Liverpool Philharmonic. May 5th
1.North and South of The River.
3.Black is The Colour
7.Does this Train stop on Merseyside
11.Irish Pagan Ritual
12.Go Move Shift.
14.No Time for Love.
15.Raggle Taggle Gypsy
16 Cliffs of Dooneen
17.Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette
21.Fairytale of New York
22.City of Chicago
23.Joxer in Stuttgart
26 John O Dreams
Kicked off in Liverpool. Always a great reception here since my first gig in Jacqui & Bridie’s Folk Club in 1967.
Many long-haul listeners last night, some crossed from Ireland, others came from Germany, Holland and France. we had a contingent down from Scotland.
I was delighted to meet Margaret and Irene who’ve been listening since we first met in Liverpool 50 years ago. And there they were last night, still full of their heart-warming enthusiasm for the songs.
Manchester Bridgewater May 6th
1.North and South of The River
3.Black is The Colour
7.Go Move Shift
13.Cliffs of Dooneen
14.Lightning Bird Wind River Man
15.Irish Pagan Ritual
17.Fairytale of New York
21.Smoke & Strong Whiskey
22.The Dalesman’s Litany
25.No Time for Love
Back again to where my journey first began. My singing started in child hood and continued through choirs, musicals, operettas and early rock & roll.
In my mid-teens I started into Folk Songs and guitar and the flame was lit. aged 21 I got my first real gig in Manchester and the tour began.
I’ll hit the 73 mark tomorrow and still the tour goes on. In 1966 I had a cheap guitar, a donkey jacket, a sleeping bag and very little else. 2018 and I have 3 fellow musicians, we have a crew of 8, a 40-foot truck and two minivans, but the heart of the matter is still the songs
That first gig was in The Old House at Home, an old pub in the suburb Blakeley. the room held 50 max and Mike Harding ran the club with Patricia. the entrance was 3/6 (three shillings and sixpence). Mike was host and compere, other (floor) singers that night was Tony Downes, Mike Canavan, Mary Asquith. I was the “turn” for the night and two 20-minute sets, about 12 songs in all. No microphones back then, lots of camaraderie and Wilsons Ale. Accommodation was floor space to roll out the sleeping bag (I stayed in 9 Kathkin Ave, Crumpsall) These times its major venues and hotels.
Free Day in Manchester May 7th.
Unlike earlier years, in recent times I need to rest the voice after 2 gigs. I can manage 2 gigs, take a night off, then 2 more gigs. these past years I have limited my UK stints to 4 gigs. This seems to suit everyone, most of us have families, some with young children, others with chadults and grand-children. those days of long long tours are over … Aberdeen Tuesday, Brighton Wednesday, Inverness Thursday….
so here I am on my 73rd Birthday, hiding from the heatwave with curtains drawn in a hotel room…resting the vocals, not talking, catching up, watching the Snooker, looking forward to a Rogan Josh and a few chapatis. I first encountered Indian Cuisine back in 1968. Dave and Heather Brady took me to Lumb Lane in Bradford (Saheed’s) where my taste buds first experienced the joy of Curry. later I would frequent Brick Lane in London, Moss Side in Manchester, Kushis in Edinburgh and many of the small eating houses frequented by working people from India and Pakistan.
May 8th. Morning early
Another day dawns. 7am, I wake, and thoughts turn instantly to tonight’s gig in Birmingham. I must try and play Matty, Cry Like a Man, Little Musgrave, Flickering Reel, tonight, maybe The Sun is Burning, I’ve not gigged that song for 30 years but learnt it in Birmingham. Barr na Sráide too, first, I must get up and put on the kettle. Its 100 miles today down the M6 – first time I played Birmingham they were still building the M6
Now we’re on that M6. the congestion is giving me indigestion. I spent 10 mins looking into Walsall Football Club and now Aston Villa is looming, but very slowly. we’re heading for the Symphony Hall tonight. It’s a real royal top notch venue where you could eat your dinner off the floor. It’s a long long way from “The Old Contemptible” pub where Mick Hipkiss ran his Folk Club 50 years ago. I tootled into town in my old blue 1956 VW Beetle like I was on the pigs back. I could not believe my good fortune to be living the life of a folk singer. To be on the road hearing new music, making new friends. here in the Midlands I heard “Boys of Barr na Sraide”, Come by The Hill” “The Sun Is Burning”, Hey Sandy”, “The Old Man’s Song”, “Letter to Syracuse” and “John O’Dreams”. met Ian and Lorna Cambell, Bob Cooney, The Munstermen, Dave Phillips, Dave Pegg, John Swift, Tommy Dempsey. living the dream, hearing the songs.
