The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #171757 Message #4155013
Posted By: Big Al Whittle
14-Oct-22 - 11:48 AM
Thread Name: Country music in 1970s UK folk clubs
Subject: RE: Folklore: Country music in 1970s UK folk clubs
I was very much part of that scene.
When I moved to Tamworth in 1973 Andy Dwyer was a young hopeful on the folkscene. He had won the Melody Maker folk rock competition and ran three folk clubs locally.
However Andy came from a pretty blue collar background and wasn't on the same wavelength as the Ewan MacColl brigade down at old Crown FC in Digbeth or the Brits Out gang down the Star.
Andy was offered work in Working Mens Clubs and Miners Welfares and the odd golf club.
The pop scene was disco and pub rock, neither of which Andy could do as a solo acoustic guitarist. So seeing an opening I offered to play bass behind Andy and doing Johnny Cash type stuff. Thus having swapped an old lawn mower for an Antoria bass I became a semi professional musician.
Andy frankly hated country music and couldn't be prevailed upon to listen to or learn any country music - so the main vocal work devolved to me.
However just at that point the disco fever had come to Ireland in a big way putting dozens of showband musicians out of work. They came and played our country circuit which was vast. Prior to Thatcher there were a lot of coal mines and miners loved country music , whilst few miners would have known Blackleg Miner or Tommy Armstrong songs - they all knew Merle Travis's Dark as a Dungeon (down in the mine. All the miners welfares had country music evenings. Butlins did huge country music festivals. I won a competition to sing at Mervyn Conn's Country Music festival at Wembley. The mainstage had Don Williams, Don Everly, and other top US stars.
Mean while Andy and I were jogging along. Our mates from the folkscene Paul Downes and Phil Beer played on over 90 'road albums. I was offered a deal to do such an album, but it wasn't really where I wanted to be. Later on in the 1980's I fronted a country music band for about a year, but after Thatcher the mines and much of the work was gone. I worked solo for a while and met some great musicians on my travels. Finally I had my hit record in Germany - so I had to break off gigging and try to write a follow up. I still love singing country music.