Sussex Musician Nigel Bagge’s Fascinating Life & Musical Connections

What makes someone a living legend?

Well, being alive is an obvious prerequisite.  Beyond that, I’d counter with the assertion that there are many, many levels of living legend and as we’re focused on Kent and Sussex, living in one of the counties is another requirement.

Here at Unknown Kent and Sussex, we hold our legends close to our heart.  They’re people who’ve enriched their communities, ooze talent and have rubbed shoulders with other legends throughout their lives.

Using the above as a checklist, I’m able to tick all the boxes when it comes to Nigel Bagge, Sussex-based guitarist, songwriter and singer.

Nigel Bagge relaxes at home
A relaxed Nigel Bagge

It’s a drizzly Monday afternoon and I’m sitting opposite Nigel in the comfortable living room of his beautiful cottage on the edge of the Ashdown Forest.  The garden I see through the window is well tended, well-stocked and welcoming and the sound of the four cats coming and going through the cat flap is quite soporific.  Fortunately, Nigel’s story prevents me from either dropping off or becoming distracted.  Come along with me and you’ll know why…

Nigel’s first steps as a musician read the same as many before and since – aged 10 or 11, sitting for hours with friends working out how to play Shadows numbers – but then John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers released “the Beano album” and everything changed.

With his focus shifted to blues, Nigel began playing the likes of church halls in various bands influenced by Blind Faith, Traffic, Crosby Stills Nash & Young.  There was no money in it, of course, and fresh air alone doesn’t keep a young man’s record collection stocked with Cream and Fleetwood Mac LPs, so Nigel took a job working in IT.  He’s only half joking when he says he chose that profession because he didn’t need to wear a tie!  Despite loving his work as a computer programmer when the Croydon-based firm closed down he told his parents he’d decided to give this music thing a go.

Nigel Bagge in Lamplight, the band sacked by Sharon Osborne
Nigel in Lamplight (1975)

He started answering adverts in Melody Maker (RIP) and soon landed a position in a folk band called Lamplight.  This was a bit of a coup as the band was funded by Alan Price, the band’s singer being Alan’s young cousin.  Lamplight were even signed by Don Arden’s Jet Records label but were eventually dropped. At least one of the band members framed the letter received by Sharon Osborne (nee Arden) sacking them.

It felt like this had been the big opportunity so Nigel returned to his parents in Godstone, got a job, knuckled down and tried to catch up with his friends who were buying cars, houses and getting married.  He pretty much hung up his guitar.  Even when his drummer friend invited him down to jam sessions in the pub belonging to Gary Brooker (of Procol Harum fame), Nigel declined.

Happily, for us, you can take the guitar out of the man’s hands but you can’t take the guitarist out of the man and it wasn’t long before Nigel resumed playing.  Now living in Hartfield, he found a guitarist, bassist, drummer and harmonica player, named the band Highway 61, and they joined in the blues boom that was happening from Tunbridge Wells down to the coast.

When Highway 61 fizzled out, Nigel enjoyed a short stint with the excellent R&B band, Juice On The Loose, some of whose members went on to play for Gary Moore and Otis Grand.  Nigel’s then girlfriend Julia, ran a music magazine called Steppin’ Out, with which he would lend a hand.  One magazine-related outing took them to the Frog & Bucket in Sevenoaks where he first met Nicky Moore.

Nicky had made his name replacing Bruce Dickinson in Samson following Dickinson’s departure to front Iron Maiden.  He made several albums with Samson followed by a few years in the band Mammoth with John McCoy (of Gillan fame).

Nigel Bagge, Nicky Moore, The Blues Corporation
Nigel plays with Nicky Moore in The Blues Corporation

Julia, who was well connected on the blues scene, having been married to Top Topham (original Yardbirds’ lead guitarist) put on a blues festival at High Rocks and the line-up included, Jim McCarty’s Yardbirds, Nicky Moore and Nigel with his new band, Duck Soup with guitarist David Hay.  Nigel was working by day as manager of a guitar shop and soon after the festival Nicky walked through the door and claimed Nigel to be lead guitarist with Nicky Moore & the Blues Corporation.  He was with the band for three years until 1997, during which they toured the Netherlands and released a couple of albums.  As well as being a superb vocalist “Nicky was a great coach,” says Nigel.

The stint with Nicky added to Nigel’s pedigree so when Julia told him the Mighty 45s wanted a guitarist, he naturally got the gig.  The band was already well-known on the blues circuit, had management and backed Chicago-born blues singer, Angela Brown when she came to Europe.  They recorded an album produced by Mike Vernon – “another great coach” – and the band travelled Europe promoting it.  Together, they played Burnley Blues Festival in the UK and festivals throughout Europe.

