Live recordings of early revival singers
The following sound files provide an excellent taste of what the music was like in the 1960s. The tapes only came to light in 2017 courtesy of Carol Wilkinson. I originally gave them some noise reduction (they were recorded on a very cheap recorder at the Elizabeth Folk Club, Elizabeth Hotel, Elizabeth Street, Sydney in 1967 and feature eight of the most influential performers of the time. Brian Grayson, a singer who was also a regular at nineteen sixties folk clubs, took the noise reduction further using the Audacity program. He did a great job despite the fifty years since they were recorded.
The singers are all mentioned in the following pages of the Folk Revival history so here is a short line about each artist as at 2017. WF
Gordon McIntyre (deceased). Gordon was a Scottish immigrant whose singing spanned near fifty years. He often teamed up with Danny Spooner, was a member of The Larrikins and, in later life, sang with Kate Delaney. He was a wonderful singer and guitar player.
Peter Dickie (deceased) Peter was part of the early folk revival, a singer at clubs and festivals and on early recordings with Martyn- Wyndham-Read. He died in an accident. He had a particular interest in Australian bush songs.
Richard Brooks (deceased) Richard was a Sydney-based mouth organ player. He could bend notes out of diatonic and chromatic harmonicas like nobody. He came to notice with several recordings with Gary Shearston.
Brad Tate Newcastle resident, collector, singer and musician. Played for a short time in The Larrikins.
Colin Dryden (deceased) Charming singer, guitarist and concertina player. One of the stalwarts of the Sydney folk music scene.
Mike Ball England. Mike was one of the first English concertina stylists to appear in the revival. His crystal clear voice was ideally suited to ballads and his interpretations of Charles Causley poems. He returned to England in the 1980s.
Mike & Carol Wilkinson England. Mike & Carol were English singers and musicians, Mike on guitar and Carol on English concertina. They ran the Elizabeth Folk Club plus many special events.
John Francis Adelaide. John is still performing in South Australia. A fine guitarist and singer.
Dave de Hugard Castlemaine, Victoria. Dave is one of the most-loved of Australian ‘bush musicians’. A great interpreter of the song and instrumental tradition, he has widely collected and recorded.
01. The Cork Leg (Gordon McIntyre)
02. The Old Palmer Song (Peter Dickie & Band (featuring Richard Brooks on harmonicas)
03. Ryebuck Shearer (Peter Dickie, Brad Tate & Band (featuring Richard Brooks on harmonicas)
04. One Of the Has-Beens (Peter Dickie & Band (featuring Richard Brooks on harmonicas)
05. Lachlan Tigers (Peter Dickie & Band (featuring Richard Brooks on harmonicas)
06. Whitby Lad (Colin Dryden)
07. To the Begging I Will Go (Colin Dryden)
08. The Poacher’s Fate (Mike Ball, Colin Dryden, Mike & Carol Wilkinson)
09. George Fox (Sydney Carter) (Mike Ball, Colin Dryden, Mike & Carol Wilkinson)
10 .Fennario (Carol Wilkinson with Colin Dryden on dulcimer)
11. Lovely On the Water (Mike Ball)
12. All Things Are Quite Silent (Mike Ball)
13. Farewell Aggie Weston (a poem by Charles Causley) (Mike Ball)
14. Three Masts (a poem by Charles Causley) (Mike Ball)
15. The Innocent’s Song (a poem by Charles Causley) (Mike Ball)
16. Timothy Winters (a poem by Charles Causley) (Mike Ball)
17. Flash Jack From Gundagai (John Francis)
18. A Blacksmith Courted Me (Mike Ball)
19. The Manchester ‘Angel’ (Colin Dryden)
20. The Morning Looks Charming (All)
21. The Iron Road (Ewan MacColl) (Colin Dryden)
22. The Pit Lad (Colin Dryden) (Colin Dryden)
23. The New Chum Shearer (Dave de Hugard)
24. Blow the Candle Out (Colin Dryden)
MEMORIES OF THE AUSTRALIAN FOLK REVIVAL
As a kid in the late 1950s and early 60s you couldn’t avoid folk music because it was, for a mini second, the most popular music of those days. Radio played folk music, television offered programs and folk clubs, coffee houses and festivals jumped out from every corner. We had our Australian stars including Tina Lawton, Tina Date, Martyn Wyndham-Read, Declan Affley, Gary Shearston and many others but it was the American and British artists who stood out in the popular arena and especially The Weavers, Pete Seeger, A.L.Lloyd, Ewan MacColl and a cast of thousands.
My first real folk club experience was most probably the local coffee shop at Rockdale but it was the Greenwich Village at Kensington, near the NSW University, that became my second home. It was run by a Kiwi ñ Noel Raynes and it was always packed to the rafters with the best singers. Noel was a great chorus singer and, along with his wife, a great host. I was a bright-eyed kid and already a ‘folk sponge’. I couldn’t get enough of the music but, at the same time, kept wondering why I was learning Scots and Irish and American songs. I had already started to think about the Australian tradition.
When I left school I started to go to the Elizabeth Hotel, Elizabeth Street, Sydney, where Mike and Carol Wilkinson ran one of the first pub folk clubs. I became a firm friend of the Wilkinson’s and their associate ‘door man’ Harvey Green. The four of us, and Mike Ball, would usually have a meal every week followed by a night of stilton, pickled eggs and song. The Wilkinson’s were terrific singers and especially English harmony songs. Mike Ball, well, I always thought him a genius. He was an extraordinary English concertina player, singer and songwriter. He put many Robert Graves poems to music and I can still remember his setting for ‘Timothy Winters’. It was the nearest I ever came to crying over a song. Eric Bogle’s songs have the same effect.
