“WHEN my idol and hero Eric Clapton came into my little shop, I knew then I would retire a happy man.”
So said Peter Gillespie as he shut up his Pet Sounds shop in Kelso for the last time on Monday after 25 years.
Better known locally as Pet Shop Pete, Mr Gillespie said of meeting the rock star in November 2008: “He was the man I most wanted to meet in the world and he came into my shop. He’s just a guitar god and was very unassuming.
“He was great, brilliant. He was here for about 20 minutes. He looked at a few bits and pieces and chose a guitar for Chris Miller’s (of the Junction Pool on the River Tweed) son’s 21st birthday and bought my most expensive acoustic electric guitar.
“He was just a normal bloke, you could tell he was a nice guy, as much as you can tell from somebody.”
Pet Sounds in Woodmarket is the only pet and music shop in the country.
“It’s a unique combo, there’s no other one in Britain apart from on the internet. It’s always been a talking point, which has been brilliant,” he said.
The guitarist started his career with three and a half years in the civil service in London during the Rhodesia sanction, when he monitored the movements of tankers and ships carrying crude oil
“I didn’t enjoy it, it was the same thing every day,” said Mr Gillespie.
He returned to Kelso, married Evelyn and started work at Neves as a wireman, working his way up to become production manager, before he was headhunted by digital company Tweed Audio, making sound mixers, before the company went bust.
He moved to Keltek as a line manager for four years before taking over All Pets in 1988.
“Close friends emigrated and decided to sell up, and offered it to me and it was the right time.
“I had had dogs and cats and budgies, the same as everybody else has.”
“In the early days my mum and my aunt both helped out in the shop and my wife loyally did the books for these past 25 years, and biggest thanks are due to my customers over that time.
“I’ve had lots of fun selling hamsters gerbils, rabbits, guinea pigs, canaries, budgies, finches, parrots and parakeets, with the odd tarantula and snake for good measure, “ he said.
All Pets became All Pets and Pet Sounds in 2003.
“It was partly due to a dip in the pet trade and partly out of my love for the guitar and music. I wondered what else could I do and thought, as there wasn’t a music shop in Kelso, that it might work, “ said Mr Gillespie.
The name is from the Beach Boys’ album and was suggested by his brother-in-law John Halliday.
Mr Gillespie enthused: “It’s a great name.”
He said: “I’ve enjoyed my 25 years here, I’ve managed to speak to just about every customer. We’ve had different musicians from everywhere, from Orkney to London, over the years. It’s been good.”
Mr Gillespie’s love of music dates back to Kelso High School. Aged 16, he made his own guitar and taught himself how to play, and to this day does not read music and plays by ear.
He and friends formed the school’s first electric guitar band in 1966, calling themselves Martha’s Vineyard.
And he went on to be part of a folk band playing at British Legions and village halls in the area during the 1970s.
He joined Kelso Folk Club within three months of it forming.
Mr Gillespie said: “I had a couple from Canada who got a booking at the folk club through me.
“They came in and told me who they were, they played in the shop and I told them about the folk club and a year later they got a booking.
“Music gets through to everybody, no matter what nationality. You can have somebody from any country come and play and basically they are speaking the same language.”
Mr Gillespie hopes to continue to sell, repair and restore instruments and amplifiers at home (www.petsoundskelso.jimdo.com).
He plans to continue playing badminton and indoor football and hopes to play more golf and taking up painting again, something he last did at high school.
Dog groomers are expected to take over the store in the new year.