Friday, October 25, 2013

FOLK AT THE PITTS HEAD - COVENTRY


03/16/2007 (transferred fromthe Hobo Vox blog - now closed)

FOLK AT THE PITTS
CLUB REVIEW FROM COVENTRY'S FOLKS MAGAZINE NOV/DEC 1978 BY PETE WILLOW


The club is thriving as ever, recent guests being Mick Stuart, who included a lot of early blues and ragtime pieces

Folk at the Pitts with Mick Stuart playing that we don't often hear him play. He coped admirably with some
wild, but enthusiastic chorus singing from the audience. That was October 2nd. A fortnight later we had Kevin Demsey playing to packed room, having arrived at ten because of having to cope with football match traffic on his way back from his guitar class in Kenilworth. Kev was as good as ever, supported in some numbers by Dave Cooper. Dave Bennett was guest on October 30th and again the room was crowded after initial fears that some might be tempted to stay and watch Monty Python which was on the box that night! It was good to see Dave doing two excellent spots (or blemishes) instead of just hearing him play just the occasional number in between others acts at the Dyers Arms. All three acts will definitely be re-booked to appear in the near future.

Singer's nights have had a good atmosphere lately although it would be nice to see more singers and audience there. We usually find that the first hour is shared only by two or three singers and then by 9.30 we have to fit a lot in. Nevertheless the standard of the music is very good, but that's no surprise when regular singers include Mick Stuart, Pete Rigg, Rod Felton etc.


TIME TABLE FOR THE NEXT FEW WEEKS IS AS FOLLOWS -

Nov 13th - Black Parrot Seaside - innovators of Dull Wave, a shattering new artform as portrayed by this trilogy of combined etherialism, cosmic musicology and silly poetry.

Nov 20th - Singers Night / Workshop

Nov 27th - Tom Patterson and Dave Moreton, talented duo from Birmingham, specialising in traditional style music and original songs. Tom, born in Newcastle, plays guitar and sings and Dave plays some good instrumental guitar. They also play classical material. Visitors last year to the Woolpack Folk Club in Rugby may remember Tom as an occasional floor singer of unsurpassed excellence.

Dec 4th - Singers night / workshop.

Dec 11th - Special concert night featuring Inchiquin. A new local band with impressive line up; Lernie MIlhone Vocals, guitar, whistle. Cathie Keenan - Vocals, guitar, keyboards. Pat Kiely - fiddle, guitar, banourria, meleodian. Brendan McGranaghan - Mandolin, Bouzouki, guitar. Tommy Connolly - step dancing, whistle, fiddle. John Freeman - bass, vocals, guitar, mandolin.

Dec 18th - Party Night.

Dec 25th - Closed for Christmas.

Jan 1st - Closed for New Year Hangover!

Jan 8th - Gibb Todd (To Be Confirmed).

Folk at the Pitts meets every Monday Night at the Pitts Head, Far Gosford St. Coventry. The club is usually run on an informal basis with no stage or PA system. Admission being 30p each evening. December 11th will be an experimental concert night, using a stage and PA with admission being 50p. If the concert is successful, we'll probably try three or four a year, booking name acts.

Pete Willow

More of these editorials about the Pitts head can be found in the pdf copies of Folks magazine which can be found on this site.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Bull's Head Folk Club



THE BULL'S HEAD FOLK CLUB - BRINKLOW - COVENTRY 1978
Article from FOLKS magazine Issue 4 Nov / Dec 1978 by Pete Willow and Jane.


http://bullsheadbrinklow.co.uk/
Brinklow fortnightly - Friday Nights -

The club opened on Friday 13th October, which far from being unlucky, proved to be an excellent singers
night with some high quality music being played to a packed room. Singers included Mick Stuart, Rod Felton, Al Wright, Pete Willow and Mick Tiernan. All in all a promising start for the club and it's nice to see that interest hasn't waned since the opening night.

On the 27th the guests were Pete and Sheila Rigg and the room was full to capacity, so that we had to put up Full House signs by 9.30pm! The atmosphere was very relaxed with Pete and Sheila on top form, playing some of their classic numbers, including Coalsmoke, The Owl and the Pussycat, He was Craze and some nice solo performances by each of them. Sheila singing her beautiful version of For Free and Pete playing an excellent ragtime guitar piece called Grace and Beauty. The variety of instruments they'd bought with them, mix and seven string guitars, mandolin, quindolin and double bass, meant that they'd had to ensure that thirty five strings were in tune before they began their set!

Some nice floor singing that evening included singer-songwriter Steve (Ollie) Barson, Maurice Kenny, Rob Armstrong Jill from Stafford and the very talented Karen Kileen from Nuneaton Folk Club, who, at ten years of age, must be the youngest folk club organiser and singer in the country.

