I started playing the bass by accident. I was simply in the right place at exactly the right time. Every year, John Dankworth and Cleo Laine held their "Allmusic" course at their home in Wavendon, in Buckinghamshire. I'd enrolled to study classical guitar with John Williams. That never happened. As the "students" were gathering on the first day, John always put together a big band. I think that was his baby, and where he found pleasure, encouraging and nurturing young talent. There was a crisis though. John realised that there was no bass player on the course. As I recollect, he looked at me and said: "Chris, you play guitar and piano don't you?" I said yes. John said: "Okay, you're the bass player in the band." I didn't really have any choice. You're not going to turn round to one of the most respected figures in British music and say "no" are you? I certainly didn't. Life was never the same again.
This would have been around 1972 I think. I suddenly found myself sitting in a rhythm section surrounded by brass and wind players. I was sight-reading charts in the bass clef playing an instrument I'd never touched. I remember thanking my father for his insistence that I learned to play the piano before approaching any other instrument. I loved it. The sheer power of all those instruments, conducted by a grinning John Dankworth, or sometimes Graham Collier (also grinning), was something I'll cherish forever. What an experience for a 15-year-old lad. Needless to say, the lessons with John Williams went by the board. I was having far too much fun for that.