[2000:] It feels so strange to be told that Jimmy Shand [who died earlier that week] is no longer with us because he has been with me all my life, and I loved his music long before I knew what music was.
Next to my cot, my parents would put a record player with a stack of Jimmy Shand records on it. It was the only way they found of getting me to sleep. The notes must have worked their way deep into my unconscious brain. One Christmas, aged four, my parents gave me an accordion which I picked up and played without the need for lessons.
Jimmy Shand was my reference point. Without him, I could not be doing what I do today. Jimmy hit the television screens with a style of music that put Scottish music - and Scotland - on the international map. He was a great ambassador for his country. How he achieved this is much more difficult to put into words. Musically, Jimmy was a technical genius and a human metronome. He created a more organised form of ceilidh music. The way he tightened the music - using tempo, beat, and the line-up of the band - made it perfect for Scottish dancing.
Of course, youth never want to conform with what has gone before. Jimmy was my inspiration but I consciously departed from him in my own playing. But I always remained an admirer of what he could do. I often wished I could hold the tempo the way he used to and instil that feeling.
I met Jimmy once and it was a great honour and one of the most memorable days of my life. A television director arranged for us to meet at Jimmy's home. I was worried that, having been an idol all my life, the reality of the man might be a disappointment. In fact, he was a perfect gentleman with a wonderful, dry sense of humour that belied his reputation for taciturnity. Jimmy insisted we meet first off camera and said he had been looking forward to meeting me, which was hugely flattering. We played the 'Bluebell Polka' together in the garden while they filmed us. I will never forget what he said to me before we played because the words capture so much of him. He said: "Mind, Phil, I'm 84 years old - watch your tempo."
I am sitting here thinking how sad it is we did not meet again. Jimmy sent me a Christmas card each year but I should have kept in touch and got to know him better.
My favourite Jimmy Shand story again demonstrates his dry sense of humour. Staying in a west coast guest house he received a meagre breakfast of a slice of toast. Jimmy, not unreasonably, asked for something to put on it and was given a tiny pot of honey. "Ah," said Jimmy to the owner, "I see you keep a bee."
He may be gone but his music will live on. (Phil Cunningham, Scotland on Sunday, 24 Dec)