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Who invented Folk Clubs UK

Jim Carroll 23 Dec 13 - 11:18 AM
Les in Chorlton 23 Dec 13 - 09:54 AM
Jim Carroll 23 Dec 13 - 08:47 AM
MGM·Lion 23 Dec 13 - 08:43 AM
The Sandman 23 Dec 13 - 08:36 AM
Big Al Whittle 21 Dec 13 - 03:34 PM
The Sandman 21 Dec 13 - 03:13 PM
MGM·Lion 21 Dec 13 - 02:27 PM
Les in Chorlton 21 Dec 13 - 02:21 PM
Jim Carroll 21 Dec 13 - 01:19 PM
Big Al Whittle 21 Dec 13 - 12:55 PM
Jim Carroll 21 Dec 13 - 09:29 AM
The Sandman 21 Dec 13 - 09:27 AM
Big Al Whittle 21 Dec 13 - 07:53 AM
The Sandman 21 Dec 13 - 06:28 AM
Les in Chorlton 21 Dec 13 - 05:49 AM
Big Al Whittle 20 Dec 13 - 02:54 PM
GUEST 20 Dec 13 - 12:14 PM
Les in Chorlton 20 Dec 13 - 11:41 AM
Big Al Whittle 20 Dec 13 - 11:11 AM
Les in Chorlton 20 Dec 13 - 10:39 AM
MGM·Lion 20 Dec 13 - 06:43 AM
Big Al Whittle 20 Dec 13 - 06:16 AM
Dave the Gnome 20 Dec 13 - 06:14 AM
johncharles 20 Dec 13 - 05:28 AM
Les in Chorlton 20 Dec 13 - 05:10 AM
johncharles 20 Dec 13 - 05:02 AM
The Sandman 20 Dec 13 - 04:56 AM
Les in Chorlton 20 Dec 13 - 04:06 AM
Big Al Whittle 20 Dec 13 - 12:34 AM
The Sandman 19 Dec 13 - 12:24 PM
Jim Carroll 19 Dec 13 - 09:12 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Dec 13 - 08:40 AM
Les in Chorlton 19 Dec 13 - 08:20 AM
The Sandman 19 Dec 13 - 08:11 AM
The Sandman 19 Dec 13 - 07:29 AM
MGM·Lion 19 Dec 13 - 04:48 AM
GUEST 19 Dec 13 - 04:35 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Dec 13 - 04:31 AM
GUEST 19 Dec 13 - 04:30 AM
Howard Jones 19 Dec 13 - 04:08 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Dec 13 - 03:31 AM
Dave Sutherland 19 Dec 13 - 03:31 AM
SunrayFC 18 Dec 13 - 10:25 PM
The Sandman 18 Dec 13 - 07:49 PM
Big Al Whittle 18 Dec 13 - 05:25 PM
Jim Carroll 18 Dec 13 - 03:27 PM
rosma 18 Dec 13 - 03:24 PM
Howard Jones 18 Dec 13 - 02:29 PM
rosma 18 Dec 13 - 02:13 PM
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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Dec 13 - 11:18 AM

We are lucky enough to have a weekly music session which also caters for and encourages singers - not common.
Some musicians tend to treat singing as a sing-'n-chat break, on the other hand (as was recently pointed out), some singers will use music as 'wallpaper', yet still expect silence when they sing.
Give and take does it.
Strangely - or maybe not so - it is always the solo musician who manages to command respect and attention in a pub session.
I've related this before but worth repeating I think:
At the time of veteran fiddle-player, Junior Crehan's death, spme fifteen years ago, local radio did a long obituary programme where they interviewed numerous musicians who had played with him.
Junior, as well as being an extremely important musician, was also a fine storyteller and singer.
One friend, also a veteran fiddler, Joe Ryan, was asked about the singing side of Junior's talents, and why some musicians were not interested in, and sometimes hostile towards singing.
He replied that at the time when music was always played in farmhouse kitchens the singing usually took place at the end of the evening when the musicians and dancers had had enough.
Joe said he could never get away from associating singing with the end of an enjoyable night's entertainment.
Some of Ireland's great musicians were also singers - Josie McDermott, Mary Anne Carolan, Willie Clancy, Johnny Doherty and many others were musicians as well as singers.
The last time we saw Kevin Burke he was singing imn addition to enthralling the audience with his fiddle playing.
He even sang one he had made himself, about the music pubs in London.
The great Seamus Ennis's contribution to traditional song was as important as his playing - certainly as a collector and passer-on of both
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 23 Dec 13 - 09:54 AM

As I mentioned above, we have songs and tunes an alternating weeks and sometimes together - overlapping groups of people.

