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Sweet Sue

Christchurch-based Li'l Chuck – aka David Thorpe – is the self-styled “One Man Skiffle Machine” whose latest album was appropriately recorded in mono in Sugar Ray's Vintage Recording Studio in Essex in single takes on original Fifties equipment.

The album is 14 songs, all done in an eight-hour day and entitled . . . MONO.

But you kinda guessed that, right?

Li'l Chuck is a balladeer, an energetic foot-stompin', multi-instrumentalist (guitar, harmonica and drums simultaneously) whose originals look back to old blues and ragtime, Western Swing and boogie, and on MONO they sit alongside songs by Robert Johnson (Crossroad Blues), Willie Dixon (Little Red Rooster and My Babe) as well as traditional material.

He relocated from the UK to Christchurch in 2003 and has supported Jimmy Buffett and the Topp Twins, performed at major international sports events and his second album Utility Blues went top 10 on the New Zealand album charts.

With a new album out and some live dates (see below) it is time Li'l Chuck answered some questions . . .

The first piece of music which really affected you was . . .

Hearing my Dad play Scott Joplin and Boogie Woogie on the piano at home. I guess that soundscape from my childhood has influenced pretty most of my listening and playing to date.

Your first role models in music were . . .

When I was about 10 in 1981, Shakin’ Stevens, The stray cats and Adam and the ants took me to another world at 45rpm.

Lennon or Jagger, Ramones or Nirvana, Madonna or Gaga, Jacko or Jay-Z?

Jagger in teenage years but Lennon as I have aged, Nirvana at age 20 but The Ramones as I have come more musically aware, Madonna was the back drop to my youth but not a musical influence and probably the same answer for Jacko.

If music was denied you, your other career choice would be . . .


The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear are . . .

How Red is the BloodTattletale Saints, My Old Friend the Blues – Steve Earle, Everybody's in the Mood – Howlin' Wolf.

Any interesting, valuable or just plain strange musical memorabilia at home…

I am a bit of a hoarder so this list is somewhat stripped back! The original 1956 photograph my Dad took of Louis Armstrong, my collection of ticket stubs from all the heavy metal gigs I went to 1986 – 1989, a large vintage harmonica collection and the original Last Waltz movie poster from the Rangiora cinema.

The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . . 

I am an avid reader of musicians autobiographies (all genres) and constantly have an autobiography of a musician / entertainer on the go... I like to know what makes them tick and how they got to where they got to. Ozzy's is the best, it is so frank and funny and you can read it in his Brummie accent for added comedy. Ozzy was my first live gig in 1986 so he has a special place for me.

If you could get on stage with anyone it would be?

Playing harp with The Stray Cats would be raucous

The three films you'd insist anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . . 

A Mighty Wind, Spinal Tap, Best in Show - in any order.

The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include…).

Now That’s What I Call Music 58 - and that is a genuine answer :)

bebce01c6fe8c76f46de42b59409b105One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you in that case would be . .

Crazy - Willie Nelson

The poster, album cover or piece of art could you live with on your bedroom forever would be . . . 

A Street in Stockport by LS Lowry (Crowther St)

You are allowed just one tattoo, and it is of . . .

A National Guitar ( a Style O like I play)

David Bowie sang, “Five years, that's all we've got . . .” You would spend them where and doing what?

With my wife and children fossicking in Akaroa.

Mono_CoverAnd finally, in the nature of press conferences in Japan, “Can you tell me please why this is your best album ever?” 

I recorded Mono in1 day, playing multiple instruments simultaneously into 1 mic, no overdubs, just raw takes using 1950’s equipment. MONO captured my vibe, feel, mood 100% on that day.

MONO is a a genuine snapshot of what I sounded like on 3rdOctober 2018 and created a personal archive for my my children. In this modern world of airbrushing and sugar coating, I have got nowhere to hide, and recorded the musical equivalent of being seen naked with a bed head and dried dribble down my cheek but I’m cool with that at my age, I’ve got nothing to prove.

I hope the honesty and integrity of the performances are picked up by the listener.


The Wine Cellar, Auckland 29th March

Blues Smoke, Christchurch 5th April

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