Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Roger Williamson and East Light

There is a lot more about Roger Williamson on his site, Art, music, biography etc. http://rogerwilliamsonart.com/
Roger Williamson is a Coventry singer songwriter, musician and band leader, artist, author and occult Bookshop proprietor now living in Minneapolis.

Prominent both on the Coventry folk scene and band scene in the 1960's and 70's Roger now lives in Minneapolis and runs the Magus Book store. We first blogged about Roger on the former Hobo Vox site and Roger got in touch with us and sent us half a dozen tracks which were published both on the site and via The Broadgate Gnome's Gnome Label.

My first recollections of Roger Williamson was at the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club where he used to hang and often play, both in performance and informally in the coffee bar area. I was introduced to him by Esther Breakwell in 1970. In 1970 Roger's band East Light played Pete Waterman's progressive music Venue at the Walsgrave in Coventry. I used to do the door duty and help the bands set up for Pete at the Walsgrave and still have ticket for that gig with East Light. However Roger's musical journey began long before that as we hear in his biography -

Once Upon a Time 6 tracks by Roger Williamson from Coventry Music Scene on Vimeo.

Tracks on the above video of Roger'sCD Once Upon a Time in 70's

My first adventures into playing music were inspired by listening to rock and roll transmitted on Radio
East Light
late at night.  I would pick up this station on a home made crystal set when I was supposed to be asleep.   A couple of years later, probably around 1963, I would go and listen to bands on Wednesday nights at the Orchid Ballroom on Primrose Hill Street.  This was about the time of the Beatles release “With the Beatles” album.  I remember there was a large copy of the cover projected on the back of the stage.

There was also the Sombrero coffee bar next to Pool Meadow bus station which had the most amazing juke box.  This juke box was fabulous and I’ll never forget hearing Bo Diddly singing Pretty Thing.  This would have been around 1962.   I discovered a whole other world different from my upbringing.

In 1964 I played bass in a band called the Elements which included Paul Saunders on lead guitar and John Underwood on guitar.  After the Elements I played Bass for the Red White and Blues and then in 1966/67 left them to play bass for the Darkness.  The Darkness was originally going to be Alex Sun and the Darkness but Alex the singer dropped out.

There were great venues we played at, Chesford Grange on Saturdays, Plough on the London Road the Avonside Country Club and The Navigation Inn.  Chesford Grange was great on Saturday nights.  It had two stages, as one band took a break the second band came on.  This was all going on while ballroom dancing took place upstairs, all very bazaar.  After finishing at Chesford Grange around 11pm we would often move to the Avonside Country Club and play there until the early hours.

Began singing on the Coventry folk scene in 1967.  In 1969 I formed East Light with Paul Saunders  and we moved to London.  We played as East Light for a few months before Paul emigrated to Canada.  I continued to play in and around London folk clubs for the next few years until I joined a reformed Dando Shaft in the early 70’s with Martin Jenkins, Ted Kay and Bill Bones.  Martin Jenkins and I busked in the London underground to rehearse each others songs and earn a few bob.  This lasted for about six months until Martin Jenkins and Ted Kay moved back to Coventry.  I went back to the folk scene performing on my own until forming the Roger Williamson Band in 1974.

I moved to the USA in 1985.  I wrote The Sun at Night which was released in 1989 it was reprinted in Labyrinth: Tales of a Rite of Passage about a year later, Lucifer’s a Basic Handbook of Lucierian Sorcery in 1994 reprinted in 2002, Black Book of the Jackal in 2000 as a limited signed and handbound edition, this was released in soft cover in 2006, Calling up the Spirits was released a couple of years later, Howling at the Sky in 2002 and Lucifer Diaries in 2004.  Lucifer Diaries was released as a limited edition signed and numbered hardcover and as a softcover.  I released a limited edition compact disc “On the Arrival of the Machine and its Mode of Operation” in 2003 for which my son Luke provided the music.   Tarot of the Morning Star deck of 22 cards due to be released October 2007
1997 followed by

Opened Magus Books in September of 1992.

Broadgate Gnome (Comment from the former Hobo website on Vox 2007)

Ooo, I had forgotten all about the Sombrero, slightly more pop,,p,y crowd than the Ship's wheel and a Stoke Park annexe around 4.00.  Tried to be a bit like the London coffee bars and more or less succeeded. Chesford Grange was good music ,,very much a couples type of place though, mainly for those with transport as it was awful to get to and a sod to get back from if you couldnt get a lift,,,,no street lights, or pavements and having to walk past   cows.

In 2007 Roger Williamson contacted us via e mail after we had put up an initial post on his band East Light - and he sent us half a dozen tracks which will be uploaded here via You Tube. Roger Says in his e mail...

