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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 April 2006, 08:23 GMT 09:23 UK
Busker beats drink through blues
By Li-mei Hoang
BBC London

Stephen Petit
Stephen Petit has been busking for three years
A passion for blues has helped Tube busker Stephen Petit recover from alcoholism and put out his own album.

Describing his love for music as almost evangelical, Mr Petit regularly spreads the sound of blues music around stations on London Underground.

Mr Petit, 36, from Ladbroke Grove, west London, is among 400 buskers who provide more than 3,000 hours of live music every week on the Tube.

He had struggled with alcoholism in the early 90s, a period he describes as "dark times", but then things started turning around with a support slot for his idol Eric Clapton.

When Transport for London's busker scheme started three years ago, he saw it as an opportunity to emulate his heroes such as BB King and Robert Johnson to take blues to a wider audience.

He is particularly pleased with the response from youngsters using the Tube, with whom his work seems to strike a chord.

I feel the Underground is like a gig
Stephen Petit
"Down on the Underground, I know that the kids love it. They don't necessarily know what they're hearing but they certainly like it," he said.

And his work has won accolades from some music giants.

Clapton has described Mr Petit's music as "lovely" while Phil May, of the band The Pretty Things, describes Mr Petit as "amongst the best guitar players in Britain".

Now the musician is coming up from the Underground and into recording studios to spread the word further.

Mr Petit wrote, played and produced his album Guitararama, which has been described as a blend of blue guitars classics and new millennia chords and is only available online.

He said: "The reason I'm on the planet is to play blues guitar. I'm on a mission to spread the word about the blues and about the guitar especially to young music lovers."

But Mr Petit, who is still a regular fixture on the Tube, doesn't consider himself a busker.

"I'm a muscian who just happens to perform on the Tube. I treat it like a gig, it's the same as any other venue I might play".

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