Reggae-loving window cleaner Jack Curtis whistles while he works
NEXT time you hear a window cleaner whistling while he works, it could just be Jack Curtis composing the melody for his next reggae song.
Mr Curtis, 40, known as Jon off stage, has been a window cleaner in Tunbridge Wells for 18 years – but his passion for music goes back to the tender age of five.
He told the Courier ahead of opening the three-day One Love Festival 2012 at The Hop Farm on August 10 – a camping reggae and dub event expected to pull in thousands – that ideas for his singing and songwriting were often sparked while up his ladder.
"There is one I wrote called Polatrixion, that is a reference to being a window cleaner because I am talking to the tax man.
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"I definitely get inspiration when I am window cleaning in the town. I have written another one called Blue Skies. I got the oddest looks when I was doing the houses. People used to think I was talking to myself."
His first instrument was a bass drum with a foot pedal his trad jazz musician father Peter Curtis of the New Orleans Echoes and Great Northern Jazz Band made out of a big wooden banana box. As a youngster he lead drummed with various local marching bands "earning £50 for an hour and a half" and he got in to UK Ska, writing his first song – a piece he won't describe to the Courier because he said "it's embarrassing – I was eight".
But it was first hearing tapes of Coxsone, Outta National and Black Star Sound System aged 16 that he turned his musical passion to reggae.
"I couldn't do anything apart from write. I just started writing instantly. You can sing, you can rap in reggae. I have written all sorts but it is hard to get people to do anything else with me because they want to do reggae," he said.
Mr Curtis said because he was white he "stood out" in the genre and was unusual because he could "toast" – rap in a Jamaican accent. He can also speak and understand a lot of patois.
"I actually understand what they are all on about," he laughed.
The father-of-two Mr Curtis of Auckland Road who is "born and bred Tunbridge Wells" and owns JWC Cleaning Services has come a long way since those early days when the strains of his dad Peter's clarinet and saxophone enlivened the family home.
"I've heard his lead solos from the day I was born. That is why I can write melodies. I just feel my way," he said.
The former Sandown Court School pupil said he was "nervous and excited at the same time" about opening the One Love Festival 2012 which would be the latest in many performances, which include the Forum, Victoria Hall in Southborough and the Assembly Hall.
He said: "This is my one chance to make an impression on the right people.
"It could open all sorts of doors for me."
Asked why he loved reggae, he said: "You have the freedom just to be yourself. You can do what you like. All you need is the music and you've got a smile on your face, it takes the frown of fyou face, you are alright."
Tonight (Friday) at 7.30pm Jack Curtis will be performing as special guest at the Funky Reggae Party at the Royal Victoria Hall in Southborough. Tickets £10 on door.