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History of Guitars in British folk

GUEST,Reynard 02 Dec 13 - 08:58 AM
Howard Jones 02 Dec 13 - 09:26 AM
GUEST 03 Dec 13 - 12:22 AM
MGM·Lion 03 Dec 13 - 12:57 AM
GUEST,Ed 03 Dec 13 - 01:43 AM
GUEST,Reynard 03 Dec 13 - 06:19 AM
GUEST 03 Dec 13 - 06:36 AM
GUEST 03 Dec 13 - 08:21 AM
GUEST 03 Dec 13 - 08:55 AM
GUEST 03 Dec 13 - 11:25 AM
ripov 03 Dec 13 - 09:30 PM
meself 03 Dec 13 - 11:36 PM
meself 03 Dec 13 - 11:49 PM
Will Fly 04 Dec 13 - 04:44 AM
GUEST 04 Dec 13 - 05:33 AM
GUEST,Ed 04 Dec 13 - 12:42 PM
Jack Campin 04 Dec 13 - 01:33 PM
GUEST 04 Dec 13 - 08:29 PM
GUEST 05 Dec 13 - 05:16 AM
Will Fly 05 Dec 13 - 06:11 AM
MGM·Lion 05 Dec 13 - 06:32 AM
GUEST 05 Dec 13 - 07:36 AM
GUEST 05 Dec 13 - 09:43 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 05 Dec 13 - 10:09 AM
MGM·Lion 05 Dec 13 - 10:23 AM
Jack Campin 05 Dec 13 - 11:14 AM
MGM·Lion 05 Dec 13 - 11:59 AM
MGM·Lion 05 Dec 13 - 12:02 PM
Jack Campin 05 Dec 13 - 12:57 PM
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Subject: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST,Reynard
Date: 02 Dec 13 - 08:58 AM

After reading some comments on the discussion of "samey" Scottish trad bands, I thought I'd start a new thread as this doesn't seem to have been covered before.

I have heard some very diverse views on the matter ranging from the claim that guitars were almost unknown until 1950s-60s and were then imported from the US to talk of "barbershop Citterns" and visions of Jacobean and Georgian common folk and street performers strumming accompaniments to songs on guitars (or guitar-like instruments).

My feeling is that like banjos, guitars in pretty much their current form must have been around in this country from at least the mid 19thc- making them at least as "trad" as free reed instruments. Jamie Knowles' tune-book "A Northern Lass" contains a photograph of a band of sailors at Spithead(?) assembled for the Victorian jubilee and a couple of them have guitars (there are also banjos, squeezeboxes and a hammered dulcimer).

I would be interested to hear your views, but especially to know the sources for any claims.

Reynard


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: Howard Jones
Date: 02 Dec 13 - 09:26 AM

It is clear from old photos and accounts that all sorts of instruments were in use, and people played whatever was to hand. This undoubtedly included guitars, and no doubt other instruments which are not usually thought of now as 'traditional'. However they were greatly outnumbered by fiddles, squeezeboxes and other 'folky' instruments. I think it is true to say that the guitar did not become ubiquitous, even iconic, until the folk revival.


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Dec 13 - 12:22 AM

Julian Bream reports that people were curious avout his playing of the Spanish guitar, many had not heard it before. However his father played ian f hole in a jazz band. This was the jazz band era, but then music was less available. Radio would have not played guitar music.


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Dec 13 - 12:57 AM

In fact we had this precise topic aired in a thread which ran for almost the whole of 2010, which I have refreshed.

~M~


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 03 Dec 13 - 01:43 AM

Michael, (MtheGM) is referring to this thread:

History of British Folk Guitar


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST,Reynard
Date: 03 Dec 13 - 06:19 AM

Thanks Michael and Ed for highlighting the older thread, which I read with interest- although much attention was given to the appearance of guitars in the 1950s which I wasn't really interested in.

From what I've read overall it seems like there were some vaguely similar (to a greater or lesser extent) instruments being used to accompany songs from about 1600-1800 - before any distinction between "folk music" and just regular "popular music". But any similarity to the modern guitar seems just to be a coincidence. Interesting to see similar types of performance cropping up centuries apart even so.


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Dec 13 - 06:36 AM

Gilbert & Sullivan's Trial by Jury (1875) makes a somewhat satirical comment about the rise of the guitar in society circles, when it was the instrument of choice for the dilettanti Chelsea set, the gormless twerps we see now in Made in Chelsea. Previously to that, it was a normal instrument in the baroque repertoire.
WWII may well have been instrumental (sorry!) in bringing it back from the US, as it was used extensively in the blues roots of the 1920s by performers like Lead Belly. We can then see in the 1950s the movement into the rhythm and blues origins of pop, but it was soon replaced by the early Gibson electric guitars which led to rock. However, the acoustic guitar survived in Country music, and that then flavoured the 1960s folk revival. By the 1980s other instruments were quite rare, although people like Andrew Cronshaw were beginning to stress the importance of sound mixes using other far more exotic instruments, and we have moved a long way forwards,


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Dec 13 - 08:21 AM

Just to keep link-backs working, the discussion which started it is here.


