|I met up with
Danny Handley on an Animals & Friends tour with Steve
Cropper at The Platform, Morecambe.
What are your first musical memories growing up in Burnley,
and the Beatles, that was the first thing I ever did. In
1980 when John Lennon got shot they showed all the Beatles
films on TV and I fell in love with that whole thing,
although I was only 4 in 1980. I fell in love with the
whole guitars and things from that, and the Elvis films too,
it was a very visual thing but when I started listening to
the Beatles albums and I heard Roll Over Beethoven
and then I traced it back through Chuck Berry so by the time
I was 13 I was listening to the kind of music that Iím still
listening to today really.
you come from a musical family - is there a long musical
Danny: My dad
taught me to play guitar but he wouldnít ever dream of
calling himself a guitar player, but he was very good at
singing and he was always singing in the house and he could
play a few chords. So when I got a guitar when I was little
he was like Eric Clapton to me; he showed me my first chords
and got me started, but nobody else.
you always want to become a musician?
Danny: Oh yes,
from day one, tennis racquets in front of the mirror, every
clichť you can possibly imagine, I did it.
I right in saying you were originally a music teacher at
originally, no. I got a job at Nelson & Colne College
teaching guitar but that was much later, about 5 or 6 years
ago, and I got that through reputation more than musical
knowledge because I donít know music structure or why stuff
is what it is, I just know how to play it a bit. But yes, I
did teach at Nelson & Colne College for a while.
you taught Lucy Zirins?
Danny: I did
teach Lucy Zirins! I didnít teach her much, I was already a
little bit frightened of her slide playing, she was
fantastic. She was already more or less fully formed, she
was great from day one I thought.
and when did you get started as a musician?
Danny: I can
tell you exactly. Iíd learnt a couple of chords when I was
5, but I struggled, really struggled, so I gave up but the
guitar was always knocking around and Iíd stand with it in
front of the mirror but I couldnít play it. By the time I
got to 10/11 years old I got a Les Paul copy, and as soon as
I got that and a little Vox amp I went Twang!! "That's it, I
donít want to do anything else". So from the time I was 11
I went to guitar lessons with a guy in Burnley called Dave
Duxbury who has taught everybody in Burnley, and then by the
time I was 13 I was gigging 4 nights a week. I was falling
asleep in lessons at school because I was working til
What kind of material were you playing in the early days?
much what Iím playing now! The Shadows, I loved the
Shadows, so I learnt a few Hank Marvin ones when I was a kid
and did all that, and then a lot of Chuck Berry, Gene
Vincent, Jerry Lee. All Rock and Roll. Elvis - I wanted to
learn to play like Scottie Moore, Elvisís guitar player was
an incredible influence on me but I just canít play like he
plays. I just love his playing.
What first attracted you to the blues?
Berry. Wee Wee Hours. Thatís it. As soon as I
heard Wee Wee Hours at the end of that ďBest OfĒ
Chuck Berry LP and Johnny Johnsonís piano playing he just
killed me. That was it. It was like Rock and Roll but it
moved me in a different way. Rock & Roll did one thing to
me but when I heard the blues it made the hair stand up on
the back of my neck, everything happened, like Bang, a very
precise moment when I heard that song. I even remember
saying to my Dad, ďWhatís blues? Why do they call it blues?Ē
and he tried to explain it to me, ďBecause what they sing it
makes you feel blue, and because my baby left me this
morning theyíre all blueĒ but I never understood. So from
Chuck Berry, everything came: Eric Clapton, Peter Green, BB
King, Freddie King, Albert King, I just ate it all up. All
through school; everybody else was into Van Halen and I was
walking around with BB King's Live at the Regal in my
Click here for Wee Wee Hours,
Chuck Berry and His Combo, featuring Johnny Johnson, 1955
78rpm on YouTube
What does the blues mean to you?
Emotion. Human spirit. That kind of feeling where the hair
stands up on the bank your neck. Primal stuff. I love jazz
but it doesnít do what blues does to me. Yeah, that earthy,
has influenced you most in your writing and playing?
Danny: All the
guys Iíve mentioned really. I just spent all my childhood
in my bedroom watching videos and trying to see when BB King
moved his hand. All the Chuck Berry stuff because that
excited me. I loved Robert Cray when I was younger. Stevie
Ray Vaughan, George Harrison even though heís not
necessarily a blues player, but what a player. The idea of
a guitar solo as a piece of music thatís not just a wriggly
noodly thing. Steve Cropper, that kind of guitar solo is my
big influence. But if I had to line them all up and one
stood above the others, itís BB King.
What guitars do you play and which is your favourite?
Danny: I've got
a lot of guitars which are taking up a lot of house room but
my favourite has to be the one I use for this tour. Itís a
1980 Gibson 347, itís like a Gibson 335 but itís a got a
coil tap switch attached to it (somebody might know what
that means!) . It does everything that The Animals need
from me and I donít have to swap guitars. I love a Gibson
335 and thatís my favourite ES model.
2008 you formed the Danny Handley Blues Project. How did
that come about?
