THE NEWslETTER OF TIGERFOLK
July/August 2017 Edition
Tuesday 6th June hadn’t been a great day for me; I was due to meet one of our supplier’s technical engineers at our Wrexham factory at noon but as I had a small job to do there before that I had planned to set out early. My 6am getaway was delayed as I took pity on my youngest one who was due to start work at 7am and would have got drenched walking to Long Eaton in the pouring rain. Getting as far as Stoke in the rain I decided, unwisely, to go via the M6 for a junction and subsequently waited 30 minutes to get on the motorway. Last time I will do that! It was wipers on full for the rest of the journey and with the exception of one wrong turning I was there around 9am however due to an overnight crisis there was nobody available to accompany me around the factory at that point so I was ushered into the Training Room with my lap top until someone was free. That venue had to be the coldest place I have been in for many a day and the only view from the window is the newly built North Wales Prison; some members of the factory suggested that I might have been more comfortable there! My meeting with my engineering friend went well and I eventually got the bit of work done that I had planned and as it was approaching 3pm I went for a quick exit to beat the rush hour traffic around Stoke. Just time for a sneaky look at Facebook before I left and the first message that I read chilled me to the bone. It had been posted by our Birthday guest Dave Burland who was telling everyone how shocked and saddened he was to report the death of his good friend Vin Garbutt.
I was aware that Vin had been in hospital for a heart operation but I was also aware that he had been home after a second visit and like everyone else I was looking forward to reading about his recovery; certainly not the news that I could see before me. Naturally every folk music outlet available was full of tributes to Vin from his friends and fellow performers, those who made up the capacity audiences who flocked to his gigs and those who had only recently discovered him and who were curious to learn more; like one of the lines from one of his songs “not a bad word against them I’ll tell”
I first became acquainted with Vin back in 1972 although his reputation preceded our first meeting; I had been aware for some time that there was this upstart from Teesside, a member of The Fettlers, who was making serious inroads into the North East scene and making a name for himself around Tyne and Wearside. However trying to get to see him live was proving to be a bit of a chore as work, prior commitments and holidays seemed to get in the way; then STF&B pulled off a master stroke by booking both Vin and The Fettlers within a few weeks of each other and so I was able to appreciate the man at close quarters! Apparently I was known to him as well since I had made mention of his debut LP in the “Sunday Sun” only I had added the word “the” to the title “Valley of (The) Tees” but once that we had laughed than one off we found that we got along very well.
As his reputation was accelerating we booked him at the following year’s Hexham Festival and by 1974, when the Festival had moved to South Shields, he was up there at the top of the bill and by this time he was well established as a National figure of the folk scene. Surprisingly then the following year when he made his Cambridge Festival debut his appearance on the main stage was not the overwhelming success that I expected it to be. Possibly because he was following the local hero Richard Digance or maybe his unique delivery caught the festival regulars off guard I don’t know? Certainly the next day in the Traditional Song/Club Marquee he went down a storm and thus justified the Cambridge committee in booking him which eventually led to the controversy that has dogged him for the rest of his time.
Firmly established as a major player on the folk circuit bookings now came in from all parts of the country as well as tours abroad; he also kept up a constant stream of albums all with brilliant titles such as “The Young Tin Whistle Pest”, “King Gooden” and “Shy Tot Pommy”. It was also quite easy to continue catching up with Vin’s performances once that I had moved to the East Midlands as he was heavily in demand down here and I even managed to book him at The Red Lion, Kegworth while the club was operating there.
Up to this point while Vin’s introductions could have you in stitches many of his songs were seriously thought provoking dealing with subjects like the environment “Slaggy Island Farewell”, “Photographic Memory” or lack of neighbourly care “Cissy Lee” but he was now moving onto commentating upon world politics speaking out about various atrocities around the globe, condemning the reasons behind entering the Gulf War and the treatment of migrant workers among other subjects all of which found a home with his audience. Where he did touch a nerve however was with his anti-abortion stance with songs like “Little Innocents” and “The Secrete” which saw walk outs occur at concerts, especially at Cambridge Festival one year. This was mentioned in many of his obituaries where it was stated, and Cambridge organisers hotly deny the suggestion, that caused him to be banned from future festivals. Some even went as far as to say it was to cause a significant decrease in the work that he received around the folk world. I would take issue with such a supposition as in many interviews with Vin he would declare that when touring in the UK he tried not to do more than three consecutive gigs as he didn’t want to spend too much time away from home; also in the latter years he was working more at festivals, arts centres and smaller theatres that folk clubs.
