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Review: Walter Pardon; Research

Related thread:
Walter Pardon - which song first? (45)


GUEST,Pseudonymous 05 Nov 19 - 11:36 AM
punkfolkrocker 05 Nov 19 - 11:51 AM
r.padgett 05 Nov 19 - 12:06 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 05 Nov 19 - 12:14 PM
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punkfolkrocker 05 Nov 19 - 12:35 PM
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Subject: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 11:36 AM

A basis for discussion.

Walter Pardon: Fact, Fiction, and Ideology.

Walter Pardon (1914 – 1996) was a carpenter, singer and melodeon player (largely self-taught) from Knapton, Norfolk.

Let us try to sort out a few facts about Pardon upon which everybody might agree. This is more difficult than one might think. As soon as one starts to compare different sources it seems that material presented as ‘fact’ by one source is contradicted by another, and is, after all, not so much a fact as an inference. Therefore, what follows is intended as a first draft, to be corrected in the light of any further evidence.

The Facts?

There seems to be general agreement that Pardon was discovered as a singer in the 1970s, during a 20th century folk “revival”. According to Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Pardon (accessed 3rd Nov 2019), this discovery happened when Pardon’s younger relative, Roger Dixon, to whom Pardon had sung songs when he was a boy, persuaded him to record a number of songs on tape.

Another useful source is the MUSTRAD web site has a section on Pardon, incorporating sleeve notes from a 2000 issue of a selection of his work (Article MT052). Mike Yates and Rod Stradling provided this resource. I refer to it as ‘MUSTRAD’ throughout. However, as will become clear, the Mustrad material includes contradictory information and the material in it needs evaluating carefully to distinguish fact from opinion.

Pardon’s parents were called Thomas and Emily (nee Gee), and he was their only child. It seems to be common ground that Pardon came from a musical family. He grew up and lived in a farmhouse previously occupied by his maternal grandfather, Thomas Cook Gee. The 1861 census gives Thomas’s address as ‘Hall Street, Knapton.’ The Hall in question would be Knapton Old Hall, a late 16th century farmhouse which is now a listed building. Pardon’s farmhouse was called Parr’s Farm Cottage.

Thomas Cook Gee is said to have played clarinet in a church band. Pardon has been cited as stating that Thomas could read music. Thomas and his wife Ruth had 12 children (source Familyhistory.org), at least five of whom in their turn made music or sang: Pardon’s mother, Thomas, Walter (a melodeon player, see the full MUSTRAD piece which is below), Alice and Billy. Some of the male members of the family had in the past been involved in singing in the public house. It would appear that Pardon himself did not, the tradition having died out by the time he came to a suitable age. Walter was literate, education being compulsory in England when he was born. He knew some history, citing the date of Forster’s Education Act in an early interview. In the 1930s, during a time of economic depression, Pardon spent a lot of time with his uncle, Billy (1863/4 ? - 1942), who is believed to have taught Pardon a number of songs. During World War Two, Pardon served in the British Army, again as a carpenter. He never married, and he lived for most of his life in the house where he had grown up.   From 1957, when his father died, Pardon lived there alone. There was a long period, possibly stretching to 20 years, when Pardon did not sing, but played tunes to himself on a melodeon.

Pardon had access to much of the standard technology of his time: he had a collection of 78rpm records and a radio.

Pardon’s route on to the folk scene seems uncontroversial. As has already been explained, Pardon was ‘discovered’ by a second cousin (sometime incorrectly described as a nephew), Roger Dixon, who became a teacher of history and then later the Rev Roger Dixon < https://www.mardles.org/index.php/magazine/blogs/item/169-roger-dixon-s-important-role-in-the-discovery-of-traditional-norfolk-singer-walter-pardon> (accessed 4th November 2019). Dixon had taken an interest in Pardon’s singing while a boy. Eventually, Dixon persuaded his uncle to record himself singing, and the question of whether Dixon lent Pardon a reel-to-reel tape recorder or whether Pardon has its own has different answers in the material. Dixon passed the recordings on to a ‘revival singer’ called Peter Bellamy, a former pupil of his. Bellamy contacted Bill Leader, who was among other things a sound recordist, who issued two albums of Pardon’s work and retained the copyright of at least some of it.

After his discovery, Pardon sang in public for eight or nine years, mostly, it would appear, in The Orchard Gardens public house quite club close to home. A number of records of his work were issued. He was interviewed a number of times and was the subject of two films.      
According to Jim Carroll, writing on the Mudcat discussion forum <23rd March 2009 >, it was not always possible for Pardon’s booking agent, Carroll’s partner Pat Mackenzie, to obtain gigs for Pardon: ‘Oh, we don't book singers like that; we only cater for the modern stuff.’
Pardon’s public singing career came to an end in 1989, when he felt that his voice was no longer up to the job. His singing, and some of his spoken words, may be heard free online using ‘Spotify’.

The Sources

I have already referred to the Mustrad information. This discussion of the background to the issuing of some CDs of his work, apparently dating from 2000, may be found on the MUSTRAD web site here (accessed 3rd Nov 2019). It is liner notes to a double CD release. This material, valuable in many ways, raises a number of important questions about the presentation and framing of Pardon and his work.
A number of people took recordings of Pardon’s singing, including himself (for Roger Dixon); Bill Leader; Mike Yates; Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie (some of whose recordings were proposed for a release that did not happen, various perspectives on this are expressed online); Sam Richards and Mike Yates.   Yates produced what was intended to be a recording of the whole repertoire, and wrote a series of pieces on this, for MUSTRAD.