With the odd exception the most popular groups currently out of Ireland or the UK offer a mixture of songs and tunes - and quite a few through in clog dancing in the UK


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Dec 13 - 08:47 AM

"Maybe its what Irish Bands discovered years ago that tunes and songs are better than just songs?"
Both are important Les and one is never "better" than the other unless you measure the value of your culture by the numbers of bums on seats.
Always worth remembering that Shakespeare went through periods - sometimes centuries without audiences.
Tried to get into 'Dream' when I was in London - not a snowball's chance...
Even as archived and studied material, folksong is one of the most important aspects of our culture, whether people come to listen to it or not.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 23 Dec 13 - 08:43 AM

And to you likewise, Al ~~ all best Seasonal Compliments from Emma & me.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Dec 13 - 08:36 AM

Jim Carroll, I also run a monthly singers circle, and organise a weekly trad tunes session, and organise a yearly folk festival do you organise anything yourself?


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 Dec 13 - 03:34 PM

no not really Mike lots of love and much respect at Christmas and always
al


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Dec 13 - 03:13 PM

"The situation is uneven - Dick's part of the world may be as he described - who knows, with a little effort and a little less self-absorption, he might be able to play a part in improving the situaion there,"
Jim your post is partronising and rude and inaccurate.https://sites.google.com/site/thefastnetmaritimeandfolkfest/


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 21 Dec 13 - 02:27 PM

In any event, Al, museums are valuable places serving a valuable purpose. Don't you feel it a bit unworthy to use the word as a term of belittlement and abuse?

Regards

~M~


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 21 Dec 13 - 02:21 PM

Clancys, Dubliners, Johnstons, Chieftains, Planxty, De Dannan, Patrick Street, Bothy Band, Altan, Clannad, Danu, Fureys, Lunasa .....

Seems an amazing collection of musicians that are just some of the Irish bands that were and some still are popular with the widest audience in Ireland, in the UK and in many cases around the world.

They have all stayed close to traditional music.

UK folk bands as popular as these? Steeleye? Fairport? Spinners?

And now? Bellowhead

Population of Ireland 4.5 million. Population of UK 63 million.

We are currently going through a great blossoming of English traditional music - Spiers & Boden, New Albion Band, Lady Maisery, Emily Portman, Jackie Oats, Jim Morray, Maukin/Causley, Demon Barbers, all those in Bellowhead who perform in 1s, 2s and 3s.Melrose Quartet .....

All groups making great music and staying close to traditional songs and tunes.

So, looks like it can be done.

We run a singaround every 1st & 3rd Wednesday in Chorlton, Manchester and some of the people who come are very good, most of us get by and some are not good. We have a tunes session on 2nd & 4th mostly English and steady. Around 20 of us appear as a Ceilidh Band. I can honestly say that most of the public would not enjoy our singaround but I can also say that when ever and where ever we play tunes, English Country Dance Tunes - people always enjoy them.

Maybe its what Irish Bands discovered years ago that tunes and songs are better than just songs?


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Dec 13 - 01:19 PM

" the English people sodded it up because they didn't think Saturday night in a museum of folk music constituted a decent night out"
Not as simple as that Al - but even if it was, so what?
The English people made folk song - just say they have now disowned it, it doesn't make a gnats cock of difference - they made something beautiful that lasted for centuries and became an essential part of our history, culture and entertainment.
We may have managed it better and it may get more attention that it is now getting (if it wasn't for the morons in between - (as the song nearly says) - but it will be around long after we are for others to enjoy - long after we're gone and the Boggart Hole Clough Folk Club is a "where" in people's memories.
In the meantime, we'll have to soldier on and continue to amuse ourselves as best we can.
Happy Christmas Al and all
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 Dec 13 - 12:55 PM

well you segue into Goodnight Irene - you get my meaning.

I guess you're right |Jim. you lot started up the folk clubs. the English people sodded it up because they didn't think Saturday night in a museum of folk music constituted a decent night out

Still it seems that you're quite happy and everything is to your liking over where you are.

so no harm done
apart from to our sacred heritage - which we don't seem to give a bugger about.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Dec 13 - 09:29 AM