Frustration really. Iíd been playing in all kinds of
different bands, Iíd been playing bass in touring bands for
the best part of 10 years, different theatre, rock and roll
shows, one thing and another, and just doing the odd weekend
gig here and there with local bands, like the Uptown Band.
Itís like National Service in Burnley, youíve got to play
with the Uptown Band. So I wanted to put something together
where I could just play a bit and not have to worry about
earning a crust because I was doing that with my other stuff
but in my spare time I could slot a few gigs in.
released an album titled "The Danny Handley Blues Project"
with many self-penned numbers and guest artists Zoot Money
and Mick Gallagher I believe. How did you get them on board?
truth? Pete Barton. Well, Mick came because he was a
friend, as Iíd already played with the Animals at that time,
so Mick was already a friend. I hadnít met Zoot but he was
passing through going to another gig somewhere else and when
I mentioned it to Pete he said, ďZoot Moneyís drivingĒ and
since then me and Zoot have become really good friends,
texting dirty jokes to each other all the time. Heís a
funny man! So, it wasnít necessarily how I got them, but
they just came along.
Whatís the future of the Danny Handley Blues Project?
Everybodyís busy trying to pay for their kids, wives and the
houses and the Danny Handley Blues Project ainít gonna pay
for a new pair of shoelaces for my kids. So at the moment if
I can fit anything in around The Animals I will do it but I
canít book anything in because if I do, Pete will
undoubtedly get a gig for The Animals and then Iíve got to
let the venue down. Iíve done it three times but now I
wonít do it unless I know that Pete or John is on holiday
and I know I've got the time and I can carve it in stone.
more recently replaced John Williamson as a full time member
of Animals and Friends, how did that come about?
Danny: It was
because he broke his arm and I got the call to do a dep and
the first gig was at the Municipal Hall in Colne, at the
Rhythm &Blues Festival in 2009, and I did a short two week
tour with them; me, Spencer Davies and The Animals and I
absolutely loved it and never wanted to go back to do what I
was doing. I did. I went back to what I was doing and I
spent 3 years depressed and then when John Williamson had
had enough of the road, and he decided he didnít want to do
it anymore, I think I was the easiest option because I knew
the set and Iíd been a flea in Peteís ear for 3 years, ďAny
gigs yetĒ, you know, always on the radar. Stay on the
are now on tour with the legendary Steve Cropper; this must
be quite an experience for you?
Danny: Yeah, it
was 'overawing'! At first, completely, I was just, well,
for somebody like me whoíd grown up playing those licks
which was an everyday part of my life and to then not just
meet the person but to play and swap licks with him, which
is what weíre doing now. Heís showing me the Soul Man Licks
and IĎm showing him Animalsí licks he wants to know, he's
like one of my friends, but that happened very quickly. Iíd
say the first two or three gigs I was like a child on Father
Christmasís knee looking at him in awe when he played but
then Mickey said, ďStop being so uncool! Stop staring at
himĒ. So now I look at my monitor and try not to look at
him. It's an honour. I feel like these guys have done so
much and now they are getting older, not just Steve Cropper
but all that lot, and Iím so lucky to be in a position that
Iím friends with them now, John, Mickey, Cropper, Spencer.
But thatís all come about because I did an Animals gig. If
I hadnít done that Iíd still be playing bass in a band
there any particular Animals songs that you play that have
special meaning to you?
We Gotta Get Out Of This Place is a killer, and I
used to listen to that at school. House of the Rising
Sun because it was one of the first songs I ever learned
on guitar and I never imagined Iíd be playing that with the
Animals. I enjoy Boom Boom because me and Mickey get
to have a bit of a blast at the end. All of them really,
they're all good.
Danny Handley compositions in the Animals and Friends set
not yet, but weíre supposed to be doing an album and Iíve
been secretly building a war chest. Every time I write one
I think, ďAhh, I can make that AnimalyĒ, so hopefully if we
do a proper Animals album which we hope to do either this
year or for the 50th anniversary next year Iíll
be ready with a box full of songs for them to dismiss at
After the Steve Cropper tour in the UK, Animals and Friends
have extensive tours planned all over Europe in the coming
months, are you getting used to all the travelling now
you're a mega-star!?
Danny: I wish,
thatíd be great. Something that Mickey said and I
thought, yeah, heís right. We donít get paid for the gigs,
we get paid for the travelling. The gigs are just great,
even if itís just two people in a pub in the middle of a
frozen wasteland, itís great. Itís called playing, not
working; the work's the travelling ..... and Pete Barton
makes us travel! But again, I do love it. The others are
so used to it but I still get a kick out of walking into an
airport holding a guitar. I used to go on holiday and see
somebody and think, ďWhoa, heís got a guitar, how cool is
that to walk into an airport with a guitar and a pair of
sunglasses. That's magic, I want to do thatĒ. So yes, I
still get a bit excited by the travelling, and the more
travelling you know youíre getting your stripes. I havenít
been to sleep for three days, Iíve been to Switzerland,
France, Germany, da da, da da.... it's great, I love it!
Danny thanks very much for that.
Danny: It's a pleasure, thanks Alan.