John Duffy: My Big Fat Gypsy Music

By Gerry Cassdy

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John Duffy: My Big Fat Gypsy Music

ANYONE who has dropped into any of the area's many open mic nights or visited a local music festival or just enjoyed some pub music over the last few years will surely have encountered John Duffy.

You might have seen him performing solo or as the front man in his own group, Duffy's Gypsy Band. Then again, you may have seen him playing in Simon Atkinson and the Foundryman's Apprentice or as part of Will and the Wild Horse. He also plays occasionally as part of a duo called The Fabulous Duffy Gibbons.

As a joiner and carpenter to trade, Duffy built his own studio at the bottom the garden, just as he had done at his previous home in Kirkmichael. And what, with the joinery and all his gigging, you wonder how on earth he has the time to get to work in the studio – but it has been a busy little facility since he opened it 18 months ago.

Three of the bands he is associated with ­– Gypsy Band, Simon Atkinson and Will and the Wild Horse – have recorded albums there as have Scott Nicol, Luther Sean Hall and jazz artiste Jane Beacher. Next Window Studio as it is known is a compact affair without enough room to set up a foursome, let alone the seven-piece Simon Atkinson and the Foundryman's Apprentice.

"I do it by step-by-step recording," Duffy explains as he shows me around the small room, packed with nick-nacks, quality speakers and deceptively little recording technology.

"We usually get the bass and the drums down first and do a bit of layered recording."

My eyes fall upon a laptop as I quickly ask another question to hide my disappointment at the lack of massive mixing desks, glass screens and soundproof booths with headphones suspended from the ceiling.

Born and raised on Weirside, Duffy left home at 16 and has moved around ever since spending time in Berlin and London before settling in South Ayrshire. He came from a large, musical family and learned to play music at an early age.

"My old man was a jazz pianist," he says. “There were always musical instruments lying about the house. I learned to play music as a toddler. All of my brothers and sisters play a musical instrument, too."

A spell in the Army was followed by a two-year course at Leeds College of Music in 1986 where he studied musical instrument technology and began building guitars.

And it was there that he developed an interest in the instrument for which he is now best known, the bouzouki. He decided to make one as a change from a guitar and ended up with an instrument unlike any other.

"I put the wrong gauge of strings on it by mistake," he says. "But I just kept them on– and that is why my bouzouki is different from everyone else's."

It's perfect, though, for his chosen style of music, the Eastern European gypsy sound that has become his hallmark and has made him one of the most in-demand musicians in his adopted Ayrshire.


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