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Staggered Ray stumbles from Medway pubs to Abbey Road

By Chris Hunter

He's gone under the radar for 54 years but after recording the first submarine song to come out of Abbey Road since the Beatle's Yellow Submarine, is Medway songwriter Chris Weller - aka Staggered Ray - about to emerge from the murky waters of folk obscurity?

One thing's for sure, Chris would never have imagined seven years ago that find himself singing in arguably the most famous recording studio in the world.

Chris Weller, aka Staggered Ray (3403439)
Chris Weller, aka Staggered Ray (3403439)

Back then the concrete factory worker from Gillingham admits he was just "the typical guy that's got a guitar sitting in the corner and maybe plays two chords on it after a few drinks", but one night he went to see Kent songwriter Ben Jones at The Barge in Gillingham and everything changed.

"I thought 'wow, that was amazing'," he remembers. "He was phenomenal. How could you not come away thinking wow? That was a turning point for me.

"Seeing the Singing Loins as well - I suppose sometimes you're just inspired by something and something clicks. I had always had the inclination but I just didn't have time."

But suddenly Chris started making the time and so began a musical odyssey. His couple of chords expanded to a few more chords plus a couple of notes, and he started going to open mic nights around the country, playing a two or three songs and picking up tips from other musicians like Rochester's Davey Malone who recognised he had an ear for penning a tune and a lyric.

Offers of solo gigs followed and with the support of wife Christine, children Ben and Molly, and his brother Andy - who sometimes accompanies him - Chris started playing at micropubs around Kent, including regular sets at Rochester favourite The Flippin' Frog.

Then this year came the invite to record at Abbey Road - and soon enough Chris found himself heading up to London with multi-instrumentalist Rob Shepherd and guitarist Bob Collin.

"It was really quite something," he says, still computing the experience two months on. "That moment when they put the headphones on you - they go 'ok, two, three', and you're off. You're in this place, and it's like your Wembley moment.

Chris Weller (right) with Rob Shepherd (centre) and Bob Collins outside Abbey Road Studios (3403435)
Chris Weller (right) with Rob Shepherd (centre) and Bob Collins outside Abbey Road Studios (3403435)

"It was everything - it was nerve-wracking and it was exciting. We couldn't quite believe we were there doing this recording.

"You're in the Mecca. These people that have recorded there - there's so many artists that have been there."

The rest of the world has a bit longer to wait for the final product, but Chris says listening back at the studio was another thrill.

"It's just amazing really," he says. "Even as it's coming out of the speakers you're thinking wow, to hear yourself coming out of the monitors and speakers was quite something.

"We managed to get three songs but even one would have been good.

"At 6.30 we went to the pub up there and we didn't come out until closing time . You couldn't - we were all still buzzing. It was a special night."

How far Chris' talents can take him from here is yet to be seen, but the sky's the limit.

After his tune "The Russian Sub" surfaces - written about the submarine languishing in the Medway at Strood - his rise could be driven further by another telling tune - Climbing Chimneys - in which Chris looks at the Greenpeace demonstrators who climbed Kingsnorth Power Station in 2007, singing:

"If you look a little deeper

Than the roof top horizon

There’s other things than climate

That need change."

Chris was there to sing his song at the riverside when the Kingsnorth chimney came down earlier this year, but while the tower is no more, his Abbey Road recorded eulogy will stand forever on the Medway skyline.

Chris Weller, aka Staggered Ray performs his song Climbing Chimneys as the Kingsnorth Power Station is demolished, March 22 2018 (3403822)
Chris Weller, aka Staggered Ray performs his song Climbing Chimneys as the Kingsnorth Power Station is demolished, March 22 2018 (3403822)

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