Pardon was interviewed by a number of folklorists and journalists. Accounts of some of these interviews have been published, and recordings of at least one are available on line at https://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Reg-Hall-Archive/025M-C0903X0048XX-0700V0 (accessed 3rd Nov, 2019). Unfortunately, we do not always have dates for these recordings, though the BL one is dated. Transcriptions by Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie of one (or more?) interviews with Pardon were posted onto a Mudcat discussion thread headed ‘Traditional Singers Talking’ by Jim Carroll in 2014. These are undated, unfortunately. However, they raise important and interesting questions about research techniques and interviewer bias which I shall discuss below. Moreover, the thread itself is a source of lively debate about a number of related issues.   

As already indicated, two films were made about Pardon: one, called ‘The Ballad and The Source’, was by a visiting American called John Cohen; the second, narrated by Brian Gaudet, was made by Edge TV long after Pardon’s death. This latter film may be viewed on YouTube. It shows Pardon’s home to be called Parr Farm Cottage or house, currently valued at over half a million pounds (Zoopla).

I have already mentioned the MUSTRAD site’s section on Pardon. Also available on that MUSTRAD site is a piece that Pardon himself wrote for publication, following discussion with active members of the folk revival at that time. This piece was a reminiscence of a local pipe and drum band in which some of Pardon’s own family had played. http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/pardon2.htm#kdfb (accessed 3rd Nov 2019).

In addition, in 1981 Pardon was interviewed by Peta Webb for a BBC2 television programme called ‘The Other Music’. See < https://eatmt.wordpress.com/walter-pardon> accessed 4th November 2019.

Other material relating to Pardon available online includes a number of obituaries,

Problems With The Data

1 Where did Walter get his songs?

I’ll begin by noting that it is not always possible to establish precisely where Pardon learned a particular song. I don’t know if this is important, but it seems to be true, and worth stating on that basis. While some sources seem to suggest that he learned all of them from his uncle Billy, it has been stated (Mustrad) that he sometimes gave contradictory accounts of where he learned a particular song to different interviewers.   Peta Webb writes that Pardon told her he learned some from his mother and some from other uncles.   Mustrad cites Mike Yates as believing that Pardon got most of the words for one song in the CD compilation from a book called ‘The Wanton Seed’ by Frank Purslow.   Finally, Mike Yates asserts on Mustrad (Article MT054 - from Musical Traditions No 1, Mid 1983) that Billy owned a book entitled: “The National Agricultural Labourers' and Rural Workers' Union Song Book.” Some of Pardon’s material is in this book and may therefore have come from it via Billy. Mike also asserts that he does not think that Walter would link together the material in this essay, which is headed by a quotation from Marx, in the same way that he does.

And where did Grandfather Thomas get the songs he supposedly passed on to Billy? MUSTRAD demonstrates how many songs sung by Walter can be demonstrated to have 19th century origins: on one level they look like the popular music of Thomas’s time. Pardon seems to have asserted that his uncles Billy and Tom learned their songs from, their father, and that he got them from broadsides. He gives Billy as the source of this information. MUSTRAD provides us with further food for thought, and, for once, the information is presented as a conjecture rather than as fact: ”The late Al Sealey told me of an informally organised 'pub circuit' of music hall gigs which used to operate in East Anglia right up to the early 1930s, where second-string semi-pro performers would put on shows of their own songs together with the popular hits of the day. This might help to explain the huge number of good, though not widely known, music hall type songs still to be found in the area.”

2 Where did Pardon get his style?

Similar problems about obtaining precise knowledge extend to assertions about the origins of Pardon’s style. If memory serves me right, this is another area where Mustrad presents different theories, ranging from his style comes direct from Billy (implication being presumably it is authentic/tradition/folk, to assertions by Pardon that his style is his own, especially the downwards swoop he uses time after time at the end of a word.

3 How did Pardon conceive of the songs he sang?

In an early interview , Pardon is quite explicit that he and his family did not think they were singing folk songs. He states that he did learn some folk songs at school. This interview seems to me to be important because it could be argued to represent Pardon’s thinking at the start of a career in which he would be associating with many people with strong, often ideologically-based, views about what ‘folk music’ is/was/ought to be.

4 How Did Walter Remember So Many Songs?

While Pardon in one of his earliest interviews described writing down words of songs Billy sang, as Billy had missing fingers and could not write. Martin Carthy in the Edge TV film asserts that Pardon kept them alive by rehearsing them in his head. Somewhere else it is said that Pardon started writing songs down after Billy died. But if so, who is to say where he found the words he wrote down?

MUSTRAD SITE

Again, I emphasise that this site is a valuable and interesting resource. If interested, search the site using ‘Walter Pardon’ as a search term. Many of the pieces seem to have been produced as part of commercial packages of Pardon’s music. But as soon as one begins to read it carefully, one realises that in places it offers contradictory information, and that much of the text represents inferences, generalisations and opinion, rather than facts. This is not necessarily a criticism; but it is, I believe, a fair observation. To be fair, in a piece on ‘The Socio-Political Songs of Walter Pardon’, Mike Yates writes: “It should be stressed at once that these songs have been placed together by myself: and not by Walter, who I suspect would not link them together in the manner that I do.” What is welcome here is Yates’ ability to recognise and acknowledge his own ideological framework. At several points material on the Mustrad pages acknowledges that contradictory information relating to Pardon is already in the public sphere.

Another interesting comment is one made by Roly Brown http://www.mustrad.org.uk/reviews/pardon1.htm (accessed 5/11/2019) to the effect that nobody has considered the possible links between Pardon’s work and his collection of 78 rpm records. My thought here is that the last thing that the folklore establishment would be interested in doing is comparing the singing style on these 78 rms with Pardon’s own. Some of the songs are now digitally available, and there seems to me to be very strong similarities, in, for example, some of the trills Pardon uses from time to time.


