Internationally-acclaimed Songwriter,
Performer and Recording Artist
from County Durham, England

Gary Miller Songs

"As a song poet there are few in the world today to match him"
Green Man Review, USA

From Coalfield to Battlefield

'From Coalfield to Battlefield' is Gary's forthcoming album of songs based on true stories of The Durham Light Infantry...

 

In October 2017, Gary was approached by the DLI Research and Study Centre at Seven Hills, Spennymoor, County Durham, England, asking for permission to use his song 'The Durham Light Infantry' in 'When the Bugle Calls', a travelling exhibition about the music of The Durham Light Infantry.


‘The Durham Light Infantry’ was only the second song Gary ever wrote for The Whisky Priests back in 1985 (it was eventually recorded and released as the final track on the band’s debut album ‘Nee Gud Luck’ in 1989).


Gary made the important decision to revisit this old song and bring it up to date with revised lyrics and a brand new arrangement for brass. Working with his regular producer Iain Petrie at Awake Music!, a brass arrangement was created and a complete score, written by Iain and professional music scorer Sam Lord was presented by Gary to The Ferryhill Town Band, who took up the challenge of performing the piece specially for the project.


In the meantime, Gary presented another song, 'Euphonium and Cornet', to the DLI Research and Study Centre for consideration, which led to further songs being commissioned, including : -


  • Euphonium and Cornet’, a personal song telling the fascinating tale of Gary’s great-uncles Joe and George Mains, Colliery bandsmen as well as DLI Bandsman during WW2.


  • ‘The Final Letter of Jimmy Durham’, delicately chronicling the incredible story of James Francis Durham, DLI Bandsman and the first regular black soldier in the British Army.


  • ‘Ballad of Lance Sergeant William Stones’ detailing the tragic story of a previously-decorated DLI soldier from Crook who was executed in WW1 for alleged cowardice.

[All of these songs, and others in preparation, tell true stories of individuals connected with the Durham Light Infantry.]

In addition, Gary's creative partner, artist, illustrator and graphic designer Helen Temperley (Winkin Bitsy) was commissioned to produce artwork for each of the songs.

The initial batch of four songs (see below) were recorded in November 2017 at Awake Music!, produced by Iain Petrie. Further sessions are planned to complete the album in 2018.

The original version of 'The Durham Light Infantry'
written by Gary in 1985 and recorded by The Whisky Priests
for the band's debut album 'Nee Gud Luck' in 1989

 
 

'The Durham Light Infantry' CD Single with The Ferryhill Town Band

The first advance release from 'From Coalfield to Battlefield' is : -


Gary Miller & The Ferryhill Town Band 'The Durham Light Infantry'

(WPTCD26 - Whippet Records 2017).


The backing track, performed by Ferryhill Town Band, was recorded live at Mainsforth and District Institute, Ferryhill, on 28th November 2017, with Gary adding lead vocals two days later at Awake Music! Studio, Spittal, on 30th November. The sessions were engineered and produced by Gary's regular producer Iain Petrie. The front cover artwork is by Helen Temperley.


 

Ferryhill Town Band running through 'The Durham Light Infantry' at the backing track
recording session at Mainsforth and District Institute, Ferryhill, on 28th November 2017 : -

 

'When the Bugle Calls' - The Exhibition

'When the Bugle Calls' is a year-long touring exhibition, featuring sounds and objects from the DLI Collection, starting at Bishop Auckland Town Hall in December 2017. After 4 months there, the exhibition is planned to visit several other venues throughout different parts of the County Durham region.


Telling the story of the Music of the Durham Light Infantry, a section of the exhibtion is devoted to The Whisky Priests and Gary and Helen's own contributions to the project. Furthermore, recordings of two of Gary's songs - 'The Durham Light Infantry' (featuring The Ferryhill Town Band) and 'Euphonium and Cornet' - are included on listening posts at the exhibition.