"I remember it being a wonderful and exciting time but then of course it was the 60's.  There were so many small folk clubs in the back rooms of pubs, The Fox and Vivian in Leamington, others in Warwick and Stratford and so many in Coventry.  Such a lot of talent as well June Tabor, Rod Felton, Martin Jenkins just to name a few.  It was a great time to grow up in. I have lived in Minneapolis for about the last 23 years and started Magus Books 15 years ago.  Magus is in Dinkytown next to the University Of Minnesota, Minneapolis on 4th Street SE, which is immortalized in BobDylan's Positively 4th Street.  He used to live across the street from the store.  I have written several books since moving here, The Sun at Night, set in London, The Black Book of the Jackal, Lucifer Diaries and Howling at the Sky.  These are all available from Magus or Amazon USA.  I recorded a limited edition CD, "On the Arrival of the Machine" a couple of years back which is myself reading some of my short stories set to music by my son

Roger Williamson - The Artist - Roger's Art Website http://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/r/roger/

Roger Williamson - Book Shop Owner
About Magus Books http://www.magusbooks.com/main/links.htm
Magus Books began business at high noon on September 1st, 1992 with the commitment of supplying new and used religious, metaphysical and thought-provoking books to the community at large.

You will discover upon inspecting our inventory that we do not subscribe to any one belief system, as we realize that what is right for one person's quest of self-discovery is not necessarily right for the next person. Therefore our selection of titles covers a wide range of material including Wicca, Buddhism, Hindu, Christianity, Islam, Alchemy, Voodoo, Santeria, Magic, Freemasonry, Tarot, Astrology, Palmistry, Dowsing, Mythology, Herbalism, Alternative Healing, Celtic Mythology, Norse Mythology, Native American, Psychedelic, UFO'S, Lost Civilizations, Martial Arts and other subjects.  We supply herbs, candles, oils, incense, tapes, compact discs and jewelry. Our focus has always been to develop individuality, to encourage interested parties to explore themselves and the environment, and to seek out our own untapped potentials.

Roger Williamson CD Once Upon a Time in the Seventies
Cover Art - A Strange Guitar by Roger Williamson
1.Shadows 2.End of the Night 3.Maybe 4. Big G 5.Shadows and the Urban Exile 6.Spellbound - Copyright Roger Williamson

Roger Williamson - Acoustic guitar and vocals
Delta McCloud - Lead guit. / backing vocals
Peter Locket  - Lead guitar
Danny Wilding - Flute

This version of Shadows in the Night by Roger Williamson was already on Youtube uploaded by Kathmandu56 and recorded 1980 "A Roger Williamson song we recorded in about 1980.  Roger singing with Vic on piano and Bryson playing far too much on the drums as usual, but ya gotta love him. Dead now of course as well as Vic."
This is another version of Shadows in the Night which Roger sent us in 2007 for the original Hobo site and which featured on his CD. Roger called the song just 'Shadows'

The End to the Night - Roger Williamson

Maybe by Roger Williamson

For a short while Roger Williamson played with the legendary Coventry folk band - Dando Shaft.
Visit Roger Williamson's site here - 

Listen to more of his songs Here http://www.reverbnation.com/rogerw

Other relevant pages of his website http://rogerwilliamsonart.com/?page_id=906&preview=true

On The Arrival Of The Machine And Its Mode Of Operation: An Occult Adventure

Roger Williamson is featured on The British Music Archive where you can find out more information and tracks. 

Thanks to Dave Cooper and Ted Kay's son for this photo of Roger with the reformed Dando Shaft c

Dando Shaft 1972 version with Billy Bones, Roger Williamson, Ted Kay and Martin Jenkins.

Roger Williamson's earliest band from the early 60's - The Tears. From left to right John Wright drums, Paul Saunders lead guitar, Roger Williamson bass.

Sunday, September 11, 2011



This was Martin Jenkins new band after Dando Shaft. Martin had played with Mathew's Southern Comfort - From Hobo Magazine 1973

"Mathew's Southern Comfort has, I'm told, been graced with the talents of Coventry's Martin Jenkins, late of the Coventry band Dando Shaft. Martin, who has writen some incredible songs including Whispering Ned, Waves Across the Ether) and plays Mandolin, flute and fiddle (etc.). Martin has been featured as a guest on a previous Southern Comfort tracks" 
Martin Jenkins. Photo Copyright of Dave Trinder

Martin Jenkins (ex Dando Shaft) - Mandolin / guitar / fiddle / flute / banjo / vocals

Barry Skinner - guitar / vocals (A leading professional folk singer and pioneer of the Coventry folk scene in the 60's / 70's)

John Mackintosh - double bass (Member of assorted groups including the Coventry Mummers and Sneaks Noise / Earlsdon Morrismen / Phoenix Jazz band)

I met Martin Jenkins in Broadgate, Coventry while doing Hobo magazine not long after Dando Shaft had split up and he told me about his new electric folk band - One Day Thomas. Below are some pieces from the Coventry Evening Telegraph and Hobo Magazine.

