“I’ve been lucky. I don’t need any credit, I just like to help where I can”
Taff Martin is a surprisingly bashful Welshman; a Falklands Veteran, he’s the driving force behind Abbey104 radio station, and until recently a gigging musician. He serves on Sherborne’s Chamber of Trade committee and organises some of the biggest festivals in the town.
Raised in the tiny Welsh mining village of Bargoed, Taff Martin grew up within a musical family, playing in his Dad’s Country band, with his brother on lead guitar. At the age of 16 ( and two months!) Taff literally ran away to sea, joining the Navy as a helicopter mechanic in ‘78, where he found playing guitar in the mess helped make friends.
By 1979 he was based at Yeovilton, working on the then- brand new Lynx helicopters.
In 1981 Taff joined a small ships flight in the Fleet Air Arm squadron 815. After a tour of Russian seas he was aboard the HMS Glasgow, the first ship in the Falklands at the start of the conflict. He saw HMS Sheffield get hit, and the Glasgow itself was bombed on the 12th May – Taff made it back to the UK in June 1982.
In 1984 Taff was invited to dinner by his boss “come meet my niece. You might get on, and if you don’t it’s a free dinner”.
Taff ending up staying for the whole weekend, and spent most of it talking to ‘the niece’ Lynda – they met again the following Saturday, and the very next weekend Taff asked Lynda to marry him. They’ve been married for 37 years this year.
Retiring the band
Taff formed a band of his own in the mid 80s, and continued to gig thoughout the South West until arthritis put paid to his lead guitar days “I’m determined to not be ‘Taff, who used to be good at guitar’. You’ve got to know when to quit”.
His retirement gig at the Digby Hall in 2017 was so good, he told everyone he’d be retiring again the following week, and the week after that he’d be retiring in Yeovil…
Once he’d given up the band, Taff needed a new focus – and by serendipity he was asked to help out at Abbey104, Sherborne’s community radio station. Taff was quickly asked to run the station; it’s a passion project, and he’s been galvanising the volunteer team ever since, as well as presenting his own Country Music show.
In 2016 Taff was asked to help with the organisation of the Queen’s birthday concert festival in Sherborne – it was such a success he did it again in the two following years. COVID caused a break, but the Sherborne Summer Festival is back for 2022, still with Taff at the helm.
“I feel I’ve had a lucky life. I’m not a big earner, but I like to put things back into the community. I don’t really like to be noticed, I just do what I can, and I know about festivals, music and entertainment – all it costs is my time”
Taff’s also a long-standing active member and previous Vice-Chair of the Sherborne Chamber of Commerce committee, assisting with events like the Festive Shopping Day and FiverFest, and is a familiar face to most in and around the town.
Taff has lived in Sherborne with his wife Lynda since 1990, and in 2021 he published a book ‘Working for the Weekend’, combining useful tips on playing in a local band, with tales from his own 40 years of gigs.
Taff’s eight music choices, along with how and why they stuck in his life:
Elvis Presley – One Night.
This was on an EP called A Touch of Gold Volume 2, and I first heard it on an old Dansette record player when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I had never heard anything like it. At the time it was all flower power on the radio, and suddenly hearing Elvis for the first time at full throttle changed my life.
Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues
This was one of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar – my older brother Clint was lead guitarist in our Dad’s Country band, and there was never any question that I’d learn too.
Status Quo – Dear John
From their album 1982. I’m pretty proud that I
was probably the first person in the Southern Hemisphere to get this album! I knew it was coming out mid April whilst I was in the Falklands, so I sent a cheque home for my brother to buy the album, had him record it and then send the cassette down to me. I wanted to be first on the ship to have it!
Carole King – Where you lead
The Tapestry album was the one that me and Lynda listened to all the time when we first met. So many great memories, and an unbelievably good album.
Eagles – Peaceful Easy Feeling
From their debut album, this took me years to learn the solo. I eventually found out they used a special device inside the guitar! I just love the sound and feel of this song, and can always imagine cruising down a USA Highway listening to it.
Colin Blunstone – Say you don’t mind
A rock singer using nothing but strings – violin and cello – all through this song proves you don’t need loud drums to get your point across. It’s just a beautiful song.
Chuck Berry – Johnny B Goode
This song is all you need to know about rock and roll guitar. It never fails to make me smile, and lights up any gig. I played it so many times on stages throughout the South West.
Guy Clark – My Favourite Picture of you
A singer telling the story of his wife through pictures. One of the finest song writers I have ever heard. They say a picture paints a thousand words, but Guy Clark singing about his wife (who had passed away) creates so many images in the listener’s mind, it’s stunning.
And if the waves were to wash all your records away but you had time to save just one, which would it be?
Elvis. He’s the whole reason I started.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I first read it at school in the 70s, but its message is still important and relevant today. The film, for once, was just as good as the book with Gregory Peck perfect for the role of Atticus Finch.
My luxury item
Definitely would have to be a guitar. Just because I can’t sing doesn’t mean I won’t sing on my deserted island. It will keep dangerous animals away as well!