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.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

May (Ahem), Saturday, Billy Purvis and ferrets

Billy Purvis
"as clown at his Victoria Theatre"
We had a slightly better turnout this week than last with Steve G and Alan K both making appearances. We are still concerned however about the low numbers we are getting at Dragon Folk Club Sessions. Maggie and Mike can run sessions with only a few people (it is after all a point of legend that Colin broke the record for the number of songs sung at a club night when he was the only person to turn up one week) but it is more fun with a decent crowd. More people generally means more variety and just generally a better social atmosphere. If the numbers turning up don't increase there is a risk that the club will close.

The main way you can help is by coming along to our sessions but there are some other more minor ways, and the first is to read a recent item of blog news if you haven't already. If you have any ideas of how you can help get more bums on seats then please let us know, or just do it!

Thank you. Now to the report proper...

Mike kicked us off with Big Bow Wow, which it has been mentioned before on this blog, Maggie calls, in a sort of Mondegreen way, "Pink Bow-wow". Derek thought it a good thing that our canine friend, Gerty, wasn't present as she may have taken offence, though being more Chihuahua than Great Dane, she is not exactly big.

There was no discernible overall theme but it seemed as though some people invented themes of their own. Bizarrely, Richard's theme for this, admittedly warmish January evening, seemed to be May. He sang Pretty Caroline ("One morning in the month of May..."), The sound of the drum ("In the merry month of May...") and Limejuice tub ("When spring-time comes lay down your drums..."). Mike threatened fines if anyone else mentioned May. Richard also sang The jolly bold robber which was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams from a fisherman called Anderson of King's Lynn, and published in his Folk Songs from the Eastern Counties (1908, re-published in 1961 in a collected edition edited by Cecil Sharp, as English County Songs), and subsequently in AL Lloyd's Folk Song in England (1967). It is also called The Saucy Bold Robber.

Colin's personal theme also seemed strange for a Friday night, being Saturday, so it seemed. He sang Everybody loves Saturday night which Simon suggested is usually sung at international scout camps with everyone singing a verse in his own language. Colin followed that up with Tex Atchison's We're gonna go fishin' (next Saturday night).

Derek came up with a very interesting story, though he suggested the song it is about might be said to be the most boring in his repertoire. The song was Deeth o' Billy Purvis about a 19th century clown or sketch comic. William or "Billy" Purvis was born in Auchendinny, near Edinburgh but was taken by his parents to live in Newcastle at an early age. As a clown the sketch for which he was famous, called "Billy stole a bundle" involved him being constantly interrupted in his attempts to steal a bundle lying at the corner of the stage - this is mentioned in the song. In December 1853 he had been performing in Hartlepool when he died. His family did not have the money to transport his body to Newcastle, so he was buried in Hartlepool in a pauper's grave. Ned Corvan who had joined Billy's Victoria Theatre, wrote the song in an attempt to persuade someone to move Billy back to his adopted home town of Newcastle. That never happened but when Sangers' circus was visiting Hartlepool, it gave a benefit performance which succeeded in raising enough money to erect a tombstone over Billy's grave.

Among Alan K's offerings was his own song, Messing around with the blues. Meanwhile, Steve G's performances for the evening included songs from Bob Dylan (Billy), John Smith (Great Lakes), Neil Young (Pocahontas) and Townes Van Zandt's (Pancho and Lefty).

I have to mention Simon's singing of My grandfather's ferret this week because of the very recent recording on YouTube (click on the link) of the song's writer, Derek Jolly, singing it. Simon knew Derek in Reading; Derek now lives in Bulgaria, having spent some of the intervening time in Cyprus.

The evening was finished off by Alan K singing Tom Paxton's Hold on to me babe.

Here's a selection of these songs plus some others sung during the session.

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