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Hi, Rod

Just thought I'd drop a quick line to say how pleased I was to hear the news regarding MT's future.  I think you have done a fantastic job with it over the last 20+ years - a major asset to the wider world of traditional music.  There's been nothing else like it.  It's been so important to be able to read so many outstanding and knowledgeable enthusiasts, often ploughing what must seem like rather lonely furrows, and striking a balance that is serious and informed, without the dead hand that often falls on academic writing.  None of that could have happened without the dedication and hard work you put into it.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who just came to take all that for granted, which of course, we never should.

As there's part of me that remains an unreconstructed old folkie (and proud of it), Mainly Norfolk is a site I've visited quite a lot over the years (I think I provided bits of info/images to it at some point).  Reinhard is evidently an enthusiast, and well qualified to run a dynamic website.  Mainly Norfolk has always seemed beautifully designed and very well-organised.

Yours are big boots to fill, but plenty of cause for optimism, I think.  With thanks for your commitment (and for publishing my own rambling efforts) over the years, and with very best wishes.

Ray Templeton - 1.10.20

The Wild, Wild Berry

In 1989 I recorded a version of the ballad Lord Randal from the singer Ray Driscoll, who was then living in south London.  Ray called it The Wild, Wild Berry.  A few years later the recording was issued by the EFDSS as part of an anthology CD A Century of Song - A Celebration of Traditional Singers Since 1898 (EFDSS CD002).  Subsequently, Gwilym Davies recorded Ray singing a number of songs, including The Wild, Wild Berry.  So there should be no doubt as to where the song came from.

I am currently working on a project which involved me carrying out further research into this song.  One thing that I discovered was that the song was sung later by the revival singer, Sam Lee, for the soundtrack of a film, titled King Arthur: the Legend of the Sword, where it is claimed that the song 'was written in 2012 by Hladooski & Jones' - whoever they might he.

What annoys me is the fact that there is no mention at all of Ray Driscoll.  I have a good idea why Ray's name has been wiped from the record (so to speak), but I am saddened that our heritage is being so carelessly - or deliberately - altered in this manner.  Our source singers surely deserve better.

The story moves on!  Eagled-eyed editor Rod Stradling tells me that two revival performers, Stephanie Hladowski and Chris Joynes, included the song on a 2012 CD titled The Wild, Wild Berry (Bo Weavil Records WEAVILCD49).  According to the notes, they had learnt the song at Cecil Sharp House from my recording of Ray Driscoll.  My apologies to these two performers for not knowing who they were, even when spelled correctly.

I can only assume that somebody at the film company, checking the copyright of songs used in the film, had wrongly assumed that the couple had written the song.  Things like this do happen.  But, it also goes to show how incorrect information, now in public domain, can cause problems for future generations.  I have written elsewhere about how 19th century music publishers deliberately used false composer names on their sheets, thus confusing future researchers.  We really do need to keep our eyes open if we are to prevent things like this from happening again.

Mike Yates - 21.9.20

Re: Songswappers photo - 2

Hi Rod.

Just wondering if the fiddle player in the photo is Steve Pennells?

Hope all is well with you all.  Best Wishes

Jamie Wheeler - 13.6.20

East Suffolk Country Band

We're trying to put together an article about the ESCB on the EATMT website, and I am in the process of transfering some cassettes Karen Morley has sent of the band with a view to making a CD or two for private circulation.  What we're short of is information and photos.

Bearing in mind your 'audience', could you put out a plea on your website for any recordings, snaps or memories please.  We are particularly interested in Chelmondiston in Suffolk (probably the Red Lion) and Cromer in Norfolk (probably the Bath Hotel), but wherever and whenever they played is of interest, including Islington.  People should get in touch with Alex Bartholomew at or with me at if they can help.

Thanks in anticipation.

Alan Helsdon - 11.6.20

Re: Songswappers photo in Editorial

'Can't imagine many folk clubs, then or since, to have been able to present three of the area's top traditional performers at the same time.'

Well, you could have a look and the line-up for all our Sussex Singers Nights that we arranged over 30 years at our club in Lewes and at each of them you would see at least double that number, and remember that several like Johnny Doughty and Gordon Hall had not even been aware of the folk scene in the 1950s.

