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.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Anzacs, a story of two Bostons and space oddities


The dock at Boston, Lincolnshire
Last week's session was originally to have been the proxy St George's Day but it has been moved to this week, so get your George, dragon and England songs, tunes, poems and stories out this Friday and come along to the Bridge. If you need any more inspiration, apart from England, St George is patron saint of:
agricultural workers; Amersfoort, Netherlands; Aragon; archers; armourers; Bavaria, Germany; Beirut, Lebanon; Bulgaria; Bulgarian Army; Cáceres, Spain; Cappadocia; Castilla y León; Catalonia; cavalry; chivalry; Constantinople; Corinthians (Brazilian football team); Crusaders; equestrians; Ethiopia; farmers; Ferrara, Italy; field workers; Freiburg, Germany; Genoa; Georgia; Gozo; Greece; Haldern, Germany; Heide; horsemen; horses; knights; lepers and leprosy; Lithuania; Lod; London; Malta; Modica, Sicily; Montenegro; Moscow; Order of the Garter; Palestine; Palestinian Christians; Piran, Italy; Portugal; Portuguese Army; Portuguese Navy; Ptuj, Slovenia; Reggio Calabria; riders; Romani people; saddle makers; Serbia; Scouts; sheep; shepherds; skin diseases; Slovenia; soldiers; and Teutonic Knights.
Back to last week, Colin was MC and started of with Utah Phillips' All Used Up.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

They've come to take me away

Ambulance (thanks to anyjazz65)
An interesting session last week had a variety of mini-themes and outliers. Before settling down to a report I must inform you that our St George's Day session has been postponed, so this week's session (20 April) will have no theme and it is next week (27 April), when you are invited to bring all your material relating to England, St George, dragons and anything else that may seem relevant.

Back to last week, there was no official theme but Colin, while efficiently filling his role as MC, took upon himself a theme of songs written by our old friend, Richard Gillion, most of which took superstitions as their subject, it being Friday 13th.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Hunting for pet hates

Headstone of John Peel in the churchyard of
St Kentigern's Church,
Caldbeck, Wigton, Cumbria, UK
(Photo: Mark W Barker)
Last week's session had no official theme. Fewer songs were sung than usual as for a change, and quite unplanned, the whole of the second half was given over to chat, mainly about driving tests and riding motorbikes. Normal service will no doubt be restored this week.

Nevertheless, a good range of material was aired in the first half. Colin was MC and started us off with Gentlemen Of High Renown (Roud 190), singing the Copper Family's words to Martin Carthy's tune. Mike's attempt at following the hunting theme had to be delayed when he initially forgot the tune to The Hounds Are Out (Roud 24901).

While Mike was struggling, Derek offered to help, suggesting at one stage that he might be thinking of John Peel. Mike told us how his class at school had to sing that song and while he was in the choir others were not so proficient and the awful sound they made put him off singing for ten years until he joined a rock and roll band. Derek therefore dug deep to give us a rendition of The Old John Peel, just to annoy Mike. Derek carried on the theme with The Horn Of The Hunter (Roud 1859, Jackson Gillbanks) from the singing of Fred Jordan but he was foiled because it turned out that Mike likes that song.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Easter eggs and hot cross buns

Easter eggs (photo: Ikonact)
We had a session in spite of it being Good Friday; it takes more than that to cancel a Dragon Folk Club Session as long as the pub makes our room available. Officially there was no theme but Colin, also playing MC, kept to Easter-related songs and Derek up to Easter through several other self-set themes while the others present mixed things up a bit more.

It was with great pleasure that we welcomed first time visitors Debbie and Hazel.  Debbie, from the Isle of Wight was keen to point out how much folk there is on the island and that if we visit we must consul her folkonwight website. As usual with first timers, I will mention all of the songs they sang through the evening.

Colin was MC and started us off straight into Easter with The Old Rugged Cross (George Bennard, Roud 22417).

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

…That’s what I wrote it for

Fred Wedlock (Photo by Weydonian)
When your Substitute Scribe asked Mike, who had just sung The Redland Green Bobby [British Bobby], to confirm his view that it was "One of Fred's", little did he realise that the question would develop into one of those half-hour ‘workshop’ discussions for which The Dragon is (in)famous – in this case on the question of Folk Music, Copyright and Attributing Songs to the Correct Writer. The conversation passed, anecdotally and polemically, through such writers as Mr Wedlock, Cyril Tawney, Roger Watson, Canadian guitarist Vera Johnson, Ed Pickford, Michael Starkey and Woody Guthrie, whose copyright notice is referenced in the title above viz. "This song is copyrighted in U.S. for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singing it without my permission, will be a mighty good friend of mine, 'cause that's what I wrote it for."

