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Hero. Legend. Good Bloke.
John Peel OBE, 1939 - 2004

Red Lick Records



Early Blues Interview
Ben Waters, pianist, The Ben Waters Band


I met up with Ben after his gig at the Skegness Rock & Blues Festival, January 2010.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:   What are your first musical memories? 

Ben:    Probably Great-Grandad playing the piano  and singing “I am a cider drinker”.  Also, we had this Japanese student with us and the first record I ever got given was from her and it was 'Sick Man Blues' by the Goodies. 

Alan:   Did you always want to become a musician? 

Ben:    No.  I had nothing to do with music until I went to secondary school and all the kids were into soft heavy metal, bands like Kiss but it just never did anything for me.  Then Fats Dominos 60th birthday party came on TV and I just fell in love with him the minute he came on.  And that’s when it changed for me and I thought, “Yes, that’s what I want to do”. 

Alan:   How did you learn to play piano? 

Ben:    By watching videos of Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis and mimicking them.  Also, my Mum and Dad used to go to a lot of gigs and my aunt and uncle used to put bands on.  Ian Stewart, who formed the Rolling Stones with Brian Jones, was a friend of the family so he played at my cousin’s 18th birthday party and my aunt’s 25th.  I used to go and watch him on the left side of the piano and work out what he was doing and I just learnt like that. 

Alan:   So what kind of material were you playing in the early days? 

Ben:    Similar to what I’m doing now.  Although I’m always writing songs and changing, I like the feeling of Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis and try to keep that sort of feeling going. 

Alan:   Probably a daft question, but who are your favourite artists? 

Ben:    All sorts really but obviously all the early boogie woogie piano players like Pete Johnson, Fats Domino, Jack Dupree, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis. I love the Stones, Bruce Springsteen, the stuff that’s got a bit of energy to it.  John Cleary...I just love piano-based music really. 

Alan:   So what switched you on to boogie-woogie in particular? 

Ben:    Fats Domino.  But I should also mention a piano player called Diz Watson who was a really good friend of the family and he used to show me stuff on the piano and I think he’s fantastic. 

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:   So what first attracted you to the New Orleans sound? 

Ben:    Professor Longhair.   When I was into the Fats Domino stuff several people told me to listen to Professor Longhair and I heard Tipitina and spent the next six weeks trying to work it out. 

Alan:   Are there any particular songs which you play which have special meaning to you? 

Ben:    My wife always loves the Ray Charles 'Alleluia,  I Love Her So' so when I play that I think of her. 

Alan:   You’ve played with an amazing range of artists and bands in your career so far.  You must have some fond memories – any you could share with us? 

Ben:    Mmmm, anybody in particular 

Alan:   Perhaps Jools Holland? 

Ben:    He’s been so fantastic.  I first met him when I joined Shaking Stevens when I was 18, and he had Chris Holland on piano as well.  Shaking Stevens said, “You’ve been recommended so you can do half the gig and Chris can do half and then you can chat to each other and see if it’s going to work out”.  So we went up to the TUC Conference in Scarborough, played half each and Chris thought it went well so he got me to do the support for Jools, some 17 years ago.  We remained friends and he played on my CD and is playing on this next one.  He lent me his studio to record a CD and got me to play at his wedding.  He’s just been really helpful over the years.  He’s a sort of honorary member of this new band, the ABC of Boogie Woogie, he sort of joined it but can’t really join because of his TV show, his radio show and his own band.  But all the gigs he can, he makes. 

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:   Tell me about this project you’ve got coming up? 

Ben:    I decided to make an album and, as I said earlier, Ian Stewart was a massive influence on me.  Last time I did a totally original album I spent ages on it, and I was wondering what to do with this one and thought that I’d really love to say Thanks to Ian Stewart because he was such a massive influence on me, and thousands of others.  Everyone loved him to bits.   I said to Charlie Watts that I was doing this album for Ian Stewart and he told me loads of stories about him, like how he refused to play the parts of Stones tunes he didn’t like but they all loved him to bits because he was such a character.  As soon as I told Charlie about it he said “I’ll come on it” and then I told Dave Green and he offered to play bass.  Then I bumped into Jools Holland and told him what we were doing so he said, “Have my studio to record it.  I loved Ian Stewart, he was really kind to me.  Have my studio.”  We are doing it for the Heart Foundation.  Then I saw Dave Wood and he said he’d come and do it.  Everytime I speak to somebody, they want to get involved.  I’ve just been in the other room talking to the Blues Band and they said “Oh, he used to play with us. We loved Stu, he was fantastic”.   He was one of those people that I’ve never heard anybody say a bad word about him. 

Alan:   Tell me about your current band. 

Ben:    We’ve got Andy Milward on drums whose been with me for years and years and years.  He lives around the corner from me and we’ve toured all over the place.  Brilliant mate.  He’s doing loads of other gigs too. 

...... unfortunately at this point Ben had to move his equipment off stage, and of course there wasn’t time to complete the interview. Hope to catch up with Ben soon. Meanwhile many thanks to Ben for sparing what free time he had.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.


Check out more photos of Ben at the Skegness Rock & Blues Festival, January 2010.


Return to Blues Interviews List

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