JOHN Verity began his music career in the early 1960s, playing in local groups around his native Bradford.

"You could work every night of the week in a band in those days," he says. "If you walked down the street with a guitar case people looked twice at you - you were something."

He went on to join Argent, whose hits included Hold Your Head Up and God Gave Rock and Roll to You, and supported the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Canned Heat.

Next week John is back on home turf, showcasing his new album, My Religion. Recording and touring - "I tour constantly, it's why I became a musician," he says - 2016 has been one of his busiest in recent years. He's still at the top of his game, playing music that is as passionate and soulful as you'd expect from one of the country's leading blues guitarists.

“People turn up at gigs who’ve been following me since the late 60s. They get disappointed if we don't do the crowd-pleasers, but we put a fresh twist on them. What I’ve always tried to avoid is the ‘chucking it all in together’ thing some artists do, when you perform the hits in a medley and end up throwing them away," says John. “When we do Argent’s Hold Your Head Up it’s a three-piece arrangement. We don’t just chuck it about.”

John initially joined the Richard Kent Style, which later became Tunnel. It was while on tour promoting an album with the John Verity Band that he was spotted by Rod Argent, seeking a new vocalist for his band. John joined Argent in 1973 until they disbanded in 1976.

“When I first started playing, back in the 60s, I wanted to be Hank Marvin," he says. "I learned songs like Walking the Dog, but I didn’t realise it was blues. A lot of people became my heroes without me really noticing. Then I got into blues seriously. My biggest hero was BB King. In America we were a British white group so we got called ‘rock’ not ‘blues’. People like labels.”

He spent several years in recording studios around the world; producing, playing guitar and singing backing vocals with acts as diverse as Motorhead, Ringo Starr, BowWowWow and The Searchers.

In 1981, back living in Yorkshire, he recorded a comeback album, Interrupted Journey. Mike Rutherford of Genesis wrote three songs for John’s next set of recording sessions, and both Keith Emerson and Greg Lake used John on recording projects.

“In the 80s I was working mostly in production," says John. "I ended up living in America in the early 70s and opened shows for a lot of big acts. I was a lad from Bradford in the middle of it all - a big venue for me would’ve been St George’s Hall and my first gig in America was to 11,000 people! It was a real culture shock. It was a strange time in a lot of ways; there was a lot of musical excess against a background of fear. Kids had the draft hanging over them, and the prospect of ending up in Vietnam. One day they were long-haired hippies, the next their heads were shaved and they were sent off to fight."

John has his family entertainment heritage to thank for his love of music and performing. "My mum's dad was in vaudeville, the family went from music hall to music hall with him and she went to a different school each week. When I first wanted to get on the stage, she mentored me in stagecraft. I was a spotty teenager, staring at the floor. Mum used to say to me: 'If you don't enjoy it, the audience won't'."

"Dad was the musical side, he was in a brass band. There were other guitarists in Bradford that were much better than me, but I knew how to perform, thanks to my parents."

My Religion has been released in vinyl. “I dug out a lot of my old vinyl recently, I’d written on the album covers as a young man," he says. One of the tracks on the album, Farkhunda, was inspired by the death of a 27-year-old woman in Afghanistan who was killed by a lynch mob after being falsely accused of burning the Quran. It is accompanied by a striking, thought-provoking video. "I was in a hotel in Germany and put the news channel on,

and I was shocked by a report about this young woman," says John. "I didn't want her to be forgotten.

"The title of the album comes from having a dig at religion in some of my songs, although it's never nasty. Musicians of my age often talk about the 'big gig in the sky', when you get to play with your heroes. In My Religion I sing, 'I wanna sing some soul with Aretha and stand on the stage with BB King'. It became the title track."

He's looking forward to next week's Bingley gig, and is heartened by how much younger audiences are embracing blues. "Blues-flavoured music attracts younger crowds now, it's great," he says. "At blues festivals you get lots of young people in the audience and playing on stage.

"I prefer intimate venues, I always have. In arenas I'd imagine people being in one corner, then in another, just to try and make a connection."

* John Verity is at Bingley Arts Centre on Friday, November 11. For tickets call (01274) 519814.