This MUSTRAD site includes a list of songs in Pardon’s repertoire, together with comments on the authorship and dates of origin of some of these songs.   (NB This information may or may not represent the current state of knowledge and thinking on the songs.) The web site is ‘signed’ at the bottom by Rod Stradling and Mike Yates. Michael Yates certainly wrote four sections: ‘Walter’s Recorded Legacy’, ‘The Walter Pardon Discography’, ‘The Walter Pardon Repertoire’ and ‘The Listings of Walter Pardon’s 78 RPM Gramophone Records’.

This site is divided into sections, including one entitled ‘In his own words’. It refers to ‘several conversations and interviews (see Credits below)’ but the credits have proved impossible to locate, and on that basis, it is difficult to know when Pardon said what and to whom. Another section is headed ‘Personality’. This includes information about Pardon’s house. Because the author regarded Pardon as having ‘major status as a singer’ by this time, and says that the meeting giving rise to this section took place not long after a US visit, we can date the visit to sometime in or just after 1976. Pardon is described as an avid reader who liked to discuss what he had read.   As is to be expected, the pieces are something of a mixture of fact, opinion and anecdote. At one point, the writer mentions notes he took when he met Pardon, but the online text seems to have been produced decades later and it isn’t clear exactly what the notes were about.

While journalistically it makes sense to create word pictures of a person drawing on a range of interviews given over time to different people, what this makes it difficult or impossible to do is to trace how the subject of the piece changed over time.

A person who, early after his discovery, was denying singing folk songs cannot have spent so much time surrounded by the ideologues of the revival without picking up on their attitudes, without understanding, in a sense, what they want from him and the language in which they discuss song. The 'data' on Pardon as a traditional singer supposedly produced by so many interviews is hopeless polluted by all this, not to mention the leading questions that his interviewers appear to have been so fond of using.

I think this may be true especially of a man with a sense of history, demonstrated in the early interview where he cites the date of Forster’s Education Act. For me, claims about what Walter said or thought taken from interviews in which the most obviously leading of questions are asked, claims often designed to support a narrative in which Walter features as a ‘traditional’ or ‘folk’ or ‘source’ singer are hopelessly bogged down in a methodological and philosophical mess.

One can see that Pardon ticked a number of boxes for the enthusiasts of the 70s revival: he was elderly, he was rural, he sang old songs, he sang in tune, he was amenable to being recorded (in circumstances where he lost the copyright, I note) and he seems to have enjoyed performing in public.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 11:51 AM

All a bit too much to take in right now,
but I'm doing a bit of homework
inbetween domestic chores, and dealing with today's new problems..

The last time I made any effort to find out about 'source singers'
was a good 10 to 15 years ago,
and I've forgotten nearly all of it by now..

So this is a useful refresher, thanks...


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: r.padgett
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 12:06 PM

Yes as Brian Peters says on another thread Walter Pardon appeared at Whitby ff circa 1977 ~I remember being there! He sang two songs and then Watersons sang and he sang two and so on I remember ~ chorus songs I believe

That was the only occasion I saw him!

Quite a bit of biography and notes on his early vinyl and latterly CDs ~like "Put a bit of powder on it father" all I suspect still available from Musical Traditions?

Ray


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 12:14 PM

Ray

I don't know what is available now, though E Bay might be a place to look! We could compile a list of what is now available new and put it here. There is a discography in the Mustrad materials, and one online too at discogs, though this does not seem to be complete.

See also the marketplace here:
https://www.discogs.com/sell/list?artist_id=1705261&ev=ab (NB I'm sure other sources are available, as they say, and I am not recommending any. I use Spotify, which has plenty.)


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 12:22 PM

I can see lots of little mistakes myself already, eg having established that Roger Dixon was not a nephew I then refer to Pardon as his uncle! But it is a start in drawing stuff together.

I did search MUDCAT using Walter Pardon as a search term before posting, by the way, and I think the main bits are represented or mentioned. But as it says, this is a draft and open to revision.

One thing I would like to know (and maybe Mudcat isn't the place) is whether the Thomas Cook Gee on the electoral register for Norfolk prior to 1915 is Walter's grandfather. Because there were some requirements, and it seems to me that a man in a position to learn to read music may have been a little higher up the social scale than the lowest paid ag lab. It would be nice to fill in a bit more social history, but that's just me. Things fluctuated, I have ancestors who could write and had some sort of small-holding, then in the next generation they are signing with crosses and working in pits (but still getting TB).


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 12:35 PM

Just a suggestion..

according to family legend..

[ I really must do some proper family tree digging..]

My grandad went straight from orphanange to army as a band boy.
I'm guessing the military might have educated him to read music...

If so army service might be a factor in late 19th cent / early 20th cent,
labouring class music education & skills...???

While a soldier, and later as a respected Dunkirk veteran,
my grandad also played popular songs in dance bands and pubs...


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Starship
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 12:44 PM

http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/pardon2.htm


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 12:48 PM

Also, his brother in law, my great uncle, was a self-taught multi instrumentalist.
Uncle had a spotty pre ww2 work history in menial factory jobs and such.
He also had a reputation as a bit of a work shy layabout.
That I again guess would give spare time for self education and free thinking,
until being shoved into essential war factory work..

Sometime along the way he learnt to read music for playing in pub sing songs...

Which is how I remember him from the 1960s...

Working class self education movement and public libraries
matterd significantly in the early 20th century...


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 12:49 PM

Thank you starship. I do reference this in the opening piece, but it is useful to have a quick link.

