Wannabe rockers join stars at music camps

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The Independent Culture

It sounds like the ultimate present for a man in a mid-life crisis - the chance to take the stage with some of the gods of rock 'n' roll.

Two rival rock camps being established this year are offering aspiring musicians the chance to strut their stuff with the likes of Jack Bruce of Cream, Gary Brooker of Procol Harum and Neil Murray of Whitesnake and Black Sabbath.

Even Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones is being tipped to join the Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp (RRFC) at the Abbey Road studios in north-west London in May.

Modelled on previous camps held in America with the likes of Roger Daltrey of The Who, it offers up to 60 places at £8,000 a shot.

Meanwhile, a less starry but arguably more luxurious opportunity for 20 frustrated musicians to improve their renditions of "Stairway to Heaven" is being offered in Devon by Mike Hurst, who played in The Springfields with Dusty and then became a producer, discovering Cat Stevens.

After running a summer camp for musical teenagers, he created the RockMasters weekend in a country house near Tiverton in response to pleas from their parents that he do something for them. "I had various parents saying, 'It's wasted on the kids. Why don't you do it for adults?'" Hurst said.

The grown-ups get catering from Chris Barber, formerly chef to Prince Charles at Highgrove, and clay pigeon shooting in a package retailing at £750 a head.

The rougher end of rock'n'roll it ain't. But the list of those signing up - from lawyers and businessmen to mothers - suggests that regardless of education or career success, in the era of X Factor and Pop Idol, everyone secretly wants to be a rock 'n' roll star.

Hurst said: "They'll all get individual attention and they get to play in the house band. It may attract people like the well-to-do in the City in a mid-life crisis kind of thing, but I think all the people will have one thing in common - they just love trying to play music."

David Fishof, who presented The Band and The Monkees in a career as a concert promoter before establishing the RRFC, said part of the pleasure was having rock pros on hand to answer all the questions that people outside the business always asked.

And part of the pleasure was seeing the campers - who in America have ranged from a 17-year-old drummer to the president of an airline - enjoying themselves.

"It was life-changing for some of them," he said. "And they improve tremendously from the moment they sign up. They're given a list of songs they should prepare and they get so excited they start to improve straight away. Their passion comes out."

Roger Daltrey said of his past experience with the camp: "It's great seeing people with such enthusiasm having fun even though they're all of different abilities. They all rise to the occasion. It's fantastic."