From Hobo Magazine
One day Thomas - Martin Jenkins
ONE DAY THOMAS is the name of Martin Jenkin's new band (formerly of Dando Shaft)
"The new band features other established personalities such as Barry Skinner on guitar and vocals / John Mckintosh on double bass and John Astle on drums. Martin plays guitar, fiddle, mandolin and flute. They are of course an electric band and most of the material is far removed from that of Dando Shaft. They play mostly jigs and reels and electrified folk songs."

Not long after Martin was back with Dando Shaft version 2 including Baz Andruszcko and Rod Felton for a play at the Belgrade Theatre c1974

Colin Armstrong - Coventry Singer-Songwriter / Artist

Colin Armstrong in the 70's

Colin Armstrong - one of the Top Coventry singer songwriters and artists to come out of Coventry.
I met Colin in 1971 when he was playing in Music Box with Rob Armstrong (the renowned Coventry guitar maker and musician) who made the album Songs of Sunshine in 1971. They were playing the Plough Club (London Road) with Dando Shaft and i tried to book them for the Umbrella club only I think they split up not long after.

Colin featured a few times in HOBO magazine and the local press (which can be seen below). I had a lot of respect for Colin as a singer songwriter, artist and a friend. Colin was well involved with the Hobo Workshop at the Holyhead Youth Centre in 1974 / 5 where we encouraged new bands and artists who were struggling to get first gigs. Colin often performed for us in between the bands and took an active and advisory role on the Workshop's management committee and was indeed a great advocate for it. It's thanks to Colin that Hobo was mentioned on the original Broadgate Gnome Music Directory site initiated by Ian Green and Paul Leather - and through that mentioned in the book Godiva Rocks - Pete Chambers - a comprehensive guide to Coventry music new and old. (Thanks for that Colin - if you read this).

Colin Armstrong in his bookshop
Colin was making great leaps forward towards developing his career in songwriting and art during the Hobo period as the press cuttings show. He won the Midlands are heat of the National folk / rock contest and was entered into the semi-finals. The top prize was a recording contract with EMI. He was judged the best soloist act from all over the West Midlands. He was the only one from the area chosen to go through to the national semi finals. He did 10 minutes with three of his own compositions -  Country Boy, Country Bound; Blues for Glenda; Heaven and Hell.

Colin Armstrong
He described his music at the time as Funky Folk. Like many, he'd made the trek to London to try and get a contract and sell some songs but without success. Colin was an engineer by trade and also an Abstract Artist. His work had been displayed at the Minster Gallery, the Kongoni Cafe and Methodist Central Hall and Warwick University, Herbert Art Gallery and Belgrade Theatre. Colin did a certain amount of recording, radio and televison work. (See the press cutting was from Covrntry Evening Telegraph c 1978 / 9.)

From Hobo issue 1 June 1973) -
"Congrats to Colin Armstrong in reaching the Semi-finals in the Melody Maker National Rock/Folk contest and also to Just Jake, Willow, Naked Light, Just Before Dawn, Bumble and all the other Covnetry bands / artists that took part. More on them if poss - later."

From Hobo Issue 4 (Unpublished version)
"Coventry singer - songwriter COLIN ARMSTRONG, who reached the semi-final in the Melody Maker contest last year, is to entre again this year...Lotza luck Colin..."

While involved with the Hobo Workshop - Colin formed a little band with  Bob Rhodes (the detached youth worker involved with the Hobo Workshop) and Myself - Trev Teasdel. The band didn't get beyond a few rehearsals at the Canal Basin and Holyhead Youth Centre but the material involved covered some of Colin's and my songs and a few standards favoured by Bob Rhodes such as Summertime; a Peter Paul and Mary song and Jerry Lee Lewis song and the current I Hear you Knockin'. I don't think we got as far as naming the band but finding time for rehearsals was difficult with Bob's work committments and I was full time at Henley College on a Social Studies Course and the band split before it had got off the ground but the sessions were fun and I learnt a lot from Colin's approach to writing and playing.

We were in admiration of Colin's Gibson Acoustic which we figured had set him back a bit but Colin explained that he saw it in a second hand shop in Cov going very cheaply (because the shop keeper didn't know the value of Gibson guitars!), so Colin used his rent money to buy it. He obviously made great use of it through his performances and writing.

