the band

John Montague (guitar, vocal and jokes)

John was inspired by the wonderful music of the 60s. He learned guitar from the songs of the Beatles and the Kinks and the other amazing bands of that period. He carried this legacy through the next two decades, gaining valuable experience on the cabaret and function circuit.

In the early 1990s John became a full-time musician, performing throughout the UK and Europe and by the millennium was playing and recording in Nashville. As well as performing, John has expanded into music production and an online guitar business.

Keen to share his talent and enthusiasm for the acoustic guitar, John runs an acoustic club in Leicestershire where beginners and pros alike can entertain themselves and others in a warm and responsive environment.

Over the past 20 years or so he’s developed a following in Germany which has enabled him to travel to that country, performing several times a year. This he does as a solo act, with German friends or with a couple of other bands that he leads.

John’s guiding principle at all times is that music should be fun.

Neil Mercer (mandolin, guitar and vocals)

Neil first began playing music in public in the 1960s in a Cumbrian rock band called The Norsemen, who supplemented their pocket money by playing in some of the roughest youth and social clubs on the west coast. As the folk music revival got under way, he switched with some relief to playing in folk clubs and took up the mandolin and pipes to add to the guitar.

As a student in Leicester in the 1970s he met fellow Borderline member Phil and they formed various lineups of the bands Lizard and Kites, supporting people such as Lindisfarne and recording for Polydor. Neil then returned to rock music, with the Leicester-based bands Random Incidents, Bill Blake and The Eternals and – playing trumpet for jumping jive – Big Monkey.

Relocating near Milton Keynes in the 1980s he played and wrote songs for drama documentaries with the Living Archive, and then (with Tim and Ian) formed Fat Freddy’s Cat and began also playing with John and Tim in the first incarnation of Borderline Crossing. He wrote the music for the BBC radio programme Women of the Vale and has played for a Labour Chancellor at 11 Downing Street. He now also plays with the Cambridge-based acoustic rock band The Corellis.

Tim Smith (bass and vocals)

Tim considers himself a lucky man to have been introduced to a very wide range of music from an early age at home and in later years to have been able be involved musically with so many hugely talented musicians who have become very good friends.

Bass playing fame started on a one string tea chest bass with Silas Stench and the Silage Heap Band, a band created for a show that morphed gently into one of the few Bluegrass bands in the UK in the mid 70’s – the Leicester based The Dunes Boys. A progression to 4 strings on an electric bass then double bass followed and gigs ranging from barn dances to working men’s clubs (no noise during the bingo!)

In the mid 90’s a call from Neil Mercer raised Tim from a musical rest to take part in the Living Archive Band in Milton Keynes and a further call in 2001 to join Fat Freddy’s Cat with other MK based musicians including Ian Spratley.

Alongside this Tim played with John Montague, generally as part of a trio with Neil or Pete Turnpenney often popping over to Germany for good company and beer tasting. Occasional gigs and projects with others including the legendary Mick Smith refreshed a range of musical styles.

Retirement from the day job opened up the chance to work regularly with Bodgers Mate from 2007 and many years of musical mayhem and fun followed as functions and fireplace tours filled the calendar from Margate to Mallorca. The electric upright bass made its debut and has been instrument of choice since then.

Borderline Crossing, now including Ian and Phil, provides a more relaxed mix of concerts and tours built on long standing friendships and musical collaborations. Yes, it’s still fun to be involved!

Phil Riley (guitar and vocals)

Phil started out in folk clubs in the Midlands, doing his first solo gig when he was 16. He teamed up with Neil Mercer in (about) 1969, eventually releasing a single on Polydor in ’76 with a band called ‘Kites’. As a result of this, Pete Townsend, of The Who, signed Phil to his Eel Pie Publishing Company.

In 1982 Phil was signed by Virgin Publishing as a member of a fun ‘pop’ band ‘The Dots’ reaching the dizzy heights of number 96 in the charts with ‘Helen in your Headphones’. They didn’t get a second chance, sadly. Ah well. But if you’re really curious check out ‘Helen in your Headphones’ by The Dots on Youtube.

Phil took a break from music for a while but in 2006 bumped into Neil at an event run by mutual friend John Montague. The original spark was still there and Phil and Neil began collaborating again and in 2017 eventually finished recording the ‘LP’ they had started in 1976.

When not playing with Borderline Crossing, Phil and Neil enjoy getting back to their roots, playing their own folky stuff (when Monty isn’t listening.)  And when not playing with Neil or performing on his own, he loves getting together with everyone on Borderline Crossing gigs. Great musicians, great music and great company.

Ian Spratley (guitar and vocals)

Ian’s earliest performances began as a teenager, miming to The Beatles and the Everly Brothers, using his mum’s broom. It wasn’t until he was in his 40s that he finally ditched the broom and joined a four-part acappella group, The Elderly Brothers, followed by a stint with Loose Covers, a covers and functions band.

In 2001 he joined Neil and Tim in Fat Freddy’s Cat, a mandolin/acoustic guitars/accordion/upright bass band, playing a wide range of music in a ‘loose’ Tex-Mex/Blue Grass style. Fat Freddy’s Cat were well regarded in and around the Milton Keynes area playing a variety of venues including The Stables.

In 2010 he retired from performing to spend more time at home with his cancer. An unfortunate side-effect of the cancer surgery was that Ian lost his voice. Although no longer performing, he continued to hang around with the other band members. In 2014 he helped to set up a ‘singing for better breathing’ choir for people with long-term lung and heart disease. In 2015, after extensive vocal cord surgery, he regained part of his singing voice. With support and encouragement from the others, he began to perform again and later that year John invited him to join the expanding Borderline Crossing line-up for a tour of Germany.