Welcome to the Dragon Folk Club

Welcome to the official blog of the Dragon Folk Club, which meets for a singers night every Friday at The Bridge Inn, Shortwood, Bristol. Everyone is welcome whether you sing, play or just listen.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The stories behind the songs

Coffee Culture (photo: Simon Meeds)
Last Friday some flyers for Whitby Folk Week had arrived, so the first part of the evening involved a communal inspection of the leaflet. It seemed that many on the long list of performers were from the folk old guard, and so several stories, both fond and bitter were told. I won't recount any here for fear of accusations of libel.

The session proper was MCed by Colin who kicked off with Captain Coulston (Roud 1695).

The previous week's discussion of Eniskillen/Inniskilling Dragoon (Tommy Makem [this version], Roud 2185) was continued by Geoff. While I don't claim Wikipedia to be the fount of all knowledge, this article gives a little more information which seems plausible. And yes, Tommy Makem called the version in the linked video Fare Thee Well Enniskillen and refashioned it to describe the Peninsular War.

Derek's first song was The Newry Highwayman (Roud 490, Laws L12).

Simon had brought along some sets of words he hadn't carried with him for a few years and so there were a few first time renditions. I bet the expectation was that I would link Lonnie Donegan for Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour (On the Bedpost Overnight?) but no, here's the original Does The Spearmint Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight? (Billy Rose, Ernest Breuer, Marty Bloom) sung by The Happiness Boys (Ernie Hare and Billy Jones) in 1924. The words were changed in the UK to avoid a registered trademark and thus allow the song to be played in the BBC.

Inspired by Does Your Chewing Gum... and thinking of warnings given by parents, Derek started off one of his slots with a Max Miller story about a little girl who bit her finger nails, continuing with The Cruel Mother (Roud 9, Child 20) which I suppose was a link of sorts.

Mike's singing of Stormalong (Roud 216) followed on from his rendition of the similar Grey Goose Shanty two weeks before.

Simon caused some discussion by singing Proper Cup of Coffee or whatever exact title you want to use. It was suggested that it may have been written in the 1960s, possibly by a friend of Sydney Carter. But no, we have positive proof that it was written by RP Weston and Bert Lee in 1926, or at least that it was written no later than that, and was performed by Ernie Mayne. Simon got the song from his friend Mike Tierney and it appears that he in turn may have got it from John Foreman. Two reasons for this supposition are the inclusion of a final chorus about "proper pint of porter" and the coincidence that Mike T sings a couple of other songs recorded by John F. However, while the original version doesn't include the porter chorus, among other spoken sections it does include "...over there there's obviously a Son of Temperance, singing 'All I want is a half a pint o'Porter, and put it in a proper Pewter Porter Pot.". I found a recording of John F singing the song but despite having read that he sang the porter chorus and "his wife Gersha" rather than "his slave 'Oh, curse ya'", the recording used the original words... maybe that's because it was a recording for the BBC?

Mike sang Home Lads Home, supposed to be from a poem, Homeward by Cicely Fox Smith with music by Sarah Morgan. I say supposedly because I believe our friend Tom has challenged that. Nevertheless, the account by Morgan at the bottom of these linked words seems to confirm the official story.

Derek perplexed Colin slightly by singing A Bhirlinn Bharrach (Kishmul's Galley) in the original Gaelic. If only Geoff had sung Preab San Ól in the Gaelic too (check out those links; I'm quite pleased to have found the same singer performing the song in both languages), and if Colin himself had sung Die Gedanken Sind Frei in German the picture might have been complete.

I have to mention Strawberry Lane (Roud 12, Child 2) if only because after years of looking I have found a recording of something like Derek's version (yes, it's been hiding there all this time). Derek suggested that the song surely couldn't be a true Child ballad since no one got killed and there was no incest. Simon followed on tenuously linking to I Am A Rock (Paul Simon). Derek suggested that this song might be an inaccurate reference to Gibraltar since someone in authority had recently called the British Overseas Territory an "island".

Geoff completed the evening with Sixteen Tons (Merle Travis) and Colin complemented Derek on his accompanying singing on this American piece. Somehow it transformed into a discussion of Derek's musical heritage and to what extent he had once had an enthusiasm for American music before transferring his affections to "the music of these islands" as Mike Harding calls it.

Here's a selection of songs sung during this session.