Then there were the health scares that were unfortunately becoming more frequent and which were causing him to take more time away from performing. About ten years ago he returned to Stainsby Festival following a long time away due to what turned out to be a most serious health issue but being Vin he built his entire performance around it leaving the audience aching with laughter but still able to give him a standing ovation.
Despite this item of controversy, and I’m sure that he would have acknowledged that if you stick your head above the parapet then be prepared to be shot at, Vin remained one of the good guys on the folk scene. He never forgot his roots and he always was ready to help aspiring performers wherever he could; he always had time for his followers even if sometimes your conversations might be rudely interrupted by middle – aged women barging in between you as if you were monopolising their property!
Vin will prove to be irreplaceable but we are left with some great songs and wonderful memories – thank you for those old friend.
Letters to the Editor
Regarding your question about talking while someone is performing; I think it’s more to do with respect than rules.
It is disrespectful to the artist (whether they be amateur, the support or the main act) and the audience who are there to hear the music. I can understand if it’s a free gig at a pub with the general public there but at a folk/music club or paid gig there are usually places to go if you wish to talk.
I went to see The Bad Shepherds and some women made a point of getting near the front of a standing gig and then proceeded to talk at a volume while they were playing; one of them actually turned so her back was to the stage! It’s even worse when people have had a drink or two because they don’t register their own volume.
Anyway, stick to your guns.
Sunday 2nd July 2017
Some long years ago we last had Will Duke and Dan Quinn from Sussex as our guests. For several years now there has been a personal dialogue going on between myself and our Booking Supremo, John, along the lines of: Me: When are you going to book Will Duke? John: I'm trying, I'm trying! Well, he's finally succeeded. I count myself as very lucky in that I generally get to hear Will singing, if not playing the concertina, at least twice a year, in small singing weekends, but it will be the greatest treat to end our summer season with a whole evening of songs and tunes from him. If you haven't heard Will's deadpan delivery of certain comic ballads (e.g. The Long Moan) you don't know what you've been missing. Don't miss this night
(Will looking pensive during the Dorset Singing Weekend, 2014)
Sunday 4th June 2017
What a lovely night – quite different to Tigerfolk’s usual format and what a character – local Long Eaton lad made good, honed by the craggy rocks of the Yorkshire Dales and latterly imbibed with the magical air and scenery of the Scottish Highlands. Bob has soaked up these influences and his performance on our June night was a heady concoction of memories, tales music and song, describing a time in his life when his name and that of Mr Fox, his group, became noted in the same bracket as other Folk rock outfits of the early 70s such as Steeleye Span. Though Mr Fox’s longevity was nowhere near that of their contemporaries and they never had commercial success, what the left in their wake was a highly individual sound and wonderful lyrics describing people, places, landscapes and legends, mainly about the Yorkshire Dales – a distinctive mixture that brought a real sense of place and a rich portrayal of the characters that lived there.
It was this time and the years after when he teamed up with Nick Strutt who was also at Leeds Uni around the same time as him, that Bob recreated for us in full technicolour on our memorable June night to a healthy throng of largely old folkies (in the nicest possible sense!) including our very own Al Atkinson, who was at Night School the same time as Bob and Quentin Hood who played in the 60s with Bob as a duo. Both added to the evening notably – Al’s dark velvet tonsils embracing that fine song – Mullingar. Quentin gave us one of his own – Diesel on the Wind about the carving up of Gedling Country Park – with invasive developments. He gave me a copy of this some time back as a poem and I was delighted to hear it delivered as a song. Great stuff proving these veteran performers have still got what it takes. Hope we hear more from you lads in future! On the subject of floor performances all seemed to rise to the task on this night. It was a different format with no taster session, residents and floors singers first, then Bob for the rest of the evening. This helped Bob’s set flow and worked perfectly. Singing and choice of material from the floor was excellent. John Bentham kicking off with Brian Dawson’s Medicine Jack made me smile, thinking of our sadly missed friend from Lincolnshire. Dave Sutherland sang Sweet Thames Flow Softly in exemplary fashion – nicely paced to bring out the wonderful imagery and Sheila’s story was added to by Bob playing his whistle or flute. Indeed the story came from Bob and Scotland. Paul Mansfield accompanied himself – very well - on fiddle for the first time at Tigerfolk, singing ‘I fell in love with the roll of her drum,’ from Scots fiddler Alisdair Roberts. Lyn Cooper and Phil Hind sang contrasting songs in their own distinctive style and I was very impressed by both Sam Stephens’ and Dave Walter’s offerings. Sam sang the Ripley Rattler - a local song from Rob Watson’s pen and Dave did Flowers of Town – a rarely hand updated take on Flowers o’ the Forest from our late founder Roy Harris. Both renditions suited to Sam and Dave respectively. I managed to squeeze in a Dorset version of Good King Arthur’s Days’. I thought it worth mentioning all the singing from the floor so that Deb would have just a bit more typing practice and because I was struck by the quality and individuality on the night, which complemented Bob Pegg’s performance just right.
