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Nic Jones Project

24 Apr 13 - 08:47 AM (#3508167)
Subject: Nic Jones project
From: GUEST,RHamer


I am currently doing a project for university about Nic Jones and how he has been received in the folk music scene . I am looking for any personal accounts of his performances or if anyone has any scanned copies of past folk magazines of reviews or even articles?

Thank you so much,


24 Apr 13 - 01:23 PM (#3508267)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: GUEST,gillymor

Have you done a Lyrics and Knowledge search for Nic. You'll find it at the upper left on the home page. Just type in Nic Jones.

There's been quite a bit written about him here over the years. I've never met the man but I am a huge fan and will keep an eye on this thread. Good luck with your research.


24 Apr 13 - 01:53 PM (#3508284)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: GUEST,henryp

This article by Colin Irwin provides an extensive account of Nic's career. It was written when Nic made his re-appearance at Sidmouth in 2010.

24 Apr 13 - 03:02 PM (#3508316)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: Reinhard

Nic Jones: From the Devil to a Reader was a feature in Southern Rag No.2 (the original title of fRoots) in October 1979

24 Apr 13 - 04:38 PM (#3508368)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: pavane

I saw and recorded him in Pontardawe in 1973. A memorable evening.

24 Apr 13 - 05:16 PM (#3508376)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: Georgiansilver

My favourite song of Nics... great guy!

24 Apr 13 - 05:46 PM (#3508385)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: The Sandman

here is an excerpt from the Southern rag interview,
I find it interesting, because it shows how unexposed Nic Jones had been to traditional music from other countries and traditional style singing, which may explain why he was a better guitarist than traditional style singer.
Hedy West was one of the best banjo players and interpreters of old timey american traditional songs at that time, here is the extract, which I find very revealing, Paul Simon and John Renbourn, one a good song writer and the other a good guitarist, but both of them clueless as singers, and neither of them with any understanding of traditional music   
"S.R. Had you actually started going to folk clubs by then?

NJ. Well, only when I saw he[bert jansch] was on at Chelmsford Folk Club. That was what first took me to a folk club actually, to go and see him. And then John Renbourn was there as well, he was booked another week, so I went along, and then I thought I'd go along some of the other nights when there were different people. Hedy West was on and I went there and listened for about two songs and I was really embarrassed. I felt myself blushing because she was singing fol-de-riddle-i-do choruses, and I felt this was so stupid. I felt my face going all red and I had to get out of the room – I was feeling really awful, as though I was going to pass out with embarrassment standing listening to all this, so I got out of there and I only went when people like Paul Simon and John Renbourn were on."
Dick Miles

24 Apr 13 - 06:03 PM (#3508396)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield

This quotation is referring to the period when Nic first went to a folk club, and certainly before he started performing, ie 1965 at the latest, so I'm not surprised he was unexposed to traditional music from other countries or to traditional style singing. We all had to start somewhere.

25 Apr 13 - 03:17 AM (#3508522)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: cptsnapper

Whilst I realise that this is at a tangent to your original question, are you by any chance related to Fred Hamer?

25 Apr 13 - 04:31 AM (#3508540)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: The Sandman

quite true ,that we all have to start somewhere, but still i find it interesting that he should be embarrassed by people singing fol de rol choruses.
it seems to suggest that a lot of people had not been exposed to such songs, or that if they had they had heard them in a context where they were being ridiculed [rambling syd rumpo], it might also suggest that EFDSS had not been successful in promoting traditional folk song to the mnainstream, that is hardly new is it Derek?

25 Apr 13 - 05:51 AM (#3508575)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones

Satire and ridicule aren't the same thing.

25 Apr 13 - 06:51 AM (#3508596)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: Dave the Gnome

I am pretty sure that Kenneth Williams in his Rambling Sid persona was satirising rather than ridiculing. Not sure that I would say either Paul Simon or John Renbourn had no "understanding of traditional music" either. But if anyone wants to believe it then I will not argue. Well, not too much :-)



25 Apr 13 - 06:57 AM (#3508598)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: greg stephens

Paul Simon, "clueless as singer". Hmmmmm.Discuss.

25 Apr 13 - 07:18 AM (#3508603)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: Dave the Gnome

I am pretty sure that Kenneth Williams in his Rambling Sid persona was satirising rather than ridiculing. Not sure that I would say either Paul Simon or John Renbourn had no "understanding of traditional music" either. But if anyone wants to believe it then I will not argue. Well, not too much :-)



25 Apr 13 - 08:03 AM (#3508616)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones

And the audience for Rambling Syd had to have some understanding of the genre (which was very smartly observed) and the references to make it funny. So maybe they weren't all that ignorant of traditional music either.

