Im 65, a fully paid up member of the Old farts Club and have played Hohner boxes since I was about eleven years old. About 1952 or so, when our family lived in a council pre-fab. in Beccles, Suffolk, our Uncle Sam visited us from the USA and left a C/F Hohner box with us. Of us three brothers, I was the only one interested in the thing, and when Sam returned to the US, I taught myself how to play it (having started on mouth-organ a similar instrument). I taught myself in complete isolation, as I never even saw another melodeon until many years later so there was no musical tradition at all surrounding me. I learnt tunes (of all types I wasnt aware of the word folk) from the radio and often practiced playing in our bedroom in the dark (and it didnt make me go blind).
I was first introduced to folk music during a (failed) teacher training course at Matlock in Derbyshire. The college had a terrific folk club BUT I only performed using a guitar, as I never thought a melodeon would be acceptable in a folk club!
Later in life, I would say that the most important musical influence was regularly attending Rod and Danny Stradlings wonderful Kings Head folk Club in Islington. There, week after week, one could experience all the terrific traditional music of these islands: one week Seamus Ennis, the uillean pipe player and storyist, another the whole Bampton Morris side etc. etc. My other influence was a weekly visit to the White Hart, Fulham to listen to Irelands Raymond Rowland, Lliam Farrel and Mick the singer (and get rat-arsed on Guinness and bitter).
I have performed as a backing musician to several worthies in the folk world including:
-Maddy Prior and June Tabors Silly Sisters album and subsequent tour
-Nick Jones Penguin Eggs album
-Backing people such as Shirley Collins, Peter Bellamy, Royston Wood and the Kipper family on albums
These days I do the odd booking in what I call pocket of masochism (e.g. clubs that can tolerate my odd outlook on life). For years Ive had the privilege of performing at Whitby Folk Festival and sometimes at Sidmouth. Also, as my main anchor in music, I play every week with my Von Krapp Family Band in a Norwich pub. We play anti-flash, straight-down-the-line music and crack silly jokes.
Career-wise Im a (not very well known) cartoonist; also an all year motorcyclist and avid pipe smoker, not averse to the odd pint or single malt.