Untill August 2010, I made my living playing in rock groups, first in Canada, then, after I’d emigrated, here in England. I had been doing this for 30 years, but when the inevitable hearing problems got so bad, I could no longer perform onstage.

The band I was in sacked me and all my attempts at getting other work failed. In desparation I started busking, playing solo instrumental guitar – first in Southampton, then in Winchester, where I live. From the first day “on the street”, I found I was meeting people I never would have met, had I not been busking. Some of these people were quite entertaining, some quite the opposite. I decided to start a diary – Diary Of A Busker, in which I would write after coming home from a days’ session…

  31 comments for “About

  1. Kelvin Mattock
    05/02/2011 at 9:09 AM

    As an ex-denizen of Winchester, a keen muso and being familiar with the High Street and some of the ‘characters’ you mention, I have really enjoyed your diary.You’re adding a bit of joy into a lot of people’s lives both with the music and now the diary – the busker who keeps on giving!

    My mother is frequently in the vacinity ( sorry this sounds a little bit pompous – it must be this form of addressing – I assure you I’m not, I hope). I’ll ask her to put two pounds in your a hat from me. Her name’s Carol, could you play a bit of fifties rockn’roll or country-and-western for her. And I would love to hear your arrangement for ‘A whiter shade of pale’!

    Keep up the good work – music and diary.

    Regards, Kelvin.

  2. 05/02/2011 at 1:55 PM

    Good day to you, Kelvin,
    I’m pleased, shocked and stunned that there are some nice people who have enjoyed reading the diary. Where exactly did you come across the diary?
    I would like to (politely) urge anyone to let the Chronicle know, as their are no comments on their webpage, where the excerpts are. If enough people comment, they might print some more, maybe.
    Busking is a strange thing to do! , and I have certainly met an interesting cross-section of the public, as it were. I decided to keep a diary, as I knew I’d never see some of the people again, and what would it all be for? I still need to get a gig out of it! Ask your mum to say hello! Country and Western? Hmm…maybe a bit of Merle Travis or Chet Atkins (although he’s not strickly C and W). Mr. Sandman is one of his from the 50s in my “set”. A Whiter Shade Of Pale, I’ve never done! Must be a rumour.
    Thanks for taking the effort and getting in touch, Kelvin…(you’d be doing a big favour if you let the Chronicle know),

  3. Kelvin Mattock
    11/02/2011 at 1:28 PM

    Thanks for your reply Marvin . I’ve been reading your latest diary entries and listening to your music on the facebook homepage – both are now on my favourites list. Beautiful music – especially as I’m a fan of 6&12 string guitar acoustic, Fahey and Kottke and seventies acoustic based music.

    I’m sure, if you want to and continue, you’ll get some ,well deserved, greater recognition. Maybe a solo gig at the Railway (I think there’s a folk club still going there – I’m sure you know) or the Tower centre if that’s still going. As you probably know by now it’s very hard indeed for Winchester to get overly excited by popular culture and ‘it’ seems to blighthly or restrainedly ignore real talent.

    I used to help run a folk club in London and I think, if wanted to, you could get a lot of work and recognition there.There seems to be a lack of your kind of talent at the moment, even in London, and I think the ‘kids’, no make that everybody, is crying out for it. So keep the original songs and CD’s coming.

    Keep faith in your stuff and try and get some more publicity locally and,more importantly, in the Capital.Can you publisise the availability of your music on CD , or otherwise, a bit more? I for one would like your collected works on CD.

    And! I would, for one, would particularly like just you playing your various stringed instruments without any other effects: just a crystal clear recording with that etherial sound of your echoing through my brain!

    I think some of those old blues recordings of just a guy and his guitar (Robert Johnson, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt and so on) were the finest ( finest and simplest – perhaps not so easy to make) ever made – got to the real heart and soul. Fundamentally, I think any more than this over complicates and blurs.But that’s just my personal preference.I know a musician can do that for ever! Listen to me!What do I know.But don’t hide A Whiter Shade of Pale Away – it must be cool again by now, especially on solo electric guitar!

    Yes , I’ll tell mum, again, and I’ll make a comment on the Hants Chron comment postings.That’s where I originally read about you. I’ll come and see you soon and maybe bring some of my family, keep up the good fight and say hello to Winchester from me.

