I have been involved in folk music for over four decades,
and have lived and sung on Tyneside for 33 of them. I first got interested
as a student in Sheffield in the 60s, and of course bought a guitar in order
to learn some songs. Eventually some people paid me to sing, based in Sheffield
and then Kingston, where I was involved in the Fighting Cocks club along
with people like Rod Stradling, Arthur Knevett, and Paddy Marchant.
I realised that I'd never be able to do what
Nic Jones and Martin Carthy were doing with the guitar, I took up concertina,
and got more gigs! I was also on a couple of classical folk recordings of
the 1970s, but always had a day job, which restricted how much music I could
do (at least, that's the reason I choose to give!) I moved to Tyneside in
1974, and whilst I'd sooner have gone to Delph, the music up here has been
phenomenal. I played with the Trimdon Folk band for a bit, then got in with
the Gosforth crowd (Jim Mageedan, Alan Fitzsimmons), and later was asked to
join the High
Level Ranters, after Ali Anderson and Tom Gilfellon left. I enjoyed that immensely,
especially the Australian Tour of 1981, and continued to play with Johnny
Handle in his various bands for many years. In 1986, to coincide with the
first Newcastle Tall Ships Race, I helped
set up the Keelers, the renowned Tyneside shanty group, which
went on to do a lot of work in Poland, Germany, and other parts of Europe,
and which continues to thrive, of course. A
notable offshoot of the Keelers was "Pinch of Salt", a sub-group formed to
record the sea poems of Cicely Fox-Smith put to music, as "Seaboot Duff an'
Handspike Gruel". I have also used the keyboard
to extend my repertoire, I do more contemporary songs, (Keith Marsden, Graham
Miles, Terry Conway) and I anjoy playing fiddle regularly at sessions! Other
claims to fame are as a dance band musician in inumerable Tyneside bands,
and producer of several "folk shows". These started with "The Tale of
Ale", Vic Gammon's product of 1970, which I adapted to Tyneside later
in the 70s.
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