 

'When the Bugle Calls' - Launch Event

The launch event for 'When the Bugle Calls' was held at Bishop Auckland Town Hall on 5th December 2017. Accompanied by musician friends Mick Tyas on bouzouki and backing vocals, Iain Petrie on bass and backing vocals and Jake Lucas on drums, Gary performed the four songs he had written for the project to date, as well as a fifth song, 'The Boys of Durham' (a pub song written by a soldier of the DLI during World War 1) featuring Mick on lead vocals, to an invited audience of V.I.P. guests. Two members of The Ferryhill Town Band, Steven King (euphonium) and Andrew Potts (cornet) also joined Gary on stage for 'Euphonium and Cornet'.

  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie, Jake Lucas
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie, Jake Lucas
  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Jake Lucas, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Jake Lucas, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Jake Lucas, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Jake Lucas, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Jake Lucas, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Jake Lucas, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Jake Lucas, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Jake Lucas, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Jake Lucas, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Jake Lucas, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Jake Lucas, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Jake Lucas, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Jake Lucas, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Jake Lucas, Iain Petrie
  • Gary Miller
    Gary Miller
  • Gary Miller
    Gary Miller
  • left-right : - Andrew Potts, Gareth Sykes
    left-right : - Andrew Potts, Gareth Sykes
  • left-right : - Gareth Sykes, Andrew Potts, Steven King
    left-right : - Gareth Sykes, Andrew Potts, Steven King
  • left-right : - Gareth Sykes, Andrew Potts, Gary Miller, Steven King, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Gareth Sykes, Andrew Potts, Gary Miller, Steven King, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Gareth Sykes, Andrew Potts, Gary Miller, Steven King, Iain Petrie
    left-right : - Gareth Sykes, Andrew Potts, Gary Miller, Steven King, Iain Petrie
  • left-right : - Gareth Sykes, Andrew Potts, Gary Miller, Steven King, Iain Petrie, Jake Lucas
    left-right : - Gareth Sykes, Andrew Potts, Gary Miller, Steven King, Iain Petrie, Jake Lucas
  • left-right : - Gareth Sykes, Andrew Potts, Gary Miller, Steven King, Iain Petrie, Jake Lucas
    left-right : - Gareth Sykes, Andrew Potts, Gary Miller, Steven King, Iain Petrie, Jake Lucas
left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
left-right : - Mick Tyas, Gary Miller, Iain Petrie
 

Gary performing 'Ballad of Lance-Sergeant William Stones' at the 'When the Bugle Calls'
Launch Event at Bishop Auckland Town Hall, County Durham, England, on 5th December 2017 : -

 

Gary Miller & Friends performing 'Euphonium and Cornet' at the 'When the Bugle Calls'
Launch Event at Bishop Auckland Town Hall, County Durham, England, on 5th December 2017 : -

 

The Songs

 

The Durham Light Infantry

When I was but a young lad I hewed coal below this land 

With a pick across me shoulder or a shovel in me hand 

But then the Great War came and a spirit of adventure grew

While the posters in the street said "Your Country Needs You!” 

Your country needs you! I knew then what I must do


I lined up to volunteer for a soldier's bloody wage 

I strode up to the desk and boldly lied about me age

They gave me a serge uniform of ‘Kitchener Blue’

Flags waved, brass bands played and huge crowds cheered too

But no-one really knew just what we’d gotten ourselves into


So we're off my boys through the hell and the noise

To die for our country 

And they’ll raise a cross to remember the loss

Of the Durham Light Infantry


In the muddy fields of Flanders we fought like men from Hell 

As the ground itself was ripped apart where all me best mates fell 

The lad right next to me took a bullet to the head 

And in all that hell and madness I wished that I was dead 

As the sky wept tears of lead, while the ‘Faithful Durhams’ bled


We buried all our dead, at least those that could be found 

As well as bits of bodies that were scattered all around 

And it made me sick with anger at the things the War had done 

But when one campaign was over they gave us another one

So I still kept marching on though all my mates were dead and gone 


So we're off my boys through the hell and the noise

To die for our country 

And they’ll raise a cross to remember the loss

Of the Durham Light Infantry


Let there be no songs of victory upon Armistice Day

For the pathos of the poets can never wash the stains away

And with the Pawns of War the Masters never will be done

So the ‘Dirty Little Imps’ will still be called upon

Once this ‘War To End All Wars’ is won, to fight on and on and on


So we're off my boys through the hell and the noise

To die for our country 

And they’ll raise a cross to remember the loss

Of the Durham Light Infantry


(Gary Miller)