    Kindest of Regards, Kelvin.

  4. 14/02/2011 at 2:17 PM

    Hello Kelvin,
    I’m pleased you like my original music. I often forget about all my effort (and money) I’ve put into my songs, because I haven’t been able to record anything new since I lost my job playing in a group. The single Little Speck Of Blue got a bit of attention for awhile. It was a “single of the week” in an indie chart and got a lot of internet airplay. And Van Dyke Parks even liked it. Hey, that’s a great American music legend! And there have been a few radio stations that regularly play my stuff, including Chris Evans’ WCR FM The Curve Ball radio show (every Tuesday night, 10 to 12 – http://www.wcrfm.com from Wolverhampton. It’s worth having a listen.), and Dee Chapman from Radio Gets Wild (they awarded me the Gold Artist Prize for 2010!), and LA Talk Radios’ Troy Spiropolous, and our own Nick Tann on his podcast show plays me. But no one buys anything from my bandcamp site.
    You say you like the sound of the 12 string guitar on it’s own. Yes, and I have increasingly used just the guitar to make all the other sounds you might think are made by other instruments. For instance on a song called The Nightingales, all of the instrumentation was done on the 12 string guitar (there’s a few of them in there), and on Boy Became A Man, it’s more or less two 12 string guitars in unison, tuned very low, like the old American blues guys from the 20s – 50s used to tune their 12 string guitars. You will not find any “conventional” bass/drums in any of the songs, apart from some of the older ones, and there’s only one or two. I’ve done a few London gigs, just performing my songs and singing them accompaning myself on the 12 string guitar. most of them, no one turns up, as the club owners don’t really promote them. I did all I could to promote them from my end, but no one ever turned up. Anyway, I can’t afford to travel up there anymore, so it’s pointless.
    But, anyway, if you know of any other radio stations that might play my stuff, you’re very welcome to let me know, or even contact them and tell them about me. I need all the help I can get, for sure!


  5. Henry Hopkins
    11/03/2011 at 11:57 AM

    Marvin – this is really entertaining stuff. Really well written and should definitely become a book. You are missed on a Monday at The Railway so maybe you could divert yourself over one Monday evening? No chance of any money though! Henry

  6. 12/07/2011 at 5:32 PM

    I found your site whilst doing a bit of research for my own blog on a recent trip to Winchester. Although I’m pretty sure I missed you playing when I was in town (the day with that loud drumming group), I thoroughly enjoyed reading what you have to say. I have recently moved from a small town not unlike Winchester to the big bad suburbs near Birmingham and had started to think that the charming eccentricities and neighbourly smiles from ‘regulars’ that I used to great everyday had been entirely made up by my imagination. In fact I liked what you had to say so much I lost almost 2hours today reading your back catalogue, oops!

    Thanks, Charli.

    • 15/07/2011 at 4:21 PM

      Hello Charli,
      Yes, that would be The (infamous) Meridian Drum Corps. It really should be illegal to be that loud. Where exactly did you find this diary, I’m curious – I don’t know where it goes out to! I find it amazing you have read this stuff for almost 2 hours. I could never do that! Where abouts is the small town you moved from? Have you ever done any busking?


      • 15/07/2011 at 6:31 PM

        Believe it or not, I found this blog by trying to find out what the Meridian Drum Corps was actually called. I noted it down haphazardly in my notebook but was unsure of the spelling. This site was the first hit (they apparently don’t have a website of their own).

        I don’t busk, but have recently been very impressed by a few good ones. I have undertaken a ludicrous challenge to try and visit all 501 Must See Cities that is recommended by a book I bought on a whim in W. H. Smiths about a year ago. I have been to a fair few of them in the UK and a few in Europe and have found that the places my travelling companions and I have liked the most are usually the ones that had the most lively ‘busking scenes’, Winchester being one of them. I now make a point at stopping and listening to them when I can, as there seems to be a complete lack of busking in Birmingham/ Wolverhampton.

        And the little town I moved from was Aberystwyth.


  7. Kev Smith
    14/07/2011 at 11:57 PM

    Hi Marvin.

