Brian shows it's never too late to learn - after picking up a guitar at 81

First published in News Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Darlington reporter

A PENSIONER has proved it’s never too late to learn a new skill by mastering the guitar at the age of 83.

Brian Richards earned a standing ovation from family and friends at his first public performance earlier this month when he joined a professional jazz band on stage at a charity concert.

After first picking up an acoustic guitar at the age of 81, Mr Richards picked up the basics with the help of a music teacher and his favourite country music stars, Johnny Cash and Don Williams.

Mr Richards decided to learn an instrument following the death of his wife of 54 years, Mair, in 2010, to help take his mind off his loss.

Apart from music lessons at school Mr Richards was a musical novice, but he fell in love with his new hobby and now spends most of his time improving his skills.

Mr Richards wowed the audience at Middleton Hall Retirement Village, near Middleton St George, Darlington, when he joined jazz band Sharp Intake at a concert to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society.

Mr Richards, who previously ran a fine foods shop, Mary’s, with his wife in Richmond until their retirement in 1990, said: “I bought a piano but I couldn’t play it because my fingers are too stiff so I thought, I want to try guitar.

“My music teacher, Simon O’Byrne, is very good and taught me to play chords and things.

“One day I was listening to Don Williams and I started to play along. I got stronger from listening to country music and playing along.

“I only wish I had started playing at 19. I was nervous before I went up on stage for the first time, but now I’m full of confidence and feel as though I could play anywhere.

“My guitar playing isn’t the strongest yet but I spend about 50 per cent of my time practising.”

Jeremy Walford, managing director of Middleton Hall, who persuaded Mr Richards to take part in the concert, said: “I just think it’s fantastic that someone at Brian’s stage of life is taking up new interests and doing them so well.

“His family were in tears at the concert and he got a standing ovation. He doesn’t realise what a talent he has.”

Mr Richards is looking for other people that he can practice, and perhaps perform, with as he looks to improve his skills.

He can be contacted at Middleton Hall via middletonhallretirementvillage.co.uk/contact

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