Copyright © 2017 Gary Miller / Whippet Records

Helen's accompanying illustration

 

CD/Download Single front cover artwork

 

Euphonium And Cornet

Helen's accompanying illustrations (above)

 

Step forward two brothers in tunics of red

Polished buttons and boots, postman’s caps on their heads

Hard as nails, from the coalfields they came

Colliery bandsmen George and Joe Mains


Now step forward two soldiers, these khaki-clad sons

Sporting Durham Light Infantry tin hats and guns

Their music proved stronger than bullets or waves

As they played their hearts out while an army was saved


So strike up the band, let the D.L.I. play

The euphonium and cornet will each have their day

They’re shelling the beaches, while the boats fight the spray

And the band plays on, until the last boat sails away


George was proud of the medals he wore

In the street, in the pub, he would fist to the floor

Any man daring to mock the vain ways

Of this bold as brass bandsmen, fearless and brave


The Shakespeare’s finest, bandleader Joe

When his cornet blew all of Brandon would know

On the beach at Dunkirk it blew loud and shrill

That I bet back at home they could hear it still


So strike up the band, let the D.L.I. play

The euphonium and cornet will each have their day

They’re shelling the beaches, while the boats fight the spray

And the band plays on, until the last boat sails away


And step forward two fathers, back home from the War

Neither one spoke of the horrors they saw

As back to the coalfields they carried their fame

In two instrument cases, battered and stained


Now they’ve passed from this world and each note that they played

On euphonium and cornet has faded away

But the trumpets of Heaven resound to their name

Where the band plays on


The band struck up, the rearguard played

The euphonium and cornet each had their day

When the beaches were shelled and the boats fought the spray

Yet the band played on, until the last boat sailed away


Now step forward great-nephews, these two brothers too

Like their forebears, their music rings clear and true

They’re telling their stories and singing their songs

Ensuring the family tradition lives on


So strike up the band, let the instruments play

The guitar and accordion are now having their say

Until the next generation grasps the baton one day

Let the band play on, until the last note fades away


(Gary Miller)


Copyright © 2017 Gary Miller / Whippet Records

[The apocryphal story of Gary's paternal great-uncles, Joseph (Joe) and George Mains, County Durham coalminers, who worked at Browney and Brandon Collieries, of which they were also colliery bandsmen; Joe was bandleader, playing cornet, while George played euphonium. In the Second World War, they both joined the 11th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, also becoming members of the regimental band. As part of the 23rd Division, they were amongst the last survivors of the B.E.F. to be evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940.]

Joe Mains (far left) and George Mains (front row, 5th from left)

 

Joe Mains (front row, 6th from left)

George Mains (back row, 7th from left)

 

Ballad Of Lance-Sergeant William Stones

My name is Joseph William Stones

The life-blood of Durham ran deep in my bones

A miner from Crook standing all of 5' 2"

Deemed too short to fight, fit only to hew


But I then joined the Bantams in 1915

A volunteer in the Durham Light Infantry

A lance-sergeant decorated for extreme bravery

Shot at dawn as a coward in 1917


The terror of the guns I bravely defied

The horrors of the trenches I somehow survived

Only to face death by a different name

Stripped of all honour, butchered in shame


Though my superiors cast glowing testimonies

I was guilty as charged, my Court Martial decreed

British Army justice, so cruel and so vague

The brutal tyranny of Bloody Butcher Haig


As the sentence was passed my stomach turned weak

But they’d given me no permission to speak

I simply stood there as my glazed eyes gazed through

The blank faces of my judges who no mercy knew


The ambulance driver’s head hung in shame

Driving us to our doom at the dawn of the day

Blindfolded, manacled, two lance corporals and I

Each tied to a post, sentenced to die


A farmyard near Arras, the last place I saw

So quiet and peaceful amid the horrors of war

Thirty-six bullets and thirty-six men

Twelve for each prisoner, how could they fail then?


Yet not one of those men fired a shot that rang true

Afraid of guilt’s burden, what else could they do?