    I often hear you when you play outside Debenhams or M&S. I always enjoy hearing you play – you’re definitely one of the best buskers I’ve heard around here. Your playing is superb.

    I found this site as I was looking into busking myself, seeing where I could do it without needing to obtain a licence etc. Was amazed to see that you’re the same bloke who’s made my working day go by a bit quicker many times over the recent months!

    Anyway, keep up the playing and next time I see you playing, I’ll stop by and say hello. Oh, and the blog is a great read.

    • 15/07/2011 at 4:12 PM

      Hello Kev(in),
      Many thanks for the message – I appreciate it, particularly as I’m somewhat paranoid that my Focal Dystonia makes my playing rubbish. Yes, I often “warm up” at Debenhams, where there are less people and then go up the road, although the takings seem to be more or less the same no matter where on the High Street you go. But today I had to go even further down the road, opposite Reflex, as there was someone busking near the market. Do you know that you don’t need a licence to busk in Winchester and you can go anywhere, although there’s an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t play more than an hour, and if someone in a shop asks you to leave, you should. You do need a permit in Southampton, but I had such a terrible time there, I’d never go back, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone!

      • Kev Smith
        20/07/2011 at 10:10 PM

        Hello Marvin.

        It was good to get the chance to speak to you today – one good thing about having my lunch break later than usual.

        Thanks for the response. About the unwritten rule about not playing more than an hour. Does that mean play for up to an hour and then move, or stop altogether after an hour?

        • 21/07/2011 at 10:01 AM

          Hello Kev(in),
          Hmm, yes, interesting. Play for an hour, or until someone asks you to leave! Play for an hour, go away for a respectable duration, (a couple of hours at least) then return… I think if you’re not too loud, most shop people will tolerate a few hours. It’s the volume that’s the important thing, I reckon.

    • 19/07/2011 at 7:03 AM

      Hello, Kev.

      I think he is the best busker I’ve ever heard! Winchester, Southampton, other countries. But Marvin is the best I’ve ever seen. Keep up the fantastic work, Marvin!

  8. 18/07/2011 at 4:40 PM

    Hello, Marvin! It’s me, James Gardner that you met outside the Debenhams (Monsoon) I’ve been checking your website and I’ve a lot of your blogs and stories. Very interesting! Was that guitar that you were playing called an “Epiphone”? I completely forgot and my Dad says it is. Just making sure!! How are you and what were you playing outside Monsoon? Sounded great! Is Southampton really that bad?
    Best Wishes,
    James Gardner.

    • 20/07/2011 at 7:44 AM

      Hello James. You were pretty good yourself. Yes, it is an Epiphone Casino guitar. I got it second hand off ebay a few years ago – it’s not an original from the 60s. I put the Bigsby on myself. I can’t recall exactly what I was playing outside Monsoon – probably a Chet Atkins arrangement – Mr. Sandman, La Vie En Rose, Ol’ Man River… and, yes, Southampton was really that bad – I’d sometimes be playing 5 hours solid and only get £15, and my train fare would be £5.50. I’d never go back! Thank you for your kind words!

  9. 29/07/2011 at 10:04 AM

    Hello, Marvin!

    I’ve seen the diary and you said I’m thirteen. Well, actually I’m nine. Thanks for writing about me! It’d be good to see you again.


  10. 02/08/2011 at 5:12 PM

    Hello Marvin,
    It was a real pleasure to meet you today. Thank you for both your music and conversation, both of which really helped to lift the spirits. You are doing such a great thing talking to people and giving us such quality music to listen to. I will certainly try to find you next time I am in Winchester. Do you ever play in the Fleet, or Farnborough area?
    All the best with searching for Marc Cohn – please might you learn Strangers in a Car?
    All the very best.

    PS – used to live in Southampton so sorry to hear that it did not treat you well. Have t

  11. maria
    06/08/2011 at 4:50 PM

    hi i found this page after looking for stuff about my bad meridian corps of drums, didnt think we are that loud! we have only been a group for a few months so please dont be too hard on us anyway we now do have a website

  12. 11/08/2011 at 4:27 PM

    Hello Marvin,
    Hope you enjoyed lunch with your parents – they look very sweet. (Sadly I lost both of mine by the time I was 47, which is not so long ago!)

