Mudcat Café message #3859243 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162215   Message #3859243
Posted By: Colin Randall
06-Jun-17 - 11:45 AM
Thread Name: Obit: Vin Garbutt (20 Nov 1947 6 Jun 2017)
Subject: RE: Obit: Vin Garbutt (20 Nov 1947 6 Jun 2017)
Here's something I wrote a little hastily after hearing of the death of a man I considered a great performer, a brilliant wit and a much appreciated if long-distance friend... The onward links are clickable at the site ...

Vin Garbutt RIP: if the river Tees could sing, he was its voice

As we grow older, news of contemporaries dying becomes depressingly routine. Some deaths hit harder than most, however, and it is with immense sadness that I record the passing of a man I regard as probably the best solo performer on the British folk circuit, Vin Garbutt.

Vin was a charming, funny, self-deprecating man but also a quite wonderful artist who could draw an audience into the palm of his hand with that roaring voice, exemplary stage presence and down-to-earth wit.

A Boro lad through and through (despite his across-the-divide Orange and Green Irish parentage), he'd worked at ICI. The voice, it always seemed to me, could have come from nowhere else and I once wrote that if the river Tees could sing, it would sound like him.

His home town's Evening Gazette reported his death, a few weeks after major heart surgery, with these words:

A post on Facebook read: 'It's with great sadness and extremely heavy hearts that we must inform you that our beloved Vin passed away this morning. 'He loved the life he shared with you all, and we know how much he'll be missed. 'Although we won't be able to see him again, we're grateful that we will be able to listen to him for the rest of our lives. 'All the very best, Pat, Emma, Tim, Katie & Louis.'

From earliest recollection, he would charge a fiver or so, including petrol and refreshments, to drive over from Teesside to folk clubs I helped to run in Bishop Auckland and Darlington. Even with the passage of time, that can be seen as selling himself short.

I saw him sing to my own folk club faithful (and at other clubs), to a bunch of night club revellers including off-duty cops and to a hugely appreciative crowd in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, where I overheard a bloke in the toilet marvelling at the power of his vocals.

Vin outraged the mostly southern English folk police by not only opposing abortion but writing songs embracing his strongly held belief. I wrote at length about the deep suspicion that he was excluded from the Cambridge Folk Festival programme for this reason. I disagreed with his point of view but never thought for a second that he should be forbidden from, or punished for, expressing it.

The only time we fell out, and then only mildly, was when I described his outlook in a Daily Telegraph review as "self-opinionated". He was right to challenge the usage, since it excludes the validity of alternative opinions, and I told him so. It was a misuse of a word, when "opinionated" was the appropriate term. In classic Vin fashion, he accepted my apology.

Vin's humour remained with him even as he approached serious heart surgery earlier this year, as the Evening Gazette reported.

On the planned removal of his mitral valve and the insertion of a mechanical replacement, he said: "I could have had a pig's valve but that would have left the donor disgruntled so I rejected it."

My abiding memory of Vin will not be the abortion row, the lusty voice, the jaunty tin whistle or even the superb banter he maintained with audiences. It will be of the sight of a supremely gifted singer sipping his pint of Guinness between songs and tunes, raising his glass to the audience and saying, simply: "Cheers."

Cheers, Vin, for your wonderful music and long-distance friendship. And heartfelt condolences to Pam and the rest of the family. And the next time I order a Guinness - albeit from an export bottle since I am now in France - I shall raise it in your honour.

Further reading:

* Treasures rediscovered; Vin Garbutt and The Valley of Tees

* Vin Garbutt and Cambridge: what's the real story?

* Evening Gazette: reaction and tributes

* And thanks to Bill Taylor for digging this one out of YouTube ...