Put a bit of powder on it:

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=put+a+bit+of+powder+on+it+father&view=detail&mid=E67624FB087B38234C8CE67624FB087B38234C8C&FORM=VIRE


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 12:50 PM

Sorry better link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=86&v=XKmYiSA_Xyg


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 01:09 PM

not forgetting worker's social clubs in provincial towns in the early 20th century..

Centres for a pint, some grub, entertainment, recreation, and education...


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 01:12 PM

PFR

I too had wondered about the military bit. It is often said that soldiers did sing a lot, so it makes sense to assume that some influences may have crept in there.

I had an ancestor who was a military music professional and blush to think of some battles he would have fought in. I know that if you went down this route you did get a good grounding, and many made a career in music after leaving the army. But I doubt they would have given training apart from marching in time to a carpenter in Aldershot! My ancestor was more or less a rag and bone man (scrap metal dealer) in later life, though he also did concerts in the park.

I agree about self improvement late Victorian early 20th century. Libraries, I remember those!


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 01:16 PM

Sorry pfr And another relative I had played pub piano purely by ear, despite being very deaf, and could not read one word of music. No idea at all how he learned: should have asked. Much much too late now! People do have amazing musical talent without training!

Sorry I was thinking that Pardon might have at some level been influenced by his military service. I realise you were on a different track. I must not fall into the trap of not reading before responding, there is enuff of that …

Bacon and egg butty time.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: Brian Peters
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 01:56 PM

Good that this thread is now up and running, though I don't have much time to contribute just now. Briefly:

"...he and his family did not think they were singing folk songs. He states that he did learn some folk songs at school."

My understanding is that traditional singers in general didn't refer to their repertoire as 'folk songs', at least until they met academics or folk revivalists who did. It was usual (and Jim will tell you more) to call them 'old songs', or 'Daddy's songs', etc. If WP differentiated the 'folk songs' he'd learned at school from those in his family repertoire, we can only assume that his school was not using Sharp and Baring-Gould’s book, since WP would have surely recognized common titles, and the general style. Perhaps he was taught that the ‘National Songs’ Sharp so despised were actually folk songs?


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: Howard Jones
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 02:09 PM

I'm not quite sure what you are trying to say by this article. It seems to me, although this may be coloured by some of your comments on another thread, that you are somehow trying to debunk the idea of Walter Pardon as an important traditional singer. You even seem to suggest that he was really no such thing. I'm sure Jim will be along in due course to challenge this but in the meantime here's my two penn'orth.

Firstly you seem to have a misguided idea of what a traditional singer should be. The idea that a folk singer should be an illiterate peasant untouched by outside influences was inaccurate even in Cecil Sharp's time. Pardon was a man of the 20th century, more or less contemporary with my own father, and of course he had some education and was literate. Of course he was exposed to the gramophone, the radio and the television, and it would be naive to expect that his singing style might be completely untouched by these influences. However it would also have been influenced by the singers in his family and his village. His style was his own, as to some extent is any singer's, and from one point of view is representative only of him. Most other traditional singers had their own individual styles. Nevertheless it is an example of a mid-20th century singer who has been part of a singing tradition passed on over at least three generations, but not one which existed in a state of isolation.

You also seem to cast doubt on his sources. Broadsides and written sources do not disqualify someone from being a traditional singer. Singers took songs from wherever they could find them and written sources have long been known to be part of this. You also wonder where he got found the words to his uncle's songs when he came to write them down. Could they not have been in his head? 150 songs is a respectable number, but I expect most modern singers know at least that many. I reckon I could muster a similar number if I put my mind to it, although of course it would take time to dredge them all from the recesses of my memory. What made him exceptional was that most other traditional singers had been recorded when they were much older and could recall only relatively few songs.

The concept of "folk song" is an academic one used by outsiders, and I doubt any source singer thought of their material as "folk song". I'm sure Jim will explain exactly how Pardon thought of the different songs in his repertoire. When Pardon associated the term with school I suspect he may have been thinking of Cecil Sharp's piano arrangements which were inflicted on generations of schoolchildren, and which would appear very different to his own songs.

However it is probable that he took his position in the folk revival seriously and wanted to maintain and increase his repertoire. I am reminded of another traditional singer, Fred Jordan, who was not averse to adding songs to his repertoire from revival singers, and who rather played up his "country yokel" image.

You seem to imply he was exploited when his songs were recorded. It is usual for copyright in a recording to belong to the record producer, who has after all paid to produce it, and is also better placed to enforce copyright claims. The copyright is in the recording itself, not the songs on it. What we don't know is what financial arrangements Bill Leader made with him. From what I can gather he seems to have been trusted by most of those he recorded.

You seem to think that Pardon is disqualified, or at least devalued, as a traditional singer because he was exposed to outside influences, had a broad repertoire which did not just include folk songs, and was involved with and perhaps influenced (polluted?) by the folk revival. Instead he should be seen in context, as an example a modern 20th century person who was a successor to an older singing tradition and singing culture, which still continues today in parts of East Anglia.

Did he receive undue attention simply because he being slightly younger than most of the other traditional singers he had survived for longer and was able to be recorded and to perform outside his local environment? Perhaps, after all there were so few traditional singers left by then so any that were left were seized on, but his clear ability as a singer, as a song carrier and as an interpreter of those songs should stand for itself.

Incidentally, this article by Peta Webb on EATMT is worth a read.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 05:02 PM

as far as i understand Walter did not live in a large farmhouse, Jim should know.
Who Did Walter leave his house to? a large farmhouse , i very much douBt it PSEUDONYMOUS


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 05:17 PM

Hello and thank you for the discussion.