"and excellent world-class traditional folk music is part of that and is extremely popular with the general public."
o intention of getting bogged down in one of Dick's mud-fields, but can I put this in context.
It really doesn't matter how popular which or whatever music is "more" popular (nobody can claim traditional music has been "more popular" than any other form for a long time in these islands) - Irish traditional music has come into its own at long last here, thanks to the dedication of people who didn't faff about trying to please all of the people all of the time and didn't stumble around trying to re-invent it to please a bunch of hangers on who wouldn't recognise a folk song if they stumbled over an eight volume set of The Greig Duncan collection - and wouldn't like it if they knew what it was.
Over twenty-odd years ago there were accounts of musicians being turned out of pubs if they were carrying musical instruments - certainly they were never welcomed over the howls of 'That'll be the Day' coming from the juke boxes.
Kevin Glackin described how he went to music lessons with his fiddle tucked under his coat for fear of being jeered at or even set upon by his schoolmates.
Nowadays, around here, in Donegal and other counties, traditional music (proper) is on the rise.
I can go out three/four nights a week and hear good traditional music well played in the pubs in our single-street town - not as background music, though any public playing has its hazards, and always has had.
Local families like the McCarthys are now entering into their third generation as traditional music, youngsters are coming into the music in a steady stream.
The country has two magnificent world-class archives and traditional music is now part of the curriculum in several universities.
The media coverage is as I described it above - later on this year we hope to be putting together a programme (series maybe) on the work of Ewan MacColl for national radio.
We did a three part series on national radio on Irish Travellers in London a couple of years ago.
Our collection of around 300 songs from west Clare goes up on the county library web-site for public access in March (hopefully).
The situation is uneven - Dick's part of the world may be as he described - who knows, with a little effort and a little less self-absorption, he might be able to play a part in improving the situaion there, but it seems more than a little perverse to point out that Country and Western is more popular - so is Kylie Minogue, or Lady Gaga - so what - that's why "popular music" got its name.
It no way detracts from the importance of traditional music; not does it change the fact that Ireland now has a base to build on for the future.
I don't give a toss whose music is more popular than our is - I do know that it's only by focusing on what we do and what we mean my 'traditional' and 'folk' not by trying to decide whether 'Masters of War' and 'Imagine' are more folkie than one another.
Back to the archiving
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Dec 13 - 09:27 AM

but black velvet band and galway shawl have no connection with country and western or country and irish, their roots are not in american old timey music they are irish songs, black velvet band is an irish transportation folk song, galway shawl , relates a meeting between two people and mentions playing irish tradtional tunes, how is that a country song?


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 Dec 13 - 07:53 AM

well there of course lies the problem.

being English we decide that country music isn't folk music. Personally I used to love that thing of playing in an Irish club where you'd do Black Velvet Band, orThe Galway shawl in waltz time and the floor would fill up with dancers.

It felt like something folkish was going on to me. And frankly something at a deeper more instinctive level than much more prestigious forms of folk music.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Dec 13 - 06:28 AM

"That's as maybe. But a point that Jim Carrol made earlier is important; all kinds of music goes on in Ireland and excellent world-class traditional folk music is part of that and is extremely popular with the general public."
I live in Ireland, that in my opinionthat is partly true but is an over simplification.
country and western is more popular,
within trad music unusual phnomena appear, there are very few folk clubs, there are a lot of venues where music is background music, there are a few singers clubs[with strict rules about unaccompanied singing only]there are tradtional instrumental music sessions where only a small amount of singing is encouraged, so there is a divide amongst trad music of singer and instrumentalists, there are very few clubs where singer songwriters are encouraged to perform in a listening environment, most singer songwriters end up performing in pubs and end up being wall paper music, i find this sad because to me lyrics are important., the only place people listen to lyrics are in singers clubs, or the ocasional song which is a break for trad instrumentalists, all is not entirely rosy in the irish folk garden.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 21 Dec 13 - 05:49 AM

That's as maybe. But a point that Jim Carrol made earlier is important; all kinds of music goes on in Ireland and excellent world-class traditional folk music is part of that and is extremely popular with the general public.

No doubt their will be many reasons musical, political and social.

I am not suggesting that we will get to an understanging of the success of traditional Irish folk music here or that we can simply follow the Irish experience even if we wanted to. But I do feel we could learn something from that experience.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Dec 13 - 02:54 PM

I agree there's a lot to enjoy in E, and in particular nglish Folk music and it would be great to give it a higher profile and for it to be more highly valued.

but bear in mind, who was it slagging off the popularisers like the Corries, The Spinners, The Yetties, etc. when they were most active - it was English trad purists.

in England we are horrid to musicians = the purists are the most horrid.
'that's not what I call traditional jazz - not with a saxophone'
'that's not country music - not with a loud drummer like that'
'that's not bluegrass....not real bluegrass'

I've been listening to shit like that all my working life as a musician.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Dec 13 - 12:14 PM

But I look on everyone who comes into a folk club as being a possible recruit to the great adventure called Folk.
That's the real point, the person who turns up thinking that "folk" means Mumford needs enough to hold them until they can realise what else there is.

