Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Myke (Masher) Barritt RIP

A tribute to Myke (Masher) Barritt (27th July 1949 - 16th May 2010 A Good Gig)

Myke left us to play in the master session beyond this life, the” happiest man in the World”. His words, not mine.

After a life time of searching Myke had at last found, if belatedly, his perfect soul mate, the love of his life Phoebe.
He was to become a man of property and was so excited, planning where the music room would be, where his model train layout would dominate where his workshop would be.

And yes, as Myke Masher he was having a great time Gigging around the North and taking his natural flair to entertain out to wider public.
What’s more, just recently he had got his more rocking band Earthtales a couple of “proper” Gigs and was enjoying the practice and rehearsals and even the fun of putting new material into the mix.

Myke was happy.

Ironically, The Mashers should have been in Germany this week on a mini tour, but it was my Doctor who said no because of my various ailments which had not settled back down. It would have been yet another tick on Myke’s list of ambitions achieved.

Myke’s life was dedicated to music. He would tell me stories of how as a boy his parents would buy records, watch Top of The Pops, and how he widened his music knowledge and discovered bands and genre of music.
He was a self-taught guitarist. Myke told of how he would send other occupants in his Sixth Form Common Room mad has he worked out bar chords, learnt new riffs or sang out lyrics.

The range of his musical knowledge was all compassing, anything from heavy rock to the rarest of Traditional sea shanty were all well within his range. I’ve seen head banging one moment and singing along to a Harvesting song the next. Music was music to Myke, a good song was a good song, and so long as it was not The Mountains of Mourn he was the happiest person in the World.
I never did find out why he hated the Mountains of Mourn quite so much.
Just go and listen to the programme we did for Bishop FM Folk Up Front with Terry Ferdinand, and the music that Myke selected to be played. It’s well worth a listen. HERE

His entire life was just one long Session. Wherever he lived, wherever the location, if it was in reach of a bus, Myke would be there, sitting in a corner, pint in hand, quiet and unassuming, then bursting into life and working away at his guitar the moment a song he could play, or a tune he knew was played.

As his collaboration with The Mashers proved, Myke would play along with anyone. More. He would encourage anyone with their music. It didn’t matter that your performance was lacking, it didn’t matter that the songs were weak, it didn’t matter that you were not a master of the guitar, as long as you were enjoying your music and progressing skills he was there to help.

And in the low times when I wondered if the Masher project was worthwhile or that Acoustic Rotherham was not achieving what I wanted, Myke was there offering encouragement, boosting ego and just generally pushing me on.

I know he did the same for Phoebe with their Wyrd Wych and The Mad Frog project.
But this applied to anyone who sought out his advice.

One of the notable features of touring with Myke was his fame. Wherever we went, even the remotest parts of Norfolk, someone would recognise him. Often from his days with Rhiannon, a band that terrorised Folk venues, he said, in the way The Mashers have done in more recent times. Whenever I would get frustrated with the musical snobbery that exists around certain Folk Clubs or venues, Myke would tell of when Rhiannon played to the same reaction from those who dictate as to what is good and what is bad “folk”. As he would say, as long as the audience enjoyed it, which invariably they did, “f*** them”. An ethos now firmly built into my own attitude.

I remember one drive, I think it was from a Hiring Faire at The Station in Loftus, where we stopped off at a Motorway Station for a freshen up. Myke was busy attending to his business when a total stranger standing down the line said “I know you mate, you were in that band Rhiannon!”. Myke modestly bowed his head and said “in another life my friend, but you’re right.”

We had our moments too though. My guitar playing could be all over the place, and frequently is, but he was a stickler for getting the lyrics on the right beat, and they “have to rhyme”. Which is why in the song “Sunny Day In Dublin” the last verse was often cut – or if sung, we would chuckle as we sang:

“On Walking home I met a friend
We went to have a drink
We took our pints we sat outside
And laughed and had a……………….. joke”

It was always an “oh dear” moment.

We had many discussions about similar lines.

And of course the famous late night driving back from his beloved Play On Club on Kelham Island, when in the dark and tipping rain it took an hour an half of touring The Manor in Sheffield to find his beloved Phoebe’s house, first because he didn’t have a clue as where the house was, secondly because I was reading the A-Z upside down!

Many a word exchanged that night.

In a nutshell though within the musical community Myke touched so many lives.

But Myke was also a skilled model engineer. Not many people appreciate that his passion for model trains led him to launching a business. MB Trains. “MB Trains Made in Sheffield”, his labels proudly boast.

This business manufactured hand built and painted model electric trains. I have one proudly displayed in my cabinet in the colours of Southern Railways. Typical of Myke, even the boxes and label were all “hand made”, the label precisely placed on the lid with the typical perfection he sought from whatever he did in life.

Sadly the business itself was not a raving success, yet like his music, his trains have a cult following amongst the serious and knowledgeable collectors.

When someone passes on it’s the norm for all and sundry to creep from undergrowth to express their good wishes etc and say what a great person they were.

In our Myle’s case it’s all true though. A nicer, sweeter personality, a more unassuming generous, loving man, one could not wish to meet.

I count myself privileged and extremely lucky to have worked alongside him for so long. He will never know the joy he brought into my life personally, nor how much I treasured his friendship.

But the music must go on.

Myke would not want the tears, he would not want the long faces. I’m sure he saw it as his personal mission in life to bring happiness to everyone’s lives. Which is why one way or another The Mashers will continue to play. Which is why we must all celebrate this fantastic man’s life. Which is why we must fill that empty seat with music.

Above all he has achieved at least one of his life’s main aims “leave them wanting more”. Indeed, if only.

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