1 Responding to a point about copyright in the recordings made of Walter, this idea came from a discussion on the Mustrad web site. The link ref is and the quotation is "Some months later … I heard from another source that Topic had decided against the second record as the copyright to four of the Bill Leader recordings they wanted to include was owned by Dave Bulmer of Celtic Music, and thus that its production costs would be too high. Back to Mike Yates … we agreed that MT would, again, publish the record." The author is Ron Stradling.

2 Language like 'song carrier' and 'traditional singer' beg a lot of questions. It is the ideology (whether or not this reflects the truth) and the way it has affected the comments made about Pardon in the writing about him that I have encountered which interests me. Also the passion with which some people are attached to these concepts. Nobody appears to know what traditional singing was like (and this has been discussed on Mudcat).

3 Regarding Victorian Popular Music: I refer you to the material on Mustrad, especially the sections tracing the origins of material Pardon sang. I was very much taken with the number of songs for which specific composers could be found.

4 Regarding what Pardon said about himself and the songs, this raises questions about what you might call 'qualitative research methods'. And about the reporting of findings. I hint at some of these issues in the intial discussion paper. I'll repeat part of my thoughts here: for me the starting point has to be what seems to be the earliest interview with Pardon (one I think has been selectively quoted from in the past, the one you can listen to on the British Library Site. He says they did not think of themselves as singing 'folk songs' and that they called them 'old songs'. He says he heard some folk songs at school. He himself said he believed that his grandfather got them from broadsides. If that source doesn't count as Victorian popular music ….

5 I would not argue that Pardon probably came to believe that he was important. A number of the references I cite lead to people stating that they told him they thought he was, partly to persuade him to be recorded if I remember correctly. It seems to be crystal clear that his understanding would have been 'polluted' (your word, not mine, with respect) by the milieu into which he found himself pulled. One could suggest, though I accept this might be a viewed as or even be bit provocative, that he 'went native'?

6 I am not particular seeking to imply that Pardon was in any sense exploited, or that the copyrighting of his work was improper or not normal. I hope nothing I wrote gave that impression. However, I do have an impression that there was a clear attempt for whatever reason to market his singing on a commercial basis. Whether a project was financially viable is an explicit criteria discussed on Mustrad. If anything the point I was making was that the revival, like it or not, and possibly in opposition to the inclinations of some of its leaders (and perhaps to my own, I am no fan of capitalism) was involved in commercial projects. So I am writing if you like against any romantic notions that there might be that the revival was commerce free in some idealistic romantic sense.

7 It is incorrect and I feel a little unfair to state that I think a 'traditional singer' should be an illiterate peasant untouched by outside influences.

8 Thank you for the reference to Peta Webb. I had found that and already referenced it in my draft, together with comments about how some of what it says in that conflicts with/differs from accounts found elsewhere. My point was one about how different writers create different pictures/tell different stories about the same figure. You will find the reference in the list of interviews. Happy to add any other examples people have to the resource list. This is one reason for posting a draft.

9 On the concept of 'folk song' being an academic one, I can think of a lot of highly non academic people, including some people who appear hostile to 'desk jockeys' who use the term freely!

10 Regarding 'debunking' that isn't how I would put it. Deconstruct might be something like it. Investigating how the various accounts reflect the ideologies/views/ideas of those who put them forward, as, I suppose the contributions made to my draft may begin to illustrate anew. So for example, some of the points where different accounts emerge in the literature, including precisely what Pardon said about the songs and comments on his style and its origins seem to me to be underpinned by the prior beliefs of those making them.

11 In a sense I am trying to do some basic history. These accounts of Pardon are secondary sources. The question to ask is precisely what 'bias' (trying to use the word non-judgmentally) the person who produced that source may have.

12 In my draft, I refer to work produced by Jim Carroll, and to the discussion of it after he typed some of it into a Mudcat thread. I comment on this in respect of research methods. I would ask you to find it and consider for yourself whether or not the questions asked are open or closed, leading or otherwise etc. Clear or open to interpretation both by Pardon and by those reading it? Do we get dates, contexts?

Thank you for reading and contributing. Any further references would be appreciated.





11


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 05:27 PM

Hello Sandman.

Thank you for your contribution. You can see pictures of the farmhouse in the film made by Edge TV. It has an attached barn and outhouses. Much more like a farmhouse than a mere farm cottage. I don't need to ask Jim Carroll: I can look at the pictures. And so can you. Here is the reference again (it is in the original post).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=51&v=B95JAQe1Wtc

Obviously it wasn't a farm-workers' cottage when Pardon himself lived in it, as he was not a farmer. But it would be interesting to know on a social history basis how come he continued to live there: maybe it was in effect a lifetime lease he 'inherited', as happened in my own family at a time before renting got so systematised and time-limited, maybe some landlord could not find a better tenant and farming methods had moved on.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: Howard Jones
Date: 05 Nov 19 - 07:54 PM

1) The "Bulmerisation" of Leader's records is a whole can of worms. The Mustrad comment simply refers to Topic being unable to use the tracks they wanted because the copyright was now in the hands of Bulmer, but I don't see what that has to do with any evaluation of Walter Pardon's singing or his role.

2) All these terms can be loaded. By "song carrier" I meant someone who was a source of songs, most if not all of which he had learned orally. By "traditional" I meant someone in an environment where the songs are passed on within a community over a period of time. Is there any question that these don't apply to him?

3) It's not questioned that a great deal of his material came from music hall and other sources. He also sang actual folk songs. Jim has insisted in various threads all over Mudcat that WP made a distinction between them.

4) The collectors have mostly been amateur enthusiasts, not professional ethnolomusicologists. They had no training and learned on the job. No doubt errors were made in the way they conducted their interviews, but that is the material we have, and it's better than nothing.

