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Bad Manners harmonica player David Turner joins son in Stamford Gilbert and Sullivan Players’ production of Ruddigore at Corn Exchange Theatre





An amateur theatrical group’s annual production will be given a fresh twist when they are joined on stage by a member of a chart-topping ska band.

In a rare meeting of the worlds of ska and opera, Bad Manners harmonica player David Turner will perform in Stamford Gilbert and Sullivan Players’ autumn production of Ruddigore.

David, who has been performing with Bad Manners for the last 30 years, will play along with the orchestra during the sailors’ hornpipe after accepting an invitation from Players’ director Ruth Palmer.

David learned to play Bad Manners singles on the harmonica as a teenage fan
David learned to play Bad Manners singles on the harmonica as a teenage fan

It is the latest coup for the Stamford group, after famous actor Sam West became the town group’s honorary patron earlier this year.

“It’s normally played on a flute, but Ruth had the idea that maybe I could play it on a chromatic harmonica,” explained David, whose son James performs with the Players.

“I’m very honoured because one of the things I’m doing as I get older is branching out into more orthodox music of the classical type.

Stamford Gilbert and Sullivan Players performers Matthew Clayton, William Lewis, Julia Salmon, Ken and Margaret Wainwright
Stamford Gilbert and Sullivan Players performers Matthew Clayton, William Lewis, Julia Salmon, Ken and Margaret Wainwright

“I’m practicing the part every day. Hornpipes are intricate, but it’s a beautiful, jolly little tune. I’m looking forward to it.”

In three decades with Bad Manners, led by the enigmatic singer Buster Bloodvessel, David has performed around the world, played huge festivals and appeared on TV in his three decades while also recording several albums.

But he insists, of the two of them, his son will take centre-stage when they make their stage debut together.

Charismatic Bad Manners singer Buster Bloodvessel
Charismatic Bad Manners singer Buster Bloodvessel

James, 17, is a trained opera singer and has also appeared in musicals such as Matilda and Annie among other credits.

“We’ve performed and made recordings together at home, but we haven’t performed together on stage, so it will be a dad and lad first,” said David.

“I’m so proud of James because he has worked so hard over the years with his practice and has a faultless attitude. He’s also a great musician.

David and James will perform on stage together for the first time later this year
David and James will perform on stage together for the first time later this year

“I’m more of a ‘by ear’ player and my music theory and notation reading is getting better as I get older, but my son is an absolute inspiration to me in terms of his dedication and doing it properly.”

The long-running town society will perform the spooky Victorian melodrama Ruddigore at the Stamford Corn Exchange Theatre, from Thursday, October 10 to Saturday, October 12. Tickets are on sale now at https://www.stamfordcornexchange.co.uk/ruddigore

David has mixed his music with a career in education, starting out as a history teacher before moving into senior leadership and advisor roles. He now works privately as a schools advisor.

David has played with Bad Manners across the world and recorded albums with the 1980s Ska band. Photo: David Turner
David has played with Bad Manners across the world and recorded albums with the 1980s Ska band. Photo: David Turner

Like many other big breaks, fate played a huge role for David, who first picked up a harmonica to play along with Bad Manners singles at home.

Years later, in 1994, his band turned up to play at a pub in Chichester only to find another band had already been booked. By chance, it featured Bad Manners bassist John Thompson.

“It just so happened by a cosmic twist of fate that John was deputising with this other blues band on that evening in that pub in Chichester,” David recalled.

“I got asked to step in and jam with the band, and at the end he asked ‘do you know any Bad Manners stuff?’.

“He gave me a few bass lines and I played along and he said ‘what are you doing next week?’.”

After stepping in to help out at Bad Manners gigs in Portsmouth and Brighton, weeks later David got a last-minute call-up for a show in Weston-Super-Mare.

“It was about seven o’clock on a Saturday evening and I suddenly had to drive from Chichester to the Somerset coast,” he said.

“I got on stage just in time, and that’s when they gave me a full itinerary. And from then on I was at the beginning of a 30-year tour.”



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