Evening May 8th Birmingham Royal Symphony Hall
I’d forgotten what a great venue this is – in the heart of the City. We got in at 4.30 for strong tea, sweet cake and a nice long sound check. some days the soundcheck is a routine matter and other days it can become a jam or a rehearsal. David Meade checks every corner and crevice to ensure that the sound travels to every seat. Dickon Whitehead mixes the monitor sound giving each of us what we need to hear. Geoff Ryan focuses the lights doing his best to hide treble chins and stained wardrobe. John Meade insures that the stage is set up precisely, all four positions to the inch, guitars restrung and tuned. come 7.30 we commence our warm up play until Michael Devine gives us the showtime ultimatum. out we go into the lap of the gods, out to face the assembled listeners from near and far, always hoping that we can deliver, determined to do so….
1.North and South
2.City of Chicago
6.Cry like a man
8.Irsh Pagan Ritual
9.Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette
10.Cliffs of Dooneen
11.Raggle Taggle Gypsy
12.Bright Blue Rose
16.Stitch in Time
19.Go Move Shift
22.Fairytale of New York
Early Morning May 9th
Different atmosphere in Birmingham. Neither better or worse, just different. at every gig my antenna is out, I’m wondering, wondering, trying to figure it all out, what will I play next, where to go from here. I seek to play something different every night, last night “Cry Like a Man “appeared from nowhere. sometimes I read it wrong but what matter! last night I had a sense of listeners travelling from all directions. I thought back to all those midland towns I played in my apprenticeship; Coventry, Wolverhampton, Walsall and an array of Cities Towns and Villages all boasting their own unique Folk Clubs. during the gig I fantasised that all those Folk Clubs had thronged into the Symphony Hall, that I was playing in a HUGE Folk Club to an assembly of old friends. then the lights went up to reveal eighteen hundred smiling applauding listeners most of them not born when those old Folk Clubs were in existence … all ages genders shapes sizes colours and religions united by the power of song. these songs don’t rely on fashion, pumped up PR, stage effect nor costume. some of these songs have resounded for centuries across borders over mountain valley and plain….
…. These times basket is brimming with a mixture of old and new…some ancient songs side by side with recent compositions…in my mind they sit well together…”The Well below The Valley” with “Burning Times”, “Dunlavin Green” with “No Time for Love” “Lisdoonvarna” with “The Rocky Road” …. Bob Dylan with Wally Page…. Joni Mitchell with Natalie Merchant… and a few of my own thrown in at the deep end….
now it’s time to pack the bags and head to York…
May 9th York Barbican Theatre
1.North and South
2.Go Move Shift
3.Cry Like A Man
8.Irish Pagan Ritual
10.Fairytale New York
11.First Time ever I saw your face
12.Viva la Quince Brigada
13.Smoke and Strong Whiskey
14.Raggle Taggle Gypsy
16.Black is the Colour
20.The Dalesman’s Litany
23.No Time for Love
…and so, we wrapped up a most enjoyable and successful (mini) English Tour. all 4 gigs went very well, and we encountered no major difficulties along the way. the trip home had added dimension that I’d not encountered before – we carried home the ashes of a Lady …a much-loved Aunt to one of our crew. this Lady lived most of her life in England spending her later years in a retirement home. she always longed to return home and we carried her on her final journey last night.
Michael and I boarded the 3am Irish Ferry out of Holyhead. 4 hours later I was home in the Kitchen, the kettle was on ….
Thank you all for making it work