(Number of people present - 5, of whom 5 performed)

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Another One of Those Nights!

Bob Hart
This is the Substitute Scribe speaking. Firstly may I make it entirely clear that no one made a sustained attempt to actually sing The Purple People Eater (sorry, I don’t know its Roud number!) Colin however did sing Down by the Dockyard Wall. Derek then queried a similarity in the tune to that of Dave Webber’s Watch and Chain. Colin pointed out that both tune and words of Dockyard Wall were by Shep Woolley. Geoff proceeded to identify him as a regular actor in Rawhide and as the singer /composer of The Purple People Eater. However, as subsequent research reveals, the latter was actually Sheb Wooley[1]. The Southampton-based Shep was given his nickname (even a long thread on Mudcat nearly 10 years ago failed to reveal his real name) because he was rather more agricultural than Sheb.

Yes, folks – it was another of those Dragon nights when the craic in between is more interesting than the actual songs! And by the way did you know that the English ‘crack’ was the original word and it was only Gaelicised into ‘craic’ later? If so, please make an effort to get to the Bridge – we need your brains.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

May it be Whitsun

Whitsun dove (Photo: Cornelia Kopp - Alice Popkorn)
Thanks to those who attended last week's session. This week will again have no set theme though you are welcome to come along with your own ideas for a theme and people may even join you in it. We're particularly keen for you to give us a try this week because we will be at least one regular down on the full compliment.

Last Friday Colin was MC and started us off with a mini theme of May given that it was our last session of the month. His first was The Bold Fisherman (Roud 291, Laws O24) and he followed that with The Spotted Cow (Roud 956).

Geoff's first song of the evening was The Humour Is On Me Now (Roud 29549) and in doing so, it seems, he latched on to Colin's May theme.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Royal Wedding or When Harry met Meghan


The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan
(Photo: Implausibleblog)
Last week's session had no official theme but Colin, as MC, immediately declared that he would be singing some wedding songs to mark the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan. Despite some mutterings from our republican contingent everyone present in the end contributed to the theme.

Colin started us off in a wedding direction with Here's To The Couple (JN Maselwa, Pete Seeger) and carried on despite no one initially joining him, with Mairi's Wedding (John Roderick Bannerman, Sir Hugh Roberton), modified for the occasion to Harry's Wedding.

Derek's first obvious contribution to the marriage theme was Lord Thomas And Fair Annet (Roud 4, Child 73) which could be said to have some relevance in including a "brown girl" though that would originally have meant a lady less desirable because she works outdoors. Once on the theme though there was no stopping Derek, whose next song was False Lover Won Back (Roud 201, Child 218).

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The importance of visitors

Constantine Parish Church, Cornwall (Photo: Tim Green)
Last week's session may have no theme but it certainly saw a decent turnout at the Dragon Folk Club. There's no theme again this week so I hope we can expect the same again.

We were treated to the second visit in a fortnight by the wanderers from Yorkshire, Malcolm and Janet (yes, I've now learned her name though I understand she liked being called "Malcolm's lady"). They brought along a West Midlands contingent in the form of  Dragon first-timers, Steve and Denise.

Colin, being MC as usual, started us off with Ben Backstay (Roud 21256).

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

May Day 2018

Padstow 'Obby 'Oss (Photo: Bryan Ledgard)
Last week's session had the theme of May, being our closest to the first of that month. So we roved out with Colin, our MC, who started the evening off with the Pleasant Month Of May (Roud 153).

Mike led us on our customary journey to Helston in Cornwall with Hal An Tow (Roud 1520) and Colin took us 40 miles North East to Padstow, singing the Padstow Morning Song (Roud 305). Towards the end of the evening Colin sang another song with Padstow connections, though also known in other areas of the country including Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire; this was the May Day Carol (Roud 305).

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

St George's Day 2018


We had an excellent turn-out for last week's St George's Day themed session. This Friday's theme (4 May) will be appropriately themed for May songs.

Last week we were pleased to see semi-regulars, Steve C and Jane and it was great to welcome again Malcolm and his lady, whose name I'm afraid to say I still haven't captured, on one of their occasional visits to Bristol from their home in Yorkshire.

Colin was, as usual, MC and he started the evening off with Richard Thompson's The New Saint George. This wasn't the only Thompson song of the evening for John P gave us Albion Sunrise.