SITTING in his bedroom in Helsinki as a young 13-year-old boy, Painswick based guitarist Muddy Manninen couldn’t have guessed that The Beatles’ She’s A Woman was about to change his life.
As I sat outside Woodruffs Organic café in Stroud town centre waiting to conduct this interview, it wasn’t difficult to spot the former Wishbone Ash guitarist as he approached the café with his long hair and classic rock appearance.
Muddy (real name Jyrki Manninen), ordered a cappuccino on a sublimely sunny afternoon when he began to describe the impact The Beatles track had on him.
“That was the turning point,” said Muddy. “I had an aunty who lived in London in the early 60s and she would send me the latest Beatles singles, and that was probably the first time I heard Rock and Roll music.”
After his Beatles revelation, Muddy, 61, started playing guitar seriously, and after playing in numerous bands around Finland, he began writing his own songs and seeking a career in the music industry.
Following a spell in Amsterdam from 1983 to 1985, Muddy and a group of his friends formed Gringos Locos. The band got a record deal with a local Finish label which resulted in them getting a major record deal in Holland.
Gringos Locos subsequently went on to release three albums and even worked with legendary music figure Tom Dowd who has produced the likes of Ray Charles and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Muddy was impressed by his professionalism.
“It was very interesting, he obviously knew what he was doing,” he said. “The preparations started months before we had even met him, we were exchanging letters about what kind of guitars we were using and even what type of guitar strings.”
Despite playing gigs in Los Angeles, not choosing to move to the city was detrimental to the band’s success, and they disbanded in 1992 after a lack of support from their record label. But Muddy was destined for greater things.
After listening to legendary rock band Wishbone Ash as a youngster, in 2004, Muddy got the call many guitarists can only dream of.
“My friend Ben Grandfelt who used to play in Gringos Locos with me joined Wishbone Ash in 2001, and when he left the band, he gave me a call and said would you be interested, and I said absolutely yes. I went for an audition in 2004 and got the job.
“It was a really big thing to be playing in one of the bands you listened to when you were a kid and one of the most inspirational bands.”
The British rock band achieved huge success in the 1970s, and soon after joining, Muddy went onto become their main songwriter.
“It was a big learning curve for me as a writer,” he said. “When I started in the band, I had to do background vocals which I hadn’t done before and I started writing songs. It was a big learning curve doing the arrangements for guitars and getting the songs right.”
Muddy recorded four albums with the rock legends, but a desire for change and to write more experimental music led him to his main musical outlet today, which is the blues and funk band Hipkiss, his project with lead-singer Patsy Gamble. The band have been known to play venues locally such as the Prince Albert in Stroud.
Despite touring the country extensively over the years, Muddy had never lived in the UK, until he fell in love with Gloucestershire after visiting some friends who took him to Painswick.
“It’s just a very beautiful, quintessential small English village,” he says with a smile.
Muddy also teaches guitar locally to beginners upwards, and is hoping to release new music with Hipkiss soon, after releasing their debut album in 2018.