More recently Colin ran his own shop - Armstrong Books and Collectables in Albany Rd.

Folklore (Coventry folk band)

C    1969 - 81 (and beyond)
Traditional Folk Band.
Line up
(Barry Jackson is in the middle with glasses - Roland Mathews with the guitar)
Graham Holt
Alan Rowe
I came across Folklore in 1974 / 5 while studying at Henley College. Although a Social Studies A'level course, I took an Art O'level. Our tutor was Barry Jackson, (always much more than an art teacher). I discovered just how wide his talent was as time went on. Barry was an acknowledge artist in his own right - as the press cutting below shows and also designed the cover of Coventry Arts Umbrella's own literary Journal Umbrella in the 50's / early 60's. The magazine is noted for a rare article by Phillip Larkin http://coventryartsumbrella.blogspot.com/2011/06/not-places-fault-phillip-larkin-in.html

I started the Hobo Workshop (at the Holyhead Youth Centre) while at Henley College and Barry was very encouraging. In the discussion about music it came out that Barry was a multi-instrumentalist and often brought in unusual instruments for drawing and play them too. He revealed that he was one of the founder organisers of the Henley College folk club at the New Inn, Longford with acts on such as The Yetties, Derek Brimstone, The McCalman's and a member the longstanding folk outfit - FOLKLORE. The club had had various homes including the Biggin Hall Hotel.

Norman Wheatley
The band were formed around accountant Graham Holt, GEC Engineer Alan Rowe, Henley College lecturer Roland Mathews and artist / art lecturer / musician Barry Jackson who could play more than 12 instruments - Barry Joined in 1973. Their 2nd album was called Eine Klein Folk and was produced by local radio presenter (Radio Mercia/ BRMB / singer songwriter / poet Norman Wheatley. Norman was the organiser of folk sessions at the Coventry Arts Umbrella in the early 70's and a prominent member of the Umbrella poets.

Described by CET (Sat Nov 14th 1981) as the longest running folk outfit.
CET go on to say ‘Folklore was established in 1969 around accountant Graham Holt, Alan Rowe (an engineer at the GEC) and Roland Matthews (A lecturer) when they formed the Henley College Folk Club at Bell Green’. Artist and art lecturer, Barry Jackson (a talented musician who can play more than 12 instruments, joined in 1973.’

News from Gillian Parnell Folklore have a vinyl album from 1977 album titled Room For Company. Hoping we can get some audio from it on here.

Jamie Lord - Cosmic Folk

In September 1973 Hobo got a letter from the manager of singer songwriter Jamie Lord. Jamie, who would describe his music as 'Cosmic Folk', didn't fit neatly into the traditional folk circuit. None the less, this 24 year old Warwick based talent was highly popular in folk clubs such as Rude Bear (run by Rod Felton and Dave Coburn) and a growing reputation on the Midland Folk circuit. An advert in Hobo says that Jamie was managed by Mick Donovan in Colliers Wood, London.  Mick Donovan wrote to Hobo in 1974 - (letter included here)

" Thought you might be interested, for a future edition, in some information about Jamie Lord, who's rap[idly gaining a reputation as a major new talent on the Midlands folk Circuit."

Mike Donovan included some date sheets (with some of  Jamie's own artwork) and a cutting from the Leamington Courier (also included here).  Jamie was also an artist. According to the press cutting Jamie recorded some demo tapes - shame there's nothing by Jamie on You Tube or on line anywhere that I've found.

His music and songs looked to the influence of Todd Rungren whose album

Mike Donovan's letter to Trev Teasdel - Hobo Mag
  "Wizard a True Star" had been  reviewed for Hobo by Mike O'Hare of  Coventry Virgin Records (posted on this site). The letter (on this blog) also included an interview with the Leamington Courier on 31st August 1973 (also posted here). In his own words he described his music thus "It can't be called folk music in the usual sense of the word. Folk music is dead. Everything I do is very alive and up to the minute, but it's very difficult to find anywhere that has a large enough audience who are really into it."
Jamie was also an artist, designing his own publicity scene here and hoping to work on a combination of lyrics and art work in a Tolkien style. More on this in the press cutting.

I saw and enjoyed Jamie's works at the Rude Bear on many ocassions.

Jamie also played in a Leamington band called Stepmother with Jim Pryal on drums (Jim has been in so many Coventry bands including Wandering John, Ning, Hot Snacks and many more).

