Colin Henderson

Colin Henderson

Colin’s Story

When I decided that I wanted to play songs to an audience I was starting from a long way back on the grid. I had a voice that wouldn’t win any prizes, and a guitar style that was at best rudimentary. All I had going for me was a seemingly improving ability to write songs which people might like to hear.

I was starting to hang around my local folk clubs doing ‘floor spots’ either on my own or with friends and eventually gravitated to the folk club at the Black Horse pub in West Kirby. There I met Tom Topping and Brian Jones. Tom and Brian welcomed me into what became the Tom Topping Band (TTB) and we embarked on a career which saw us perform hundreds of shows in hundreds of places to thousands of people.

My band-mates were always willing to give my song writing exploits the benefit of the doubt and with Tom’s effortless ability to truly deliver a vocal and Brian’s innate skills in song and harmony arrangement, some of those songs became staples of the band’s repertoire. To say I was lucky to be in that company would be a considerable understatement.

Performing gigs was a wonderfully rewarding way to make great music, meet new audiences and make new friends. As an aspiring songwriter I was drawn to and influenced by artists such as Allan Taylor, Harvey Andrews, Vin Garbutt, Mike Silver and Jack Hudson. Via Brian, I got to know about and appreciate the tremendous musicality and power of Silly Wizard (his brother, Gordon, being a member of that great band). Silly Wizard’s song writer was the sadly now departed Andy M. Stewart who could write a contemporary song but make it seem like it was a hundred years old.

Of all the gigs we played, none of which I can truly say was a ’bad’ gig, the one that really stands out for me is the time in July of 1985 when we and our dependable ‘roadie’ Ian Proctor went off to a Baltic coast city called Rostock to perform in a song festival called ‘Menschen und Meer’ which translates as ‘People and the Sea’. Rostock is a sea port in Germany but which, back in 1985, was in what was then East Germany. Being a native of Birkenhead on the Wirral, Rostock reminded me of my home town with its docks, shipyards and industry.

Playing the festival was a marvellous experience and not just because we as a band were on fine form and won prizes! During the course of the three or four days we were in Rostock we met artists from all over Europe and we had the time to talk and make music together informally in our hotel in the evenings. Being on the far side of the Berlin Wall exposed us to a very different culture but reinforced my belief that we, as ‘ordinary people’ were very alike in many ways. I often wonder what happened to all the people we met after the wall came down in 1989.

Performing as the resident band at the Black Horse Folk Music Hall, doing gigs, learning songs in the back of Brian’s Transit van on the way back home, are all things that I will cherish and remember fondly and which have informed my progress as a songwriter and performer, the art and craft of which I learned in TTB. But, as great as the music was and is, being in the band will always be about more than that. It has led to friendships that will never end and to the chance for me to really learn how to do the thing that I love doing. I realise now that I didn’t appreciate until I was much older just how good the Tom Topping Band was and how much genuine joy we brought into so many people’s lives.

I’ve been lucky. I grew up at a time when great songwriters were everywhere. They still are. You know the ones; the writers who make you want to laugh, cry, dance, sing. The ones who seem to be able to make you realise what you should be caring about, even when you’re not. The ones who can turn a line and make you think ‘ain’t that the truth’. They marked out the path and I’m trying to follow it. Sometimes it’s a magic carpet ride, sometimes it’s a stumble in the dark.

All I ever do is try to be honest and true and find a way to put it all into words. Whether I succeed or not depends on who’s listening. But if you want to know about me, it’s all in the songs.




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