Nigel Bagge and The Mighty 45s play Burnley Blues Festival
Playing Burnley Blues Festival with Angela Brown & The Mighty 45s

Nigel looks back fondly on these mad days with the Mighty 45s, especially the UK tour in 2002 sharing the stage with the Eugene Bridges Band, Catfish Keith and Michael Roach, playing theatres such as the Congress, in Eastbourne and the Hawth in Crawley, playing as far north as Inverness.  It was at Crawley where Nigel, who lived fairly locally and had gone home the night before, was treated to the sight of the rest of the band’s van, complete with gear and musicians, being delivered on the back of an AA Relay truck!  These heady days came to an abrupt halt when Angela injured her leg and returned to Chicago to heal.

Nigel Bagge, Angela Brown, The Mighty 45s
A behatted Nigel plays with Angela Brown & The Mighty 45s

During this time, he’d been listening to more Americana and bands like Little Feat.  These influences can still be heard in his music today.

Nigel kept playing in the previously formed Duck Soup and now fronts the Nigel Bagge Band.  He continues with both these bands today and also plays duo gigs with Eddie Armer, a fabulous harmonica player.  His set consists of blues and Americana mixed with original songs, some of whose lyrics are provided by Nigel’s artist partner, Nicky.

As we’re coming to the end of our time together, it strikes me that one very famous association hasn’t been mentioned.  I knew Nigel had played with the iconic Fleetwood Mac guitarist and songwriter, Peter Green, so I naturally enquire as to how this came about.

Peter Green, Nigel Watson, Nigel Bagge
Peter Green, Nigel Watson & Nigel Bagge

Once again, wheels within wheels… For years our Nigel had gigged with Nigel Watson whose sister was married to the original Fleetwood Mac’s manager, Clifford Davis.  Nigel (Watson) had learnt guitar from Green and played just like him, having been part of the final USA tour before Green left Fleetwood Mac. Steppin’ Out had interviewed Green and he’d bought a house in Oxted so he was fairly local.  Watson’s sister eventually persuaded Green back to music after his well-known hiatus out of the business. They formed the Peter Green Splinter Group along with Cozy Powell, Neil Murray and Spike Edney.

When Green and Watson put together a band to play charity gigs, calling it the Firehouse Band, our Nigel was drafted in.  They played a handful of gigs including what was meant to be a secret one at the Bluebell pub in Shortgate, East Sussex, where word got out and over 300 people attended. A bootleg album of that gig began circulating out of Norway.

Peter Green, Nigel Bagge, Firehouse Band
Peter Green & Nigel Bagge in the Firehouse Band

After recovering from Lyme disease which knocked him out for three months earlier this year, Nigel values his health and thrives on the fresh air of the nearby Ashdown Forest where he can regularly be found walking the cats (seriously!).

Asked about his highlights, Nigel cites playing specialist blues clubs in Tring, High Wycombe and Billericay, the Cognac Festival in France (with Mighty 45s), and Peter Green nodding at him to take a solo.  He misses the European tours but is very happy playing to appreciative audiences, one of which was just yesterday at Uckfield’s final Blues & Roots Festival.

Nigel Bagge plays Uckfield Blues & Roots Festival, July 2023
Nigel playing Uckfield Blues & Roots Festival, July 2023

Oh, and to satisfy those of you who expect guitarist interviews to mention the equipment, Nigel always plays a 1962 Fender Stratocaster, although he does own other guitars including a Les Paul and a Custom Telecaster.

Any regrets?  Just the one.  On one of the occasions Nigel declined to attend Gary Brooker’s pub jam nights all those years ago, there was only one guitarist there and the poor guy had to play alone all night.  That guitarist was Eric Clapton.

Contact Nigel via Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/THENIGELBAGGEBAND

Watch on Youtube – Uckfield Blues & Roots

Crawley Blues Club

Blues Bar at Tring

Icklesham

Dusty’s Blues Club

 

 

Author

  • Maria Bligh

    Maria Bligh is a journalist, published author, professional speaker, singer and artist now settled in Sussex, UK, having previously travelled extensively throughout the UK and overseas, including a period living in Geneva. Married to a successful musician and with a background that encompasses working in the music industry, finance, sales and presentations training, she maintains a diverse existence. Her interests encompass travel, nature, animals and the arts: music, theatre, painting, writing and philosophy. Maria now writes for online and print magazines. Having once maintained a regular full page in “A Place In The Sun” magazine, travel is an obvious interest, but her articles also cover a wide variety of subjects. She bills herself as “an observer of the human condition and all that sail in her.” Maria has frequently appeared on radio & TV as well as in print. Her humorous style has seen her travel the world addressing audiences throughout Europe, Asia and Australasia and as a cruise-ship speaker with P&O and Fred Olsen.

5 thoughts on “Sussex Musician Nigel Bagge’s Fascinating Life & Musical Connections

  1. A brilliant article I’m always interested in the history of how people started their careers
    I have seen Nigel play a few times and he played for me in our village a few years back

  2. This is a great & interesting essay on Nigel Bagge , my parents are big fans of him – and I hope they can see this too

  3. We are Mark Gooch’s parents and have followed Nigel since Nicky Moore ‘s Blues Corporation and then Highway61. we are big fans .

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