Jim Pryal says of Stepmother
" I moved to Leamington in the early 70s and met up with a  bass player called Harry Frazer and a singer/songwriter called Jamie Lord.  With Mick Smitham we formed a band called Stepmother. I only remember Stepmother playing 1 gig  with that line up  and that was at the Regent hotel in Leamington. Quite an amazing gig. We also did a  recording  at Monty Bird's studio in Snitterfield. Good to see info about Jamie on other parts of this site. . For whatever reason, the band folded. "

STEPMOTHER are now featured on The British Music Archive here


1. Elderly Lady

2. Lady Midnight

3. Geraldine

4. All The Young Girls

5. Twilight

Recording date:

Group Members: Jamie Lord (gtr, vocs), Mick Smitham (gtr, vocs), Harry Frazer (bass gtr), Jim Pryal (drums)

Additional Info: Stepmother originated from Coventry circa 1969. Recordings made at Monty Bird's studios, Snitterfield, circa 1972.

Here are some comments carried over from the Hobo Vox site where this post was originally hosted -

Sylvia Kus (2009)
We are trying to locate Jamie Lord. Pete Metcalfe my partner used to play the folk circuit with him in the 70's. We would love to get in touch with him now.

I am hoping to get in touch with Jamie too. Sylvia do you remember me? The American girl with Jamie in the mid 1970s. I remember your cheesecake and artwork.

Pete Metcalfe (2009)
If you remember that cheesecake you're in the club Diane. What has become of you and when did you split up with the boy wonder? Does anybody out there know where the boy wonder is??????????????

George Wooten 2009

I spent a half a day searching the internet for boy wonder on behalf of Diane (the American girl). No luck. When and where was the last time you saw him? I think he visited Diane on the west coast at one point. I think he liked it. My searches were targeted to England, so maybe a search on the west coast might yield results? You think?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

John Shanahan - Coventry guitar player songwriter

John Shanahan was an outstanding guitar player songwriter / stylist in the style of John Martyn.

John Shanahan on the right
While I was running Hobo Magazine in the early / mid 70's. I used to look forward to John's floor spots at the Hand in Heart (Rod Felton and Dave Coburn's folk club) and  many other venues. Later in the 70's Pete Willow and his co-editors interviewed John (who was then living in Berlin) for Folks magazine. The article is featured below -

JOHN SHANAHAN   Spotlight on Shanners

" John Shanahan, much respected guitarist and songwriter by anyone who's seen him perform, paid a visit to his home town for a couple of weeks over Christmas.

Before returning to his new found life in Berlin, he called round to the Folk's HQ to tell us a little of what he's up to these days.

I sometimes feel
That the Berlin Wheel
Swings between the angels
and the Devil's heel..

Thus runs the chorus of the only song that John has completed since first moving to Berlin over a year ago. Entitled BERLIN WHEEL, it records his impressions of the city, setting the lyrics to typical Shanahan chord sequences, catchy, unusual and seemingly impossible for most other guitarist to play.

John Shanahan 1974
Although John still plays a lot of his own material, he confesses to being fed up with some of the earlier numbers. He demonstrated what was for him a departure in guitar style by using a flat pick and drop-D tuning and running off a medley of jigs and reels and Lennon / McCartney compositions, mainly by picking out the melody and harmony simultaneously on adjacent strings and throwing in the occasional standard (and instantly identifiable!) B Minor or G chord. The guitar work on some of his own material may have been more complex but he showed his expertise as a guitarist with these relatively simpler pieces by making them sound neat and professional: each string fully stopped or pulled where required, no hesitation and no hint of a duff note. John is undoubtedly one of the finest guitarists to emerge from the Coventry folk scene and puts many professional folk guitarists in this country to shame. How come then, he has to go abroad to find regular work.

Actually, it was partly chance that John visited Berlin in the first place. The opportunity arose when Alan McBride, fiddle player for that well traveled folk band Tara, and Dyers Arms drinking colleague, was going and there was some room in Folk at the Pitts the van. This was September 1977. Alan only stayed in Berlin for a week, but John met up with some people who introduced him to the local music clubs, so he stayed on. Up until this time, although much acclaimed as a folk artist in Coventry (and Manchester where he lived for a while), John was getting few bookings elsewhere.

His first club appearence had been at the Three Tuns in Coventry, over six years ago, and his only real break occurred in 1976 when he was given theopportunity to record an album. Perhaps 'given' isn't the right word, but anyway the chance arose from a meeting with Stead, driving force behind the Sweet Folk All Organisation, and guest  one Friday evening at the Magic Lamp folk club where John had turned up to do one of his frequent floor spots.

The Album, Dance of Flies, was recorded in November that year and consisted of 10 Shanahan classics, including Every man Jack, Full Circle Round, All on a Windy Night,. He was accompanied by classical guitarist Steve Gordon, whom he'd met in Manchester.

