Li'l Chuck The One Man Skiffle Machine is an authentic one-man band performing 'good time music with old time style'. Blessed with the ability to handle multiple instruments at a time, he is the master of co-ordination: blowin', suckin' and pluckin' simultaneously! He cranks out the harmonica, resonator guitar, kick drum, hi hat, kazoo and vocals to give the audience a rollicking good time. Glory Days Editor, Natasha Francois, had a good old fashioned Q&A recently with the master of musical multi-tasking.
Li'l Chuck's 2015 album Blues In Full Swing has been met with high praise in NZ and abroad. Now Aucklanders have a chance to witness Li'l Chuck telling his stories and singing his songs in the intimate setting of The Wine Cellar on June 18th at 8.30pm. Tickets are $10 and available now from undertheradar.co.nz.
Seeing is believing with Li'l Chuck and he aims to prove that men can indeed, multi-task! Read on below to find out more about the many behind the music...
So what is skiffle music all about? And what sparked your interest in the genre?
Skiffle originated in the early part of the 20th century in the US. It’s mash up of what is now defined as folk, blues, roots, jazz and country music. It was generally played on improvised or home-made instruments (also called jug band music). Skiffle had a massive revival in 1950s England with the popularity of Lonnie Donnegan. ‘My thing’ is a concoction of the lot. My love of early blues, one man bands, 50s Skiffle all glued together with my writing styles of the genres. Li’l Chuck (me) The One Man (one man band) Skiffle Machine (all my instruments blended into one)
I fell in love with this stuff after a complex musical childhood... As a kid I would sit next to my dad as he played boogie woogie and ragtime piano… I spent my teenage years immersed in classic rock, 80s hair metal and bluegrass only to realise that underneath it all was the blues.
Once I started to peel back the layers everything pointed back to the stuff my dad played on the piano and the light started to come on. I saw my first one-man band (The Little Big Band) busking in Manchester, England in the late 1980’s That made the light burn a little brighter and then in 1992 I was blinded by the light when I saw the duo JC & Angelina Grimshaw playing resonator guitars, harmonicas, mandolins etc… We became great friends and I became obsessed with all the old times stuff ever since.
What are some of the rewards and challenges of being a one-man band?
I get to reap all the rewards when I do a great show, write a new song, play a great riff etc but on the other hand I have no one else to blame when the wheels fall off! As the song says ‘ain’t nobody’s fault but mine’
There is no better feeling than having mind body and soul completely in sync as the music flows.
I thought men were no good at multitasking?
I have always been a bit odd! I have a pretty frantic, hyperactive mind –a bit like a firework display. I always have loads of things going on at one time in my life at one time. As I write the answers to this Q&A I am quite literally recording an album, building vegetable beds and jotting down notes for Glory Days simultaneously. I lay down a few songs, realise I haven’t seen any sunlight, put on my overalls and grab my tools, muse over your questions then go back to the studio and around it goes again. In my defence, I do get most tasks finished once I have started them. It was inevitable that I would be a one-man band. When I was learning guitar, I also had mandolins, harmonicas, banjos etc hanging on the wall all shouting ‘pick me’. Jack of all trades master of none.
Can you name all the instruments you play?
Li’l Chuck plays guitar, harmonicas (I carry 8 in my everyday kit), kick drum, hi hat, voice and kazoo.
Why did it take so long to get you up to Auckland?
Time, life and economics have got in the way. I am very fortunate to have spent much of my adult life as a professional musician. In order to have achieved this, I not only perform as Li’l Chuck but I also play / have played in bands, duos, teach music etc. All this stuff fills up my diary. Essentially, but fortunately, I can work solidly in one town (Christchurch) and make a living.
In addition, over the last few years, parenthood coincided with earthquakes creating a pretty chaotic and complicated period of life. I also play the roll of Daddy daycare. Going on tour just isn’t that easy with out the planning of a small military operation.
What are you looking forward to about performing in Auckland?
It is going to be chance to show my wares to a totally new out of town audience… especially one that hasn’t heard my dad jokes. I will also get to meet a lot of the folks for the first time that I deal with on a professional level across the wider industry. This includes my publisher Songbroker who are helping me with this gig and kind folks like you at Glorydays who have supported me and my music.
What can audiences up here expect from your live show?
I play good time music with old time style. My music is foot tapping and quirky and by no means introspective or ‘shoe gazing’. My songs in general are based on life experience so there will be some good old story telling and a fair dollop of good humour. I like to keep my shows lighthearted, engage with the audience and have a laugh (often at my own expense).
What are your top 5 desert island discs?
This is way too hard!!! Ok, without over thinking it, albums…
Win a double pass to go and see Lil' Chuck and the One Man Skiffle Machine, live at the Wine Cellar on 18th June. Visit our facebook page and tag a friend to be in to win!