One-handed guitarist

WHEN he was born with an unexplained lack of a left arm that still baffles doctors today music lover Sam Draisey seemed destined never to play any kind of instrument.

But against all odds the 23-year-old has now written, recorded and released three albums despite having no left hand at all – and is proving an extremely talented guitarist and singer-songwriter.

The inspirational musician has not let his disadvantage get in his way and learnt to pick at the strings with his good arm while using his other arm to strum the instrument with amazing results.

And to listen to him play today, you would not notice his disability by the sound that he creates with the guitar.

Sam started playing music when he was 15, just on the coincidence that his sister was having lessons.

“My sister Emmie was learning guitar,” he said. “So I had a go a it. I developed my own technique, although I had to play Emmie’s guitar upside-down because she’s right-handed.

“There are a few who have been like that and made it, Jimmi Hendrix played a restrung right handed guitar left handed.

“Eventually I taught myself with a left-handed guitar. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it in spite of my obvious disadvantage.”

Sam has never had any limb below his left elbow and says he has never liked using prosthetic limbs.

“When I was a kid we tried some out, but I never liked them. They were always clunky and were often a different colour to my skin.

“I kept leaving them all over the place, in restaurants and the like, it was pointless.

“When I started playing we tried out one with a claw type thing on the end with two prongs that could hold a pick, but it sounded horrible.

“When you play you don’t just bend your elbow, you use your wrist as well and the movement arcs, with the prosthetic hand it would scrape down the strings, it was awful.”

Eventually Sam’s sister got bored of playing guitar and he took over her lessons, learning to play the guitar again after he got hold of a left handed guitar.

“I played in pub bands and played bass for a bit, but I always liked doing my own thing. I can’t write songs within a group, I have a lot of respect for anyone who can, I have to do it myself,” added Sam.

“I sing at weddings and the like, which is singing other people’s songs. I enjoy it, but I love writing my own stuff, it gives the music more passion.

“I’m a big fan of Johnny Cash and Cat Stephens and more recently I love Frank Turner, his writing is a big influence.”

When he first started playing Sam says using his arm the way he does to strum the instrument caused him some pain.

“I do have calluses on the end of my arm,” he said. “And it hurt when I started, but anyone gets that when they play.

“All guitar players get harder skin on the ends of their fingers as they get used to playing, so it’s no different for me.

“I can strum, and I can pluck individual strings, the only difference I have is that I can’t pluck two strings at once that aren’t next to each other.”

Sam decided to take up music full time only a few years ago, having found his course learning to become a primary school teacher at Wolverhampton University no longer interested him.

He took a place at South Birmingham College studying professional music practice and graduated in July this year.

Sam, who lives at home in Billbrook, Staffs,  with his mum, Jayne, 49, dad, Roy, 51 and girlfriend Michaela, recorded his latest album at home before taking it into college to mix and fine tune it.

When he’s not writing songs, Sam organises ‘open mic’ nights at local village pubs and has several gigs coming up to showcase his third album The List.

“There are videos out there of people with one arm playing guitar, but they’re just novelties, I want to be a musician, I am a singer-songwriter I just happen to have one arm.”

Nils Edstrom, Live Sound Tutor at South Birmingham College, says: “To listen to a recording of Sam you wouldn’t have a clue about his condition – all you’d hear was an excellent artist.

“He’s done really well this year and we have no doubt he’ll go on to make a lot of people happy with his music.”

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