Many copies of the album were sold though it came under criticism from people who had seen John perform live. Some said the mix was poor in that John's characteristic guitar style did not really come over at all; others said said that rich quality of his voice was lost in the recording. However it contained a good selection of songs (even if it didn't include My Garden Swing) and a worthwhile record to have particularly as John is rarely seen around these days.

Copies of the record were sent to local radio stations, newspapers and music magazines, mostly at John's own expense, but apart from a good review in the Evening Jellymould by their enlightened reporter John Palmer, a dedicated Shanahan fan, the record did little to further John's career as a full time musician.

The format of English folk clubs is such that it is virtually impossible for an artist to get regular work int he area unless he resorts to Pub Singing which at best can be a thankless task. Venues in Berlin are different; folk clubs as we know them don't exist and singers like John, usually play in bars or music clubs who generally pay about five to eight pounds for a reasonable half hour set. English and Irish folk music is very popular at these places.

John averages abut four gigs a week. He obtains them by simply doing the rounds of the Berlin club circuit and asking for them. Once established he's virtually assured of regular work in this way. The proprietor or organiser pays him as soon as he's finished the set and walked offstage. Usually John works as a soloist but he occasionally accompanies others such as Northumbrian singer Ken Davidson with whom he worked for a short while.

One disadvantage of working in Berlin is the high cost of living compared with here, but as long as John continues to make his Mark (perpetrators of any more puns like that will be severly pun-ished - Ed) he finds one consolatory factor; the bars don't close till the last customer goes home.

H.L. / B.U / Pete Willow. 1979 - Folks Magazine

From the web Spreewaldtor I learnt that - "In 2004 he was playing in Euro Camp with the Max McColgan Trio (pictured here with John on guitar) The third member was Jimmy Dee from Glasgow. Euro Camp Spreewaldtor - The page (in German) says - John Shanahan is of Irish-English descent born in Coventry/England .

Since he was 18, was a singer/songwriter with an unusual style of guitar playing. He played in the clubs, on the stages and festivals of the British islands at home. When it visited the western part of Berlin in 1977, he decided to remain in the city. Meeting and joining in sessions with friendly Irish and English  musicians he discovered his love for Irish-English folklore, to which he finally dedicated himself from now on. From his original style of the Fingerpicking he turned to the interpretation of the fast dance melodies to the Flatpicking, in which he is a master of its subject."

Unfortunately we have no audio or videos of John Shanahan and his music. (UPDATE - John has seen this note and sent me five tracks which I've uploaded to Youtube and are posted here - well worth waiting for - enjoy - and thanks John!)

Track one from 1975 The Matter of the Matter

Track 2 from 1979 Berlin Wheel

Track 3 The Wind she Blew Through Her hair - 1980

Track 4 Kepler Song - 2010

Track 5 - Blessed are the Money Lenders 2010

Some more of John's Music can be found on You tube on this site http://www.youtube.com/user/playmeabluessong

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gilly Darbey - A Coventry Singer's International Success


My Space (hear some of the songs Gilly sings ) - Hallelujah, Just Like a Woman, All Night long, Cravin' a Man's Blues, I Miss My Son, I Envy the Wind, Hurricane Blowin' Through.

I grew up over the road from Gilly Darbey, in Willenhall Wood, Coventry. I hardly knew her, she was more my younger sister's age. By the time Hobo Magazine was up and running in the early to mid 70's she was playing Coventry folk clubs. It was at the Charterhouse pub, Terry Rd. in Coventry I first saw her perform with her guitar to great acclaim for her young voice. Around 1974 her name cropped up in many of the folk club posts in Hobo.

For a while, in 1974, she was managed by Craig Ward of the Coventry Sunshine Music agency. Craig says "  I managed Gill for a short while back in the 70's at Sunshine. She had the purest voice I have ever heard in my life. Seem to remember hawking a demo round the record companies for her, but folk wasn't really happening commercially at the time and we got nowhere. A real talent though and no surprise she did as well as she did." There is now a poster bleow that came from Craig from when Gill  was on the bill with Jake Thackery in 1974.

At the time she was a rising star on the local folk club circuit but I never knew what became of her until recent years, I came across her website and e mailed her. Gilly now lives in New Zealand and her website biography makes interesting reading.

Gilly says her singing career started in school, joining various groups and then forming her own all girl group called Mosaic.

Gilly also started to "perform solo at local folk clubs in her home town of Coventry, she was still only 14. Gilly was a rebellious pupil and left school as soon as was possible, to join an Irish showband of all things. She had a great time learning the ropes, and was well chaperoned by the boys in the band."

At 16, she answered an ad in Melody Maker "for girl singers to form an English equivalent of the "Three Degrees". Gilly got the job! Along with two others, she underwent the star treatment doled out by "MCA" records and "Bell" records. However, as with a lot of these record company fiascos,(at one point Gilly was the only one singing all of the parts and the other two were just to create a three girl image), it all went botty up and Gilly was once again solo.

After that Gilly returned to the folk scene and joined Streetband who were about to do a busking tour of Europe. She had a great time despite being arrested twice (busking was illegal then)! Eventually she returned to England as a soloist and the Streetband became the One Eyed Jacks with bass player Martin Allcocks.

Gilly Darbey in Waterfall
Soon she would hear " Waterfall", Keith Donnelly and Martyn Oram, perform at the Lanchester Poly in Coventry. She fell in love with the songs (mostly written by Keith Donnelly), This started a new chapter in Gilly's life and career, and a partnership with Keith that lasted for nearly 20 years.Though they no longer perform together Gilly and Keith are still great friends, and Gilly still performs a lot of his material.

They became very popular on the folk scene both here and abroad. A highlight at this time was to open Cambridge Festival on Main Stage1. Gilly remembers it particularly well as she had taken up skydiving and had to be helped on stage with crutches due to a slightly mistimed landing!

Waterfall toured constantly throughout Europe and further afield, including trips to Belize, Cyprus and the Falklands. They also did a T.V. special for the BBC called "This Is Waterfall." (Watch it on You Tube here http://youtu.be/EVT0qcuI1vI Definitely worth seeing for the ridiculous outfits that they came up with on a shopping spree in London! The trio released two albums to much acclaim, "Three Birds" produced by Johnny Coppin, and "Beneath The Stars" produced by Phillip Goodhand-Tait.

After Martyn Oram left Gilly and Keith toyed with several new names and for a while were called "Little Aeroplane", releasing an album of the same name, this time produced by Richard Digance. Then they changed the name again and became "Nothing By Chance", the name of a Richard Bach book that Gilly was reading at the time.

Once again a new chapter began as "Nothing By Chance" were taken on by Jasper Carrotts' management company, after a succesful tour with him. They went on to support such noticeables as Van Morrison, The Hollies, and Tori Amos, to name but a few. During which time they appeared at almost every major venue throughout Britain and Ireland, with numerous T.V. appearances, including several on "Pebble Mill At One".
(More tracks by Waterfall on You Tube if you click back to the site.)

They were spotted by a BBC producer whilst doing a Phil Cool support, who loved what he saw and wanted to turn them into huge, and I mean huuuwwwwwwwwg T.V. stars.
They had their own T.V. special for the Beeb which received critical acclaim, (a clip was shown on "Points of View") and was swiftly shown again at a prime time on BBC1. Gilly and Keith then spent 6 months working with the people at BBC Pebble Mill on a six part series. At the last minute politics between London and Pebble Mill meant that the TV series was vetoed.

Undaunted Gilly and Keith then made an album called "Ghosts Of Love". The album was produced by John "Bonny" Acock and Mick Dolan at Stevie Winwood's fantastic studio down in Gloucestershire, and features many fine guest musicians including Phil Beer of "Show of Hands" fame and Al Marnie, bass player with Chris de Burgh, This was swiftly taken up by "Chrysalis" records. They started a 90 date country wide tour in their own right. The album was receiving rave reviews, and receiving radio 1 and 2 air play. Unfortunately "Chrysalis" were being bought out by big bad nasties "EMI", Nothing By Chance became tiny, tiny fishes in a huge sea, got sucked through some other fishes gills, and ceased to exist!

Gilly returned once more to a solo career which she is still doing, including some major festivals around the world.

Her first solo CD "One", is really a showcase CD, trying to show some of these differing sides to her voice, though mostly aimed at the "folk scene". It was recorded totally live at the famous Red Lion folk club in Kings Heath, Birmingham. The infamous Jim Mcphee who ran the Red Lion F.C. signed Gilly up for his agency, Acorn Entertainments, as soon as he heard her doing a resident spot at the club. This is what he had to say about her first appearance there:

She had everyone so captivated that-
1. I forgot to start recording untill she'd nearly finished the first set.
2. The audience were spellbound - you could hear a pin drop.
3.The latecomers entered the room and stood silently, transfixed until she'd finished her song - AND THAT'S NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE!
4. I forgot to start the recording for her second set.
All in all I was so gobsmacked that I said I would try and get her some work.
Unfortunately Jim underwent a major operation and decided to end the agency.

Gilly incorporates many different genres of music into her sets, believing that a beautiful song is a beautiful song no matter what genre it comes from, and that if she believes the words the audience will too. With her ability to "feel" a song and to pass that feeling on to her audience, genre is often transcended.
Her haunting voice was used for the title track, and incidental music for the BBC drama "The Tennant Of Wildfell Hall" which has been shown worldwide, and by the same composer, Richard G. Mitchel, for a video of the World Cup,(The Coupe de la Gloire-also available on CD) during which he referred to her as Gilly te Kanawa!! Listen out for her Kiri impression on track 6, "Sunday Prayer".