The folk boom burst by the mid sixties and was considered ‘old hat’. It was a simple case of overkill. Gary Shearston was the number one artist and had released several landmark albums and hosted two television programs. Marion Henderson was equally big and then there was a line of other artists too long to mention. They all seemed to disappear, some bitter that the bubble had burst, others seemingly relieved.
Some of us saw it as an opportunity to re-group and re-organise. We moved the whole shebang into the hotels so we could automatically control the age limit and the door policy.
The Wilkinson’s had a strict policy in running the folk club. I suspect it was modelled on Ewan MacColl’s Singer’s Club in as much as you could only sing songs from your own tradition. They discouraged blues, jazzy songs etc and pushed British and Australian traditional songs. The main singers at the club, apart from the Wilkinson’s and Mike Ball were Colin Dryden, Declan Affley, Mike Eves (another good concertina player), an English couple called Charlie and Liz, Peter Parkhill (who had an impressive repertoire of ballads), Noel Raynes (who had closed his club), Derrick Chetwyn, The Montgomery Folk (Roger Montgomery, Tony Lavin, Christy Cooney). I ended up helping run the club and also organised the floor singers including the occasional spot for myself.
We also encouraged chorus singing and we really raised the roof with songs like ‘Fathom The Bowl’, ‘Shepherd’s Arise’, ‘Pleasant and Delightful’ and most of the Copper Family repertoire. There were always interstate guests like Peter Dickie, Phyl Vinnicombe (Lobl), Danny Spooner, Gordon McIntyre and so on. One by one, Mike Ball, Mike and Carol Wilkinson, Harvey Green, Martyn Wyndham-Read, Trevor Lucas and Brian Mooney all left for Europe.
It was around this time that I disappeared to take a job in Newcastle. I was appointed to a two-year contract as Activities Officer of the Newcastle, Tighes Hill, Student’s Union. One of the first things I did was establish a folk club. Gawd knows what possessed me but I called it the Purple Parrot Folk Club. We built our own premises under a walkway on the college site and over the next two years, we put Newcastle folk on the map. I would drive down to Sydney so I could go to The Elizabeth Folk Club then ‘kidnap’ whichever singer would come with me, and drive back to Newcastle for the Sunday night club.
Every six months I organised a major event including the first all-Australian themed folk weekend ñ These Wild Colonial Weekends attracted people from all over and were huge successes even if they resulted in me becoming like a school teacher fearful of drug abuse (“my gawd, is that pot you’re smoking?”). Regulars at the club included Robin Connaughton, Bob Hudson, Jill Gartrell, Brad and Sandra Tate, The Maitland Bush Band crew and Jim Taylor.
On my return to Sydney, the Elizabeth was in its death throes because of the departure of the Wilkinsons and Ball. I decided to step in so ended up running it every week but the landlord was getting pesky. I closed the club and immediately opened in a new and bigger pub around the corner in Bathurst-street.
In 1968 I established the Edinburgh Castle Folk Club, in a pub of the same name, on the corner of Bathurst and Castlereagh. It had three large adjoining rooms and a friendly publican, John Johnson. Following my interest in traditional music, I set club guidelines whereby only traditional material could be performed. My rationale was that there were other places, like PACT, where contemporary songs had a platform. In retrospect, it was limiting but necessary, and a comment on the time. The club was a huge success with full houses every week. Plenty of singers, including interstate artists, theme nights and the music thrived. It was also a venue where the audience sang out the choruses with gusto.
After a couple of years, I gave the Club away and Len Neary continued to run it. I started Folkways Music I started another club in the famous home of The Push at the Royal George in Sussex Street. This was a big pub with a wonderfully atmospheric basement. I ran the Boar’s Head Folk Club for a few years and had some great nights of music.
After the Edinburgh closed I started another club in the famous home of The Push at the Royal George in Sussex Street. This was a big pub with a wonderfully atmospheric basement. I ran the Boar’s Head Folk Club for a few years and had some great nights of music however my businesses, especially Folkways Music, were demanding more time and I eventually backed away from running clubs.
I was also involved in setting up the NSW Folk Federation with Danny Watson and Bernard Bolan. I had produced the first Port Jackson Folk Festival, which was also one of the early national Folk Festivals, and it was staged at Sydney University with the main concerts being at the Elizabethan Theatre in Newtown. They were wonderful concerts in a great old theatre full of atmosphere. The festival was also a success and the idea of the Federation grew out of that. My first club membership card (I think I was member number 3) is in my NLA manuscript collection. In 2010, along with Coleen Burke and John Dengate, I was honoured with Life Membership of the NSW Folk Federation.
I went on to suggest a national body of all the fledgeling state folk federations and the Australian Folk Trust was born and operated out of my Paddington office with me as Executive Officer. It was a bloody nightmare and I sometimes wonder why I agreed to do it. Too political with everyone suspicious of everyone else’s motives. It ended up surviving but I bailed out after fifteen months of angst.
My businesses, Folkways and Larrikin Records, had grown and demanded more time so I stepped aside of the folk clubs. All the Sydney city clubs folded soon after and never recovered. Of course, the festival circuit had already started and this was filling the bill for many people who still wanted to attend folk clubs.
In 2009 I became Chairman of the Folk Alliance Australia, a body representing various aspects of what was lightly referred to as the ‘folk industry’. It represents something like 75 festivals, musicians, organisers, folk clubs and even Morris Dancers! The FFA still exists and carries out a valuable service to the folk arts.
The folk revival had already come a long way but still had a long way to go.
(this is a work in progress and I shall add to it as I get time. Other contributions welcome be you a performer or audience member)
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