I beat my stammer to make speeches at four weddings and a funeral...says Wet Wet Wet guitarist Graeme Duffin
McGuire Programme Course Instructor Graeme Duffin featured in the Scottish Sun, 2nd November 2013
Wet Wet Wet star Graeme Duffin has revealed he's given speeches at four weddings and a funeral since learning to talk without a stutter.
The guitarist had a chronic stammer for most of his life, before overcoming the affliction 13 years ago. And just like the hit Hugh Grant film, Graeme went on to speak publicly at a string of family events.
But 20 years ago, when he recorded the band's chart-topper Love Is All Around for the classic Brit flick, Graeme struggled to even say his own name. He explained: "Public speaking was traumatic for me. "Sometimes I would block on every word. Or greet everyone with complete silence. It was horrifying."
Graeme - who developed his stammer aged seven - discovered the only relief from his curse was through song. For the last 30 years he has provided the note-perfect harmonies and backing vocals for lead singer Marti Pellow. But on world tours he couldn't even ask for his room key from hotel receptions.
He said: "Singing was fantastic for me. I could perform song after song in my bedroom without stumbling. It was a great feeling. There's a technical reason behind it as you're taking deeper breaths and using different muscles. But off-stage I could barely say my name."
When the band fell out in 1999 it gave Graeme the chance to join the McGuire Programme - which uses breathing techniques to control the condition - the following year. Almost overnight the dad-of-two became a new man, talking almost flawlessly, but he insists he's not cured and refers to himself as a 'recovering stutterer.'
Graeme - who has been married to wife Pamela for 35 years - says: "My life was transformed in 2000. I have gone from being unable to make a speech at my own wedding in 1978, to giving the father of the bride speech at my daughter Esther's wedding to Tim nine years ago. "I then gave a speech at my niece Rachel's wedding and then my son James married Deborah in March this year, while I've also done a reading in the church for friends. "It also meant I was able to give the eulogy that I wanted at the funeral for my mother Isobel in 2009. "That was very emotional. But the McGuire training to cope with speech under such pressure was invaluable.
Stammering means you swap words, to ones easier to say. "But I was able to use the exact words that day in the exact way I wanted for my mum." That hadn't been the case when his younger brother Malcolm was killed in a motorbike accident in 1987. Tragedy struck while Graeme was recording the Wets' first chart-topping album Popped In, Souled Out, featuring the group's hits Wishing I Was Lucky and Sweet Little Mystery. The 57-year-old recalled: "When I got the phone call out of the blue, I was in total shock. I couldn't articulate what I wanted to say about Malcolm. I couldn't say motorbike accident, because motorcycle was easier. I mean who says motorcycle?"
Graeme earned his place in one of Scotland's most successful pop acts when the band needed a replacement guitarist and he was recommended by BBC broadcaster Tom Morton. But he is surprised the group - which also includes drummer Tommy Cunningham, guitarist Graeme Clark and keyboard player Neil Mitchell - stuck with him. He jokes: "They were all much younger and had been school mates from Clydebank, while I was an old hippy with long hair, beard and a stammer - I don't know how I got the job." He'll return to the stage with lead singer Marti Pellow and Co on December 19 when they play Glasgow's Hydro.
But Graeme is also on a world tour of his own, as a tutor for the McGuire Programme - which helped Pop Idol contestant Gareth Gates. He says: "I have given seminars from Dundee to Las Vegas. They asked me to go to Cape Town but I couldn't as I'm on tour with the Wets. But I'm on the list of telephone coaches so I get phone calls from all over the world. "I come out of rehearsals or gigs with all these missed calls, and just call them all back. "It's fear that keeps the stammering fed. My favourite thing to do is to instruct a McGuire course, and see all these frightened people walk in and leave with their lives transformed.
"The main thing is don't hide the stammer. You will always have it. But we now have tools, techniques and back-up." The programme gave Graeme the confidence to launch his own recording studio, Foundry Music Lab, in Motherwell. He said: "We run Scottish Qualifications Authority approved training programmes. I couldn't have done that without the McGuire Programme." He added: "It's amazing to look back at old videos. "Back then there's no way I could have spoken at four weddings and a funeral myself. Now I love speaking in public."
Original article by Matt Bendoris, Chief Feature Writer, The Sun