None of the old singers described their repertoire as "folk songs". That is a term which was applied by the collectors and folk revival enthusiasts

5) If he did "go native" as you put it, so what? In what way are you suggesting this somehow devalues him or his music?

I took the word "polluted" from your original post, albeit in a slightly different context, hence the question mark.

6) Depends what you mean by "commercial". If you want to make money from selling records then issuing recordings of traditional singers is not the way to go about it. These do not have a large market, even among people with an interest in folk. Producing a record costs money and that has to be recovered somehow through sales. These were produced in order to preserve the music and make it more widely available I suggest you read this Living Tradition article about Bill Leader and Topic. I doubt they made anyone very much money.

7) I am sorry you think this is unfair but you give the impression that you think that WP's exposure to 20th century culture somehow devalues him as a traditional singer in some way.

9) Perhaps academic was not the best word. My point, as made above, is that traditional singers did not use this term which was what the collectors called it. WP apparently regarded this as referring to songs he had learned at school rather than his own songs, but I am not sure what point you are making out of this.

10) Jim is probably the best person to respond to this

11) This is quite a small number of people we are talking about and their biases are probably fairly well known even when they are not made expressly clear

12) Again, this is for Jim to answer but I would refer to my answer to point 4.

I am still not sure just what you are trying to find out. On the other thread you seemed to say you were not impressed by his singing. Many who have listened to a lot of traditional singers would not agree with you, but that is a matter of taste. So what is it that you think needs re-evaluating? I still get the sense that you question whether he was really "traditional" or that you feel that the presence of so many songs in his repertoire which a not folk somehow disqualifies him as a traditional folk singer. Or is it that he did not exist in an isolated bubble but had contact with wider musical culture and eventually the folk scene?


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 01:23 AM

Just on the point about commercialisation, and again, without intending to criticise, on Mudcat there is a post relating to one Dave Bulmer by Fred McCormick. Some work of Pardon is on his list of works that Bulmer allegedly (I cannot vouch for the truth or otherwise of this) had the rights to and sat on, 'robbed' is the term McCormick uses. Just a little detail that interested me in the story of Pardon and what I shall loosely in case of upsetting anybody refer to as the 'folk' world.

Hope this is of interest.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 01:43 AM

And of course there is a Carroll/Mackenzie article on Pardon in a collection published by the 'Old Kilforboy Society' that is missing from my references. And a piece on Mustrad, here, with, and no surprise here, reference to 'acrimonious discussion:) Said piece also appears to suggest (happy to be corrected if it does not appear to suggest this) that people have suggested to Carroll that he 'got at' Pardon. Something to add to the resources section of the next draft.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 01:46 AM

This is my favourite bit from the Pardon interviews, at the moment.
When asked whether he sings the songs differently now (undated time of interview) than he did in the past, Pardon eventually states: And as I never did sing them, you see, there was no expression I could put in.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: r.padgett
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 02:23 AM

I would say check out Musical Traditions ~MT on line and a lot of the Walter Pardon's lyrics should still be there as well as CDs even if early vinyl is like gold

Ray


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 02:24 AM

Pseudonymous are you G Wallis


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 02:29 AM

of course this is a matter of opinion but imo he was not in the same class as harry cox, however we are indebted to carroll and mckenzie for all their recodrings and the noting and preserving of his repertoire


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 02:32 AM

and o course peter bellamy and all the revival singers who encouraged walter to sing ou.t


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GeoffLawes
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 03:10 AM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B95JAQe1Wtc Documentary on Youtube


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 06:38 AM

Thanks to all. Keep the ideas coming!

Ray

I have name-checked the Mustrad articles in the OP, though I since found one I had not seen before.

Sandman

Thanks.

Of course, opinions will differ on Pardon, and this seems to me natural and reasonable. It might I think reasonably be argued that Mike Yates did most to preserve Pardon's repertoire. For he produced two CDs including work which Carroll has stated on Mudcat pages he would not have released because he did not consider it to be folk. I think Yates' view was that it was more important to have a full picture of all the songs Pardon knew.

My OP includes a list of all the people I could find who had recorded Pardon. Mackenzie and Carroll seem to have been unique in a focus on spoken word as opposed to sung recording. I have included references to Mudcat posts in which Carroll pasted some transcripts of Pardon speaking. I have also pointed out that these transcripts are not dated, which I personally think is a gap in the data.


GeoffLawes

Thanks for this. I had already put this as one of two films about Pardon that I had found. It is the one by Edge TV. It is where I found the film of him at his home.   There is also I think a third which is of a memorial event, and features a group of people singing, some of whom use harmony. Martin Carthy is on it, and gives a fine performance.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 07:05 AM

Howard

Thank you for your long and considered posts.

I can see why you don't feel certain stuff is relevant to an evaluation of Walter and his work. However, one of the things I am trying to do is to get an overview of what has been written and I suppose said about Walter.

As I make clear, this material often turns out to present not fact or not just fact but also opinion and, if you like, evaluation. As I begin, I think, to show, differences between the various accounts appear.

It interests me that, as I see it, those people who have considered and written about Pardon's life and singing appear to do so through the lenses of their own 'ideological' views, whether consciously or not. Sometimes, as in the case of Mike Yates, who seems to me to have been one of the best writers on the topic, the writer is explicit about his own approach, at other times this is not the case.

Having read a number of instances on Mudcat in which Pardon has been discussed, I can see that there has been some lively discussion about the uses to which references to Pardon, claims about his thoughts, actions and attitudes, and extracts from interviews have allegedly been used to back up broader generalisations about 'the tradition'/'traditional singers'. I know that some posters on Mudcat have engaged in such discussion, and though the tone might at times have been heated, the discussions do address some difficult questions.