We're very thrilled with the way the club has progressed so far and we're grateful to all musicians, singers and audience who have made it so successful. More superb evenings to come, we're sure, with Country Life appearing on 24th November (local trio with good arrangements of unaccompanied singing using traditional and modern material), Martin Jenkins (to be confirmed) on the 8th December and a Christmas Party on the 22nd December, featuring the New Modern Idiot Grunt Band, with food, goodies and a special Christmas prize for the raffle.

Into the new year, we have amazing Downes and Beer on January 5th. Floor singers are advised to come early if they want to play on this evening!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

DOWN COUNTRY BOYS

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together and welcome the Midland's first bluegrass band, the
Down County Boys”. There was a smattering of applause as the four twenty-something's launched into their first number in a seedy Coventry pub back in the mid Sixties."

The full history (and much more) of the Down Country Boys is on their website above.



Music Marathon, Coventry Arts Umbrella Nov 1969

How it all Started. http://downcountyboys.com/band-history/how-it-all-started-by-mike-rodgers/

The Original Down County Boys.     Mike Rodgers,  Martin Hollis,  Ken Harris, Andy Smith.
The Original Down County Boys.  
 Mike Rodgers,  Martin Hollis,  Ken Harris, Andy Smith.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together and welcome the Midland’s first bluegrass  band, the Down County Boys”. There was a smattering of applause as the four twenty-something’s launched into their first number in a seedy Coventry pub back in the mid Sixties. The band played their total repertoire of four songs to a generally appreciative audience and then they were off stage discussing who’d forgotten the words or chord changes or who’d sung the wrong harmony. Not the most promising start for Britain’s longest running bluegrass band who were regularly voted Britain’s best in the Nineties when the British Country Music movement got around to organising their annual beauty parades.

The fact is that the music played that evening wasn’t even bluegrass, although it was well on the way to becoming so. Within three or four years, the band would be playing the most authentic bluegrass music that any British band has played, then or since, and by the Seventies would have learned how to entertain an audience as well as perform this exciting music. The band personnel would constantly change, with three of those first four musicians leaving before the end of the Sixties. In fifty Four years of almost continual existence, the band would go on to employ thirty one or so musicians, one having lasted only a month whilst the longest serving band member has clocked up almost forty eight years and is still going strong.

The four musicians who stepped out on stage that cold January night in 1964 – Ken Harris, Martin Hollis, Mike Rodgers and Andy Smith – could not have imagined that for the next fifty two years, the band would be the pre-eminent British bluegrass band who took their music all over the country, winning countless admirers of their informal but entertaining style. That the band would be the automatic choice for a whole generation of BBC radio producers who needed a bluegrass band for their programme. That the band would, in varying degrees, affect the lives of all the musicians who passed through it’s ranks. That the band would do so much to raise the profile of this unique music in this country and would inspire numerous other budding musicians to have the courage to start playing.

But, above all, their wildest imagination could not have foretold that if you were today to ask any Country Music fan to name a bluegrass band, the overwhelming majority would say “ The Down County Boys”.

The next generation, L-R      Bob Bruce, Fiddle.   Brian Curtis, Bass. Ken Harris, Guitar.  Dick Newton, Banjo.    Mike Rodgers, Mandolin.
As the band’s name suggests, there is a Northern Ireland connection in that Ken Harris, the original guitarist and lead singer, lived in the County Down end of Belfast before he and his wife moved to Coventry in the 1950’s. Ken had been interested in American country music for as long as he can recall, collecting records and tapes in those early days and buying himself a guitar and learning the rudiments of playing the music. Not with thoughts of ultimate fame and glory but, as with most musicians, simply because they enjoy playing.

Martin Hollis lived in Coventry and in the early Sixties was studying for his accountancy qualification. He played guitar and got to know Ken Harris through Andy Smith. Ken persuaded Martin to bring his guitar along and they would spend many hours listening to LP records trying to discern the chords, or the guitar notes or the harmony lines.

By the autumn of 1964, Ken had decided to organise a country music club in Coventry where anyone could come along each week and see various solo singers and groups performing the music. The problem was that, in those days, it was unheard of for one act to play for a whole evening and so it was important to get as many different acts together as possible. The regulars who appeared on the first night of the club at the end of September comprised the Ken Reader Trio, an ‘electric’ country group, Martin Perdine, a sometime aspiring pop music singer who’d moved over to play country music and Andy and Janet Smith, a brother and sister act with excellent harmony singing.