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

St Patrick's Day - 2018

Last week's session was for St Patrick, who is patron saint of engineers and paralegals as well as of many geographical locations but of course our main focus was on Ireland.

Colin was MC and he started the evening off with The Gals O' Dublin Town (Roud 7989).

We had a good representation of song of Ireland but a number of other events and occasions were also marked. Talk of Cheltenham races led to Derek singing Creeping Jane (Roud 1012, Laws Q23) and Colin, no doubt planned anyway as part of his Irish set, The Galway Farmer (Steve Knightley).

Derek, further delaying his entry into the week's theme, pointed out that the preceding Sunday had been Mothering Sunday, which he traditionally marks with the singing of The Rose And The Gillyflower.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Dewi Deferred

Saint David (Dewi Sant)
Last week's Dragon Folk Club session was relatively well attended with eight performers and two audience members. The audience, who said they enjoyed the evening but had to leave early were Paul and Monica; we hope to see you again soon. We were also joined from over the bridge (i.e. having travelled from his home in South Wales) by Barry. I'm not sure whether Barry has been to the DFC before but whether or not, he was very welcome.

It has come to my notice that there is an even going on that may be of interest to our regulars, particularly those who have been coming to the club for a very long time. There is an exhibition at the Yate & District Heritage Centre which runs until the 17 March, entitled The Pubs of Yate and Sodbury. It is notable because the advert for the exhibition on Facebook shows The Lamb Inn at Iron Acton, which was the original venue for the club, being its home for the first seventeen and a half years of its existence.

Back to last week's session, it informally inherited the theme of St David (Dewi Sant in Welsh) from the previous week's abortive event, which just didn't happen because of the snow. Colin was MC and He started off proceedings appropriately with the Bells Of Rhymney, a song first recorded by Pete Seeger, using words written by Welsh poet Idris Davies. The lyrics to the song were drawn from part of Davies' poetic work Gwalia Deserta ("Wasteland of Wales"), which was first published in 1938.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Deep and crisp and even

Here I am, writing the folk club report when I should be at the folk club. I was to be in charge this week, since Colin is out and about barn dancing. Expecting a low turn-out I did quite a bit of advertising: some directed, some scatter-gun, so it was difficult to tell everyone that we were unlikely to have an effective session. The upshot was that I decided to put in an appearance if at all possible.

So, off I set, about 20 minutes earlier than usual: out of our village the first issue was the hill up to the motorway. I came to a halt, wary of an oncoming car and had difficulty getting going again. The motorway wasn't too bad - 30-40 miles per hour seemed reasonable. There were one or two stranded cars on the way and emergency vehicles around to help. The ring road wasn’t much worse than the motorway, and then I made my way up the road towards Pucklechurch. While it was easily navigable, there were stationary cars everywhere, presumably abandoned there last night. I should have been warned by the car trying to free itself from the Shortwood turning but no, I carried on for a little way, turned round and found it gone when I regained the turning. I turned in and was immediately and, so it seemed, irretrievably stuck.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Parodic episodes

Before I start the report on last week's session, can implore you to make an effort, even through the terrible weather, unless of course it is unsafe to do so, to attend this week's session. It is our St David's Day bash, when Welsh themed songs, tunes and other modes of performance are particularly welcome, but anything else will go too. The issue is that we will be without two stalwarts of the club for one week only and particularly with the expected bad weather there is a significant risk that we will turn up short of a quorum and go home without a word being sung or a note played. I know that if two or three of our irregulars, or even newcomers, can find the strength to turn out we can have a great evening, and of course the more the merrier; even audience members are welcome to join us.

Back to last week's session, Colin was MC and he started off the officially unthemed session with Ewan MacColl's Manchester Rambler.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Valentine's Day 2018

A blindfolded, armed Cupid (1452/66)
by Piero della Francesca
Last week's Dragon Folk Club session was our closest to Valentine's Day, so it was our usual seasonal theme of Love and Lust, a theme which had a very high hit rate. In fact I think that there were only three songs that didn't somehow connect to the theme, but even they were for very good reason.

The first was Derek with what he said was Ewan MacColl's version of Windy Old Weather. This was the completion of his final pair of songs from the previous week's session. I managed to find the lyrics in this document (page 73) but without attribution. I did however manage to find reference to it in relation to a radio programme "Singing the fishing" which was one of the Radio Ballads series (broadcast 16 August 1960, repeated 6 November 1960) which included in its credits Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger.

The other two off-theme songs should really have been admirably on theme. Derek sang The Bold Princess Royal (Roud 528, Laws K29) "On the 14th of February..." and Mike sang a hunting song, Last Valentine's Day (Roud 6475).

