It was Elton Hayes and Burl Ives who got me interested in folk music and singing to a guitar when I used to listen to Uncle Mac’s Children’s Favourites as a small boy. Elton Hayes played Alan-a-Dale in the original Walt Disney version of “Robin Hood” and composed some of the music. I was very taken with “Come Whistle My Love” and although I was only seven at the time I can still remember the tune clearly to this day. Poor Elton has a lot to answer for! In the early 60’s I was heavily influenced by Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan. They were exciting times. Dylan’s music in particular totally changed the rules for popular music. Before Dylan, we sang about the moon, June and tune. After Dylan we sang about injustice, nuclear holocaust and other adult themes.
It is difficult now to understand that segregation was still practiced in the USA, blacks were being killed by the Klu Klux Klan and we were all really scared that there would be a nuclear war. I was really worried when JFK was assassinated that the USA might think it was a Russian plot and fully expected to wake up the next day to find bombs being dropped everywhere. But it was also a time when we were coming out of a period of austerity, work was plentiful, and we believed we could change the world for the better. Perhaps we were naïve, but I’m sure it was healthier than the cynical acceptance that seems to be the hallmark of the new millennium.
I started singing in folk clubs and other venues. I heard Martin Carthy sing Scarborough Fair, rushed out and bought his first album, then pinched all the songs I could. It was really upsetting when Simon and Garfunkle also pinched it, and I dropped it from my repertoire. Soon I joined St. Albans Morris Men, having been introduced to Morris Dancing by the Headmaster, Mr. Trendle, at Earlsfied Road Junior School. Later I danced with English Miscellany and was responsible for teaching Morris Dancing for a few years.
I became a resident singer at the St. Albans Folk Music Club when Tim Hart and Maddie Prior left because their other commitments were too great (they had formed Steeleye Span by then) and performed at various clubs all round the country. We had a particularly good set of residents. Several groups and individuals playing clubs in their own right, and our “resident only” nights were a regular sell-out – often getting a better audience that the visiting artists. I have sung with Bert Lloyd, Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger, supported Steeleye Span, Boys of the Lough, and lots of other folk music legends, been on Radio, played at Sidmouth and other Folk festivals in the UK and in Europe. Later I joined Mike Ruff playing electric guitar in Celadon, a sort of hard-rock ceilidh band – along the lines of Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span but playing music mostly for dancing.
I eventually gave up for a while when I had two small children and I decided it wasn’t really fair to be out every weekend. In any case, the folk music boom that lasted through to the 80’s was coming to an end and the clubs were finding it harder to survive, so it became less fun. After a few years, when the kids were older, I went back to original roots and formed a blues band – Blues Junction.
Most recently, I have started performing Folk again - I've already done my first solo evenings for years, and have sung floor spots at The Bridge in Newcastle, and other local Folk Clubs. I’ve also got my concertina out of retirement. At the moment, I am planning to record an album of songs that I pinched from people that I performed with, and who are no longer with us, plus some that I have written myself.
Here are some of my recent performances, courtesy of the lovely guys at The Bridge: