Posts tagged ‘Kent’

February 15, 2015

Week 182 – Wait till the clouds roll by

Valentine’s Day is over… but here’s a sentimental love song which would have been perfect had I been organised enough to get it posted yesterday. I learned this song over thirty years ago from Charlie Bridger of Stone-in-Oxney in Kent. Around the same time Pete Coe was singing the song around the clubs, in a version learned from the Old Time singer and banjo-player Uncle Dave Macon. The song was in fact very popular in America. When published by New York publishers Thomas B. Harms & Company in 1881 it became the company’s first big hit. In an 1884 newspaper interview, in response to the question “What was the most successful song ever written during your existence?” the publisher’s reply was “Oh, Wait Till the Clouds Roll By had by far the greatest sale. We sold over 75,000 copies in a single month. It was the easy, jingly music did it, and the sentimental words”.

Wait Till the Clouds Roll By, published by T.B. Harms & Co., 819 Broadway, New York, 1881. From the Lester S Levy Sheet Music Collection.

The published version states “words by J T Wood, music by H J Fulmer” and for many years I took this at face value. Indeed, in my Musical Traditions review of The Anglo-German Concertina: A Social History I took the author Dan Worrall to task for stating that the song had been written by an Irish singer and concertina player called Tom Maguire. In fact it turned out that Dan had done his research and I hadn’t, and he has put together all the information he has on Tom Maguire in a short paper on his website: Tom Maguire, a forgotten late nineteenth century Irish vocalist, comedian, concertinist, and songwriter. Much of the information in this post comes from that source – thanks Dan.

“J T Wood” and “H J Fulmer” were actually fictitious pseudonyms of the American musical arranger Charles Pratt. He used the same pseudonyms to claim authorship for ‘My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean’, which of course was – at the very least – not an entirely original composition (check out the wonderful minor key version sung by Cecilia Costello on the recent Musical Traditions CD Old Fashioned Songs). When facing prosecution for “creating an obstruction” outside a London Theatre in 1907, Tom Maguire claimed authorship of this and other songs under oath. Whether Pratt had bought the publishing rights from Maguire, or simply stolen the song, is not known. Either way, by the early twentieth century poor Tom Maguire, now blind and nearly deaf, was destitute and reduced to singing and playing his concertina on the streets, and hawking books containing words of the songs he had written earlier in life.

I’m not sure whether Charlie Bridger learned the song orally or from a printed source. Either is equally likely – he had a large store of song books, News Chronicle Song Book and the like. Given that he was born in 1913, he’s not likely to have learned it from an individual ballad sheet, but ‘Wait till the clouds roll by’ featured on a number of such sheets – see the Full English and the Bodleian’s Broadside Ballads Online.

Wait till the clouds roll by,  published by H.J. Wehman, New York, 1881. From Broadside Ballads Online.

Wait till the clouds roll by, published by H.J. Wehman, New York, 1881. From Broadside Ballads Online.

The song also inspired a reply-song, and a number of parodies, for instance Put Me Some Jam-Roll By, Jenny. Little Thomas’s New Banjo Song (Mohawk Minstrels). Popular Parody on “Wait Till the Clouds Roll By” and Wait till the clouds roll by, Billy! (in support of William Gladstone’s stance on Home Rule).

As well as being a singer, Charlie Bridger was a keen brass and wind band player. He played tenor horn in Woodchurch and Cranbrook bands, and also played clarinet. When I first recorded him in April 1983 he played me one tune on clarinet, a version of the ‘Jenny Lind Polka’ with an extra part tacked on the end. I’ve been playing that version of the tune almost as long as I’ve been singing the song. A few years ago, having decided to put the tune and song together, I was delighted to find that, slowed down, the last two bars of ‘Jenny Lind’ were pretty much identical to the last two bars of the song – clearly they were destined to be played together.

Woodchurch Band, late nineteenth century. From a copy of the photo provided to me by Charlie Bridger. His father (Charles) and grandfather (Tom) are both in this photo.

Woodchurch Band, late nineteenth century. From a copy of the photo provided to me by Charlie Bridger. His father (Charles) and grandfather (Tom) are both in this photo.

Jenny Lind / Wait till the clouds roll by

Andy Turner: vocal, C/G anglo-concertina

November 16, 2013

Week 117 – The American Stranger

Two weeks ago I posted a song learned from gipsy singer Tom Willett. At the time I noted that I was looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of the newly-released Musical Traditions 2 CD set,  Adieu to Old England. Well it’s a crazy world – you wait fifty years for a new album of Willett Family recordings, and then two come along at once: as Reinhard Zierke commented a fortnight ago, Rod Stradling of Musical Traditions was not the only one to have put out a 2 CD set of the Willetts; a few weeks earlier Paul Marsh had put out a very similar collection on his Forest Tracks label. I now have in my possession a copy of both Adieu to Old England (Musical Traditions) and A-Swinging Down The Lane (Forest Tracks) and I can heartily recommend that, if you enjoy traditional singing, you get hold of either, or both.

It turns out that Rod and Paul had been working on these releases without being aware of what the other was up to. Both releases have two discs, housed in a DVD case, with an A5 booklet giving biographical details of the singers, plus transcriptions of and notes on the songs. And both draw either exclusively (Forest Tracks) or largely (MT) on the same, previously unissued recordings, made in the early 1960s by Ken Stubbs. In fact this is where the Forest Tracks set is particularly interesting, in that it is the first release in a planned programme to make available, either on CD, or as MP3 files, everything recorded by Kenb Stubbs – see http://forest-tracks.co.uk/kenstubbs for details of this project. I’ve heard Ken Stubbs’ recordings of Southern English singers and musicians such as Pop Maynard and Scan Tester, but I’m intrigued to find out what else may be in store from this source.

This particular song is included, sung by Tom Willett, on both of the new releases – in fact you can hear a snippett of Tom singing it at http://www.forest-tracks.co.uk/folk_music_pages/folk_music_Willettstracks.html. I learned it, however, from his son Chris, via the Topic LP Travellers. That track, recorded by Mike Yates, has subsequently appeared on a few CDs, including the new MT Willett Family set.

I have filled out the words a bit with help from Roy Palmer’s Folk Songs of the Midlands. Actually, looking at the notes in that book, I see that Roy’s words were in fact taken from a broadside version – not the one shown here, but not too far removed (although without the rather incongruous “God save the Queen” message in the last verse!).

The American Stranger, from the Lucy Broadwood Broadside Collection, via the Full English archive.

The American Stranger, from the Lucy Broadwood Broadside Collection, via the Full English archive.

Back in 2005 I was honoured to be asked to perform at the opening of an exhibition, Destiny Manifest – Eden’s End, by my artist friends Cathy Ward and Eric Wright. The centrepiece of the show was an extraordinary painting, which took up one entire wall of the gallery. This portrayed the route of the Donner Party, a wagon train which set off for California in 1846, and which ended in disaster for many of the travellers. ‘The American Stranger’ was one of the songs I sang at the event, not just because of the obvious American connection, but particularly because of the song’s final verse

Now we’re all bound for America, and our ship will soon sail
And may heaven protect us with a prosperous gale
And when we are landed, we’ll dance and we’ll sing
In a land of all plenty where no danger can bring.

There’s an irony in that last line, when one considers the members of the Donner Party – America may well have been / be a land of plenty, but certainly not a country which was / is free from danger.

Finally, a note for anglo anoraks. For reasons which are a little perverse, but do make sense, I play this in C on a G/D anglo. A few years ago I sang the song at the Saturday night concert at Concertinas at Witney. Brian Peters, one of the other tutors that year, was stood right at the back of the hall. So I was very impressed when he said, as I came off stage, “were you playing that in C on a G/D?”. Guitar tuning geeks will probably recognise this sort of interest.

The American Stranger

Andy Turner – vocal, G/D anglo-concertina

November 1, 2013

Week 115 – The Game of All Fours

I learned this from octogenarian Gypsy singer Tom Willett, via the Topic LP The Roaming Journeyman.

That album – Topic’s very first release of traditional English singers – is a bit of a classic. When  Mike Yates, Keith Chandler and various other writers on traditional music nominated Ten Records that Changed my Life for Musical Traditions, this record was, I think, the most frequently selected. It’s been available as a download for a couple of years now, but I was very excited to learn last week that Rod Stradling has now released a 2 CD set of Willett family recordings, Adieu to Old England on his Musical Traditions label. This contains a number of previously unreleased recordings of Tom Willett, and his sons Ben and Chris. I don’t have my copy yet, but there’s one on its way to me.

In case you fancy recreating this song in the comfort of your own home, you can …er… find the rules of All Fours at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Hoyle’s_Games_Modernized/All_Fours.

The Cards - printed by Pitts, Great St. Andrew Street, Seven Dials, between 1819 and 1844. From Ballads Online.

The Cards – printed by Pitts, Great St. Andrew Street, Seven Dials, between 1819 and 1844. From Ballads Online.

The Game of All Fours

October 27, 2013

Week 114 – The Jolly Waggoner

I learned this song from Charlie Bridger of Stone-in-Oxney in Kent. Interestingly Charlie (born 1913) had learned the song at School – almost certainly from English Folk-Songs For Schools: Collected And Arranged By S. Baring Gould, M.A.  & Cecil J. Sharp, B.A. published by Curwen in 1907.

Before singing me the song Charlie said

You want to hear the ‘Jolly Waggoner’s song’ then? Well, I learnt that at school actually and I come across – well, I found a book with it in the other night… ‘The Jolly Waggoner’ – “this was collected and arranged by S. Baring Gould and Cecil Sharp”. You heard of old Cecil Sharp I expect.

Then, having sung it

I learnt that at school actually. I couldn’t remember the last verse.

I asked “Did they teach you it out of a book like that? A folk-song book?” to which Charlie replied “I expect so – a thing like that, yeah”.

The Jolly Waggoner, No. 34 in English Folk-Songs For Schools by Sabine Baring Gould and Cecil Sharp, from www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/

The Jolly Waggoner, No. 34 in English Folk-Songs For Schools by Sabine Baring Gould and Cecil Sharp, from http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/

Baring-Gould collected a number of versions of the song in the West Country.  This tune, although in Baring-Gould’s MSS, would appear to have been collected by his collaborator H. Fleetwood Sheppard in 1890, from James Parsons of Lewdown in Devon,

Baring-Gould notes

This version  is the common broadside by Catnach, Fortey, Such etc.

The Jolly Waggoner, from Baring-Gould's MSS, via the EFDSS Full English archive.

The Jolly Waggoner, from Baring-Gould’s MSS, via the EFDSS Full English archive.

The Jolly Waggoner

September 29, 2013

Week 110 – The Gipsy’s Warning

Here’s another song I learned from Charlie Bridger of Stone-in-Oxney in Kent. According to the Roud Index, it has not often been collected in England (as opposed to North America), but I can’t help feeling that is more a reflection on the prejudices of the early twentieth century collectors than of the song’s popularity. This seems just the sort of melodramatic little number that would have been hugely popular with country singers.

We know that the song was in the vast repertoire of Henry Burstow; more recently it has been recorded from Bob Hart and Fred Jordan. Indeed this was possibly the first song Fred Jordan ever sang in public: he sang it, aged six, in a competition held in Ludlow Town Hall, and won a prize of £1 (a considerable sum in the late 1920s). Fred learned the song, like many others in his repertoire, from his mother. You can hear Fred singing the song (as a man, not a six-year old) on the Veteran CD A Shropshire Lad.

You’ll find copies of the words on broadsides from the Bodleian’s collection, while you can see an example of the song published as sheet music on the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection site. That example was published in Brooklyn in 1864. However the song must have been published by 1860 at the latest, if we are to believe the 1860 publication date of ‘Do Not Heed Her Warning. Reply to the Gipsies Warning’. I’d like to think that song sank without trace – like most answer songs it’s not a patch on the original (the exception to this rule is of course ‘It wasn’t God who made Honky Tonk angels’).

The Gipsy's Warning - from the Lester S Levy Sheet Music Collection.

The Gipsy’s Warning – from the Lester S Levy Sheet Music Collection.

The Gipsy’s Warning

August 10, 2013

Week 103 – Petition Of The Pigs In Kent

“An humble Petition of the Pigs, to restore their ancient Privilege of foraging in the Woods during the Acorn Season”

I recently spent a happy afternoon digitising some of my old vinyl LPs. Among them were three albums by Tundra – the duo of Doug and Sue Hudson – who were superstars on the Kent folk scene in the late seventies and early eighties. Their live performances were always very entertaining, while on record the musical arrangements were enhanced by the presence of various members of Fiddler’s Dram and the Oyster Ceilidh Band.

This song appeared on what I think was their first “proper” LP, A Kentish Garland. Lord knows how they stumbled upon this little gem, hidden away in the November 1809 edition of the Sporting Magazine. Or, to give it its full title, The Sporting Magazine, Or Monthly Calendar of the Transactions of The Turf, The Chase, And every other Diversion Interesting to the Man of Pleasure Enterprize and Spirits.

This piece is included in a section headed

POETRY.

THE HIGH COURT OF DIANA.

and indeed it takes a rare poetic genius to think of rhyming “before ‘em” with “decorum”.

The pigs’ complaint is occasioned by the ending of the ancient custom of Pannage as a result of the spread of Enclosure in the County. It is unclear whether the author is, beneath his satire, genuinely complaining about the ending of Pannage, or parodying the complaints of those protesting against Enclosure.

Many of Tundra’s songs were taken from broadsides and other printed sources, which gave the words but no tunes. Sometimes these words would be fitted to a traditional tune, but I assume that in many cases Doug and/or Sue composed a suitable tune – I imagine that was the case with this song.

I’d not sung the song for many years, but listening to the LP again after a similarly lengthy interval, I remembered how much I used to enjoy singing it; and was pleased to find that it only took a couple of run-throughs for the words to come back to me.

I’ll end by quoting from the original album sleevenotes

Porcine plaisanterie at its peak! It may seem trivial to you or me but foraging for acorns in the woods was a basic pleasure of life for pigs in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Imagine their disgruntlement at the removal of this their ancient right. The question is – who originally wrote the song? Was it Shakespeare, or – Bacon?

Petition Of The Pigs In Kent

July 7, 2013

Week 98 – Nobleman and Thresherman

Postwar folk song commentators and activists such as A.L. Lloyd seized on industrial folk song – ‘Blackleg Miner’, ‘Four Loom Weaver’, ‘Coal Owner and the Pitman’s Wife’ and the like – as the product of a proletariat engaged in class struggle. Their Marxist beliefs would, I suppose, have predisposed them against expecting to find similar material coming out of the rural working class, and this was probably just as well – I can think of very few examples of traditional country songs raging against the social order. (Even in poaching songs, while there are often complaints about the “hard-hearted judges”, it is the gamekeepers – the agents of the landowning classes, rather than the landowners themselves  – who are usually perceived as the enemy).

This song, judging by the number of times it has been collected in England and beyond, seems to have been hugely popular. Not only does it not challenge the status quo, but invites us to join in blessing the noble gentleman who – most improbably – bestows “fifty five good acres” on the hardworking labouring man. Although actually traditional singers do seem to have toned down somewhat the obsequious nature of the song as found in printed broadsides, such as Good Lord Fauconbridge’s generous gift, printed by J. Pitts of London, between 1819 and 1844, of which this is the final verse.

No tongue was able in full to express
In depth of their joy and true thankfulness
Then many a courtsey and bow to the ground
Such noblemen there are few to be found

This particular version was collected by Cecil Sharp at Hamstreet in Kent, in September 1908.  Not being an authority on Sharp’s handwriting, I’d be hard-pressed to say if he meant to record the singer’s name as Clarke Lankhurst or Lonkhurst (or even Larkhurst). In fact it was almost certainly Clarke Lonkhurst, who the local Kelly’s Directory lists as landlord of the Duke’s Head at Hamstreet. George Frampton, who has researched all of the singers Sharp encountered on this collecting trip, has established that Mr Lonkhurst also worked as a carrier, and was a keen sportsman – playing football and cricket, and a member of the Mid-Kent Stag Hunt. He has also found – just to add even more confusion to the matter of his surname – that in the 1901 Census he is listed as Clarke Longhurst, age 37, born at Dunkirk near Faversham. There are Longhursts from Romney Marsh in my family tree, on my mother’s side, so it’s just possible that this singer is a distant relation of mine.

[ As an aside, I’ve just done a Google search which has located an endorsement from Clarke Lonkhurst, in The horse-owner’s handy note book or common diseases of horses and other animals, with their remedies  (1908), of  Harvey’s Embrocation:

“I have been using your Embrocation for Capped Elbew with great benefit. — Clarke Lonkhurst, Duke’s Head Hotel, Hamstreet, Ashford, Kent, July 29th, 1908.” ]

Clarke Lonkhurst only sang four verses of this song; I followed my usual practice of completing the words by borrowing verses from the Copper Family version. Had I held on a little, I would have come across a pretty complete set of words collected in 1942 by Francis Collinson from Harry Barling of South Willesborough, Ashford, Kent. This Mr Barling was most likely the same Harry Barling who is listed in the 1901 Census as a Carrier General, living at Aldington, born at Ruckinge; and in the 1881 Census as living at the “Good Intent”, Aldington Frith – i.e. from very much the same part of the world, and a similar age, as Clarke Lonkhurst. The singers’ tunes are almost identical except that Harry Barling’s is in 4/4 and Clarke Lonkhurst’s in 6/8.

Including a song collected by Cecil Sharp gives me the opportunity to mention the EFDSS’s Full English archive, launched a couple of weeks ago. I’ve not, unfortunately, had very much time to explore the site as yet, but it is without doubt an incredible resource – both for researchers, and for those on the look-out for new versions of old songs.

It builds on the Take Six archive, which presented digital images of the collections of  Collinson, Butterworth, Blunt, Hammond, Gardiner and Gilchrist. Now we also have access to the work of relatively little-known collectors such as Harry Albino and Frank Sidgwick through to the big names: Lucy BroadwoodRalph Vaughan Williams and, of course, Cecil James Sharp. The whole thing has been thoroughly and professionally catalogued and indexed, and even looks quite cool – whatever has happened to the DEAFASS we used to love to malign in the past!

Here’s examples of what you can find:

Clarke Lonkhurst’s ‘Nobleman and Thresherman’ from Cecil Sharp’s Folk Words MS (permament URL https://www.vwml.org/record/CJS2/9/1774)

Nobleman and Thresherman, collected from Clarke Lankhurst by Cecil Sharp - from Sharp's 'Folk Words' © EFDSS

‘Nobleman and Thresherman, collected from Clarke Lankhurst by Cecil Sharp – from Sharp’s ‘Folk Words’ © EFDSS’

and the musical notation from Sharp’s Folk Tunes (permanent URL https://www.vwml.org/record/CJS2/10/1921)

Nobleman and Thresherman, collected from Clarke Lankhurst by Cecil Sharp - from Sharp's 'Folk Tunes' © EFDSS

Nobleman and Thresherman, collected from Clarke Lankhurst by Cecil Sharp – from Sharp’s ‘Folk Tunes’ © EFDSS

As you’ll see, each record has a permament URL, to make it easy to refer others to a specific record. And there are some nice little features, like the ability to refer to a simple URL to point to all the versions of  a particular Roud number e.g. this song would be www.vwml.org/roudnumber/19 – just substitute the Roud number of your choice.

Nobleman and Thresherman

Andy Turner: vocal, C/G anglo-concertina

May 26, 2013

Week 92 – Death and the Lady

This is the only song in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs to have been collected in Kent. And while most of the songs in that book had been collected at the start of the twentieth century, this one had been noted a mere 13 years before the book’s publication. Arranger, academic and radio presenter Francis Collinson had the song on 16th February 1946 from Mr Harry Baker of Maidstone.

The song was included in JEFDSS Vol 5 No 1 (1946), with the following note from Collinson:

Mr. Baker of Maidstone, who is in his seventies, has worked all his life as an engineer at Thomas Tillings’. He is a little uncertain in his singing, and I had to ask him to repeat the tune of “Death and the Lady” a number of times before I was certain of having it down correctly.

Mr Baker’s textually incomplete version was padded out with verses possibly taken from Alfred Williams’ Folk Songs of the Upper Thames (according to Malcolm Douglas’s notes in Classic English Folk Songs).

Death and the Lady, as collected by Francis Collinson from Mr Baker. From the EFDSS Full English archive.

The song is of some antiquity: the earliest known printed version has been dated c.1685-1689. The ballad sheet shown here is from at least 100 years later: printed by J. Turner, High Street, Coventry, between 1797 and 1846.

Death and the lady

May 4, 2013

Week 89 – The Woodman’s Daughter

Collected by Cecil Sharp at Warehorne in Kent on the 23rd September 1908, from James Beale.

Other versions – George Maynard’s for instance – often have the female protagonist as “The Poor Old Weaver’s Daughter”.

I added the last verse, because otherwise the song ended with the line “May your prospect never be blighted”. That didn’t seem right when almost every other verse had ended with the phrase “poor old woodman’s daughter”. Actually, having seen other versions now, I realise that a simpler approach would have been to just switch Mr Beale’s last two verses around.

I previously recorded this on the Kentish compilation The Keys of Canterbury (Steel Carpet, 1994).

Broadside ballad sheet from the Bodleian collection: The labourer's welcome home / The weaver's daughter; printed by J.  Catnach between 1813 and 1838.

Broadside ballad sheet from the Bodleian collection: The labourer’s welcome home / The weaver’s daughter; printed by J. Catnach between 1813 and 1838.

The Woodman’s Daughter

April 7, 2013

Week 85 – The Old Miser

Another song learned from the Willett Family LP, The Roving Journeymen, where it is sung by Chris Willett. The song was also included on Farewell, My Own Dear Native Land,  Volume 4 in Topic’s Voice of the People series.

I previously recorded this song for the compilation of Kentish material, Apples, Cherries, Hops and Women, one of three (to date) masterminded by Pete Castle.

I don’t exactly rush the song, but I’ve just listened to Chris Willett singing the song and was struck by how much slower he takes it – over six and a half minutes, compared with my insubstantial three minutes 54 seconds.

The Old Miser