Godfrey Townsend believes his career in music is similar to any other profession. He spent years practicing and working with various artists, similar to how a premed student spends years in school practicing medicine, and then works with a variety of doctors.
Townsend was raised by two opera-singing parents in Brooklyn. He began taking piano lessons at 7, when his parents saw he had an ear for music.
And then the Beatles arrived. “That was a game-changer for everybody,” Townsend recalled. The group inspired him to take up guitar, on which he is self-taught.
Getting himself established, he said, took about a decade. “I kind of just played everywhere, all the time, wherever I could, with anyone,” he said. “And then I got to know musicians that were doing things.”
By immersing himself in the music scene in Manhattan, he was able to connect with other aspiring musicians. He got to know the performers in the Broadway play “Beatlemania,” and hung out at the China Club, a now-closed Manhattan music club that was famous for celebrity-spotting.
He spent years going to the club, getting the attention of the staff, which eventually allowed him to take the stage to play. He eventually became known for being able to play virtually any song with anyone, and he became a regular performer at the club.
Then, John Entwistle of the Who began frequenting the China Club, and he and Townsend played together. Eventually, Entwistle wanted to get a band together, and invited Townsend to join. The rest is history. “Once you get into that clique of people . . . then it’s like steppingstones,” Townsend said.
He has since preformed with major rock and pop artists including not only Entwistle, but Jack Bruce, of Cream, Dave Mason, of Traffic, Alan Parsons, and more. He has performed at an annual sold-out birthday tribute to Eric Clapton at BB King Blues Club in Times Square for the past 15 years.
For the past seven summers, Townsend, now 61, has been on the “Happy Together” tour with members of bands including the Turtles, the Association, the Grass Roots and more.
His name is well-known in the New York area, and those who were lucky enough to see him at the Oyster Festival on the weekend of Oct. 14 got a private acoustic show.
Townsend doesn’t plan to stop performing any time soon. “There’s this whole energy that’s invisible, but you can feel it,” he explained. “When a performer puts out an energy, the audience feeds off that. And then, after the song is over and they applaud, you get that energy back that much more.”