'I was worried I wouldn't perform again' - Yorkshire folk musician on struggle with trigger finger

When retired soldier and folk musician Stan Graham developed trigger finger he worried that he’d never be able to return to the stage or to his beloved guitar.

After a military career spanning more than three decades, Stan, who lives in York, began pursuing with earnest a musical journey which has seen him release multiple albums and tour across the world.

But as the 77-year-old prepared for gigs in November, he noticed he was struggling to bend some of his fingers and was suffering with pain and swelling.

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It was worrying,” he says. “I’d got concerts and gigs planned for the remainder of the year and I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to perform and get my music out there.”

Folk musician Stan GrahamFolk musician Stan Graham
Folk musician Stan Graham

Stan tried to treat the condition with rest and over-the-counter medication before deciding to try bioelectronic therapy.

He began using a device from a company called NuroKor, wearing specially-designed gloves that sent micro electrical currents across his hands.

With 30 minute treatment sessions each day for a several weeks, Stan was able to pick up his guitar and start playing again.

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“The pain eased up a great deal, the movement of the fingers improved a lot,” he says.

“It helped me to carry on playing and keep writing and doing my music."

Stan was a professional soldier for 36 years, beginning his military career in the British Army as an apprentice chef in 1963 and retiring in 2001 having achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

During his career, he travelled the world, cooked for the Royal Family and was an instructor at the Army School of Catering.

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“I always used to sing a lot in the kitchen," Stan reflects. “A lot of people wish they could play an instrument and I’ve always had that yearning.”

He dabbled with the guitar on several occasions but only in his last few years with the military did he make a promise to himself to pick up and play every day.

Stan, who is originally from Whitley Bay, in the North East, started to gain confidence and write songs and his musical journey began in earnest shortly after he retired from the army, when he joined York’s Black Swan Folk Club as a resident singer.

“I’m not what you would call a natural musician. I’ve had to work very hard at it,” he says. “The songwriting came a lot easier to me.

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"I was really quite surprised when a fair number of well known people in the folk scene started to pick up my songs, cover them and record them and take them all over the world.”

Now, with trigger finger easing thanks to the bioelectronic therapy and, more recently, hydrocortisone injections, Stan is looking forward to more months of making music.

“I’ve had a wonderful army career and now a wonderful second opportunity in music. I feel very lucky.”