Coming back to the photo, Brian Golbey (with an 'e') is in that photo.  He was a very fine fiddler but is not the one indicated in the photo next to Scan.  He is the one in the glasses and checked shirt behind George.  I think that the man on the other side of George in the open necked shirt is Geoff Cohen, one time editor (or owner or both) of the Mid-Sussex Times.  The older man in a suit and tie next to him looks very familiar but I cannot put a name to him.

Best wishes

Vic Smith - 11.6.20

Re: ECMW 2020

We had an ECMW committee meeting this week and as you would expect, discussed the COVID-19 issue.

Clearly we must follow any regulations or recommendations made by the UK government regarding running gatherings such as ours.  We are not able to anticipate the timing of such changes, so must be prepared to react accordingly at any time up to the actual weekend of the 26/27/28 June.

However we also felt that there might be a case for acting over and above any regulations or recommendations.  We agreed to review the situation at the next meeting which will be in the week starting April 4th.  To this end we agreed to delay opening the booking window until at least the following week starting 13th April.  Anyone who does book will be able to have a full refund if the weekend is subsequently cancelled.

We discussed what we might do in the event that the weekend has to be cancelled.  We all felt that the most reasonable thing to do would be to cancel the weekend entirely for 2020 and propose to run the same weekend in 2021, given that we have no idea how long the virus might be around (but hoped that a year was probably long enough!)

We'd be delighted to hear any thoughts you might have.

The ECMW 2020 Team.

Our mailing address is:
2a Ashurst Gardens
Skelmersdale, England WN8 6SW


Re: The Three Ravens article

Just a further letter in reply to Vernon Chatman's response to Arthur's article.

I wonder if Vernon Chatman would be willing to stand by his thesis if he was to become aware that 'hey', 'derry', 'down' and 'a' were all commonplace constituent parts of English song choruses going back at least to Tudor times.  Did they all derive from Ireland?  And were he to become aware that, in ballads at least, females being figuratively depicted as 'does' was also a common feature of ballads in the seventeenth century.  He would do well to check out on the UCSB EBBA website the ballad The Huntsman's Delight etc., which includes all of these.

Steve Gardham - 9.1.20

Re: Forked Deer

According to Tony Russell's excellent Country Music Records - 1921 - 1942 Arthur Smith did not recorded Forked Deer during the period 1935 - 1940.  Smith did, however, record after this date and he may have recorded the tune post-1940.  If you google 'Forked Deer Arthur Smith' you should find a Utube recording of Smith playing Forked Deer.  But, this recording is only 1 minute in length and it clearly does not include 6 parts.

Mike Yates - 9.1.20

Forked Deer

I read Paul Roberts' 09/01/2015 article on John Johnson's Strange Creek Fiddling 1947 album which contains a 5-part version of "Forked Deer".

I have been trying to find a recording of "Forked Deer" by Arthur Smith to hear an early six-part version of that song.  It has been attested online that John Johnson played "Forked Deer" for Clark Kessinger and that he played a 6-part version and that he said that he learned it from an Arthur Smith record when he was a child.  All of the extant recordings available of Arthur Smith that I have found do not contain a recording of him performing "Forked Deer".  Do you or anyone there know of an extant recording of Arthur Smith playing "Forked Deer"?

Thank you for any info.  Sincerely,

James S. Nelson, Esquire - 8.1.20

Re: Hoosier

Dear Rod,

Caught up with Ray Templeton's review of Oh, Listen Today and saw that he'd quoted my suggestion that there may have been a connection between the words 'hoosier' and 'hussar'.  Just a short while back, Ray's review of fiddler Hog-Eyed Man 4 referred, in respect of the tunes being played, to Marcus Martin, the source of a version of The Wounded Hoosier.

Since when I've found a whole lot of information - including a fair summary of the history of the word 'Hoosier' that can be found through Wikipedia and seems to be etymologically and socially pretty convincing.  Anybody interested can look it all up but, very briefly, discussion offers the notion that a Hoosier is a denizen of Indiana.

The accompanying Wikipedia section on 'folk etymology' is both intriguing and amusing.  So the mind is led in strange ways ...