OK, I like the heavy "finger in the ear" end of folk and if places with a population to support one clubs like that then all the better. The important thing is for clubs to be clear in their publicity about what they are offering and what their core audience expects, not just the bland "all types welcome" which isn't always true by any means.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 20 Dec 13 - 11:41 AM

Same route Al, same people - throw in the Spinners, Clancy's and Dubliners and all your other points - especially the last sentence.

This will by my 50th year performing in folk clubs so I don't have time to waste. When it's called a Folk Club I would settle for 50.1% folks songs collected in or before the 19C. I want lots of open mike events so that live music of all kinds can be found.

I would like English Folk Music to have the popularity and standing that Irish Folk Music has - I am not sure why - probably because I think it would make lots of people happy.

Best wishes


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Dec 13 - 11:11 AM

I suppose I became aware of folk music as a term applied by radio dj's to recordings of groups like the Kingston Trio - that would be around 1958 when I was nine.

By the time Seeger and Dylan were having their glory glory years in the early 60's - folk seemed to me, and I suspect to the general public in England like a great artistic movement. Iwould imagine that is still the understanding of most English people. Donovan, corn dollies, The Yetties....

Names like Ewan MacColl and Cecil Sharp and AL Lloyd - they were turning up in books by Oak Publications. Even though we did not realise we had met them already in Singing Together on the radio when we were kids.

I would agree - not everything in folk clubs is folk music. But I look on everyone who comes into a folk club as being a possible recruit to the great adventure called Folk.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 20 Dec 13 - 10:39 AM

Hello Al, I just wondered why it took you so long to respond.

I started this thread to explore the origin and evolution of Folk Clubs in the UK because I think they have been and remain an amazing phenomena.I think that question has been answered but as often happens on here we get back to the "What is Folk" question and "Why are their less Folk Clubs than their used to be".

I will do what most people do on here I probably want go back and read eveything again. But somewhere between the 1954 definition (songs from within a community, passed on orally, author uknown) and the looser - anything sung in a folk club since 1954 - lie many, many definitions or descriptions.

I guess yours lies near the second of these two?


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 20 Dec 13 - 06:43 AM

The 'never·heard·a·horse' bollox also attributed to Louis Armstrong. Bert Lloyd called it 'a dreary axiom', as I remarked above. My reply (as I might have said before but never mind) is that I've never seen a horse dance in a tutu, so does that make Swan Lake a folk dance?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Dec 13 - 06:16 AM

Not really my style Les, I do tend to specialise in jokes that make people laugh - albeit showing a complete lack of good taste.

just one of those predjudices commonly held by clowns.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 20 Dec 13 - 06:14 AM

A horse is a horse, of course of course.

Obviously never heard of Mr Ed either

:D tG


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: johncharles
Date: 20 Dec 13 - 05:28 AM

"I guess all songs is folk songs. I never heard no horse sing 'em."
Big Bill Broonzy
He should have checked youtube

small horse
john


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 20 Dec 13 - 05:10 AM

Very good John, but no, Al must know mustn't he - he knows so much about .................


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: johncharles
Date: 20 Dec 13 - 05:02 AM

is it the tale about the horse with a long face listening to tales of whoa?
john


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Dec 13 - 04:56 AM

nottamun town which was collected from jean ritchie shares the same tune as masters of war.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 20 Dec 13 - 04:06 AM

Oh, come on Al don't be like that - you know the story .......


....... Folk music? Folk music ...... it's all Folk music .....

... I never heard .......


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Dec 13 - 12:34 AM

strangely enough Nottanum Town on which Masters of War is supposedly based was the one song I did ask MacColl about. He was very friendly and gave me some ideas.

I sometimes tell a story about the bath/horse trough that Lancashire police horses drink out of, and was the bath that Buck Ruxton dismembered his wife and maidservant in. I also wrote and occasionally perform a song called Buster the Line Dancing Dog.

However the horse joke escapes me. If I told you it Les, it was perhaps whilst I was in an altered state of consciousness.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Dec 13 - 12:24 PM

"By the way - Ewan MacColl didn't "write" folk songs"
not intentionally but some of them have become that, which is in my opinion a compliment to his song writing skills.
however I asked Jim a question in an attempt to be fair, since he will not answer the question, I have to assume from his statement, "macColl encouraged people to compose songs USING TRADITIONAL FORMS", so it is not unreasonable to assume that he did not encourage song writers to perform at his club who did not use traditional forms.
I wonder what his reaction would have been if John Lennon had turned up and sang Imagine[ a song that has incidentally inspired millions of people to question the warmongers of this world]
and still we do not know what this term tradtional form means, does it mean that songs have to be written in a question or answer patternlike tradtional songs "Swan swims so bonny" or is it meaning the use of only 3 particular modes.
whichever way it is imposing an inibition on the creativity of song writers, it is restriting them to working within a limited perameter.
why is Imagine less of a folk song than masters of war?