    There is lots that I would like to ask you about your music – perhaps next time. – might be able to stay longer and hear more. Hopefully that will be before term re commences (- teaching is a fine job – the little ones have a great sense of rhythm.)

    Thank you for remembering and using people’s names – a rare quality these days . Every best wish

  13. Alice May
    10/10/2011 at 10:02 PM

    I was wondering if you would be able to help me? I’m a student currently studying at Winchester School of Art, we have been given a new project which I have decided to centre around busking/music on the street. Personally, I love the idea of a musicians sharing their skills with complete strangers who go about they day to day schedule walking through a place. My favourite thing is when I can hear the music, but can’t see the busker, so follow the sound till I’m able to spot them and then drop what ever change I have in my pockets into their collection. Anyway, I came across you diary of a busker and thought it would be such a great opportunity if I was able to perhaps have a little interview with you or even spend the day around you while you busk so I can really get an idea what for it is like. An opportunity like that, I feel, would really benefit my project, and so I’d appreciate it by vast amounts. Although if it isn’t something you’d be happy with I completely understand. I look forward to hearing back from you. Regards, Alice.

    • Marvin B Naylor
      15/10/2011 at 3:34 AM

      Hello Alice,
      Yes, of course! I will be somewhere on the High Street on Tuesday -I’ll try for around 11 am, at the same place you saw me before. If there’s someone already there, then I’ll be up near WH Smiths or at the other end, near Debenhams. You’ll hear me, anyway. If it’s pouring with rain, I won’t go in – I’ll go in Wednesday. I also might be in on Monday…and maybe later on Saturday afternoon…but definately Tuesday, unless, as I say, the weather is rubbish. Marvin.

  14. 25/01/2012 at 11:28 AM

    Hi Marvin, I’m Sam and I’m a journalist for Winchester news online, seen your blog and your story seems interesting. Would really love to get an interview with you and make it a feature. If you could contact me that would be great.

  15. 21/02/2012 at 10:13 PM

    Hello Marvin,

    I haven’t seen you since the ‘Bill Oddie/cabaret woman gig’ in Soho a couple of years back. Good to see you’ve been spending your time, er, profitably – at least the weather’ll be picking up soon. I look forward to the book and the film of the blog, and I’ll make an investment in the most recent album in lieu of a trip to Winchester to drop coins into your hat/guitar case. Next time you’re back this way, let me know…

    Take care and all the best, Martin

    • Marvin B Naylor
      23/02/2012 at 9:13 AM

      Good day to you, Martin – Was the Bill Oddie/Rachel Sage gig really two years ago?! Jaysus. And I never thought this diary would be approaching the 200th day – an unfortunate “developement”, I’m afraid. The “novelty”, if there ever was one, has definately worn off by now. By all means, please invest in my album (The Stargazer’s Symphonium) – there’s much more 12-string guitar on it than the last album. It took me 3 years to do – things take much longer these days, in fact I doubt very much if there’ll be another for at least 10 years…if that. “All the best”, Marvin.

      • Martin
        04/05/2012 at 11:03 AM

        Hey, sorry I didn’t make the Amersham Arms, hope it went well. To make up for it, I bought Stargazer’s.

        • 21/05/2012 at 11:46 AM

          Hello Martin, It went well – a good PA for once. People clapped, too! I appreciate you buying the album – do let me know if you have a favourite song.

  16. 04/03/2012 at 10:27 PM

    Hi Marvin,

    Heard you on Nick Tann’s podcast and just bought The Last Flight Of Billy Balloon on Bandcamp. Great music!

    All the best,


  17. 05/03/2012 at 12:37 AM

    Hi Marvin,

    I’m writing an article for a startup magazine and it’s all about busking, primarily in North America, but I wanted to see if you’d be interested in answering a few questions for me. Your blog’s great and since you seem to originally be Canadian, I’d love to get your take on what busking in the UK is like and just pick your brain a little.

    If you’re interested, can you just send me an email?


    • Marvin B Naylor
      05/03/2012 at 10:04 AM

      Hello Nathan,
      Sure, I’d be pleased to help with your enquiries – can you send me your e-mail address?

    • Marvin B Naylor
      05/03/2012 at 10:07 AM

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