As the firing squad officer his pistol he drew

And our brains and our souls to eternity blew


“Braver men I never have met”

Were the words of the chaplain who wrote with regret

How he’d prayed with us before that fatal dawn

And how we were murdered on that terrible morn


There were no birds to sing, no bugle to play

The Last Post as they carried our bodies away

Just a sad mournful breeze to usher our souls

To the Great Unknown, where no guilty bell tolls


Oh Lizzie, my Lizzie, you were victimised too

"There’s no pensions for coward’s widows", they told you

As they left you to rot and go quietly insane

Alone with your memories, your loss and your pain


Three hundred and five others were damned just like me

To walk the Ghost Road through eternity

These doomed youth an anthem and peace were denied

Unjustly condemned, shot by their own side


My name was erased from the family line

To be rediscovered and restored after time

Now eighty years after I was slaughtered in shame

The local memorial at last bears my name


A Royal Pardon was granted at last

Ninety years after the sentence was passed

And even though the conviction remains

I suppose we must welcome any small gains


Now they call it Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome

A cause that in my time was simply unknown

And though no-one else should suffer like me

From the evil of War we will never be free


(Gary Miller)

Helen's accompanying illustration (above)

 

William Stones

 
 

Final Letter Of Jimmy Durham

Helen's accompanying illustration (above)

 
 

Dear Stella, my dear sister, when this letter reaches you,

I fear that I may not be here to see you again;

For in my heart I know I am not long for this world,

My lungs and chest are shot with so much pain.


Do you think I’ve been a good man? Have I deserved the life I’ve had?

And when my footprints fade will there be any more to add?                           For my mind is on reflection, as I feel life slip away;

It’s been one hell of a journey with new adventures every day.


I was named Mustapha by the mother who bore me;

I was my proud father’s little warrior, a Berber Sheik to be;

Looking fierce in full warpaint, two years old from the sands of Sudan,

I watched the Jibbah’s magic fail as my countrymen’s blood ran.


In the shadow of the nuggar, I raised my invisible gun,

To shoot the Madhi’s enemies in the haze of the Egyptian sun;

But their magic proved far stronger than ours, for none of my bullets struck,

As their leader looked kindly down on me, as my whole body shook.


And he said, “Smile, curly-haired boy, smile;

You’re coming with us to the Banks of the Wear,

All the way from the Banks of the Nile”.

And like a whirling Dervish, my life turned inside out,

As I leapt trusting into his outstretched arms, in spite of every fear and doubt,

While he said “Smile, curly-haired boy, smile”.


I became a sergeants’ boy and it was plain to see,

That I now had many fathers to love and care for me;

They gave me milk, they fed me well, like any good father would,

And they taught me of their world and ways, like any good father should.


But they cried, “Dance, little sweet boy, dance”;

So I danced like their pet and I played the fool,

Whenever they gave me the chance.

And like a whirling Dervish, I took off in a trance,

And danced all the way to Mandalay, with never a backward glance,

As they cried, “Dance, little sweet boy, dance”.


As the years and lands rolled by, they put a bugle in my hands,

And with the blessing of the mighty Empress Queen of all their lands,

I became their first black regular, Number 6758,

And James Francis Durham, DLI Bandsman stood up straight.


As they said, “Play, lovely bugle boy, play”;

And so I played my heart out because I knew no other way.

I put every single laugh and tear I’d shed into every note I played,

As I felt the magic in the coat in which I was now arrayed,

As they said, “Play, lovely bugle boy, play”.


I came at last to England, an educated full-grown man,

Where I found love and embraced it, in the best way any young lover can;

With my clarinet and violin, I graced many a concert hall,

And I played a tune for the many paths on which Destiny’s seeds might fall.


And I thought, smile, Jimmy Durham, smile;

It’s been a long road to the Banks of the Wear,

All the way from the Banks of the Nile.

But now this cold wet weather

Has become the death of me,

Though I know my story will live on,

Through the child I’ll never see.


So farewell, my dear sister, I can no longer write,

And the world at last is fading, as I head towards the light.

Well it’s been one hell of a journey, please do not feel sad;

But do you think I’ve been a good man? Did I earn the life I’ve had?


(Gary Miller)

[Further songs coming soon...]