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Dec 13 - 09:12 AM

"Ewan was very a good songwriter, I would have been interested in the answer, was traditional style based on tunes [that only used certain modes] or lyric structure or both?"
Sorry - missed a bit - as I have indicated - you'll have to ask him
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Dec 13 - 08:40 AM

Can't see a single thing that contradicts what I have said - I have put that same letter up to show that it was club policy to base what happened there on Folk songs as we know it.
It was a policy confirmed on a regular basis by the audience committee, of which Pat and I were members for over ten years, that we restrict our nights to Folk and Folk based songs, with the exceptions I have already mentioned.
As Peggy's letter said "This policy was meant for OUR club, not for other clubs."
It is exactly what I said and exactly what I mean.
Peggy's letter was a response in support of a previous letter of mine and Pat's (The Living Tradition - about three issues previous to Peggy's letter) making the points I am making here - we entitled it "Where have all the folk songs gone"
What is your point, but please don't make this another of your stalking campaigns.
"Ewan was very a good songwriter, I would have been interested in the answer, was traditional style based on tunes [that only used certain modes] or lyric structure or both?"
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 19 Dec 13 - 08:20 AM

Xlnt post GSS but I still want Al to tell the horse story


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Dec 13 - 08:11 AM

MacColl" was expressing an opinion as to how the folk song revival should develop - we all have those - opinions, that is - nowhere was it a "enforcement" as to how the Singers Club or any other club must me run." jim carroll quote.
here is a copy of peggy seegers letter, from this letter it is clear the singers club had a club policy which they enforced at their club.

Ewan MacColl Controversy - by Peggy Seeger
I confess, I confess! I was the one who started the whole 'policy' debate. The Ballads and Blues Club had been going really well since 1953. I arrived in London in 1956. The club met at the Princess Louise in High Holborn at that time and there was an impressive list of residents: Alan Lomax, Ralph Rinzler, Isla Cameron, Fitzroy Coleman, Seamus Ennis, Bert Lloyd, Ewan MacColl, et al. Bert was singing English, Australian, N. American and Scottish songs; Ewan was singing 'Sixteen Tons' and 'Sam Bass' alongside 'Eppie Morrie' and 'The Banks of the Nile'; I regularly sang French, German and Dutch songs alongside 'Barbara Allan' and 'Cumberland Gap'. Fitz and Seamus stuck, respectively, to their Jamaican and Irish material. Alan only sang songs that he and his father had collected in the USA. There were many floor singers who came and went - the Weavers turned up from New York and sang in three or four different languages; a west London couple came regularly and sang in Yiddish, a language which they did not speak; two French students would sing Spanish Civil War songs; and so on. It was a free-for-all and I will admit that it was a lot of fun. More about that at another time.

It was that Cockney lad singing Leadbelly who started the rock rolling downhill. Was it 1960 or so? Yes, it was that poor fellow whose rendition of 'Rock Island Line' reduced me to hysterical laughter one night. I was literally doubled over in my seat, gasping. I had to be taken out of the room. Most unprofessional, but I couldn't help it. I am North American. Woody Guthrie, Jean Ritchie, Big Bill Broonzy, Leadbelly, et al, used to come to our house in Washington. I knew what the song should sound like and the manner of delivery and the insertion of Cockney vowels into a southern USA black prisoners' song just sounded funny.

I was reprimanded by several members of the audience at the end of the evening. When I explained my reasons, one of the French students pointed out that the insertion of my American vowels into French songs was also quite laughable. I then mentioned that Ewan's rendition of 'Sam Bass' verged on parody. My children have since pointed out that my Scots accent (on a number of Seeger-MacColl records) is not exactly impeccable. But I am straying… the Cockney singer then confessed that he loved Leadbelly's songs but was losing his confidence in singing them. He was getting bored. I declared that I preferred singing songs from the Anglo-American traditions and only sang the French/German/Spanish songs for 'variety'. The discussion heated up and was a main topic of conversation for several weeks following. We laid the matter in front of all the residents and interviewed the folks who paid at the door on the subject. The decision to lay down guidelines for what you could sing on stage was not made by Ewan MacColl - it was made by the residents and members of the B&B Club (later known as the Singers Club). If it became hewn in stone - well, that's the way things go.