In a broad sense, I am looking towards what you might call a discussion of 'research methods'. This is something like a 'case study'. So if you define 'research' broadly as the generation of new knowledge, then using Pardon's life and work to justify a broader generalisation would be 'research' and questions about the validity etc of this would be questions about research. I am not the first, as I have explained, to ask this sort of question.

Questions about research methods relating to the material produced within the folk scene on Pardon have also already been raised in relation to the collection of recorded material and the use of interviews as basic data for further research. This is clear from comments made by Jim Carroll to which I have already referred.

If in 50 years time, somebody sets out to look back at the material on Pardon, I suppose that they may well have to address these questions about the bias/underlying ideology of those whose work they are using?

They will be facing questions as I have about what is fact, what opinion, what evaluation, what selectively reported etc.

So, to sort of repeat, I am not only interested in Pardon and his singing and life, I am also interested in the uses to which this has been put and the different ways in which he is thought of by those who draw upon his work in support of their own writing/lecturing etc.

I think we can agree that the folk world is one in which there are varying points of view. Most terms used within it are contended, though differences in views on Pardon do not always clearly reflect a particular position.

I have tried to use words carefully here, but know from experience that online discussion is tricky to get right, with the best of intentions.

Thanks all for the contributions.

Regarding who I am. I am me. I have been involved in what you could loosely call folk music on and off all my life, including the dreaded Morris and other branches. There was lots of music in my childhood, and a variety of music was played by my family in past generations. and I have taught my own children songs I learned from my parents, not many but some. I do not sing, but I try to play instruments. I used to have a melodeon but the sound of it drove me bonkers, the family, and the neighbours, up the wall so I sold it (for more than I had paid for it, it being a German made Hohner model). I have had a version song 'collected' though this was co-written and is acknowledged as such in its new home. It reflected the way We saw the world at that time. Whether this would count as 'folk' I do not know, as we first learned it via recorded material albeit of folk performances of various sorts.

I have academic qualifications including a degree in English Literature and, a certificate in Law (post grad level). I have been trained in research methods (different context). I have been an educator with credentials in various sectors. I have taken course on music theory, and so, for example, when references on modes appear in the work on Pardon, I have a good understanding of what this is all about.

I have read quite a few books on folk music of different sorts, and have followed with interest some of the discussions of these on Mudcat.

That is quite enough about me.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 07:13 AM

One thing missing from my list of resources (for compiling such a list is one of my aims) is any peer reviewed material. I don't know if anybody has any information on this?


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 07:30 AM

About fifteen years ago somebody - it could have been Dave Hillery - was doing a Doctorate at Durham University on Walter Pardon. Don't have any further details, but he may be worth looking up.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 07:47 AM

Thank you guest. I'll see what I can find.

Later

I have discovered the work of Matthew Ord who seems to have written on sound recording in the folk revival. Maybe another point of view?


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 07:53 AM

https://theses.ncl.ac.uk/jspui/bitstream/10443/3720/1/Ord%2c%20M.%202017.pdf

Well this will keep me from under anybody's feet for a while!

And it has a reference to Phil Tagg in it. Better and better!


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 08:25 AM

When I was resident at Dingles Folk Club circa 1977/8, I often used to MC the club and one night I had the honour of MC-ing and meeting Walter Pardon. I saw his singing style first hand and also his rapport with an audience (a very large one as I remember). He received an extended round of applause at the end of the night.
I found Walters singing style a pleasure to hear, and his approach was much the same as Bob Lewis and Bob Copper, both of whom I met that same year. The Irish in me makes me lean toward the likes of Joe Heaney and Len Graham, and a more lyrical approach with decoration and structural variation. Walter Pardons legacy can be heard in the singing of Damien Barber, Andy Turner Ron Taylor and of course Dick Miles, who take that straight forward unadorned approach to singing that can be so effective. (but not when I try it unfortunately)
Walter Pardon was so very unusual in that he was a relatively modern singer with a huge repertoire of songs, the likes of which had only been found a century earlier in the repertoires of Henry Burstow, or some of the West country singers note by Sharp, Gardiner and Hammond.
Walter always had that extra verse that no-body else had.
The only affectation he used in his singing was his trademark descending intonation at the end of every verse of just about every song. His pacing is a lesson in restraint, and every word is delivered as if it matters, which of course it does. Bellamy believed that Walter Pardon had been ignored by the revival,(related in conversation to me) however I feel Peter was getting rapidly more and more disillusioned as we all know to our cost.
Dig that CD out and listen to Walter again. I always find it worth the effort.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: Howard Jones
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 08:45 AM

Pseudonymous, if your intention is to consider collecting methodology then your subject should be the collectors. The way you have framed this (especially in the light of some of your comments on the other thread from which this one sprang) have made it appear, to me at least, like a thinly-veiled attack on Walter Pardon himself. I am still not entirely convinced this is not the case.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 09:01 AM

Thanks Nick.

Pending the contribution of Jim Carroll, as predicted by another poster above, I have been thinking of some questions it might be interesting to ask him about Pardon and Jim's work with him.

Perhaps this could be a joint effort, with people chipping in ideas for a final version (which would not necessarily be produced by me)?

Just a thought.

I would like to know

1 When, where, how, Jim first met Pardon.

2 How many times Pardon stayed with Jim and Pat in London.

3 How many times Jim or Jim and Pat visited Pardon in Knapton.

4 When was the last time they met Pardon face to face?

5 Was this before or after their move to Ireland (I have no clear idea of the date of this, sorry)

Also Jim, has posted on Mudcat three sets of Q and A with Jim and Pat doing the Q. I'll call these A, B and C. They seem to have come from notes for a lecture given in Ireland. The thread is Folklore Traditional Singers Talking

A posted 18 May 2014 6.20 am and begins JC If you had the choice, Walter

B posted 19 May 6.04 and begins
10 PUTTING EXPRESSION IN. J C   Do you think that when you started singing in the clubs and festivals, do you think you think you are singing any different than you were singing when you were younger?

