Mudcat Café message #4017321 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #166876   Message #4017321
Posted By: Howard Jones
05-Nov-19 - 02:09 PM
Thread Name: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
I'm not quite sure what you are trying to say by this article. It seems to me, although this may be coloured by some of your comments on another thread, that you are somehow trying to debunk the idea of Walter Pardon as an important traditional singer. You even seem to suggest that he was really no such thing. I'm sure Jim will be along in due course to challenge this but in the meantime here's my two penn'orth.

Firstly you seem to have a misguided idea of what a traditional singer should be. The idea that a folk singer should be an illiterate peasant untouched by outside influences was inaccurate even in Cecil Sharp's time. Pardon was a man of the 20th century, more or less contemporary with my own father, and of course he had some education and was literate. Of course he was exposed to the gramophone, the radio and the television, and it would be naive to expect that his singing style might be completely untouched by these influences. However it would also have been influenced by the singers in his family and his village. His style was his own, as to some extent is any singer's, and from one point of view is representative only of him. Most other traditional singers had their own individual styles. Nevertheless it is an example of a mid-20th century singer who has been part of a singing tradition passed on over at least three generations, but not one which existed in a state of isolation.

You also seem to cast doubt on his sources. Broadsides and written sources do not disqualify someone from being a traditional singer. Singers took songs from wherever they could find them and written sources have long been known to be part of this. You also wonder where he got found the words to his uncle's songs when he came to write them down. Could they not have been in his head? 150 songs is a respectable number, but I expect most modern singers know at least that many. I reckon I could muster a similar number if I put my mind to it, although of course it would take time to dredge them all from the recesses of my memory. What made him exceptional was that most other traditional singers had been recorded when they were much older and could recall only relatively few songs.

The concept of "folk song" is an academic one used by outsiders, and I doubt any source singer thought of their material as "folk song". I'm sure Jim will explain exactly how Pardon thought of the different songs in his repertoire. When Pardon associated the term with school I suspect he may have been thinking of Cecil Sharp's piano arrangements which were inflicted on generations of schoolchildren, and which would appear very different to his own songs.

However it is probable that he took his position in the folk revival seriously and wanted to maintain and increase his repertoire. I am reminded of another traditional singer, Fred Jordan, who was not averse to adding songs to his repertoire from revival singers, and who rather played up his "country yokel" image.

You seem to imply he was exploited when his songs were recorded. It is usual for copyright in a recording to belong to the record producer, who has after all paid to produce it, and is also better placed to enforce copyright claims. The copyright is in the recording itself, not the songs on it. What we don't know is what financial arrangements Bill Leader made with him. From what I can gather he seems to have been trusted by most of those he recorded.

You seem to think that Pardon is disqualified, or at least devalued, as a traditional singer because he was exposed to outside influences, had a broad repertoire which did not just include folk songs, and was involved with and perhaps influenced (polluted?) by the folk revival. Instead he should be seen in context, as an example a modern 20th century person who was a successor to an older singing tradition and singing culture, which still continues today in parts of East Anglia.

Did he receive undue attention simply because he being slightly younger than most of the other traditional singers he had survived for longer and was able to be recorded and to perform outside his local environment? Perhaps, after all there were so few traditional singers left by then so any that were left were seized on, but his clear ability as a singer, as a song carrier and as an interpreter of those songs should stand for itself.

Incidentally, this article by Peta Webb on EATMT is worth a read.