This policy was meant for OUR club, not for other clubs. The policy was simple: If you were singing from the stage, you sang in a language that you could speak and understand. It didn't matter what you sang in the shower, at parties, while you were ironing or making love. But on stage in The Ballads and Blues Folk Club, you were a representative of a culture - you were interpreting a song that had been created within certain social and artistic parameters. Incidentally, along with this policy came the request from our newly-formed Audience Committee that we not sing the same traditional song more than once every three months… they were getting tired of hearing the same songs week after week. This forced us residents to learn new songs at an unholy rate. But it brought out lots of new songs and ballads and really got us thinking about how we sang what we were learning.

Shortly afterwards, the Critics Group was formed, at the behest of several singers who also found that they were losing their way in singing traditional songs. We began to attract singers who wanted to study folksinging. You know, there is no set discipline for folksinging - it's an 'anything goes' area even though real dyed-in-the-wool field singers are very specific about how they sing and what they sing. The purpose of the Critics Group was to make it possible for the singers who had not been brought up in the 'folk' tradition to sing the songs in a way that would not abrogate the original intention of the makers. It was an attempt to keep the folksongs folksongs, not turn them into classical pieces or pop songs or anything-goes songs. We analysed accompanimental and vocal styles, tried to expand our abilities to sing in different styles so that we could tackle different kinds of songs (within the languages and dialects that we spoke) and still keep the songs true to themselves. Once again, we were not initially telling other singers how to sing - just deciding how WE were going to sing. If we became evangelical and sounded dictatorial, well - that's the way things go. The intentions were honourable.

I must admit that I am still going that way and tend to be rather intolerant of female singers lilting 'Ranzo Ranzo Way Away' as if it were a lullaby or a love song; of a band of instrumentalists producing 'Sir Patrick Spens' (which had been unaccompanied for several centuries) with four fiddles, two double basses, drums, electric guitar and unintelligible lyrics. It was such a good song… but OK. Just don't call it folk song. And while you're at it, listen to some of my own early recordings - say on the Fellside album "Classic Peggy Seeger". Listen to me in my early years singing so fast that even I (who know the words of the songs) cannot understand what I am singing. Or listen to me accompanying Ewan on sloshy guitar or overharmonising with him on 'Lassie Wi' the yellow Coatie'. We all do these things in our youth and before we have understanding (just wish I hadn't recorded them). Ewan did this himself in his early recordings and never pretended that he didn't. What he was really trying to do in his later years (and I will be the first to admit that sometimes we could both be hamfisted about it) was encourage understanding of where these songs came from and how easy it is to ruin them, to turn them into something else. Kind of like what's happening to the earth right now. We're all doing just what we want to a beautiful piece of natural art (aka nature) - and only just now beginning to worry about having to live with the mess. Unfortunately, that's the way things go. And so many of the intentions are not honourable.

I've done my share of 'changing' the folksongs. Had to. I wasn't brought up on the front porch of a cabin in the Appalachians and I don't care to pretend that I was. I had a middle-class classical musical training and that's hard to shake. But I don't pretend to be a folksinger or that the folksongs (as I sing them) are 'ur' versions. I am a singer of folksongs and I hope that my lullabies are lullabies and the words of my ballads are intelligible. Ewan MacColl was one step nearer to being a folksinger than I, having been brought up in a Scots community in Salford. He is a man who is a perfect example of the old saying "stick your neck out and someone will chop your head off". I didn't know, until after he died, just how many enemies and ex-post-facto critics we had made. WE. Please remember that he and I were in this together and you can now aim your missiles at someone who is still here and who is quite articulate on the matter. Pity more folks didn't have the courage and the knowledge to talk with him while he was alive. He was actually an interesting, approachable person and was happy to talk to anyone who approached with a less-than-hostile attitude. I learned so much from those years… and, of course, I am biased! I am also fed up with people who criticise him with only hearsay and second (third, fourth, umpteenth) knowledge on which to base their opinions.

The editor wants to know "Who are Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie?" They were members of the Critics Group for most of the life of that group. They were two of the most loyal, industrious and intelligent members by far. It is possible that they have inherited some of Ewan's intransigence and argumentative temperament (that's the way things go?) but there is no doubt that their work in the folksong world has been invaluable and dedicated. Most of the collectors who've done that have had a kind of tunnel vision, without which their work would not have been as productive. They stuck their necks out and their heads are getting chopped off. They are in good company.

Like Ewan, I've always got lots more to say but I don't care to argue all this out nitty blow by gritty blow. By the way, I'm just finishing up a book of his songs. 200 of them. 'The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook' (Music Sales, autumn 2000). Those of you who have followed or partaken in this controversy might find my long critique of him as a person and an artist enlightening. It won't be what you expected from the person who was his lover and working partner. Information is on my website: www.pegseeger.com.

