Why rock star Rick is far from grumpy

For a supposedly Grumpy Old Man, Rick Wakeman is pretty chipper. Actually, make that very chipper.After years of travelling the world as a rock star, he's settled into village life in Norfolk and is due to marry his fiancée, Rachel Kaufman, soon.

For a supposedly Grumpy Old Man, Rick Wakeman is pretty chipper. Actually, make that very chipper.

After years of travelling the world as a rock star, he's settled into village life in Norfolk and is due to marry his fiancée, Rachel Kaufman, soon.

“I'm very happy - never been happier,” says the man who shot to fame with 70s progressive rockers Yes and has now made a second career out of moaning as one of the BBC's Grumpy Old Men.

On Thursday, Rick takes The Grumpy Old Picture Show on tour.

The one-man show will feature the 58-year-old rocker telling humorous anecdotes about his life along with music and rare film clips, some of them specially recorded.

“It's a nutty one, really,” he says. “I used to do a lot of one-man shows back in the last century - walk on stage, tell silly stories, play the piano and keyboards - and it worked very well.

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“In 2001 I did my final one. I thought: 'I have taken this as far as I can go,' so I knocked it on the head.”

Earlier this year, he had lunch with Stuart Prebble, executive producer and writer of Grumpy Old Men, who asked Rick if he had plans for any more solo shows.

“He said: 'You should try and incorporate Grumpy Old Men - you're the only one who has been in it since the start.' I said: 'I can't just go on stage and moan,' and he said: 'Well, you usually do!'”

The final inspiration for the show came to Rick on a train from London to Diss.

“I had written the words 'grumpy old' down and I was trying to think of what could go with them. Then I took a call from a music journalist friend who was after some pictures, and I just thought 'picture show.'

“I thought I would get some footage of my old teachers, but I'm 58 and they're all dead. I thought I could do some spoof ones and get a few musicians I would like to play with.”

Rick's advisers told him such a show would be technically difficult.

“Then they said: 'Let's do it!' I think they just want to see it go wrong!

“The French and the Germans will go to the circus and marvel at the man on the tightrope. We Brits secretly want to see him not hurt himself but fall off.”

The tour will take in 14 venues, including Ipswich, before finishing at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft.

“I can see why people haven't done it before, but working on it has been great fun,” says Rick.

“It's going to be a real test for me. I've never done a show with no safety net before.

“I just want people to go away with a smile on their face. That's all I want on a night out - I just like to come away thinking: 'I've had a nice night.' I don't want to be lectured or come away with a headache.”

Rick and Rachel, 33, moved to the Waveney Valley three years ago.

“I left the Isle of Man in 2000 after getting divorced yet again,” he says.

“I was literally touring non-stop and living in hotels for four or five months at a time.

“I became like the Major in Fawlty Towers; I became Alan Partridge. My kids said: 'For heaven's sake get yourself somewhere to live.'”

After a long search, they found a house close to the Norfolk/Suffolk border. “I had never spent much time here, but we had some friends here - people like Ian Lavender and Roy Hudd - and we were just spending more and more time here.

“I love it - I absolutely love it. I've probably got more friends here than in all the other places I have lived put together.

“It reminds me of what England should be. We love the villages and we love going to the seaside and places down the coast.

“This area has still managed to retain a lot of its old shops. We'll go to Morrisons, but the local shops are great for getting things you can't get in supermarkets.”

Rick met journalist Rachel, 33, when she came to interview him. “I had given up on women by that

time after three divorces,” he confesses.

“We were great, great friends

which developed into a very nice romance.”

The couple got engaged last year but have yet to name the day. “I've been so busy - I'm just waiting for a week off,” he explains.

Rachel's parents are due to move up from Dorset in a fortnight's time.

So, with three failed marriages behind him, what has Rick learned about women?

“I have learned I don't understand them,” he says.

“I'm old-fashioned. I do believe in marriage as it shows a commitment. Understand? No.

“As long as a man understands he will never really understand the workings of the female mind -

that's all he needs to know.”

Rick Wakeman's Grumpy Old Picture Show is at Ipswich Regent on Friday, November 9 (tickets £21.50 and £22.50) and Lowestoft Marina Theatre on Tuesday, November 13 (£24.50). Visit www.ipswich

regent.com and www.marina

theatre.co.uk for further details.

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