Matt Monroe and Sinatra

A customer called Alan, a doctor from the UK who also enjoys music told me a great story as we got talking about backing tracks and famous singers…

Hi Kenny,
I will tell you a true story. Two young men were in the Army, both good singers and best of friends. They were in Hong Kong together and went to all the singing competitions on the base and in city. One or the other always won.

Eventually  they got banned from all the local competitions as no one else got a look in! Their names were Terry Parsons and Neddy Sparkes.

Terry had the chance to sign on for 21 years but said to Ned he was going on extended leave to make his mind up. He drove lorries, then London buses for a while and then got an audition at Abbey Road. He changed his name to Matt Monroe…and the rest they say is history.

He kept telling Ned to join him but Ned never took the chance. Last time Ned saw Matt, Matt was in a London hospital. He showed his best friend Ned a telegramme he had just received. It said from one ol’ crooner to another – get well soon Matt, from Frank Sinatra. Matt was very proud of that.

Unfortunately Matt didn’t get better and died. Ned carried on in the Army and is now long retired – he lives in Nottingham. He phones me about once a month.

If you ever watch the Matt Monroe story on BBC television you will see a part where Matt Monroe is in Hong Hong…the other guy on stage with him is my uncle Neddy.

Best wishes. Keep the music alive!


Keep in touch


Hi Alan

What a great story!

I’m a big fan of Matt Monroe (and yes I have seen the Matt Monroe story on TV).

I personanly believe that Matt Monroe and Bobby Darin were both better than Sinatra. Don’t get me wrong, I like Sinatra, I just feel that both Bobby Darin could “swing” better than Sinatra and that Matt Monro had a better feel for a song (and a richer voice) than Sinatra.

I actually sing a Matt Monro medley in my act (If I never sing another song – Born free – Portrait of my love – Walk away – and back in to If I never sing another song to finish). I usually introduce it by saying “I’m going to sing a medley of songs by a man who was better than Sinatra – Matt Monro”.

You’d be amazed how many of the audience agree…






Minidisc or mp3

Thanks to Pete for contacting me. He’s considering using backing tracks in his act and possibly using Minidisc…

Hello Ken
I am a complete novice at this, but I am a musician and have written my own songs and I need to put them on to disc. I am a dinosaur -I’ve been playing guitar and singing in bands for years but now I am solo use a loop station when gigging. I am thinking of getting backing trax as well. I think for me the minidisc would be a good option. Do you have these in your catalogue? Then I need a minidisc player linked into my PA. Sorry to be rattling on a bit but thats what us old gits do when were over 50! All the best

Hi Pete

You can certainly move from using a loop station to using backing tracks and you’ll probably find a vast difference in your sound too.

Before you decide on going down the Minidisc route though, give it a bit of thought first. You see Minidisc tends to be a little bit old-fashioned now (although plenty of artists are still using this older format). It’s getting harder and harder to find blank minidisc media nowadays and minidisc deck players especially are all but obsolete.

There are still a few minidisc decks around that you can buy (CLICK HERE) but most manufacturers have stopped producing them so as the last remaining minidisc decks get sold, they’re not being replaced – something to think about, especially if you need repairs in the future or ever need a new one…

The reason Minidisc has fallen out of favour with professional singers and entertainers is because of MP3.

You see MP3 players can hold thousands of backing tracks, whereas a single blank Minidisc can only hold about 20 songs.

With Minidisc, if you want to sing a song and the backing track isn’t one of the 20 songs on the disc you currently have in your Minidisc player, you need to eject that disc, load in a different disc, then find the song, then press play.

This may not sound like too much of a problem, but believe me, when your audience are waiting patiently for you to sing the next song and you’re pre-occupied switching minidiscs etc, those few seconds feel like a few minutes(!) and it breaks the whole flow of your professional performance. Many acts get round this problem by using TWO minidisc decks…but as I said earlier, they are getting harder and harder to come by….

MP3 on the other hand gives you instant access to ALL your tracks because they are all on the one hard drive on the MP3 player.

With an MP3 player you can even cue up one song while another is playing.

My personal preferred MP3 player for backing track use is the Apple iPod – it’s easy to use, quick to find tracks, and as long as your eyesight is good enough to navigate the small screen, it’s by far the best performer of all MP3 players. Take a look HERE for more info.

To hook your MP3 player or Minidisc deck to your PA, simply connect a cable between your player and your PA. MP3 players usually have a headphone/earphone/line-out socket with a minijack connection while Minidisc decks usually have 2 x RCA plug outputs.

You’ll find an article on how to connect an MP3 player to your PA HERE



iTunes and DRM copyright protection

Kelly from the USA wants a custom backing track created. I told him to send me a copy of the original, I’ll have a listen to it, and give him a quote how much it’s going to be to create as a backing track.

He has the original song on his computer in his iTunes program and has been trying to email it to me (unsuccessfully):

Hi Kenny,
I’m having a tough time trying to send that song to you. Just to get this straight now…..I can’t use the I-tunes version, is that correct? I have to try and find the recorded music?

Hi Kelly

iTunes isn’t actually the problem – the iTunes program is simply a music player software which you install and run on your desktop and it plays any songs that are on your computer. It has an added function where it allows you to also transfer music to an iPod if you have one connected to your computer.

The iTunes website (i.e the iTunes shopping store) and music you buy from it is a different story though.