The Wounded Hussar was definitely a Thomas Campbell poem and this dates from the late eighteenth century; but, as noted above, it was the tunes that became attached to it that set me off.  My first encounter was with the tune as played by Tony McMahon in the late sixties.  And you can certainly sing Campbell's lines in what has become that regular Irish musical manifestation.  Ray also points out a certain affinity between the tune and the Irish Blackbird.

But it's the word 'Wounded' that seemed to be worth pursuing.  It wasn't a kite that I was flying.  Rather, I was trying to elicit information.  And, whilst there are many differences between the Irish air and Marcus Martin's, there are echoes in the direction of the cadences until you get to the point where Marcus has some extra bars that might even suggest that the tune was used for a particular dance.  And, not so very by the way, when the tune is heard on Hog-Eyed Man 4, it's played more slowly and the echoes are more pronounced.

And why 'Wounded'?

This might be enough to be going on with except that, in the Wikipedia assembly, the recommended pronunciation of the word 'Hoosier' is, apparently, 'Hoo-zer' ('Hoozair')...  There must be somebody from Indiana who could enlighten us further.  Meanwhile, that's the way that Marcus Martin pronounced the word in his introduction to the tune.


Roly Brown - 3.1.20

Re: The Three Ravens article

I'm pleased my article, some 55+ years since publication, maintains interest.

The author responds to: Thomas Ravenscroft and The Three Ravens: A Ballad Under the Microscope by Arthur Knevett

Counter argument is a good thing.  The argument that 'the monastery of Derry escaped the worst effects of ... [the Viking] raids' is not a [an effective] counter argument against 'the Scandinavians plundered the city, and it is said to have been burned down at least seven times before 1200; it thus is a site of many battles.'  The modern day Encyclopedia Britannica [] states 'the settlement was destroyed by Norse invaders, who reportedly burned it down seven times before 1200,' so this is not merely 'Chatman's contention.'  Further, the assertion that the monastery escaped the worst effects is beside the point or at least its import is not explained.

The claim that Derry was 'a small settlement, not a city' is of no weight, even if true.  The impact of any import is not explicit in the analysis of locale.

One is hard pressed as to what to make of the remarks regarding Derry and Dorie when the explication by Chatman is that the ballad (as we have it) is 'of Irish derivation.'  Whatever problem this represents is not explained in the critique.  For example, Knevett writes: 'The Ballad also migrated to America and Arthur Kyle Davis Jr writes that; 'The American texts, ... are far removed from the British versions.'  Substantial variation in versions can be observed.

Knevett seems to complain about Chatman 'making use of grammar;' using grammar seems reasonable for analysis of language artifacts, so I'm not clear on what the argument is here.

The OED, as referenced in the explication, confirms the description of the use of 'hay.'  Knevett's referring to the phrase 'to make hay of' is inexplicable.  See also: The Protestant Whore: Courtesan Narrative and Religious Controversy in England, 1680-1750, approx. p.127 ('to make hay,' ... and this is the OED again, 'to make confusion'. []

Tracing the history of written documents combined with historical linguistic information can be useful for analysis of what is recorded of the products of oral tradition; however, their undocumented pre-history can only be addressed with informed speculation and analysis.

In conclusion, we have seen that the most effective understanding of 'fallow doe' is the notion of the dainefemme, the refrain is a meaningful and functioning element of the ballad.  The song is probably Irish in its origins, (the notion of the dainefemme is probably the result of Scandinavian contact), the ballad makes use of ideas which strongly suggest it originated long before 1611, the ballad is probably a 'war-song', and The Three Ravens expresses a sense of possible victory over fate and death.  All the elements of this ballad coalesce to produce a tense, subtle, terse, and complex verbal icon.

Vernon Chatman - 20.12.19

A Reply

I can understand where Phil Katz is coming from (below) regarding the CD Oh, Listen Today... but, I think that he is missing an essential point about the CD's contents, namely that this is a CD devoted to specific fiddle tunes.  And, by this, I mean tunes which were taken to America by people from Europe, Britain and Ireland.  Many of these tunes were passed on from fiddler to fiddler and became the backbone of American fiddle tunes.  Some of these tunes are played today, more or less intact.  Others have disappeared, while some have mutated into almost unrecognisable forms.  Many of these tunes travelled all over America.  The CD is not devoted to regional styles, important as this is, but, as I say, to a specific set of tunes which can be found being played all over America in various styles and regions.