So back to Bob and the songs and the man… he started by going back to his roots – he was born just down the road in L.E. - and this was the fourth and final gig of a little tour he had undertaken after being asked by clubs in Yorkshire to go back to his singing and songwriting days - these days he’s mainly story-telling with the odd song or tune. I was fascinated by his history: reciting a poem at the age of six at Methodist Church, his schooldays in Long Eaton, then Nottingham High School leading to Coffee Bars in Nottingham and introduction to folk music (El Toreador and The Bohemian in the early 60s). He had brought LP sleeves to illustrate his first trip to to Dublin, where he discovered the Clancy Brothers. Other sleeves were produced to illustrate his mid-60s influences then the Mr Fox album covers, from when he formed Mr Fox with his future wife Carole. This was fascinating stuff for me as I always knew he was a local lad. It was evident that he was enjoying going back over his old days and what made him turn into a performer of such distinctive and distinguished quality.
Stories about his songs followed one after another. Starting with the song Mr Fox which gave the band its name, a nice reminiscence about Bert Lloyd and his version of Reynardine gave Bob the impetus to create his own foxy epic, then further tales of staying in a farmhouse with Carol and a group of teens from Bradford, which led to him composing Wildman of the Hills about an eccentric character Ghillie, who cut down trees with an axe, which was all he owned apart from a sleeping bag! Then came THE HANGED MAN –the lyrics of which have haunted me over the years. Again this song came from a story, that of a hiker who fell from an overhang and was strangled by the straps of his rucksack. LEAVING THE DALES, his epic song of lost village characters and craftsmen followed, accompanied by his English Concertina. My old best mate and Tiger stalwart Andy Leith and I both loved this song and we would take turns using it over the years. It is so much ingrained in our souls that I even sung it whilst his son Lawrence scattered his ashes from Ringing Roger on Kinder Scout overlooking the valley of Edale. I’m glad that I got the chance at last to hear this fine song sung by its creator in the flesh. It was gripping and I hung on to every line of it. Indeed, I did so for the rest of the evening.
I was one of those, as was Andy, who picked up on Mr Fox in retrospect a few years after their extinction when I bought their two LPs re-released by Transatlantic as a special 2 for the price of 1 Double Album. I was transfixed by their sound so distinctive – with hints of different influences in the music accompanying the gritty, visceral lyrics that took you to the hills and dales. You met and seemed to see the characters that Bob wrote about, you smelt the grass, felt the wind in your hair and heard the old instruments the characters played – harmoniums, fiddles, lots of interesting percussion punctuating the sound – melodeons and much more with Bob’s clear diction singing out amidst this cacophony of sound. I thought it was wonderful. And to it witness it all stripped down to the bare bones by its creator on this night was absolutely fascinating.
I’m late with this review (sorry Dave) but I knew I had to do it justice. John asked me months ago if I’d like to and I purposely didn’t ask if Bob would be doing the Yorkshire material and the songs he sang with Mr Fox. I just hoped he would and was delighted when he did.
His partner musically after Mr Fox was one Nick Strutt – a compelling man full of stories himself. I delighted in his company some years ago at the home of his later musical partner, Brian Golbey. I found this man great company but sadly I’ve never heard the albums he did as a duo with Bob, so I must rectify that. Especially on hearing such gems as ‘Instructions to a Young Lark Man’ and ‘The Stone Head’ where Bob imagines himself to be an old Ancient Stone (which actually exists near Keighley) – he portrays it as an old Celtic God that people felt needed to be fed but this old Stone Head had no need of sacrificial offerings THE LAST DANCE I think I have heard of before – what imagination! - the Methodists finally going wild and letting their hair down! Aunt Lucy Broadwood again I knew, as Bob said this could have been the first folk rap song. THE WEREWOLF OF CHAPELTOWN - released as a single with Nick Strutt – became the Melody Maker folk single of the Year and some other journal nominated it as the most obscure single of the Year! Bob was visited by the Police after its recognition in relation to the Yorkshire Ripper case! Other dark, gothic material came in the form of KING DOG ABOUT Carol’s experiences with a Black Arts circle. The final Tour De Force was Bob’s epic (15 minutes long) The Gypsy – another gem which is absolutely gripping. I could enlarge but I’ve written enough - suffice it to say it’s entrancing as a story – LOOK IT UP.