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Derek's pairs

Before I get to the report on last week's session, there are some parish announcements, specifically announcements of some upcoming theme nights:
  • 16 February - Valentine's Day theme of love and lust
  • 2 March - St David's Day theme of all things Welsh and otherwise related
  • 16 March - St Patrick's Day theme of all things Irish and otherwise related
  • 27 April - St George's Day theme of all things English and otherwise related
Any Friday where no theme is mentioned, there will be a session with no theme. Themes are always optional and just for fun (with one possible annual exception but it's way too early to worry about that).

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Keeping the music alive

Poster for the Winter Dance Party tour
featuring the ill-fated Buddy Holly,
Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper
Last week's session was billed as having the dual theme of rugby, for the start of the 2018 Six Nations Championship, and the anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly. Well, we didn't get much rugby but we did make a fair stab in before the break at "The Day The Music Died", hence the title of this report. And yes, the report doesn't mention much "real" folk music this week but I hope you find it interesting and there's still plenty of the "real drop" if you follow the "a selection" link at the bottom of this account.

Colin was MC and he started off the session with Sting's Fields Of Gold. much later in the evening, Simon suggested pairing that with his Sailing To Philadelphia (Mark Knopfler), both songs being written by rock musicians from the North East of England. Derek recalled a local singer when he was based in the North East himself who often sang the songs of Graeme Miles, a Middlesbrough man. One of the songs he sang was Fields Of Gold and with Derek's knowledge of modern popular music being limited, he assumed for a long time the song had been written by Miles. Colin too was surprised to learn that it was by Sting since he associated it with Eva Cassidy's enchanting version.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Burns Night 2018

Robert Burns
Yes, last Friday was our annual Burns Night session. Almost all of the songs sung had a Scottish connection. I won't nit pick over the ones which were tenuous because they were few.

Some even had a Robert Burns connection though Mike informed us that opinion is turning to the position he has long believed, that Burns was more of a collector and editor than a songwriter. Therefore I will not note here the Burns connections of any particular songs, and I'll leave it to the reader to work out which were by him, which were rewritten or augmented by him, and which were simply collected.

First the usual announcement. There was discussion about a theme for this Friday's session. Colin suggested the rugby, and Geoff said he would be marking the anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly. That gave Simon some ideas which he didn't share. So as usual, take these suggestions if you like or come and share something totally different with us. And if you don't wish to perform, it's fine to be an audience too.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

A quorum was reached

Before I start the report of last week's Dragon Folk Club session it is important to mention that this Friday, 26 January, will be our annual Burns Night session. I can't promise you haggis, pipes nor even a sgain dubh but there will no doubt be a good helping of Scottish songs, some of which may even have connections with Rabbie himself.

I would like to thank Colin for providing a report on last week's session though a problem with my computer means I am writing this without direct access to it. Never mind, I have already created the playlist of songs and I think I remember most of the content.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Not as it might seem


Thomas Kyll's pamphlet,
published 10 days after Turpin's execution,
provides an eye-witness account of the trial
We were slightly down on numbers last week but there was a good evening of song in store last Friday at The Dragon Folk Club.

There will be no theme this week (19 January) but next Friday (26 January) will be our Burn's Night session (only one day late). I'm afraid there will be no haggis and probably no pipes unless you bring your own (I know some would say that's a relief) but there will no doubt be some Scottish songs, some of which may have some connection to the man himself.

Back then to last Friday. Colin was MC and there was no theme. Colin started things off with Stanley Accrington's Sicknote: The Reply. I haven't found a recording or even the words but you may want to be reminded of Pat Cooksey's The Sicknote to which it is a reply.

Derek started off his evening with Clyde's Water (Roud 91, Child 216) and Simon followed that with Bruce Springsteen's Factory.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Happy New Year - 2018


Jacques Brel, 1963
Six wasn't a bad turn-out for the first Dragon Folk Club session of 2018. Everyone sang and there was a reasonable number of seasonal songs, whether that was New Year, Twelfth Night or the sequence of the year. Next week's session (12 January) will be without a theme but be ready later in the month for 26 January which is our nearest session to Burns Night.

Back to last Friday, Colin was MC and he started us off with Bob Zentz's At The End Of Another Year.

Mike's first contribution was Richard Thompson's We'll Sing Hallelujah (at the turning of the year).

Terry C made his first appearance at the club for a while and very welcome it was too. He said he didn't have any seasonal songs but Brown Photographs (John Meeks, Colin Radcliffe) certainly acknowledged the passing of time.

Derek took us to Orkney for A New Year's Carol (Roud 4584). Simon was afraid of stepping on toes with one of his two appropriate songs, but sang it anyway and Mike said he had had no intention of singing Dave Goulder's January Man.