Lancashire grandma, 90, is Britain’s ‘oldest female drummer’ - after lessons with Simply Red member

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
A 90-year-old great-grandma from Lancashire has become Britain’s 'oldest female drummer’ - after getting lessons from one of Simply Red's original members.

Barbara McInnis felt like she was 'rolling back the years' thanks to her tutor Chris Joyce, 66, who starred in the legendary pop group from 1985-1991.

The retired head teacher admitted she was not familiar with Simply Red when she first booked lessons with the famous percussionist six months ago.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But Barbara has since been influenced by Chris’s playing - whose work features on the band's hit singles ‘Holding Back the Years’ and ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’.

Widowed great-grandmother-of-ten Barbara, who lives in Torrisholme, Morceambe, is now in three different groups and said drumming had brought “genuine joy” back into her life.

Barbara said: “It’s helped me roll back the years… It’s given me a new lease of life, a new interest, which I think is good at my age. It’s keeping me young.

“It has brought genuine joy back into my life, and I think it has removed a few wrinkles.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I was brought up on classical music, I was more interested in Messiah, and a bit of Fauré, and choral society work. I wasn’t really interested in modern pop stuff.

“Then I found Simply Red, but I’m ashamed to say it didn’t really mean a lot to me.

“Of course, I listen to it now. I’m a cross between Chris [Joyce] and Ringo Star - but I’m not after Ginger Baker.”

90-year-old Barbara McInnis, who lives in Torrisholme, practices in a studio in West Morecambe run by Chris Joyce, former drummer for the bad Simply Red. Credit: William Lailey SWNS.90-year-old Barbara McInnis, who lives in Torrisholme, practices in a studio in West Morecambe run by Chris Joyce, former drummer for the bad Simply Red. Credit: William Lailey SWNS.
90-year-old Barbara McInnis, who lives in Torrisholme, practices in a studio in West Morecambe run by Chris Joyce, former drummer for the bad Simply Red. Credit: William Lailey SWNS. | William Lailey SWNS

Barbara said she decided to take up drumming in her late 80s after she dabbled with percussion instruments in her local Ukulele band.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But she was stunned to find gold and platinum records lining Chris's walls when she first visited his studio, close to the town's seafront.

When she later learned that he'd played in one of Britain’s most successful pop bands, she admitted to feeling ‘nervous’ about getting behind the kit.

But Barbara has come on leaps and bounds under his expert tutelage and now loves to play along to rock and pop classics - from Chuck Berry to The Beatles.

She said: “When I looked at all these gold, platinum records, I felt in awe.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"And I was very nervous the second time I came for a lesson. I felt, ‘Oh my goodness me’. And I was really shy.

“But he’s a great tutor, he starts you absolutely from scratch. Within a week or two, providing you practice, it’s amazing what you can do.”

“I like [to play to] Octopus’s Garden, that’s one of my favourites - and Johnny B. Goode.”

Chris said Barbara - known as Babs - was one of his best students and felt her commitment to learning a new instrument was inspirational.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said: “She’s a great student because what she does is go away and practice what I show her, which is all you can ask any student to do.

“Babs often sends me videos with what she’s up to with her practice for me to review and comment on.

“At her age, it’s inspiring for me and it’s inspiring for a lot of people that she’s so enthusiastic and has so much energy.”

Barbara with Chris Joyce from Simply Red. Credit: William Lailey SWNSBarbara with Chris Joyce from Simply Red. Credit: William Lailey SWNS
Barbara with Chris Joyce from Simply Red. Credit: William Lailey SWNS | William Lailey SWNS

Chris, who grew up in Manchester and has also played in the bands Pete Wylie and The Mighty Wah! And DoveTales, still fondly remembers his time in Simply Red.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said: “It was incredible, it was very memorable. I reached a stage that I’d been working towards for many years, as an up-and-coming musician.

“I’ve travelled in the back of a transit van and pushed it along the road - to travelling in luxury as well, doing amazing concerts all around the world and big tours.

“I’ve experienced all levels of the music industry.”

Barbara currently plays with three groups: D'Ukes of Lancaster Ukulele Band, Morecambe Ukulele Club and Garstang Ukulele Group.

And Chirs encouraged anyone taking up the drums to begin playing with bands as soon as possible - while also sharing three pieces of wisdom.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said: “The first thing is to turn up on time, turn up sober, and make sure you get along with people.

“Sometimes it’s the people who’ve got the best attitude, and not necessarily the best players, that get along well.”

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.