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Dec 13 - 08:55 AM

What might be wiser is to turn the idea on its head and ask why other traditional instruments are disappearing. I don't think there are any hammered dulcimer players left in East Anglia now, at least not in an organised body. They don't cost much more than a decent guitar and are far more versatile in transposition. Julian Goodacre's English pipes seem to have been caught in an Early/Mediaeval Music backwater. Low whistle players are at a premium. Yet the EFDSS runs ukelele classes in CSH!


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Dec 13 - 11:25 AM

I don't think there are any hammered dulcimer players left in East Anglia now, at least not in an organised body.
I don't know what sort of "orgaised body" you think should exist but I can still think of a number of players in East Anglia. More if you take in Essex as well as East Angia proper.

Could you provide a link to the EFDSS uke classes? I can't find them on the CSH website.


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: ripov
Date: 03 Dec 13 - 09:30 PM

Whether they were playing folk music or Rock'n'Roll is hard to say, but the Young Gallants were obviously into Gittars in the mid 17c....

Musicks Delight. (1652)

The Preface.

It is observed that of late years all Solemn and Grave Musick is much laid aside, being esteemed too heavy and dull for the light Heels and Brains of this Nimble and wanton Age; Nor is any Musick rendred acceptable, or esteemed by many, but what is presented by forreigners; Not a City Dame though a Tap-wife, but is ambitious to have her Daughters Taught by Mounsieur La Novo Kikshawibus on the Gittar, which Instrument is but a new (old one) used in London in the time of Q. Mary, as appears by a Book Printed in English of Instructions and Lessons for the same, about the beginning of Qn. Elizabeths Reign, being not much different from the Cithren, only that (it) was strung with Gut-strings, this with wyre, which was accounted the more sprightly and cheerful Musick, and was in more esteem (till of late years) then the Gittar: Therefore to revive and restore this Harmonious Instrument, I have adventured to publish this little Book of Instructions and Lessons, making it my design and study to be useful for the practice of young Beginners, by a more plain and easie method than has been heretofore published, Omitting all those difficult full Stops which former Lessons were stuft with, whereby the Tune intended was quite lost, the Ear and Patience of the Practitioner Confounded.......The Tunes herein are most of them new, and set after the manner of the Gittar way of playing, which I hope will render it the more acceptable among our young Gallants , for whose delight is also added some short Ayres and Songs to sing to the Cithren, .....

The Cithren is strung with eight Wyre Strings, which are divided into four Course, two in a Course, Each Course hath his distinction and name according to the four several Parts of Musick:the first Course or smallest strings are called Trebles, the second Means, the third (which are usual of twisted Wyre) Basses, the fourth Tenors:

John Playford


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: meself
Date: 03 Dec 13 - 11:36 PM

There is a song in Helen Creighton's Songs & Ballads of Nova Scotia (I believe) entitled 'Jolly Roving Tar' (NOT the rollicking 'get up Jack, John sit down' song) the second verse of which runs thusly, if I remember correctly:


It's many's the pleasant evening my love and I did pass,
With many's the fine young sailor-lad and many's the fair young lass;
With a fiddler sweetly playing, likewise a wild guitar,
I went hand in hand together with my Jolly Roving Tar.


Note that it's not just a guitar, but a WILD guitar, thrashing along behind that sweetly-played fiddle. I think there's a bodhran in the next verse.


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: meself
Date: 03 Dec 13 - 11:49 PM

I neglected to mention that the narrative of the aforementioned song is set in 'the city of London town' - which proves it.


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 Dec 13 - 04:44 AM

I don't think there are any hammered dulcimer players left in East Anglia now, at least not in an organised body. They don't cost much more than a decent guitar and are far more versatile in transposition.

Hie ye to Sussex. The Twagger Band has not just one but two hammered dulcimers. They're a pleasant instrument to hear live, a bugger to record, and - I believe - more appropriate for instrumental music than for accompanying voices. But that's just my opinion.


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Dec 13 - 05:33 AM

Many thanks, I'll look them up.


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 04 Dec 13 - 12:42 PM

hammered dulcimers...more appropriate for instrumental music than for accompanying voices. But that's just my opinion.

Go here to possibly revise that opinion...