Another one that Andy Leith was absolutely besotted with and would trace the place names mentioned in it on his later hiking trips. That’s how Bob’s Sense of Place material gets to you!
Finally we had another and possibly the most well-known song as an encore. The brilliant Rise Up Jock – a mumming play in a song, Death, Resurrection, Winter into Spring and all that. Again my relation to this song is strong, having sung it many times and used it my work in schools. Thank you so much, John and Sheila, for bringing us this fine man and talented singer, musician and storyteller. I’m off to discover his later work. I’ve started already with his CD bought on the night about Scottish Legends (Two Worlds) and I must look up those albums with Nick Strutt.
This was a night that TATT was made for – I won’t forget it ever.
Well, Dave “Statler” Sutherland, you and I are men of the same kidney (but as we have been knocking around this club together for a couple of decades I guess that comes as no surprise). And, yes, the behaviour of some is abhorrent to many of us. Not only at venues but in life generally as the following will illustrate.
A well-attended memorial concert a couple of years ago, so full in fact that the organizers had to open the balcony where we obliged to sit was eagerly anticipated and as it was for charity there was a feeling of well-being in the air. A grand view with a line-up of artists to match and everyone was looking forward to an enjoyable evening when…………..In trooped 7 or 8 people who, thankfully, positioned themselves some distance away from us. All through the first half they were noisily devouring goodies, talking or disturbing people around them by getting up leaving their seats and going outside. I felt sorry for the folks seated nearby and there were many a muttering taking place at the interval. The concert, however, was proceeding nicely with some excellent performances enjoyed by all but a certain party and the atmosphere was building throughout the first half and on into the second. Still we endured the behaviour from the aforementioned but when the penultimate artists came on stage everything changed. There was not a peep, a word, a rustle of paper, a leaving of seats. No, they had come for this 20 minutes and how they loved it but as soon as the singers and musicians left the stage they upped and left the theatre in not a quiet way either. Relief at last for the long suffering punters who had been nearest to them but there was a downside for the performance that they had come for was quite the worst of the night and this was the opinion of a number of attendees and not just mine. The atmosphere just evaporated away and what was to be a rousing finale only just managed it thanks to the latent talent that was on stage. I would hazard a guess that the disruptive element were new to the folk world and maybe hadn’t been to a folk club but if they had, I pity that club. Tigerfolk along with any number of other well organized clubs prides itself, as do they, on the way the nights are run and long may it continue.
Now I’m no saint and yes, as I’ve approached traffic lights and they have turned to amber I have gone through. But on my way down to my allotment I have to cross a busy main road junction controlled by traffic lights. Waiting patiently for the green man, it is amazing how many vehicles go through those lights when they have turned red. It is not unusual to have to wait for traffic to pass even though the pedestrian lights are in your favour. Are people colour blind or is red the new green?
Finally, a car park that we use regularly about 4 months ago changed from issuing tickets for a set time to payment on exit. So much easier and simpler to use apart from motorists who can’t read the instructions. It is not unusual for people to ask you what do they do or that they have put money in and are confused when a ticket doesn’t drop into a non-existent slot for them. There is surprise and concern on their faces and when you explain the new system they wonder out loud how does it know how long they have been in the car park. It is only a matter of time before my explanation will be that there are two blokes in anoraks noting down their car number in a big car spotters limited edition book and they yell to their mate when you are leaving who is sitting inside the ticket machine and he works out how much is owing.
Enjoy your summer
And finally…………………………………..it is not every day that you celebrate your Ruby Wedding and the actual date falls on the night of our next meeting. As much as I would like to be with you it would be a bit of a journey to get from our place of celebration to Long Eaton therefore I hope that you all enjoy the excellent evening that Will Duke will provide. Don’t forget that we will not be meeting during August but we will be back on Sunday 3rd September with our usual Welcome Back Singaround. Have a great summer.
SEE YOU AT THE STUMBLE INN!