Early picture of the Down County Boys. This was taken in the Hotel Leofric in Coventry. 1964
Ken had found a room at the Swanswell Tavern, a down market pub in a somewhat seedy part of the city. But it had a room with a stage and probably held about fifty people and it was ideal for this new venture in that it was easy to get to and it was cheap to hire.

Also present on the opening night, sitting in the audience, was Mike Rodgers, a friend of Ken’s who had that very week moved from Lincolnshire to take up a job as an accountant in Rugby. He played mandolin but definitely not for public display. But Mike knew about bluegrass music and, although Ken and Martin had heard of it, they did not initially have his knowledge or enthusiasm. Mike had discovered the music through listening to early morning radio broadcasts from the American Forces Network in Germany. The programme was called “ Hillbilly Reveille”, which played country music, or ‘country and western’ as it was then called for American troops stationed in Germany. But the important thing was that the signature tune was a bluegrass instrumental called “ Cedar Grove “ played by Bill Clifton’s band and when he first heard it, the sound of it just knocked Mike sideways. Like most people first coming across bluegrass music, it was the sound of the banjo that was mind blowing. How could anyone play that many notes in such a short space of time and live ??

Mike had met Ken the previous year in London at a concert where an American country music duo were performing and the two of them had kept in touch. In fact it was the prospect of being near to this country music scene in Coventry that persuaded Mike to take the job in Rugby. He’d started playing mandolin as it gave him something to do whilst he awaited the results of his accountancy finals.

Within a few weeks of starting the Swanswell country music club, it became clear that more acts would be needed and Ken decided that a nice trio performing acoustic music would be just right and so “ Ken, Martin and Mike” were launched onto the public. That wasn’t without it’s trials and tribulations as Mike was quite adamant that he was not going to play mandolin in public but he’d reckoned without the powers of Ken’s persuasion. For about the next four or five weeks they would learn three songs on a Sunday in Ken’s living room and perform them on the following Thursday. After that they started repeating some of the earlier songs and so gradually built up a repertoire. This was what might be called acoustic country music but Ken was by now realising that it did not offer as many possibilities as bluegrass music which he was by now getting quite serious about.

Andy Smith, who played each week at the club with his sister Janet was a good musician. He came from a musical family and had various uncles who played folk music. One branch of the family had come from Lithuania and the influence of such a musical family had it’s effect on Andy. Certainly, of the founding members of the band, he was the most natural musician and could play a number of instruments.

For several years he and Janet had played in the local folk clubs. He would play guitar in the normal         way, and she would play a guitar held out flat in front of her in the way that a dobro is held. The strings were raised and tuned to an open chord which she changed by the use of a steel in her left hand whilst she strummed away with the other hand. It was an unusual sound but the main thing was that it  worked.

In any event, the reason that they were well regarded around the clubs was their singing. Brothers, or in this case brother and sister, can usually harmonise well and they carried on this tradition. Their choice of music was mostly English folk music with the songs of Euan McColl and Peggy Seeger being particular favorites.

Andy was starting to become a very good banjo player and Ken wanted that sound to add to the trio sound that they already had. He persuaded Andy to join and after several weeks of rehearsal the band decided that they were ready to play in public. Introducing “Ken, Martin, Mike and Andy” was too much of a mouthful and the band had to have a name. Agreeing to a name naturally took much longer than learning the material and the band was still undecided by the time they were ready for their debut. One of the suggestions had been “ The Down County Boys “ for the reason that Ken, the lead singer and spokesman, originated from County Down in Northern Ireland, another was “ The Warwickshire Travellers “ which was thought to sound ‘bluegrassy’. Came the moment of their debut and Martin Perdine, who was to introduce them on stage, listens to all of the bickering backstage and finally declares “Well, I’m damned if I’m going to introduce you as the Warwickshire Travellers” so The Down County Boys it was

                                                                 (and still is).

By, Mike Rodgers.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tribute to Folk-Comedian Dave Turner - The original British comedy folk performer


This post, like many on here was originally the Hobo Vox blog 09/17/2008 and then archived on Typepad when that blog shut down. It's now on here! Dave Turner was from Nottingham but had close associations with the Coventry folk scene...Thanks to Carol Dickens some of the material here.

Tribute to Folk-Comedian Dave Turner - The original British comedy folk performer


"Now Maggie Thatcher tells me

You gotta make some money

If you want to live in this land of milk and honey

But honey dried up

and the milk's gone sour

It's very hard to make the bread without the flour

Sometime I wonder what I'm a gonna do

Cos there's only one wheel on my wheelie bin blues."