25 Apr 13 - 09:40 AM (#3508654)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: treewind

"Paul Simon, "clueless as singer". Hmmmmm.Discuss."
It was only the opinion of the poster.

Anyway... reluctant though I am to encourage thread drift, the experience Nic described in that Southern Rag interview was similar to the discomfort I felt when I first heard anyone singing solo unaccompanied, and it took me a long time to get over that. I simply wasn't used to it.

I haven't seen that interview in full, but I'd find that quote far more interesting in the context of what subsequent experience Nic Jones had that turned him on to traditional music and presumably cured him of that embarrassment.

25 Apr 13 - 03:11 PM (#3508801)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: The Sandman

sorry, i was a little bit careless in my wording i meant to put, and should have put "clueless as singers of traditional songs, and yes, i stand by that statement, simon is a good song writer, renbourn a good guitarist, but neither in my opinion have a clue about singing or interpreting traditional songs., the same goes for jansch, needle of death is a good song and he is a good guitarist, but he does not have aclue about singing traditional songs. I am more interested in why Nic felt embarrassed, compare to ireland where no one would have been embarassed about singing fol de rol
. partly the influence of the clancy brothers and the dubliners. partly a result of Comhaltas and rte integrating folk into the main stream, something the EFDSS failed to do in the 1950s and 1960s, hence their nickname of the time the english folk dance and forget about song society

25 Apr 13 - 03:44 PM (#3508816)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: The Sandman

oh and my apologies for not replying earlier, but i was playing music this afternoon for a function, a most enjoyable afternoon.
Darina Allen was there and other celebrities, food alcohol and music was flowing freely, at one point i wondered if i had died and gone to heaven

25 Apr 13 - 05:39 PM (#3508867)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: pavane

I wish I was as clueless as Paul Simon...

25 Apr 13 - 07:02 PM (#3508898)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: GUEST,henryp

Can anyone help the original poster?

25 Apr 13 - 11:51 PM (#3508972)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: GUEST,guest : May Queen

Hi Rachel,

I am fairly new to the folk scene but hope my experience of Nic Jones can be of help to you. When I saw Nic perform at the Cheltenham Folk Festival earlier this year it was with scant knowledge of him as a performer (I didnt even own any of his music)but I was aware he had had an accident and was just recently performing again. However it was a performance that will stick with me for a very long time.
I was absolutely blown away by the way he was supported on stage by his son Joe and Belinda O Hooley and was totally un-prepared for the intense emotional delivery of the songs.In fact I have no shame in admitting I was weeping copiously for the majority of the show! The fragility and beauty of his voice was overpowering (although I now know he sang very differently before his accident)and the humour shown by him and his fellow musicians was so un expected. Belinda joked that Nic now keeps his own time signatures and they have to guess where he's going next (!) but they did exactly that due to their skill as musicians and their obvious love and care for Nic as a person. Untimately it was this love and care which shone through the performance and which made it so special.

There is an article written just after his Sidmouth appearance which mentions Nics singing as being neither here nor there (not in as many words)but personally I prefer what I saw in Cheltenham to the voice I hear on his past recordings.

26 Apr 13 - 02:15 AM (#3509000)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: GUEST,Ralphie

Just an update. BBC4 have commissioned a 1 hour doc about Nic. The producer has told me that he doesn't know how he's going to keep it down to an hour! Also rumours of a new album with Belinda and Joe. Mainly self penned material when they've got enough! Agree with May Queen. Seeing Nic singing again was a joy. Managed to record his comeback gig at Sidmouth a couple of years ago. About 30 people on stage. Joyous!

26 Apr 13 - 02:36 AM (#3509005)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: The Sandman

in answer to how he has been received on the folk scene, I think the general consensus is that he was a superb and innovative guitarist who had unique charisma as a performer, that his accident was a tragedy that robbed the folk scene of one of its most important performers.
everyone that i have come across is pleased that he is back singing and performing with his son.
as regards to personal accounts of his performances, I booked him at least twice at folk clubs on both occasions he sang mainly tradtional songs accompanied with guitar and alo played a fiddle for a couple of sets of tunes.
there is a story that he was playing at a club, i think it was leigh on sea, the audience were talking loudly, so nic turned his back on the audience and sang one song facing the wall.
not sure if i have the venue right or the exact circumstances as my info is second hand.

