Sutton Bridge man’s life-long music career

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Nigel Portass will spend Sunday afternoon doing something that’s been his life.

The musician will be performing with saxophonist John Willmott, giving punters at Palmers Ale House & Kitchen at Long Sutton a taste of laid-back jazz and swing (from 4-7pm).

Nigel Portass: SG260916-201TW

Nigel Portass: SG260916-201TW

Playing – mainly keyboards, sax and drums though he dabbles in most instruments – is something 73-year-old Nigel has been doing since the 1960s when he left Spalding Grammar School and decided music was going to be his future.

That has led to a remarkable career in which Nigel has played with some major bands and musicians.

However, Nigel is equally known for music tuition locally, and believes he must have taught thousands of people at his shop, Portass & Carter Music Shop at Sutton Bridge.

There, more than 50 years’ worth of history has accumulated among the instruments for sale and those used to teach both adult and young students.

Nigel Portass is still performing and teaching. SG260916-204TW

Nigel Portass is still performing and teaching. SG260916-204TW

The shop remains almost unchanged from the day he and fellow former Spalding Grammar School student Nick Carter opened it.

While Nick moved on to another career, Nigel continued to man the shop and give lessons.

He says: “I have been here about 54 years. It’s the longest established business around here.

“We do the Trinity Guildhall exams which helps me as well as my pupils because it keeps me from getting complacent.”

A career in the music industry came first, Nigel playing with a rock and roll band called Danny Ford and the Offbeats.

It was a popular band in its day, playing every night of the week , and eventually went professional.

Nigel spent three years touring with the band and also got work in backing bands for visiting American artists and other performers. In his time he’s worked with big names such as Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Joe Brown, Marty Wilde and Van Morrison, to name just a few.

In fact, he was invited to join what was to become Tom Jones and the Squires, but an impending marriage and the call of home intervened.

Instead, he became a session musician, before returning to Sutton Bridge and opening the shop as an entertainment agency and selling musical instruments.

Nigel says: “From the word go we had virtually no money, so we used to put the band’s equipment in the window and hope people didn’t buy it! We took orders for it, and we came close to losing the band’s equipment.”

Former students sometimes look him up, such as one he didn’t rate at the time who ended up playing in the orchestra for a national theatre production.