More recently Gilly has joined up with Maart Allcock for some gigs. The few they have done so far have really taken the audience by storm, including The Mill, Banbury, Godiva Festival, Coventry, and Warwick Festivals.

The demo Maart and Gilly did for the BBC producer was made MP3 of the month for October 2001 on Folking.com This is what they wrote...

MP3 Of The Month...Gilly Darbey- "Ain't No Use Baby"

"Dim the lights, I want to set the scene. It's August and we're at the Cropredy festival, Fairport Convention has just gone off stage and the chatter of well contented, happy people are all around us. Most people are heading out of the main site for either their tents or transport home. We're not leaving the field - We're going to wait for something magical to happen. We walk to the left hand of the stage and pass through the security gate. At the back of the stage there is a tent. Artists and their friends are milling around outside it and the sound of the blues floats out. Inside the tent is "Sugarland Slim" cranking out an impromptu session featuring the extraordinary voice of Gilly Darbey who we have chosen as our MP3 of the Month for October. "Ain't no use now baby" features the talents of Martin Allcock and hopefully will be included as one of the tracks on a planned collaboration album in the not too distant future. Sugarland Slim have also hinted that Gilly may guest with them on their next release."

And indeed she appears on Sugarlands new CD "Texan Calypso". A song Sean wrote especially to duet with Gilly, called "Dirty girl, Lousy Guy". After recording the track Sugarland had a gig locally and invited Gilly along. This is a review from Relayer. A web site dedicated to bands in and around Bedford, though the reviewer had travelled much further afield to see Sugarland Slim.

".... and then the singer announces a short break .... and invites Gilly Darbey to get up and entertain us. Gilly and Sugarland Slim got together in the small hours at the Cropedy Festival, and they were equally knocked out with each other.... playing and singing through the night. Gilly has been invited to duet with Sean on a number on the new CD.... I'm looking forward to that - she has a superb voice with an incredible range, and treated us to a short set, mostly solo's (guitar/vocal) ...... Jeff solo's on a couple.... great sound! "You'll have to excuse me, I'm a crap guitarist!" she says, before playing very well indeed! Loud applause, from a smallish, but very appreciative crowd ...Wow, what a singer ..... very enjoyable indeed!" The CD is now due out, so check the guys web site for release details.

The year 2000 saw her expanding her horizons with a successful tour to Australia and New Zealand. Since that first tour Gilly has returned several times to growing enthusiam from the audiences in the southern hemisphere. Appearing at some of the countries most prestigeous folk and blues festivals and venues.

Spring 2004 saw the release of her second solo CD...."Blues Movin' In", which is more bluesey than the first solo CD and has really captured the essence of Gilly's voice.
Spring 2004 was spent touring in Australia and New Zealand, with the prestigeous Australian National Folk Festival over Easter in Canberra, and a live appearance on National Radio in NZ. Gilly went down a storm at the National, especially the huge 3000 seater Badewang Hall where she sold out of CD's at the first concert.
Then a return to the UK for more gigs.
Summer 2004 was spent moving to NZ where Gilly now resides.
Autumn gigs included Hong Kong Festival and the end of the year saw her at the huge and wonderful Woodford Festival in Queensland, Australia

2006 saw Gilly recording some songs for Gordon Giltrap and performing them as his guest at the Symphony Hall, London in March. Gordon Wrote of her.......

"You are and always will be one of the finest singers I have ever had the privilege to listen to"

2006 saw her embark on another tour of New Zealand, including a live spot on TVNZ "Good Morning Show". Then back to Australia for the National Festival in Canberra.

2007 and Gilly is now making a name for herself in her new home New Zealand, with great reviews for her appearance at the Queenstown International Jazz Festival, Waipara Wine and Food Festival, and the Alexandra Blossom festival, one of the largest festivals in the South Island, she has also just been confirmed to appear at the Parihaka International Peace Festival in 2008, which is a real honour. Check out their website at Parihaka Festival.

Her new CD recorded in Australia at Rob Longs wonderful studio in Newcastle, with Rob playing guitars and drums and Liz Frencham of Jigzag playing double bass, has received rave reviews in NZ Musician.
October 07 sees her embarking on a tour of NZ with her band to promote the new CD, see date sheet for details.
Gilly has recently joined up with Dunedin based Texan musician Terry Ebeling and the band are starting to get gigs around the wine and food festival, corporate circuit.