26 Apr 13 - 03:01 AM (#3509010)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: The Sandman

here is an article by colin irwin

What the folk! Nic Jones is back

Thirty years after the car crash that almost killed him, folk hero Nic Jones is returning to the stage. He talks about his rebuilt body – and why he is an impostor

    Share 334

    Colin Irwin        
    The Guardian, Thursday 28 June 2012 20.00 BST        
    Jump to comments (13)

'I wanted to be in a rock group' … Jones in 1980.
'I wanted to be in a rock group' … Jones in 1980. Photograph: Dave Peabody

'Excited? Nah, not really, but it should be good fun," says Nic Jones, with his trademark infectious giggle. "Be nice if they don't jeer me off though." He sounds as if he's contemplating karaoke in his local pub. Instead, he's talking about something he hasn't done for a very long time, something that nobody who loves folk music dared dream of seeing – Nic Jones back on stage.

It has been 30 often difficult years since Jones's last appearances in his own right, but he maintains a carefree nonchalance about the fate that wrecked his career. He remembers nothing of the gig at Glossop in February 1982, the road between Peterborough and March in Cambridgeshire on the way back, the lorry he collided with head-on while closing in on home. He was in a coma for weeks and in hospital for six months while they tried to reassemble him. "Everything on my right side was bust," he says cheerily. "Eyes, ears, arm. Elbow smashed to bits. Wrist. Everything had to be replaced. I've got a metal arse, a false eye, false teeth, everything is false. I'm an illusion. The only thing that wasn't bust was my guitar."

And he's really not nervous about his comeback? "I've never really suffered with nerves – the family are more nervous about it than me."

At the time of the accident, Jones – then 35 – was at the top of his game. With his percussive arrangements, relaxed vocals, an ear for a potent song and an enlightened, freestyle approach built around progressive open-tuned guitar, he was one of the star attractions on the vibrant British folk circuit. His fifth and most recent album, Penguin Eggs, had taken the genre to a new level, with Jones channelling his inner rock psyche into the unlikely format of a solo singer playing mostly traditional songs on an acoustic guitar.

With two young kids, no income and a body to reconstruct, the following years were traumatic for his whole family; their survival is largely down to the stoicism of Jones's wife, Julia (when Jones was presented with the Good Tradition Award by the BBC in 2007, he thanked Julia for transforming him "from sub-human to paranormal"). It was she who appealed to fans to send her bootleg recordings to play to Jones to bring him out of his coma. The response was so good that some of those tracks ended up being released on her home-produced compilations In Search of Nic Jones (1998) and Unearthed (2001), which – with his first four albums still largely unavailable – helped to introduce him to a fresh audience.

The decades following Jones's accident were largely barren for British folk music, but when a new generation of musicians started to come through, one thing was notable – they all appeared to carry a copy of the one Nic Jones album they could easily get their hands on, Penguin Eggs. And while Jones himself contented himself swimming, playing chess, taking the dog for walks, fiddling with his guitar and trying to get his fingers to work, his reputation as a bona fide folk legend began to take off in earnest. Emerging young stars such as Kate Rusby, Seth Lakeman, Jim Moray and Jon Boden cited him as a seminal influence; Bob Dylan and Marianne Faithfull covered two of his most iconic Penguin Eggs tracks, Canadee-i-o and Flandyke Shore; John Wesley Harding recorded a whole album of Nic Jones covers; and in 2001 Penguin Eggs was named second-best folk album of all time (behind Fairport Convention's Liege & Lief) in a BBC poll.

None of which remotely impresses the laconic Jones, always a determinedly anti-establishment figure with no patience for celebrity culture or the self-seriousness that often attaches itself to the folk revival. He once wilfully confronted the famously rigid musical policy of Nottingham Traditional Music Club by playing big-band standard Chatanooga Choo Choo. Another time he turned his back on an inattentive audience and sang to the wall; on another occasion he stopped halfway through his set to ask the promoter of a particularly unruly gig how long he was required to play. "Play as long as you like," said the promoter. "OK," said Jones, picking up his guitar and walking off.

"I'm a fraud, an impostor," he says. "I came into folk music by accident. I wanted to be in a rock group. I was a Buddy Holly fan and I wanted to be in the Shadows … except I could never do the dance."

He got into folk when a schoolfriend invited him to join a popular folk group called the Halliard. When they split, he reluctantly undertook his first solo bookings, moulding himself in the image of Martin Carthy. "I was useless," he says. "I couldn't speak to audiences and I hated it."

Gradually his confidence grew and his personality came to the fore. "I just thought: 'What's the point of singing songs about Napoleon Bonaparte?' I never knew him, I didn't know what he was like. I'm from Essex!' So I tried to sing more normally and moved from being a fake traditional singer to a fake rock guitarist."

