One rehearsal before tour

Guitarist John Bailey from Lytham
Guitarist John Bailey from Lytham
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Guitarist John Bailey had just one rehearsal before launching on a 56-date tour with classical star Russell Watson.

“We still smashed that opening night,” said the Lytham lad who will be criss-crossing the UK with the world famous tenor until August.

John in the band behind Russell Watson

John in the band behind Russell Watson

“We were sent the sheet music to learn a couple of weeks before the first gig and got together for a run-through the day before launch. Yet it was exceptional.”

Music teacher John, who now lives in Lytham with wife Laura and daughter two-year-old Sadie, didn’t have just one part to learn.

He plays five different instruments during the show as Russell does his full repertoire from Neapolitan Italian arias to Meat Loaf and Sinatra.

“It’s madness,” said the UCLan graduate who will back in the city on May 18 when the tour hits the Charter Theatre. “I’m playing acoustic, electric, classical, bass and mandolin.

We still smashed that opening night

“Russell is amazing and he can sing just about anything. His voice is incredible, he has such a good ear and he’s just very intuitive.

“That puts pressure on us (the ensemble) to fathom out what he is getting at. It’s brilliant.”

John, 30, first picked up a guitar at the age of six. “I started taking it more seriously at around 12 and then really got stuck in at 18.

“I was in a band at UCLan called Micro Sleeper. We did a couple of tours around the UK – heavy metal stuff – but we disbanded. Then I went to Leeds College of Music to do my Masters in jazz.

“This is the first time I’ve done a big name tour and it’s just so intense. A lot of the concerts are sold out, Russell has such a strong following.

“He’s a very professional performer. He just wants to go a good job every time he’s on stage and that gets the best out of all of us.

“You come off buzzing when you’ve nailed a gig.”

While life in the spotlight is a dream for John, the reality when he’s not on stage is a guitar lecturer’s post at Liverpool University and a part-time job giving lessons in a couple of Preston primary schools.

In what is left of his spare time he is endorsed by guitar maker Godin, performs with his critically acclaimed John Bailey Quintet and is currently collaborating with internationally acclaimed jazz musicians on two suites and a new album.

But right now clocking up the miles on tour is proving quite tiring. “We were in Leicester the other night, I got back home at 2.30 in the morning, my daughter woke me at seven and I was back at uni in Liverpool at nine.

“I’m really looking forward to Preston. It’s a sell-out - in fact I couldn’t even get my wife a ticket - so I might have to sneak her in through the stage door.”