By the early 70's, the folk revival had turned into a way of life for the many thousands of followers in the country, and it seemed that in Coventry a thriving folk club could be found in every other street corner pub.
We may have moaned about the cost of living then, but the fact was that many brilliant artists would come and do guest spots for a fee that didn't break the pockets of club organisers, who in turn were able to charge admissions that didn't break the pockets of audiences. And audiences were large. Ex-devotees of the mid 60's cultural revolution, fans of Dylan and Paxton, new enthusiasts of the renovated traditional cultures, contemporary music lovers hanging on every word of the many singer songwriters who were around, poets and philosophers a like, could now choose and visit many clubs to suit all tastes.The number of 'Singers' clubs and sessions, though high, were by today's standards overshadowed by the thousands of clubs in Britain, that could provide a name act almost every week, complete with host, floor singers and raffle in the interval.
It will be impossible to cover the early 70's in one article with any depth, so many omissions now should should hopefully be dealt with in issue 7. I started getting involved in the Coventry folk scene myself, late in 1973, so I'll be able to rely a little on my own precarious memory. However i am indebted yet again to Dave Coburn for his invaluable help. (Dave was at this time more involved than ever in the running of key clubs in the city.), and also to somebody who, to my knowledge, contributed more than anyone towards the local folk scene and the bringing together of of artists at the excellent venues he organised -
John, for those who are wondering, is alive and well and still occasionally pops his head round the door at the Pitts folk club. A brief run-down of his folk career will give an idea of the variety of clubs that existed in and around the city, for John organised or helped to organise, no less than seven folk clubs. Before any of those, however, he first got involved by becoming a regular singer at
Napton Folk Club
and he is featured on the limited edition (100 copies) LP Napton Folk, http://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/various_artists_f2/napton_folk_club/ on which he played the classic version of 900 Miles. Also on the record were Dave Bennett, to whom the sleeve notes attributes what must be 27 fingers, playing the Men of Harlech, Sean Cannon, singing Lark in the Clear Air, and Dainty Davy, Margaret Harvey, Dave Norton, and club host Tony Johnson (nick-named 'The Mouth') because of his ability to stun a rowdy audience with soundwaves when requesting them to keep quiet! The cover in fact features a cartoon of the same mouth with the entire club ensconced within!
EARLY MORNING RAIN - TONY (JOHNSON?)
MEN OF HARLECH (TRAD) - DAVE BENNETT
900 MILES (TRAD) - JOHN DRITTLER
LARK IN THE CLEAR AIR (TRAD) - SEAN CANNON
CIRCLE GAME - REG BIRKIN
THE FIRST TIME - TONY (JOHNSON?)
THE OLD MAN’S TALE - DAVE NORTON
QUEEN OF HEARTS - MARGARET HARVEY
DAINTY DAVY - SEAN CANNON
DARK AS A DUNGEON - REG BIRKIN
By 1973, John, with neighbour Dave Bennett, had got another club going for a few months at the Rose and Woodbine in North Street, a venue to be used later by Dave Cooper. The following year, John first introduced folk to the local biking community by helping to start a club at the Antelope Motor Cycle Club near the Butts.
Sean Cannon, Dave Bennett, Malcolm Neal, Mick Stuart, Pete Rigg and Rod Felton are all regular performers and very often the organisers are faced with too many floor singers and too little time - a very healthy sign."
The article refers to guests booked at the club, including Diz Dizley, The Ian Campbell Folk Group, Barry Skinner, Andy and Janet and One Day Thomas. The club also featured the first local performance of 'Up and coming singer- guitarist" Chris Newman, now working with Fred Wedlock.
|The Grange Folk Club (GEC Stoke)|
For a quick run down of what else was happening in the Coventry folk scene, the following list of clubs may bring back some interesting recollections from readers;
At the same pub on Fridays, but called the Owl Folk, was the club hosted by Clem McHale. This club tried to feature as many areas of folk music as possible and booked occasional guests.
Monday, still a popular night at the Village Pump, a long running club mentioned in the first part of this series, which featured dancing and was hosted by Magic Rantabout.
|From Broadgate Gnome|
Another long running club was the Rocky Road folk club which met at the Bear Inn, High Street on Sundays and featured mainly Irish and Scots music. The resident singer, Billy Davoren.
The Bedworth Folk Club used to meet on Tuesday nights at the Woolpack Inn, hosted by Pete and Malc. The club now meets at the corner house, Bulkington on Thursdays.
|Early pic of Down Country Boys|
By the mid 70's clubs had opened also at the Climax, the Forty Thieves, Hertford Arms, Gosford Park Hotel, Navigation Inn, the Cheylesmore and a whole host of other places.
Many of these clubs were able to book guests and still survive, at least for a while. Apart from the many local acts who received bookings and return bookings, such as the Grunt Band, Mick Stuart, Sean Cannon, Pete and Sheila Rigg, all of whom are featured just as much in local clubs today, were often treated to appearances of Diz Dizney, Derek Brimstone, Ian Campbell, Gerry Lockran, Cliff Augier and the like, who sadly do not play in the area so frequently, as there are decidedly less clubs which could afford top run regular folk nights of that nature.
So to conclude, here is an appeal. If there is anybody who would like to risk his resources to open, say, a Friday or Saturday night club in the Centre of Coventry, booking such guests to appear, and if there is any pub landlord who would offer the venue, without charging the organiser for the privilege, there would be a lot of people, I'm sure, who would make a point of supporting that club, thus bringing back the spirit of folk that existed in the late 60's and early 70's.
Next issue, i hope to go into more detail of some of the clubs mentioned above. Any helpful information is most welcomed.