The iTunes website shopping store allows you to buy music and then download that music directly in to the iTunes program on your computer. It all sounds very quick and convenient, and it is…

But songs bought from iTunes have DRM protection in them (Digital Rights Management) which prevents you playing those songs anywhere else except on your iTunes program and your iPod.

So if you try to send me a song which was purchased from iTunes, there’s every chance that I won’t be allowed to listen to it or play it. It will be DRM protected and will only play on YOUR computer and iPod.

There has been a lot of talk about iTunes getting rid of these DRM restrictions and allowing you to play music you purchase from iTunes anywhere you want but I don’t know how far forward they are with this yet.  In my opinion it was always a cunning marketing ploy anyway – Apple have always argued that they are helping to protect artists from music piracy and file-sharing by restricting where you can play the music you download , but experts agree that in reality they were most probably using this as an excuse just to “force” you to exclusively use their iTunes program and iPod.

Anyway, enough about my opinion on Apples marketing rights and wrongs!

If the song you want to send me was NOT purchased from iTunes (i.e. you have it on a CD) then you can make a copy of it and send it to me without restriction.

To do this, you need to “rip” the CD to your computer and save it as mp3 format, then email the mp3 to me.

But you can’t just “drag” a CD from it’s tray on to your computer hard disk, nor can you copy and paste it, nor can you just “attach” it to an email.

CD’s are in CDA (compact disc audio) format so need to be “ripped” (i.e. converted) from the CD to your hard disk first.

There’s a good article I wrote a while back about how to convert CD to mp3 HERE

MP3 is an open format. It isn’t restricted to any one music player like Apples AAC format – ALL good music players can play mp3 files which is why mp3 is the most popular music format on the planet.

The freedom and universality of mp3 is why we, MP3 Backing Trax, supply backing tracks in this format. After customers buy their mp3 backing tracks from us, they can play them on ANY music player they want, including their iPod (wake up Apple)!

When you have a song in mp3 format you can do pretty much anything you want with it, as long as it’s within the licence restrictions of the copyright owner.

And this is the BIG difference between the open mp3 format and Apples more closed AAC format.

MP3 music files are only restricted by what the copyright licence owner says you can use that music for.

Apple restricts you by what the copyright licence holder says you can use the music for AND restricts you to WHERE you can use that music.

So if you have an mp3 file, you can play it on iTunes, play it on Windows Media Player, make it in to a CD and play it in your car, play it on your home hi-fi, put it on to ANY mp3 player eg Creative jukebox, Microsoft Zune, Apple iPod, etc etc.

But if you have an Apple AAC music file that you purchased from iTunes which has their DRM copyright protection in it, you can ONLY play it on iTunes or your iPod.

Hope this helps!



Finding a cheap second hand drum machine

Tom from Leicester contacted me a while back asking for advice on ways he could set up some simple drum loops to play along with.

Now Tom has decided to buy a fully fledged dedicated drum machine and is looking for something that sounds good but is not over expensive…

Hey Kenny!

Can you help? I want a simple drum machine to give me some basic rock and pop rhythms to back me when I am playing guitar. Don’t need to programme any stuff. Just plug it into an amp and operate with a footswitch. Don’t want to spend a load on it. Got any ideas?

Tom Matthew

Hi Tom

If it’s a hardware drum machine you’re looking for and you don’t want to spend a lot, then the ideal place to look is eBay.

Do a search by typing in to the search box below for Alesis drum machine, Roland drum machine, Boss drum machine, Korg drum machine, Yamaha drum machine and any other manufacturers you can think of and try to find someone on eBay who’s selling off a good cheap second-hand drum machine.

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The great thing about buying something like this second-hand is that if it is in perfect working order then it will sound every bit as good as when it was new.

Certainly the buttons and casing may wear or scratch with age but the sounds will still be as good as they were the day the seller bought it.

If you want to get an ever cheaper deal on a drum machine, go to and type in the manufacturers name and it’ll bring up a list of MIS-SPELLED ebay listings.

The idea behind eBay mis-spellings is that if a seller has mis-spelled an item, then less prospective buyers will find the listing, less people will be bidding on it, and it’ll probably sell for less than it would have if the seller had listed it correctly.

You could end up getting a real cheap bargain, not just on drum machines but also any musical equipment. 

Sellers often mis-spell words like sennheiser and behringer and peavy and lots of others…



Music licencing permissions

A customer called George contacted me to ask a question about music licencing…

Hi Kenny,
Greetings: Thanks for the great info. I found a track recently on the web. I contacted the site owner about getting permission to use the track. However, they can’t say who the author is. Its a reggae track. What can I do?

Hi George

Put simply, if you don’t have permission from the author of the song through the proper licencing and you don’t know who or which company produced and created the backing track, you can’t get permission to use the track.

The only alternative is to obtain the track from elsewhere – preferably from a reputable backing track company who can give you all the information you need about the track, it’s author, and permission to use it.

From what you say in your email, I’m guesing that the backing track you have at the moment is most probably an illegal backing track that you downloaded from the internet. It will most probably infringe copyright so that’s why the website you got it from are unable to help you or give you permission to use it.

It’s worth noting that all MP3 Backing Trax backing tracks are fully licensed and we can grant you whatever permissions you require to use our tracks.

But you will find that there are lots of illegal websites out there on the internet and they are NOT licensed, so they can’t give you the permissions you need.

Also bear in mind that you take a huge risk if you use illegal backing tracks. If you get caught at a gig singing with illegal music, you can be fined . Also the venue you are singing at can be closed down for allowing illegal music to be performed (and/or have their music licence revoked) so beware!