'I'm so thrilled Hank Marvin likes the way I play guitar'
19-year-old Chris Braniff from Larne is an electric guitarist whose talent for covering the songs of legendary band The Shadows has been recognised by the best in the business. He will be playing the Out to Lunch Festival in Belfast next week
I've been listening to The Shadows since I was very young and, as I learned to play guitar, Hank Marvin was my inspiration. He has a completely different sound to any other guitarist you'll ever hear.
My uncle had sent a CD of my music to showband star and radio DJ George Jones and, to my surprise and delight, George invited me to play at his concert at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast. After I played, George came on stage and announced that he had a surprise for me. I didn't know that he had sent the CD to Hank Marvin himself. George then played a recorded message from Hank Marvin who said he was very impressed with my playing.
I was astounded and overwhelmed, and it was a great encouragement to give my best to it.
I've loved music for as long as I can remember. My family are all keen on music, especially my father's side who have all been involved in some way. So they were a great influence.
My father is also a big fan of The Shadows, and I can remember hearing their records playing in our house when I was five years old. Dad played the guitar as well, so listening to him made it all the more natural for me when I started.
My first foray into playing an instrument was the trumpet when I was at primary school, but I wasn't very good! However, it gave me a start in reading music and playing an instrument.
Then, when I was 15 and at Larne Grammar School, an opportunity arose to play the guitar because a tutor came into school every Thursday.
I told my father that I wanted to learn and he gave me the sheet music to The Shadows song Apache. Knowing their music so well, it felt really great to be able to play it myself. And to be able to mimic such a great guitarist as Hank Marvin was something I'd dreamed of.
It was my guitar tutor at school who was the first to say that my progress was very quick, especially with The Shadows music, so that was very encouraging. I practised for hours every day – and still do.
I knew that some of my friends would laugh at the music I was playing, as Cliff Richard and The Shadows wasn't really their thing – they wanted me to play newer music – but I knew that if I could play The Shadows I could move around other styles later if I wanted to.
After I had got to grips with about five Shadows songs, dad took me around a few clubs so that I could see what it was like to perform. Then, when I had about 50 songs in my repertoire, dad and I sat down and worked out a two-hour show – and we took it from there.
We formed The Shadowmen band – my father is a rhythm player and he knew a few others who thought it was a great idea to form a band and jumped at the chance to get involved.
Being on stage is an indescribable feeling, especially when you're playing to an audience that knows Cliff Richard and The Shadows. I'm looking forward to playing the Out to Lunch Festival – we'll be playing the main hits of The Shadows including Apache, Foot Tapper and FBI. As well as playing I also work in kids' entertainment – I love working with children – but I'm trying some songwriting and thinking about doing a bit of country music as well.
It is very exciting to see how it has developed and to think where I might be able to take it in the future."
'Friends would prefer that I play newer music'