30 Apr 2006

Instrument sales up in Rock School town

+ posted by FlamingWhopper

While this year's Channel 4 series Rock School may well have painted Lowestoft in a less than flattering light, it seems the show has provided an unexpected fillip for the town.

Far from making the town's young people flee from the seaside resort faster than you can say Ness Point, it has sent them straight into their local music shop with one aim - to become rock musicians.

In the last six months alone staff at Morlings have seen the demand for guitars and drum kits soar, with children as young as eight wanting to get in on the act.

And now 'Little' Chris Hardman, the golden boy of the series and branded a "superstar" by Rock School teacher and Kiss frontman Gene Simmons, has joined the store's string of teenage customers picking up his first serious electric guitar.

But Chris is by no means the first celebrity shopper at the Lowestoft music shop. Back in the 1980s Dan and Justin Hawkins, later to become the Darkness, visited the shop to buy their first guitars.

And even after the brothers and drummer Ed Lay were starting to become household names, they continued to pick up strings and drumsticks from the shop.

Today, as the Darkness enjoy life at the top, it is a new group of rock musicians who are inspiring a new generation of guitar heroes after wowing the audiences of Rock School with their emotional journey to stardom.

Over the show's four episodes, aired in January, audiences saw the 12 Kirkley High School pupils learn how to play instruments and sing, finally forming a band that played in front of 20,000 in Long Beach, California.

But the journey did not end there for the youngsters. This week Chris secured his first gig at the Suffolk Show on May 31, while five of the girl stars of the show have formed a band called the Upraw.

Terry Newby, music store manager at Morlings, said: "Rock School has generally created a lot of interest among youngsters who want to be rock stars.

"At the minute we are seeing a lot of young people and their parents coming in looking for instruments, mainly beginners between eight and 14 years old. But their parents are just as enthusiastic, I think they are glad their children want to learn an instrument.

"Following Rock School they are mostly interested in guitars more than anything else, but we are also selling quite a few drum kits.

"But the nice thing about the guitar is you can just pick it up and play when you like."

Mr Newby added: "We sold Dan and Justin of the Darkness their early guitars, and we used to deal with the drummer Ed a lot.

"Now the Rock School kids pop in, Chris has obviously bought his guitar here and even the Upraw come in for sticks and bits and pieces. But we are their local music store and we like to try to support them."

Showing off his new Gould electric guitar, Chris said he was pleased the programme had been an inspiration to others.

He said: "I think it's brilliant. There is now a lot of music interest in school and lots of people are playing or leaning how to play.

"But I was inspired by seeing that the Darkness could do so well after coming from Lowestoft, so if we are doing that for other people that's excellent.

The 15-year-old added: "This is my first ever proper guitar. I got a beginners' guitar last year for my birthday but that fell to bits.

"I went to Morlings because it is a local place and if it wasn't for them lots of people wouldn't be able to buy their instruments...Plus they have been supporting local musicians for a long time, I mean the Darkness bought their first guitars here."

Credit: LYNETTE ALCOCK | new.edp24.co.uk

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