The 11-year-old who busks on Market Street and dreams of being ‘the next Johnny Marr’

It was grabbing the mic and belting out karaoke to AC/DC at a family party that first sparked John’s passion for music. He quickly fell in love with singing, learned to play the guitar and by just nine-years-old, was already playing his first paid gig at a cafe in Eccles.

Now, at 11-years-old, Salford lad John Denton is often seen strumming to his own tunes along Manchester’s bustling Market Street. The youngster – who has most recently been shortlisted for a national songwriter award – pitches up on the cobbled road, kitted out with guitar, mic and amp, before capturing the attention of shoppers.

With dreams of being the next Johnny Marr, John is already well on his way to stardom. What started out as a hobby at home has seen him earn compliments from the likes of Matt Helders’ dad, recognition from top producers and even a retweet from global pop icon Lady GaGa.

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“I’d love to be the next Johnny Marr and just keep going to see where music can take me,” the 11-year-old musician told the Manchester Evening News. “It all started when my dad took me to a birthday party for one of his friends, and there was a karaoke machine. People were singing Highway to Hell by AC/DC.

“I went home and just listened to them over and over and it all came from there. I started singing, took guitar lessons and then did my first gig at a coffee shop in Eccles when I was nine, where I also sang two of my own songs.”

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The love of performing his own songs quickly moved from cafes and bars across Salford to one of Manchester’s busiest streets. Lined with shops and seeing swathes of commuters, shoppers and tourists every day, 11-year-old John has now become a familiar face.

John frequently plays original tracks to crowds on Market Street

Each Saturday dad Philip takes his son to Market Street to perform his tunes to the crowds, and, when asked if he gets nervous, John replied: “No. Actually, it’s really fun and amazing to see people’s reactions. I usually sing cover songs too because that’s what gets everybody’s attention.

“Once, a man came up to me and told me how much he liked my music. He said his son played guitar and I reminded him of him of his son. It turned out he was Matt Helder’s dad from the Arctic Monkeys. It was amazing.”

Proud dad Philip, who is headteacher at a high school in Ormskirk, continued: “John has always been really confident. He used to play at school, in front of his class and that was how it all started really.

John is a familiar face on Manchester’s heaving Market Street

“We first started going to Market Street at around Christmas time last year. John loves an audience and he just started playing, and people immediately loved it. It just doesn’t phase him at all – and he has had so many people pay him compliments about his music.

“We have shared videos of him on social media, and some of them have been shared by people all over the world. Bono from U2 has shared them, and one night my phone started going absolutely mental, and I saw we had a retweet from Lady Gaga.”

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More recently, John was invited to play to a small audience of The Smith’s fans at the iconic Salford Lad’s Club and had his radio debut broadcasted on Mike Sweeney’s Sunday Sessions. It was the production of his own debut single ‘Anthem X’ that saw the youngster shortlisted for a national songwriting award – with all proceeds going to charity Francis House.

Next month, the 11-year-old school kid will be judged by huge names, including Tom Grennan, Calum Scott and Tom Odell, along with some of the most successful UK producers, as he performs his original track in a battle to win the Song Academy Young Songwriters Award, of which he is the only finalist shortlisted from the North.

The 11-year-old has been shortlisted for a national songwriting award

Held at London’s The Tabernacle, Notting Hill, on June 25, John will perform the song that has provided such a hit on the streets of Manchester. John added: “Rolling Stones used to play at the venue, so I can’t believe I am getting a chance to perform there. I am starting to love making my own songs and just want to keep on writing them.

“If I win, I’d have the chance to produce a song with a record producer at a studio. This is just something I just love to do. Whether it’s playing, writing or performing, I hope it’s something that I do for the rest of my life.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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