Like other singers of the day, he scoured old books and visited London's Cecil Sharp House, home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, to listen (and surreptitiously record) the riches of traditional material in the library there. Yet he had no qualms about messing with the tradition, rewriting tunes and lyrics wherever he saw fit – one of his most acclaimed songs, Annan Water, changed so much along the way that it virtually became a completely new song. "I got bored with singing something the same way all the time so I'd change it. I'd try out different chords to make it more interesting and so it would evolve. It's what the folk process is all about, isn't it?"

'I like hearing other people do my stuff' … Jones performing with his son Joe, 2011. 'I like hearing other people do my stuff' … Jones performing with his son Joe, 2011. Photograph: Hayley Madden

By the time of the accident he was fully embracing contemporary song and so hooked on Bob Marley he was even contemplating folk-reggae fusions. Entertainingly self-effacing, he has little regard for his former self, even damning his classic Penguin Eggs album with faint praise. "It's all right," he says, "but people only go on about it because I wasn't around after that. I was interested in a more modern sound and I think I could have come up with a more interesting record after Penguin Eggs. Me having the smash-up made it more popular."

He's scathing, too, about his guitar playing. "It wasn't until after the accident that I realised what an inept guitarist I was. I never played straight tunings, it was always open tunings, which I think now was a bit of a fake way of playing. Listening to jazz guitarists made me wish I could improvise like them. Diz Disley made me realise how bad I was. And Django Reinhardt – he could speak with his guitar and spin a mood, a shape, just by walking with his fingers."

As the years passed, all hopes of seeing Jones performing again faded, but the groundswell of interest among modern revivalists helped, in 2010, to inspire Sidmouth Folk Week to hold an In Search of Nic Jones tribute concert. It was there that Pete Coe – one of Jones's compadres in Bandoggs, a short-lived folk "supergroup" of the 1970s – persuaded the great man to join his adoring acolytes on stage and sing along with the choruses.

It was a night flooded with emotion but Jones enjoyed it enough to agree to another helping – albeit with a different line-up of performers – at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall last year. Beaming throughout ("I like hearing other people do my stuff, especially when they try to do something different with it"), he shocked everyone by getting up at the end to sing a couple of songs with his son Joe Jones on guitar and Belinda O'Hooley on piano.

It wasn't the Jones of old, of course, but it was impressive enough to plant the idea that – accompanied by his son and O'Hooley – he was in good enough shape to play a few full sets over the summer. "But it's not a comeback," he emphasises. "I'm not going back on the road or anything."

He says he won't be delving too far into his back catalogue either ("It's boring, so what's the point? – I like new songs"); and, despite namechecking Kate Rusby, Lau, Karine Polwart and Jim Moray as favoured representatives of the modern age, admits he doesn't listen to much folk music these days and much prefers Radiohead – pride of place in his new set will be Radiohead's Fake Plastic Trees.

"I won't be playing guitar on stage. I know what to do but the right hand won't do what I ask. I do all these exercises before I get up and I'm getting better but I still have problems with rhythm. I still enjoy singing and playing and writing songs, though – you don't need to be up on a stage to do that, do you?"

Nic Jones appears at Warwick Folk festival (26 July), Cambridge Folk festival (29), Wadebridge festival, Cornwall (3 Aug), Towersey Folk festival (25), Cecil Sharp House, London (22 Sept).

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26 Apr 13 - 03:14 AM (#3509012)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
From: The Sandman

in my opinion as a singer he was at his best when singing contemporary songs such as the jukebox as she turned,
i find Nics comments interesting about being a fake traditional singer[a comment that makes no sense whatever, one only has to have some acting ability to bring these trad songs alive Ewan MacColl was a great example, born in Salford,which proved no impediment to his song interpretation]
its hardly surprising that Nic sings songs" like the jukebox as she turned" better than songs about napoleon if he was questioning the reason for singing songs about napoloeon
to sing a song well
1. you have to like it. have to believe in it
3, you must have no doubts as to why you are singing it

26 Apr 13 - 06:24 AM (#3509060)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones Project
From: GUEST,RHamer

All this is great stuff thank you ! I was wondering whether anyone would be able to give me a quote on why they think he has had such a long legacy/ influenced people?( It would be only going in my essay) I found the article so interesting about when he felt he was singing in a fake accent and the one from southern roots is great to hear his thought process while he was still performing .

Again thank you so much for the support!

26 Apr 13 - 06:41 AM (#3509068)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones Project
From: GUEST,henryp

One of the features of Nic Jones' act, for me, was that he provided a seamless link between traditional and contemporary work.

