Steve McWilliam's Guitar Pages

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History and Background:
An acoustic guitar.    Hi, my name is Steve J. McWilliam and I have been playing acoustic guitar, off and on, since 1974, having wanted to play almost any instrument for about 2 years prior to that time. The most attractive instruments appeared to be drums or guitar, and drums were out of the question as I knew no one else who played any instruments (so I couldn't form a band) and I lived, at the time, in a small end terrace house which would have meant neighbour & noise problems. 

The next choice was between an acoustic guitar and an electric. The acoustic won due to the very same potential neighbour problems. This led to me going into Chester to Dawson's Music Shop and trying a number of guitars on show. At this stage I didn't know what I was looking for at all and after trying a few decided upon a Giannini nylon-strung instrument with an unusual shape - I later found that this was called a 'Craviola'. The final choice was down to the fact that it didn't seem to hurt my fingers as much as the steel-strung instruments and the bass response was wonderful. A few months further down the line and I was repeating the journey to look for a steel-strung instrument, which, after much deliberation and nearly losing my left-hand fingers to a steel-strung, large bodied Giannini with heavy gauge strings (like ship's hawsers), turned out to be a Yamaha FG180 - again an instrument which is still in the 'family'. My brother, Paul, owns it now and gives it a good thrashing attempting to do various 'rock' tunes. 

Sounds Acoustic Business CardLater, after a couple of years of a few friends coming round to play at my place every Tuesday evening, two of us went into Manchester to look at a new acoustic instruments shop which had opened - "Sounds Acoustic". When Kieran and I got there the shop was shut, but, just as we were about to leave the owner of the drum shop next door came out and mentioned the guitar shop owner was on holiday but that he had the key and would be prepared to lock us in for an hour or two. We jumped at the chance. 

Almost four hours later we were let out in a total daze having played our way through every guitar in the shop; Martins, Gibsons, Epiphones, Fyldes and many more - but most importantly a 'Dinsdale'. We were very impressed by this small bodied "00"-shaped guitar and had compared its resonance and tone with all the others in the shop - it came out tops without a shadow of a doubt. Both of us went out the next week and ordered one each from the maker. 

It ended up with a '00' and a '000' being delivered to the shop and, as a consequence, a number of hours spent trying each. Thankfully, Kieran wanted the '000' and I the '00' so there were no problems. My '00', stamped on the neck-block on the inside of the guitar as Number 001, was stolen from Bill Dinsdale's workshop a few years later when I had given it back to him to replace the fingerboard with a new design we had worked out between us. (If anyone knows where a Dinsdale 12-fret to body '00' stamped 001 is then I would like to know !!). The new guitars inspired Kieran and myself and a frenetic few years followed with me forming the "Tape and Tab Club - (T'n'T)", in about 1979, dragging together some excellent guitarists from around the country, and stimulating a dramatic amount of arranging, composing, playing and recording. Some of the arrangements from the period can be downloaded at the Tab Downloads Page. 

Kieran and I played together for many years, developing a fair number of duets both of our own and taken from records of Lasse Johanssen and Claes Palmquist on Stefan Grossman's "Kicking Mule" record label. If you've not heard these I would recommend them - I think they are now available on the Shanachie label or from Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop. During the years we played together we met and played with many more excellent guitarists including Jon Gregson, Mike Martin, Chris Cassidy, Jon Hardman, Joe Cainen, Ian Jesse, Martin Bell, Alan Hooper and a large number of others. Of course, we met a number of the 'famous', or should that be 'infamous', players such as Stefan Grossman, John James, Martin Simpson, Woody Mann, Laurence Juber, Duck Baker and Ralph McTell, as well as going to concerts and folk clubs where we saw and heard the playing of many more. Indeed I have often been surprised by dropping in to pub folk clubs just how many decent guitarists there are hidden away in Britain. 

The late 1970's and early 1980's saw me forming a club for acoustic guitarists called the "Tape 'n' Tab Club" or T'n'T for short. This club met at my house 4 or 5 times a year for a whole weekend each time, with people arriving on the Friday evening and leaving on the Sunday evening. The intervening period was completely given over to guitar playing with very little time for sleep or anything else, apart from drinking. We passed copies of our arrangements around both as tablature (hand-written) and as cassette tapes of the played tunes. Sunday morning was usually set aside for recording on the reel-to-reel tape-recorder. Although the club faded out around 1984/85 many of the people still keep in touch, even now, and despite the fact that we are getting older most of them still play. The Tape 'n' Tab club still exisists today though in a very different fashion, with some of the old members, and some new ones, meeting once a month online via Zoom. Here we discuss guitars and playing, undertake presentations on guitar based kit and software, play tunes for each other and generally build on friendships and memories. A new YouTube Channel has been created to showacse all of the old cassette tapes of members playing from the Tape 'n' Tab Club (T'n'T) as well as newer performances since cassette tapes declined in popularity. This Channel can be found here:

In the late 1980's I teamed up with Ian Jesse, an amazing multi-instrumentalist, who also sang, and we played together at the music weekends at Dehon House, on the Wirral, and at Savio House in Bollington, Cheshire (See Guitar Weekends). We also played many folk clubs in the North West area as well as a school in Blackpool and a small hidden-away pub in Chelmorton, Derbyshire (a wonderful place - but playing until 3 or 4 in the morning, combined with copious amounts of beer, certainly takes its toll). The music we covered at the time was mainly a mixture of country blues and Ian's own compositions - some of these can be downloaded in tablature and played as midi-files at the Tab Page. 

From 1996 to 2000, I taught, mainly at colleges in the area (especially Halewood Comp), adult students at evening classes. It was a great experience to see them start the year often unsure of even which way up to hold the guitar, and to reach the end of the year being able to play many of the country blues tunes of Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller and the Rev. Gary Davis, as well as some folk, jazz, ragtime and popular music of the 30's, 40's, 50's and even the odd bit of rock. In fact a few of the first year students (too long ago now to remember when) formed their own guitar club, very like the old T'n'T, which meets every Tuesday evening in an upstairs room at the Grange Manor pub in Gateacre, Liverpool, to swap tunes and tablature and to provide an excuse to get out of the house, have a good playing and practice session and, of course, a couple of pints of beer. If you ever fancy dropping in please feel free to do so - it starts at 9:00pm !! The organiser, Phil Lawton, can be contacted on: 0151 280 4512, or by e-mail at:

At the end of June, in 2000, I stopped teaching guitar at the Halewood Comp evening classes due to taking up a demanding new day job (see over at rECOrd). I initially thought that this was going to be an end to the passing on of the guitar playing at the school but NO; one of the students from the class I taught in my first year at the school came forward and has now taken the class over - long may it continue to pass on the muse of fingerstyle guitar. The guy was Phil Lawton - the same chap who started the club at the Grange Manor - he must be dedicated. Phil finished teaching at Halewood Comp at the end of 2001 due to pressures of work. Best of luck for the future Phil !!


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