry. George Benson toQuincy Jones. But, he also took time, and often went out of his way, to encourage the musical potential of others.
A fine example of this generosity of spirit is that of Wallasey father and son duo, Ches & Al Cherry who will be performing at this year’s Festival.
Back in 1999, Al Cherry was a promising young guitarist who Brendan insisted should be given his first opportunity to perform solo at The Guitar Festival. Since that time, Al has gone on to become one of this country’s busiest session players. This year alone, has seen him backing Carleen Anderson at gigs in Paris and Havana; recent TV performances on both The Graham Norton Show and The Andrew Marr Show with singer, Rumer; plus regular slots performing at Ronnie Scott’s Club in London.
Al’s father, Ches Cherry, is a musician and writer who collaborated with Brendan on several recording projects and who is also currently piecing together a series of interviews and recordings with Brendan’s family and former colleagues in order to document his extraordinary life and achievements.
What’s remarkable about Brendan McCormack, Ches thinks, is that three years after his passing, people still talk about him with such admiration and affection.
I’ve spoken to academics, film makers, musicians, family and friends, Ches recalls, … even comedians such as Ken Dodd (whom he also once worked with) and they all agree he was an inspirational character who made a point of helping others achieve their ambitions. A fitting tribute indeed, to a man who also helped to secure Merseyside’s place on the historical musical map.
Ches and Al Cherry will be supporting Bobby Valentino, BJ Cole, and Tom Doughty at The Floral Pavilion New Brighton on Saturday 17 November.
The gig will also be filmed for New Brighton TV