To the Tune of Eddie Cochran's - Summertime Blues

By Dave Turner (From his My Space - http://www.myspace.com/daveturnernottingham

Influential folk comedian Dave Turner, author of many hilarious clawpicked satirical songs, passed away at
66 early in  September 2008. "He was the original British comedy folk performer," says brother Pete Turner. Although Dave was from Nottingham, not Coventry, Dave had associations with the Coventry folk circuit and was a friend of Coventry's top folk artist and guitar maker -Rob Armstrong (known for his own comedy song via The Modern Idiot Grunt Band - duo with Rod Felton in the 70's. This a small tribute to man and his music and I do recommend you have a listen to some of Dave Turner's songs on the new My Space site - they are very well performed and hilarious! you can visit the site HERE .

As didn't know Dave personally, the material in this tribute has come from his partner - Carol Dickens and from his My Space site, but having listened to his songs on My Space, this is the passing of a very special comedy and folk talent who will be well known to many Coventry folkies.



FROM THE DAVE TURNER MY SPACE

TRIBUTES have been paid to a pioneer of the comedy folk scene.

Dave Turner, who died at the weekend aged 66, influenced the likes of Billy Connolly, Jasper Carrott
and Mike Harding during the 60s and 70s as one of the first folk musicians to introduce comedy into his live shows.

"There will be a bit of Dave that will carry on forever," says folk singer Fred Wedlock, the man behind the 1981 hit The Oldest Swinger In Town.



"They'll sing his songs forever and even if they don't sing his songs people will be listening to singers who were influenced by Dave. People like Jasper Carrot, Mike Harding and Billy Connolly. And myself."

Wedlock, who recorded two of his songs – The British Bobby and Robin Hood – met him in the mid-70s on the folk circuit. Click here!

"He stayed with me when he played in Bristol and I'd stay at his flat above a launderette in Hyson Green when I played in Nottingham."

He adds: "He wrote some very funny songs and he was a lovely, friendly, generous, gentle bloke. And a bit of a hippy, really."

Friends and contemporaries also included Jake Thackray, John Renbourn and Bert Jansch.

"He was the original British comedy folk performer," says brother Pete Turner.

Dave Turner was born in The Meadows and lived in Canada from the age of 10 -15. He worked as a miner for a number of years at Wollaton Colliery.

"He wrote songs down there," says Pete.

"I remember one about a pit pony that he looked after that he thought was being mistreated.

"But that was more of his serious ones. He was better known for his comedy songs.

"He started doing comedy folk on stage after listening to a record by an American called Jimmy Driftwood called Very Unfortunate Man."

He was already performing in folk clubs as part of a duet but was too nervous to go solo. During a gig at the Nottingham Folk Workshop in Heathcote Street in the early 60s, his musical partner left the stage.

"He said 'and now Dave will do a few solo songs'. He was bricking it," laughs Pete.

"But he did Very Unfortunate Man and everyone loved it. That was it."

As well as being a regular on the local circuit, Dave would tour the UK's folk clubs, playing the same clubs as Connolly, Harding and Carrott.

He also appeared on a bill with Tom Jones.

"Jasper Carrott banned him from the club he ran in Birmingham because he was too popular," says Pete.

Dave, who suffered ill-health from the early 90s, ran the Folk, Blues & Beyond night at the Running Horse for years and would introduce acts at the Golden Fleece's open mic night up until six years ago.

"About four years ago he contracted shingles in his right arm and, due to severe nerve damage, was unable to play the guitar again,"



And From Carol Dickens

Dave was a popular 'folk comedian extraordinaire' of the 60s and 70s, a friend and contemporary of Jake
Thackeray,  Fred Wedlock, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Anne Briggs, Billy Connelly and many more.

He supported some major bands of his era, including 'Spirit' and 'the Crazy World of Arthur Brown'. A brilliant self-taught guitarist and artist, he influenced many other musicians.
Later he ran 'folk, blues and beyond' at the Running Horse and at the Golden Fleece. He was still introducing acts at the 'Fleece' open mic night up until about 6 years ago. Sadly about 4 years ago he contracted shingles in his right arm and ,due to severe nerve damage, was unable to play the guitar again.

If anyone has any 'Dave Turner' stories to tell or photographs to show you can contact us on here and we'll pass a message on to Carol or you can leave a comment below.

41 mins of live Dave Turner




Comments




I knew Dave very well when we lived in Nottingham back in the late '60s. I tried a few years back to get in contact with Dave but I couldn't find any way to get hold of him, and now that I have just found this site I am really sad that he is no longer with us, and that I never will. I have many lovely memories of Dave, and a great deal of material about him including live recordings that I made of some of his performances. I will be most happy to expand on all this if Carol or anyone else who is interested would like to get in touch with me at peter@eastdevonfolk.org

Posted by: PeteJurassic | 01/07/2012 at 05:15 PM