Now also on the website at http://www.folk-network.com/info/capstick.html
Tony Capstick RIP
Musician, broadcaster, actor and comedian Tony Capstick died on Thursday October 23rd at his home at Hoober, near Wentworth in South Yorkshire. He was 59, and had been in poor health since leaving Radio Sheffield at the beginning of the year.
Although best known in recent years for his popular radio programmes, his involvement with folk music went back a long way, and it was as a singer in the clubs that he first made his name. Capstick Comes Home, his acutely observed parody of the Hovis ads, was a big commercial success; but he was equally at home with serious material and was a well-regarded interpreter of both contemporary and traditional song.
He was also, of course, famous (sometimes notorious) as a local character, and a great many people have favourite Capstick stories. We hope to include some of these in the future.
Tony Capstick: Some Thoughts
An appreciation by Dave Burland
I learned of the tragic death of Tony Capstick on the afternoon of Thursday, 23rd October 2003, and I have spent a great deal of time since mourning the loss of a friend whose life affected my own in no small way.
I first met Tony in 1962 in the Alhambra Folk Club in Barnsley, which met on a Monday night and was run by a committee which included Tony Heald, Dorothy and Derek Elliott and several more. It was obvious that he had talent and very dapper he was too, in his suit and tie, singing The Rocky Road to Dublin. From then on he became a regular at the club with his best friend Keith Foster, as he did for many clubs in Rotherham and Sheffield and, before long, clubs further afield; in fact we couldn't get enough folk music and audiences couldn't get enough of him. He actually lived in Barnsley for a short time.
I remember Win White used to book us together at the Highcliffe Hotel in Sheffield. We only ever did two songs together, The Banks of the Ohio and Goodnight Irene, but we sat on stage together and generally had a good time. One night Tony told me he had made a ventriloquist's dummy. His instructions to me were that I had to sit directly behind him (and the dummy), play the guitar and sing Streets of London, whilst he drank two pints of Guinness. To add a further surreal touch, the dummy was lifesize, looked remarkably like Adolf Hitler, and had its head mounted on a broom handle which meant that he could harass the front two rows of the audience with it.
In 1968 we both decided to try making a living from folk music, although before this Tony began his long association with Radio Sheffield, being asked by Geoff Sargison to present the Folk Show, and soon Radio Two beckoned with "Folkweave".
I remember doing a night in Wolverhampton with him, and Dave Pegg, then of the Ian Campbell Folk Group, asked if he could play bass with us, Tony asking for his references first! On another occasion I was driving home from Liverpool with Tony as my passenger and he began to tell me his life story. As we passed Walton Gaol, he was a small child, and by the time we arrived in Sheffield, some two hours later, we had got to the age of twelve.
In 1981 I was touring Australia, when I heard that Capstick Comes Home was No 3 In the Top Twenty. For the next 20 years or so he did less and less folk club and concert work, this being supplanted by personal appearances, broadcasting, television, after-dinner speaking.
Our paths still did cross and once his Radio Sheffield producer rang me and booked me into his afternoon show for a chat and to play a couple of tracks from a CD I had recorded of Richard Thompson songs. I then forgot all about this, only realising I should have been at Radio Sheffield when it was too late to get there. I rang the station and found they had also been trying to get in touch with me because Tony had forgotten to bring the CD in question to the station. I actually did appear on this show but from the linked studio in Barnsley. We reminisced on air and eventually he wound up the interview by saying, "You forgot to turn up, I forgot the CD, welcome dear listeners to the Capstick and Burland Alzheimers hour."
He was a consummate broadcaster, well read, well informed and interested in what other people were saying. He mastered the art of convincing his listeners that he was talking to each one personally. Geoff Sargison recounted this story of Tony, coming up to the news with the station ID "You're listening to Radio Sheffield on 290 meters medium wave" and then failing to convert that into its equivalent in megahertz, he said "that's over 300 yards".
He had an ear for a good song, Ewan MacColl being one of his favourite songwriters. He did the best version of Bob Dylan's Ramona I have ever heard, and he made Ian Campbell's The Old Man's Song his own. His traditional offerings were stylish versions of The Seeds of Love and I drew my ship into a harbour.
Sadly he is under-recorded and a lot of what he did is lost to us. But he was a live performer and that is maybe how we should remember him.
Safe journey, Tony old son.
From a Lancashire Lad...I couldnt let Tony's passing go without mentioning his wonderful appearances in the folk days at the Burnley Folk Club. He came on and introduced himself thus: "Hello, my name's Tony Catsprick . . . this is Burnley isnt it ? Didn't you used to have a football team? Burnley in Lancashire? Its alright I've got my bloody passport . . . Yorkshire bastard I can hear you all saying . . . "
His renditions of Captain Grant, Sir Thomas of Winesbury and Ramona, and his wonderful guitar playing will long be remembered by those who heard him. His jokes were somewhat risqué in those days and are still funny today; I make no apologies about using a couple of them in after-dinner speeches that I get asked to do from time to time.
His own TV show was funny but strained because he was "under instruction" from those above. I recall him standing in his white dinner jacket, talking to the camera with that mischievous grin: "When I did the Hovis song they dressed me up as a little kid . . . now they have me as an Italian waiter . . . !" You just know that he hated the 'unnatural' use of his immense talents by TV.
Goodbye Tony, and thanks for the memories, you will indeed be sadly missed.
PDS Engineering, Nelson, Lancs.
Sorry to hear of the passing of my old mate Tony Capstick. He was a true original. I enjoyed his hospitality often in the 60s. He ran a club in Rotherham and booked me to play. He was also resident in the Highcliffe in Sheffield when I played there. Once we were double booked in a club in West Hartlepool. We made the best of it and had a crackin good night. I had not seen Tony for 20 years but I valued the time I spent with him and I cherish his memory.
http://www.christymoore.com/ 12th November, 2003.