Maclaine Colston and Saul Rose - Barbaree


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Dec 13 - 01:33 PM

One way to estimate how common a musical instrument was in the past is to look at newspaper advertisements. I've seen a lot of music shop ads listing a huge range of stuff dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, and guitars hardly feature at all. Neither did supplies for them, like strings and sheet music.


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Dec 13 - 08:29 PM

Which brings back to mind the mention of a particular guitar primer - was it Bert Jansch's? - in prompting the 1960s wave, none being available before then.
Checking in the WP list of guitarists, there's almost a complete break between the 1850s and 1920s, again supporting the thesis that it was reborm as a jazz instrument replacing the obtrusive banjo twang in the smoother white jazz bands.


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Dec 13 - 05:16 AM

"hammered dulcimers...more appropriate for instrumental music than for accompanying voices. But that's just my opinion."

Anyone else remember Attacco Decente?


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Dec 13 - 06:11 AM

Hi GUEST,Ed - thanks for the heads-up on "Barbaree", etc. A nice track, but I still find the dulcimer sound a little overpowering, personally.


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Dec 13 - 06:32 AM

Which brings back to mind the mention of a particular guitar primer - was it Bert Jansch's? - in prompting the 1960s wave, none being available before then.
.,,.
Not so. My uncle, Alex Burns, had a musical instrument shop in Shaftesbury Avenue [he was, btw, the first man ever to import a saxophone for sale here!]; and I remember, back in the 1940s when he married my Aunt Rosalind & came into the family, that there was a whole shelf of "how to play" books, including several for guitar. Plus dozens [literally] of guitars of all sorts - f-hole- round hole, classical, jazz, the lot - hanging & standing all around the walls.

~M~


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Dec 13 - 07:36 AM

hammered dulcimers are a bugger to keep in tune and were not often seen on top of the pops. people want to play instruments that work with popular music. See the resurgence of the acoustic guitar now better electronic amplification is available. Meanwhile the clarinet has largely disappeared from sight with trad jazz. Children introduced to it in primary school are only too eager to drop it in favour of the ubiquitous sax.


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Dec 13 - 09:43 AM

Rather supports the case, then, MtGM: just "several" for guitar in the 1940s, these days it's dozens.
As it happens, I've a 16/17 (with a 1900yo bog-oak soundboard), it's not too bad - at least by comparison with a gut-strung harp! I need to tune it about once a month, sure it takes a damned sight longer than a 6-string guitar, but then again you get practiced...


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 05 Dec 13 - 10:09 AM

... and once more, lets all thank the Godz of music for the electric guitar
- treble boosters, fuzz boxes, slapback echo, and amps with built in tremelo circuits & spring reverb...

now lets go play some seriously noisy British 'folk' music...


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Dec 13 - 10:23 AM

Yes, Guest; but it's fatuous to claim there were none before B Jansch's of the 1960s!


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Dec 13 - 11:14 AM

The primer in question was more likely Bert Weedon than Bert Jansch.

Lots of instrument tutors from the early 20th century survive. (As I work in the antiquarian book business, a lot of them pass through my hands, mostly on one-way trips to the recycler). But the guitar is one of the least commonly encountered. Ukulele, banjo, piano, harmonium, brass and anglo concertina were vastly more popular.

A working class musician in Victorian Britain was much more likely to play a brass band instrument than anything else. (South-East Scotland had a tradition of miner fiddlers - I don't know how common that was elsewhere).

Like I said, look at old newspapers. It's obvious from the ads which instruments were available and visible, and the guitar wasn't one of them.


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Dec 13 - 11:59 AM

I have mentioned before, on the other thread, that the daughter of The Vicar Of Wakefield in Oliver Goldsmith's novel of 1766, sang frequently to her own guitar accompaniment, and accompanied her brother's singing of Death & The Lady. I would also mention Edward Lear's The Owl And The Pussycat, 1871, in which the Owl serenades the Pussycat ~~ "And he sang to a small guitar, Oh beautiful Pussy, Oh Pussy my love, What a beautiful Pussy you are".

~M~


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Dec 13 - 12:02 PM

And of course Vermeer's famous painting of 1672 ~~


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Guitar_Player_%28Vermeer%29


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Subject: RE: History of Guitars in British folk
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Dec 13 - 12:57 PM

An anecdote to illustrate how much you can trust mentions of musical instruments in songs. I met someone who'd been playing their hurdy-gurdy at an event in France when an elderly British gent came up to ask what the heck it was it was, as he'd never seen one before.

The old guy asking was Donovan, something like 30 years after writing this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurdy_Gurdy_Man

And I could never imagine the Minstrel Boy going off to war with his wild harp slung behind him getting very far or being very militarily effective, however wild his harp might have been.


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