Peggy Seeger, Asheville
North Carolina
Living Tradition Homepage


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Dec 13 - 07:29 AM

MacColl was expressing an opinion as to how the folk song revival should develop - we all have those - opinions, that is - nowhere was it a "enforcement" as to how the Singers Club or any other club must me run."
MacColl along with others determined a policy for the singers club,which you have stated on this forum[please correct me if this is not the case] was that singers should choose traditional repertoire from their own ethnic back ground, are you now saying this was not the case?   
you also appear to be saying that he approved of newly composed songs providing they were in a traditional style, I asked you for some indication as to how this traditional style is determined, you appear to not want to answer.
Ewan was very a good songwriter, I would have been interested in the answer, was traditional style based on tunes [that only used certain modes] or lyric structure or both?


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 19 Dec 13 - 04:48 AM

Sorry about above double-entry sans cookie, which had gone awol. Now restored and I hope all now sorted.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Dec 13 - 04:35 AM

"the club he now favoured presented a little bit of folk, a little bit of country, a little bit of contemporary etc in fact all sorts of music."
"we don't have an accepted label for those clubs which have a broad music policy"

.,,.
I remember Peter Bellamy saying, at a Norwich Festival workshop at which Alex Atterson was speaking up in favour of such clubs, "That's not a folk club, that's an anything club"; which seems to me as good a name as any for such resolutely undiscriminating organisations.

"and like it or not labels are convenient"

Amen. Something else Pete would often quote in such colloquies was something I wrote once in Folk Review, after Karl Dallas had denounced the folk scene's love for categories: "Hurrah for categories. If every article of household furniture was called a chair, we shouldn't know where to park our arses".

~M~


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Dec 13 - 04:31 AM

The folk never really "abandoned" folk music for anything - folk and other music always existed side-by-side until 'the folk' stopped making their own music and became more or less passive recipients to a manufactured and commercially produced culture.
This left behind a large repertoire of songs that had existed, sometimes for centuries - which is where we came in.
To suggest that the term 'folk song' became meaningless is equivalent to saying that anybody could write an Elizabethan madrigal (made during the reign of Elizabeth I) today - a "new" Elizabethan madrigal, maybe!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Dec 13 - 04:30 AM

"the club he now favoured presented a little bit of folk, a little bit of country, a little bit of contemporary etc in fact all sorts of music."
"we don't have an accepted label for those clubs which have a broad music policy"

.,,.
I remember Peter Bellamy saying, at a Norwich Festival workshop at which Alex Atterson was speaking up in favour of such clubs, "That's not a folk club, that's an anything club"; which seems to me as good a name as any for such resolutely undiscriminating organisations.

"and like it or not labels are convenient"

Amen. Something else Pete would often quote in such colloquies was something I wrote once in Folk Review, after Karl Dallas had denounced the folk scene's love for categories: "Hurrah for categories. If every article of household furniture was called a chair, we shouldn't know where to park our arses".

~M~


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Howard Jones
Date: 19 Dec 13 - 04:08 AM

Singer-songwriters have always had a place in the folk scene, that's not in question. However in my opinion they cannot be at the centre of something which must have traditional music at its core if the term 'folk' is to mean anything at all. The less any form of music has a recognisable relationship with traditional music forms and structures, the more likely it is to be considered peripheral and the less likely it is to be accepted by everyone as appropriate fare in something describing itself as a 'folk club'.

Al's argument appears to be that because the 'folk' have abandoned traditional music in favour of popular music, 'folk' no longer has any meaning and it follows that anything goes in folk clubs.

It's not a judgement on quality - I've never to my knowledge heard Big Al sing but I've no reason to question those who compliment his performances. If I were at a folk club and Al, or another of his ilk, were to do a spot I would be entirely unsurprised. What's more, I would probably enjoy it. However if the entire evening were to comprise singer-songwriters and performers of popular songs I would start to question whether I was actually at a 'folk club' or something run on similar lines which was actually something else. The other side of the coin is that people who prefer this music may not want to listen to traditional music. A term which is too broad and too loosely defined doesn't serve anyone.

It's a question of labelling, and like it or not labels are convenient. I don't expect to go into an Indian restaurant to find a menu of mostly Chinese food.