His strong singing and stunning guitar playing enabled him to perform both in breath-taking manner. He brought Annachie Gordon into the traditional repertoire. And he picked up Icarus, a contemporary song. Then he sang them side by side, to the obvious approval of an all-too-fickle folk audience.

At the time of his accident, Nic was evolving towards contemporary songs and music - including writing his own songs. So far, he had successfully carried his audience with him. We'll never know what he might have achieved, or whether the folk music world would have approved.

I have been fortunate to see him very recently. In the sympathetic company of his son Joe and Belinda O'Hooley, his individual character still shone through.

26 Apr 13 - 07:29 AM (#3509084)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones Project
From: Howard Jones

Why did he have such an impact?

He developed a very effective and distinctive style of guitar playing which was hugely influential, not only on his contemporaries but on subsequent generations

He was brilliant at working up songs, and often put them to tunes of his own although he never claimed the credit, simply listing them as 'traditional'. Many of his versions have become definitive.

Although thought of as a traditional singer his repertoire was far wider, but as henryp has indicated he had the knack of making them all palatable to folk club audiences.

He was a superb performer, with lots of charm and a wicked sense of humour

I always found him to be very friendly and approachable.

03 May 13 - 07:52 AM (#3511267)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones Project
From: GUEST,henryp


I'm sure that Mudcat members have more to reveal about Nic Jones. If you were to join Mudcat and post here again, then other members would be able to contact you direct through Personal Messages - PMs.

Penguin Eggs was an exceptional album of great songs - contemporary and traditional - sung to Nic's strongly individual style of guitar. But his stage act continued to develop, introducing new songs including compositions of his own.

He never formally recorded the later songs, and after his accident in 1982, it seemed that we would never hear them again. In fact, we had to wait until 1998 for the release of In Search of Nic Jones (with Ruins by the Shore) and 2001 for Unearthed (including The Juke Box as She Turned).

It was extraordinary to hear these songs again - while younger people had the chance to hear them for the first time. And then in 2010 Nic made a return to the stage. These have been emotional events, but still with artistic merit.

Nic seems happy performing in the company of Joe and Belinda - and his audience is delighted to have the unexpected privilege of seeing him again.

I'd like to add one memory of his sense of humour that I've posted here before. Nic was a great friend of the singer Peter Bellamy, and had the part of The Father is his folk-opera The Transports. Peter's eccentric style divided folk audiences sharply.

Nic was coming to the end of his performance at the Coronation Folk Club in Southport. As was his custom, he asked; Who's on next week? Usually, he would encourage the audience to come the following week. But on this occasion the reply came; Peter Bellamy. Oh, said Nic, wickedly adding; Who's on the week after?

18 Nov 13 - 06:01 PM (#3576854)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones Project
From: GUEST,GUEST, Ken Hobbs

Rachel, can't help very much, but I was at the Sidmouth tribute concert where Nic made a (to me) surprise appearance. A very emotional time (I have strong family connections with serious head injury and the consequent rehabilitation). I was able to shake my hero Nic's hand and say that I hoped he would continue to recover (they say head injury recovery never stops, but approaches a plateau). He said in reply "They just can't get rid of me!". I also saw Nic in the late 80s in a local folk club in Sussex, UK. He sat on the edge of the low 'stage' and was barely visible to much of the audience. Playing great stuff, but I only remember from it his encore was "Annachie Gordon". Oh, for a time machine! I realised he was playing in open tunings, (which I didn't use myself at the time) and could only marvel. His voice now is but a shadow of its former self, but there's enough there to cling on to, if you haven't got the old recordings. I sing and play Nic's songs, because Carthy's Law says "The worst thing you can do to a song, is to not sing it", to which I add Hobbs' Corollary: "No matter how badly".

18 Nov 13 - 07:46 PM (#3576870)
Subject: RE: Nic Jones Project
From: Fossil

There is an elephant in the room of this thread.

Part of the Nic Jones mystique is that the folk audience heard so little of him after his accident. And that was/is down to the late and very un-lamented Dave Bulmer, who held the copyrights on many of Nic's best songs and recorded performances and utterly refused to release any of them, despite being urged to by many in the folk community of the time. Thereby denying Nic and Julia income which I am sure would have been very useful to them in the days and years after his accident.

These issues were thrashed out at great length over many threads in the Mudcat Forum. I have no connection with any of the protagonists, other than admitting a deep and abiding liking for Nic Jones the performer. But the Bulmer story is part of the whole and should not be forgotten.

Does anyone know what has happened to the Bulmer estate since his death? Is there any prospect at all of hearing the suppressed Nic Jones material? Perhaps on another thread...