C posted 19 May 10.14 am and begins:
09 IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE
J C When you're singing at a club or a festival, who do you look at, what do you see when you're singing?

W.P   I don't see anything

J C You don't look at the audience?

W P No, that's why I like a microphone: I'd rather stand up in front of a microphone, than anything, 'cause that's something to look at. That's what I like, this sort of thing in front; you can shut the audience out.

I wonder whether we might learn the dates each of these (ie A B and C was recorded, and perhaps where. It would be interesting to know whether there had been any run through with Pardon. It would be interesting to know what if any planning of questions and subject matter there had been in advance.

Nick: thanks for your input. I will listen again. But Spotify has a very full selection. I had been listening to some of the songs Walter had on 78 rpm. I found some strong stylistic similarities, but I cannot remember which singer it was now. More later on this perhaps. The list is on the Mustrad pages. The material on Walter includes various claims on the origins of his style, which is one of the problems I found when trying to make sense of it all. There are two descending swoops. One not just at the end of a verse but more often. Then another higher pitched one that sounds very music hall to me. I'll try to provide an example. I seem to recall discussing Walter's style with somebody who denied that he used any ornamentation, glad to find you see that he does use some, and it was precisely that feature I found on a 78 song. One problem for me is that sometimes he just sounds a little elderly and for some reason that isn't floating my boat - as they say - just now.



Thanks again to all.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 09:50 AM

we really are indebted to walter who was determined to keep the songs alive and all who visited him , i remember sam richards used to go and visit him, and hearing him say to tish stubbs we had better eat before we get there, cos walters idea of a meal was a banana


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 10:19 AM

sounds like a man after my own heart as that is exactly my lunch today with Birds Custard made from powder.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 11:36 AM

I'm told Walter's favourite tea was a fried egg Brown bread and butter and vinegar. Brings tears to the stomach.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 12:32 PM

Yes! That was in the film about him! Could have been worse, with white bread!


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 02:16 PM

Another snippet of information for the piece, this one on how Walter got to gigs. Brian Peters recalls that he shared some gigs with the Watersons and travelled with them.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 02:25 PM

Did anyone ever check out his record or cassette collection,
if he had one...???


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: r.padgett
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 02:52 PM

Right I have these vinyl records:

A proper sort ~ Leader LED 2063

Bright Golden store ~ Home made Music (Mike Yates 19830

A Country Life ~ Topic 12 TS 392

Our side of the Baulk ~ Leader LED 2111

I also have MT CD 305-6 "Put a Bit of Powder on it Father" recordings made by Mike Yates between 1978 to 1982 ~ it says! MT 2000 some 49 tracks on 2CDs

Ray

I suspect some re recordings from the vinyl ~ non Mike Yates probably on other vinyl as stated above ~yea not checked that yet!


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 02:53 PM

If anybody was really interested in what Walter was about they would have taken up my offer of a copy of the article about him - so far not a peep
It seems it's sufficient to just undermine the fact that he was England's Tradional singers by suggesting that the information given about him was false and he learned what he knew about folk from albums - and he relied on the Watersons for bookings
For Christ's sake
No wonder the revival in England is in the state it is in
Jim   
Oh - and he ate like a pig
You should know better Nick, with your background
Too cold to open a window


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 03:18 PM

There is a list of the 78 rpms on the Mustrad site. I mentioned this in the OP. As time has passed, we can listen to at least some of the actual tracks online, they have been digitised.

The ref is http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/pardon2.htm#78s

I was surprised how much Irish material there was. There is also some accordion music. Vera Lynn, Paul Robeson, music hall type stuff, Boys of the Old Brigade, a lot of Jack Daly.

Here is a link to one of the pieces, Down in the Field Where the Buttercups Grow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=90&v=_YgVtn2zcj0


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 03:21 PM

i think we are indebted to Walter, and to all the people who collected and made friends with him


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 05:26 PM

[Oh - and he ate like a pig
You should know better Nick, with your background]
i dont think nick said that neither did anyone else


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 05:53 PM

Apologies that I haven't read everything on this post yet but on the subject of the Waterson's connection in 1976, as part of the American Bicentennial, Roy Harris was tasked with taking a team of English folksingers across to USA to perform as part of the celebrations. This team consisted of The Watersons/Martin Carthy, Pete Elliott of Birtley, Roy and Walter Pardon. Lasting friendships were made on this tour and as a result I saw Walter perform at Birtley folk club, I think, later that year or early 1977; the club was still in the Three Tuns and Walter performed 4 x 15 minute spots. Peter Bellamy also told the story that on that tour of USA Walter met our Queen.


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 06:18 PM

So he wasn't actually that old then...

I know middle aged folks looked ancient to us teenagers back in the 1970s,
but in 1977 - the year of punk rock - he was the same age my mrs is now...

..and she'd get the right hump, if anyone suggested she was getting on a bit, let alone past it...

He could still have gone disco dancing if he wanted to...


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Subject: RE: Review: Walter Pardon; Research
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 06 Nov 19 - 06:25 PM

Hello Dave, and thank you for this.


I have found some Roy Palmer recordings on the BL web site; these were not in the resources on the original post, so I've added them to the resource list on my 'master copy'.


https://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Roy-Palmer-collection/025M-C1023X0124XX-1000V0

If you haven't heard these before, enjoy!


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