I think the problem is that we don't have an accepted label for those clubs which have a broad music policy or which don't centre themselves around traditional music (as they are perfectly entitled to do). They used to call themselves 'contemporary folk clubs' but that seems to have fallen out of favour. 'Open mic' is perhaps too broad and too far towards the popular music end of the scale. So we end up with the catch-all term 'folk club' which in practice is interpreted too broadly to be of much help to anyone.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Dec 13 - 03:31 AM

"jim , you have just contradicted yourself."
I have no intention of entering into one of your unpleasant vacuous arguments but out of curiosity - why?
MacColl was expressing an opinion as to how the folk song revival should develop - we all have those - opinions, that is - nowhere was it a "enforcement" as to how the Singers Club or any other club must me run.
Please don't attempt to create "contradictions" where there are none.
Over and out
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 19 Dec 13 - 03:31 AM

So it is only the traddies who have closed minds?
I recall going to a club in Leicestershire some eighteen or so years ago to see the Bushbury Mountain Daredevils and at the end of the night while chatting to the organiser he asked who we had the following weekend at Traditions at the Tiger (Long Eaton). When I told him John Kirkpatrick he replied "oh yes, your club is a bit er, er, (almost as if he couldn't bring himself to say the word traditional)" I answered that we were very er,er and he quickly answered "That doesn't go down here!" Since I hadn't heard a recognised folk song all night I was hardly surprised.
Another time a former member of ours explained why he had left us to go to a folk club in Derbyshire; we were "too traditional" and that the club he now favoured presented a little bit of folk, a little bit of country, a little bit of contemporary etc in fact all sorts of music.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: SunrayFC
Date: 18 Dec 13 - 10:25 PM

Ok. For what it's worth, Al is a worthy addition to any folk club. Come and see why tonight! (19th)


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 Dec 13 - 07:49 PM

"MacColl always argued that folk clubs might as well be museums if they didn't present newly composed songs using traditional forms"
quote jim carroll.
"I was never aware of any prescription of of any type of song being enforced in the club he was involved in" quote jim carroll.
jim , you have just contradicted yourself.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 Dec 13 - 05:25 PM

quite right Howard, there is no valid reason for me to darken the doors of any folk club anywhere. the logical conclusion. well done.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Dec 13 - 03:27 PM

"has a constitution or mission statement which closely constrains the type of music it allows."
Not what I'm saying - please read what I've written.
Look - I like arias and small snippets of opera, but I have never been able to sit through and enjoy a full opera (except Carmen)
It would be totally unreasonable to expect the opera establishment to adapt their policy to suit my lack of taste - artistic suicide in fact.
Yet the folk scene has been told that it has to cater for people who don't like folk music, who find ballads boring, or singers who sing well "elitits" or "finger-in-the-ear posers".
People who argue in this manner seem to find it unacceptable that we put on or wish to listen to an evening of the songs that have been termed "folk" for well over a century.
Fine if you do't like folk song - go and find somewhere that caters for your own particular taste - just as I will buy an album of operatic arias to suit my own tastes.
Live and let live
I know what folk music is - we've got a library and an archive of the stuff here at home.
We spent thirty years recording Travellers and fishermen and labourers and small farmers who sang folk songs since they were children, as did their parents and grandparents.
All of them knew the difference between a folk song and a C&W and a Buddy Holly number - and were able to explain that difference when we asked them.
There really shouldn't be a problem
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: rosma
Date: 18 Dec 13 - 03:24 PM

Al's not the first singer-songwriter to do folk clubs and he won't be the last. He has nothing to justify on that count.

(BTW I'm not qualified to speak for Al, it's just a general truth)


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: Howard Jones
Date: 18 Dec 13 - 02:29 PM

Al is a singer-songwriter. He has to argue the case he does to justify his own presence in folk clubs.


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Subject: RE: Who invented Folk Clubs UK
From: rosma
Date: 18 Dec 13 - 02:13 PM

Jim Carroll: "It's not really what any club presents that's the problem - it's what it claims to be in the order of things that's the problem and what has caused the damage."

You imply that the exemplary club of which you speak has a constitution or mission statement which closely constrains the type of music it allows. I'm not sure I would want to get involved in such a strait-jacketed organisation and that certainly hasn't been my experience of folk clubs. sessions and sing-arounds (although I know they exist).

A random trawl of the web sites of a few "folk clubs" produced the following descriptions:

  • "a live music club, embracing all styles of acoustic and folk music"

  • "usually acoustic, covering a wide range of styles"

  • "Although we are a folk club, we do not restrict ourselves to purely traditional or contemporary folk music. Blues, Country, Music Hall and sometimes even 60s pop may be heard! Indeed, any good acoustic music."

  • "We strive to encourage and showcase young, local and emerging talent, whilst offering the very best in Folk, Roots and Acoustic Music from all around the UK and abroad"


That was from the first few links on a Google search. I didn't censor a single club which said "traditional English music only". You seem to be in the minority in thinking "folk club" has a very restrictive meaning.

Please don't misunderstand, I have nothing against English traditional music. I just embrace other styles. I once coined a phrase something like "Your folk music is someone else's world music". I think that's quite appropriate. While we may each have a slightly different perspective on what is valid folk music, there's no reason we can't all co-exist, be inclusive, maybe even in the same club. :-)


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