Phil complains that I have only included tunes from a region with a Southern style of playing.  In fact one track, by Jasper Bisbee, is from Michigan, well outside the Southern style region.  In fact, I think that I could say that within this Southern style there are quite a few regional styles of playing and the region can, and possibly should be, subdivided.

Phil already knows why I have had to included the tunes that I did.  As the bank robber Willie Sutton is supposed to have said when asked the question, 'Why rob banks?' he replied, 'Because that's where the money is'.  (This well-known answer may have been made up by a journalist!)  And the same goes for the recordings - the south was where the record companies looked for musicians in the 1920s and '30s.  And, of course, many of the fiddlers heard on the CD were born at a time when the tunes would, perhaps, have been more commonly heard. Jasper Bisbee was born in 1843, Sam Long in 1876 and Emmett Lundy in 1864.

In order tp prove his point, Phil compares the music of northern England to that of southern England.  Unfortunately, unlike Ireland and Scotland, where we have recordings from the 1920s and '30s, there are few, if any, recordings of English fiddle players from this period.  We only began to record such people in the 1950s when the BBC began their collecting scheme.  From the l960s onwards dedicated amateurs continued to seek out the few English fiddle players who were left.  Perhaps he should have said that the Mississippi blues of Son House were far removed from those of the Eastern States blues singer Blind Boy Fuller.

We have issued this CD because I believe that its contents are important and their story should be told.  This, I believe, is especially relevant today when we are holding elections - one candidate, the current Prime Minister, being a man who wishes to break up our relationship with other European countries, rather than trying to unite us.  And, in America, there is a President who has a penchant for building walls, rather than for breaking them down.  Yes, this music is relevant today and we really do need to hear it and listen to what it is telling us.

Mike Yates - 12.12.19

Re: Oh, Listen Today : The roots of American Old-Timey fiddle music

You advertise 'American Old-Timey fiddle music'.  In fact it is Southern American Old-Timey fiddle music.  This is not an uncommon misnomer, even in the US, due to a number of forces: a) the US recording industry in the 1930s, '40s and beyond, which commercialized that musical genre, linguistic style, and pseudo-rural culture.  b) the otherwise excellent musical scholarship by Alan Jabbour and others before him, which focused on that regional style because recordings and touring 'hillbilly shows' had made it accessible.  In the US Library of Congress (where Jabbour was a senior figure) must recordings/books of 'Old Time Music' refer to Southern Old Time.

The point to make here is there are many other American Old Time Musics of the North, which differ substantially in style and historical roots. from Southern OT music and indeed from one another.  These are continuously living traditions, with tunes currently being produced (often) in the older styles.  As examples (I'm sure I've missed knowing some; and I'm sure they overlap), that I've followed to a greater or lesser degree:

Many of these are neglected outside their regions, except by connoisseurs of regional styles.  But it is possible for an interested musician to access scholarly tune anthologies and historic recordings, as well as tune books and recordings of recently (past 30-40 yr) written tunes, in the several traditional styles.  The traditions are alive and well, having been passed (sometimes skipping a generation) to musicians now as young as 16, into their 30's, and beyond.  In my own Seattle region alone, there are serious followers of all but one or two of these.

I believe, therefore, that a serious though unintentional disservice is being performed by conflating these all into a single term 'American Old-Timey fiddle music', which is then exemplified by Southern OT Music.  One cannot conflate all the English regional styles into one (cf your South-west with Geordie, Yorks or Lancs traditions for example, even as tunes are transported among regions), nor the Scots regional styles one with another.  Nor should this be done vis the U.S., by serious compilers and scholars such as yourself.

Given expression(s) of serious interest, I could access my library of books, tunebooks, and recordings, producing bibliographic/discographic lists of key references, for several on my above list of styles.  I could refer you to others who know more about other traditions.  On my cclist I refer to Vivian Williams (Over-75-class Fiddle Champion of the US and a serious working dance musician) who has spent a scholarly lifetime on the regional tradition of the Northwest as well as a substantial effort on Missouri traditions, as well as Emeline Dehn-Reynolds, a young librarian and archivist at the University of New Hampshire and an excellent fiddler in New England and Franco-American styles.  And there are others to whom you could be referred.

