PETE SKINNER - 1951 - 2022
Pete seems to have been part of the music scene of the Fylde for ever certainly for nearly six decades, starting with singing sea shanties with his brothers in the late 1950s.
Music was a big part of his family growing up and there was always an instrument or two hanging around to tempt him. He learned to play them all: the second-hand piano, the zither banjo, the accordion (a favourite of his father, granddad and uncles), and the guitar which belonged to his brother which Pete used to ‘borrow’ to practice on when his brother was at school.
He was completely self-taught but would pick up tips from books and from recordings of various musicians.
He wanted to play Bluegrass banjo and so watched carefully, every episode of The Beverly Hill Billies that featured Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs and did so well that he would be billed on stage, as Lancashire’s Champion Bluegrass Banjo Player with the record for the fastest Foggy Mountain Breakdown (Pete would remark that at the time he was the only bluegrass banjo player locally) One of his earliest paid gigs was with one of his teachers in a three piece combo at the Co-op Club in Blackpool.
He would talk fondly of the teachers who encouraged his young, but very accomplished talent and passion for playing.
Pete quickly became a stalwart of the Fylde folk scene with appearances and residences at the Cartford Arms, Fleetwood Folk Club, Poulton College Folk Club, The Raikes, Cherry Tree Gardens, The Lemon Tree, Blackpool Folk Club, The North Euston Hotel Folk Nights, Fylde Folk Festival, The Falcon Hotel and The Plough at Staining (even continuing this Online each Tuesday, since Covid prevented live sessions).
He played in numerous bands over the years; Fylde Folk (his first group with other school friends), The Shoal, The Brewers, Local Gentry, Grog, The Ian Gartside Band, Clansfolk, Fleetwood Mashers, Sundance, Willy & The Poor Boys & most recently, Penny Black. Whether paid, for Charity, or for fun, Pete just loved playing, an eclectic mix of music.
He was never one who craved the spotlight for himself but was content to provide an accomplished, solid, but innovative support for others and yet will often be remembered for the twinkle in his eye and his brilliant asides and quips that would have everyone laughing. Over the last few years, since John Bond, his partner in Penny Black passed away, Pete has largely turned his attention to busking: collecting money for various charities while doing the things he loved the best- sitting playing his music (from folk to pop it never mattered what ‘box’ people attributed a song to- if it was a good song, he would play it) bringing a smile to the faces of those who heard it and having a chat to anyone who stopped to listen.
His latest venture for the Macmillan Cancer Support charity Man on a Bench (MOB) was to continue in that vein, but unfortunately was not to be.
Pete was an inspiration, a support and a friend to so many, both in person, and in his huge online presence; his musicianship will be missed greatly, his humility, his care for others & friendship valued forever.
He leaves behind his family, friends and a collection of instruments that all miss him terribly.
I first came across Pete in 2011 when my daughter and I were looking for somewhere to go after my wife had died, very suddenly. We went to the Plough at Staining “folk club” which Pete never claimed to run... but did. We soon discovered that it was more than a folk club; it was as if Pete had welcomed friends into his parlour to share their love of music. I soon realised I had a lot to learn about being a musician.
Pete became a focal point in my musical life. His knowledge of instruments and gadgets was unfathomable and his skill as a musician and performer were a lifetime’s work. I found inspiration in his effortless performances and over the years developed my own techniques. The Plough became our home for 2 hours every Tuesday, until in 2020 when Covid regulations brought it to a halt.
Immediately, Pete adapted the Facebook page so we could submit videos and all gather round our laptops, kindles and mobiles to carry on sharing our music every Tuesday evening. Eventually the “online Plough family” became bigger than the real thing and more friends were made. The desire to find 2 or 3 new songs each week instead of rotating the same old favourites presented even more of a challenge, but with helpful comments and encouragement from Pete even more of my musical abilities were enhanced.
I will miss Pete and miss playing along with him, miss that knowing look when I forgot a word or a chord that no one else noticed, but his inspiration and passion for music will soon fill the gap he has left and in many people’s hearts, including my own, he will live on.