Graham Fellows

Sunday 01 March 2015
reading time: min, words
Folk and funerals with John Shuttleworth, aka Graham Fellows
John Shuttleworth

You have just started your “Wee Ken to Remember Tour”, how does it feel to be back on the road?
Well..personally I am knackered already! Its we've actually taken on a lot of gigs on this tour because the real agent (not Ken of course) Richard has gone very trigger happy with the booking..which has resulted in eight gigs in Yorkshire alone. I'm not quite sure how that happened, the only place where multiple gigs have worked extremely well is in fact...Nottingham! Two at the Lakeside which sold out and now the Playhouse which I hope will be a success ...but all in all it feels good to be back on the road. I only tour every two years now.

The show focuses solely on the character of your agent Ken, what kind of illustrious stories can we expect from the life of Ken?
Well of course the whole appeal of Shuttleworth is he sets up his own shows as exciting stories and pieces, from his day to day life. In a way I would love to talk more about Ken, but the problem is He himself is quite boring! and I don't know much about him because he has been very reclusive since being on “New Faces” in 1973 (TV's Mr. Clarinet Man" who came last on the TV talent show New Faces in 1973). So y’know it all becomes about small shy details of things and of course the songs which the audiences love. Y' ‘Two Margarines.’  

How is he kind of dealing with being the centre of attention, is he getting ideas above his station? 
Well In the show John rings Ken and finds out that Ken has decided that he doesn't want John to talk about him, because he is essentially a very private person. He doesn't want to be remembered, so John decides because Ken has cocked up the title of the show John will talk about him even more. Then eventually John starts talking about himself and how he wants to be remembered, as he's worried he won't be because he's getting on a bit and he still hasn't had his hit record. So he starts to sing a couple of songs about death including one titled as “Mingling With Mourners”, which is all about the joys of going to a funeral.

It goes a little something like this: “mingling with mourners, some sat down in corners, others at table eying up the quiche, I've had days more jolly but never eaten more fully, when remembering the deceased”

John Shuttleworth

Sounds very uplifting! So it gives us a nice idea towards the plot?
I guess you know the plot is always secondary. In fact before we did the show at Christmas there was a bit more of a plot but to be honest, it was just technically a little too difficult towards getting Ken in the actual show. Which it resulted taking longer to set up each gig and there was some back and forth with two keyboards on stage, but were now down to one. So we've streamlined in a sense. but the phone calls to Ken still happen off-stage as it were.

Talking about your trusty Yamaha Keyboard, what is it about the instrument that best expresses John's writing?
Well, The keyboard is just the right one for funny songs really. I had another favourite one in the past that wasn't quite the same quality of sound really, but it was made in 1992 with funny animal noises you see. Because they bring out a new model every year, but I have tried other new keyboards to find merit as a stage keyboard...and they certainly haven't. Of course everyone knows the songs with these preset organ styles. Its really funny because some people  think i've actually done a lot of work with creating these funny rhythms myself, but its really just the presets from my old battered 50 quid keyboard.  

Anything next in the pipeline?
My next project will hopefully be a Graham Fellows Folk Album, to get away from John a little bit do some of my other stuff as he needs a bit of a rest. It's funny really because John doesn't like folk music and picks on any audience member inciting that the genre produces “slovenly dress”. But I personally really love folk music, thats just what I would like to fully explore. The songs for this next project might be slightly comic, just not in a 'John Shuttleworth' sense. I just want to make an album of my own stuff, and possibly take it to small folk clubs around the country. 

So there could be a chance that we might not see good old John for a while after this tour?
I almost feel like I have done everything I can with John live and possibly radio in fact, so were hopefully branching out towards animation. So were working on this animation based on the late night radio show “The Shuttleworths” where all the characters interact such as Ken, and John's wife Mary. so that would be very exciting.

In your past songs you've kind of referred to the south as “soft” and there is a north/south divide do you kind of have to tone things down for each southern show?
Not at all, I don't change the show really when I go to different places, one of the jokes is that John is rattling off these placenames. Like Nether Edge, Killamarsh, Maltby, there all areas that I remember that my dad mentioning when he was a photographer for Estate Agents and he would exclaim “I'm off to Killamarsh today, off to Maltby, and Thurcroft!” As a kid they almost sounded exotic. Quite nice really. I do that with John as I just like to drop in the names of places and people seem to laugh. its just details really, cos its mainly everyday how your Dad talks so to speak.

It's nice that people can relate to these places culturally, you must get a positive reaction when mentioning these obscure places?
Well, even someone said to me the other night “naming the places are all complete nonsense and I have forgotten it all already but indeed, it has made me laugh”. But it's the songs I feel, that tend to stay longer in your head.     

John Shuttleworth appears at the Playhouse Monday 2 March 2015

Official John Shuttleworth Appreciation website

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