Melvyn Hiscock Biography

Well, I was born in Stubbington, a small quaint village on the south coast of England and had a pretty normal upbringing except that I did have a pet Elephant called Derek. I went to primary school in Stubbington when I was five and found it pretty dull. Mum and Dad has insisted that we learn to read and write before we went to school so it was pretty dull waiting for everyone else to catch up. Still, there was the Fireball XL-5 and Stingray on TV so we had something to talk about in the playground. The school was across the road from Lee on Solent Naval Air Station, where my granddad was a groundsman, so I grew up with Hawker Hunters, Supermarine Scimitars, Fairey Gannets, Blackburn Buccaneers and various Whirlwind and Wessex helicopters flying around all the time but the first aeroplane I remember was a light blue aeroplane performing aerobatics over my Nan’s house in Anker Lane, Stubbington and that, my brother informed me, was a Spitfire. I later found out it was John Fairey in the Spitfire T8 G-AIDN and later we got to fly together but that was a long way off. 

The only things I can remember about the infants school was performing in the nativity play when I was about 6. I had the part of Joseph and Derek played one of the sheep.

From there I went to the Juniors. This was about a mile from home and I cycled there with Derek running beside the bike. All I really remember was that some of wrote ‘The Sunday Ploop’ and the ‘Daily Gherkin’, comedic things that were clearly influenced by the ‘Beano’ and the fave TV show of that time, ‘Do Not Adjust Your Set.’.

Due to being vaguely intelligent, I was sent off to Grammar school in Gosport, following my older brother. We had the choice of either Prices College in Fareham, which was single sex, or Gosport Grammer which was mixed. We got sent to the mixed one to terrorise young ladies. My time there was not fun, the school was amalgamated with the local Secondary Modern (Privett) to form a Comprehensive. This was no problem for the majority of the kids in the school as they had all gone to primary schools together but it seemed to be a problem for the staff who could not come to terms with teaching kids of different abilities. The ex-Privett teachers seemed to despise the ex-grammar school kids for being privileged and the ex-Grammar school teachers seemed to thing the ex-Privett kids were not worth worrying about. The school was also 2,100 pupils which made it a pretty impersonal place to be educated.

At this time I wanted to be a photographer but this was not likely to happen, as we could not really afford for me to go to college. Derek, meanwhile, had got a job as an insurance salesman.

I had started playing guitar when I was 13 but I was not a natural. I have never been a good practicer and want results instantly. I was about the only person in my year that played and that made forming bands hard as you don’t tend to drift out of your yeargroups when you are that age. A couple of years below me were people like Martin Bird and Kev Robinson who went in to play in Virginia Doesn’t (who got a John Peel session) and the Time, both great fun bands. Jealous? Me?

I also had a Saturday job in the world’s most rubbish music shop in Portsmouth. It was owned by a very strange old man who had another shop that was, basically, junk. It was somewhere to go on Saturdays and play guitar (badly)

By the time I left school I had started making guitars, although not very well. There was simply nothing available to read that had any good information in it. Of course, having no experience in using tools was not a help either.

After leaving school I had a job in the civil Service in Portsmouth Dockyard and later at the Census Office. Both were dull, dull, dull and were an education in how some people are quite happy to allow their lives to stagnate as long as they don’t have to think. Graveyards for the living.

Slowly I got better at making guitars and in 1980 I moved to London, lost loads of money, worked alongside Roger Giffin and learned loads off him. He has been a good friend and a great mentor for many years and I am always in his debt.

I moved back to the South Coast in 1981 and then back up to work as Roger’s retail manager in 1985. In the time between I had started writing ‘Make Your Own Electric Guitar’.

This came about when a guy called Bruce Brand asked me how to make a guitar and I told him to go to the library and get the book out, it was that simple. He told me there was no book and I didn’t believe him and so I sent him back to the library to check! He came back a few weeks later and confirmed that there was no book and he thought that I should write one but I thought this was a very silly idea. But the idea germinated and I thought more and more about it.

I started writing sometime in 1983 and carried on through 1984 until the book was delivered to the publisher in mid-1985. It was released on Blandford Press in May 1986.

For a while I left the music biz to go and do jobs that actually earned money and heard little about the book except for getting a royalty payment. By 1994 I was working in publishing and I knew that a new edition was needed so I started negotiations and got nowhere with my publisher who were determined not to do it. In the end I managed to get them to revert the rights to me and I became the publisher in November 1996. The second edition was written and produced at home and the book came out in 1998. It has now sold, over the two editions, something like 120,000 copies.

In 2010 the follow up book Make Your Own Acoustic Guitar was released. This is a colour book and has almost 600 photographs.

Meanwhile, I had learned to fly in 1992 and in 1995 I started commentating for Brian Lecomber’s Firebird Aerobatics company. This led to complete shows and I have now done shows such as the Goodwood revival Meeting, Flying Legends, Wings and Wheels at Dunsfold and the Biggin Hill Air Fair and I commentate the Jersey International Airshow as well as several smaller ones.

I have also done a considerable amount of voiceover work on aviation DVDs and other projects and a large number of talks on guitar making and aviation.

In 1993 I bought a Rearwin Cloudster that was supposed to be complete and ready for reassembly. This proved to be far from the case and a five year, ground up rebuild was started with the aeroplane flying in March 2005.

Other than that I play a bit around various blues nights and open mic and have even been known to go busking.

I don’t do a lot of guitar making now, to be honest after almost forty years I don’t really have a lot to prove and I DID write the book, but I make pickups, which I enjoy, I play more now than I have done in years and I do other stuff I enjoy, like flying.

Oh, the mentions of Derek were not true. He was a Mammoth.

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