All best, good health and a fine Holiday Season

Phil Katz - 9.12.19

Re: Songs of the North Riding

Hello, Rod.

I'd like ten more Flamborough Head CDs please (or one or two more or less if it makes better postage sense).  Bill me as appropriate.

By the way, I'm greatly enjoying the North Yorkshire collection that Mossy Christian has been involved with.  I'm working my way through it a few tracks at time.  I knew it was a good buy when The Tailor's Britches struck me as worth the cost of the collection all on its own.

All the best,

Jim Eldon - 22.10.19

Re: Before the Broadside

Hi Rod,

As you many know (or not), for some time I have been involved in somewhat contentious arguments on just this question elsewhere and have given the matter a great deal of thought.  While I don't wish to spread the contention to this forum, I feel I would like to comment on your editorials on the matter, which I tend to agree with.

During my arguments, the claim that our traditional songs originated on the broadside presses moved from being 90% plus to 'only those collected by Sharp and his colleagues' - a screeching U-turn as the argument frst started when I quoted MacColl's moving statement about our songs being created by 'the people - from the workers at the ploughshares to the hacks' at the end of 'The Song Carriers'.  As you know, 'The Song Carriers' covered the whole range of our repertoire, from Wedderburn's Complaynt of Scotland to an anonymous WW2 lament concerning the death of an Irish worker in Birmingham, killed during a bombing raid.  I was accused of being a starry-eyed naivet for accepting such nonsense.  After a longish and somewhat acrimonious argument, the 'early 20th century' qualification appeared.

Whatever the truth of this, it is worth remembering that any knowledge we have of the our oral traditions dates back no further than the end of the nineteenth century, so it is virtually impossible to say which came first, oral or print versions, and we are left with only common sense to decide the matter.

There is far more to this discussion, of course, including the fact that Irish rural workers and traveller were making local songs by their thousands to record their experiences and opinions, right into the middle of the 20th century - beyond, in the case of the Travellers.  It seems to me that once you accept that; if working people were capable of making songs, then they have to be serious contenders for having made our folk songs.

As I say, I have no wish to introduce any of the unpleasantness I have encountered to your magazine so it is entirely up to you to decide what to do with this message.

Best wishes

Jim Carroll - 16.6.19

Re: Editorial 11.4.19

Can we ever say how old a folksong is?  One school of thought used to say that a folksong was only as old as the last time that it was sung.  But, of course, this does not help us in knowing just when a folksong first appeared.  Today there is certainly a trend to say that a folksong is only as old as its first-known printed date, even when it seems obvious that the song's content almost certainly dates from an earlier period.  I suppose that the problem here is that unless we can trace such content to a specific date, then modern scholars will not accept such ideas.

When I first became interested in folksongs - over sixty years ago - it was fascinating to be told that a song such as The Bold Fisherman was based on medieval allegorical origins, and it came as something of a shock to later be told that it was simply yet another of the 'returned lover in disguise' songs.  According to Steve Roud and Julia Bishop, the 'slightly mysterious words' led early folksong collectors on 'flights of fancy' about the songs origin. Again, according to Steve, the 'earliest extant (broadsides) date from about the 1820s (The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (2012) pages 392 - 93).  This may well be true, but it does not necessarily prove that the song is no older than this date.  As we all know, it is very hard to prove a negative and I feel sure that many folksongs predate their first known appearance on broadsides.

Although I have specifically mentioned The Bold Fisherman here, I am not trying to say that this is a song which predates the 1820s.  I simply wish to point out that our perceptions have changed over the years.  Sixty years ago, there were very few academics studying folksongs.  Today this has changed, and standards have become far more rigorous.  And so, we should not be surprised to find folksong studies going off in new and different directions.  Sadly, though, this often means that when today's scholars write about the songs, we often only find lists of dated broadside versions, and little else.  Perhaps what we need is a little more in the way of humanity when we consider the old songs.

Mike Yates - 12.4.19


Rod Stradling - e-mail:  Tel: 01453 759475
snail-mail: 1 Castle Street, Stroud, Glos  GL5 2HP, UK

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