Singing the century: the life and times of A. L. Lloyd

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Folk is in vogue. So much so that in July 2011 the folk scene’s brightest young things appeared across the glossy pages of the world’s most stylish magazine. It could be said, however, that without the efforts of A. L. (Bert) Lloyd, those floral dresses and lilting songs would have remained locked in the cupboard.  Australian sheep farmer, Communist activist, whalerman, journalist, radio producer, folklorist, folk singer, Bert Lloyd was an inspiration for some of the richest and most exciting work to come out of England’s traditional music scene. To mark the release of a new biography, Pod Academy brings together the author, Dave Arthur, and songwriter and journalist Alan Franks to discuss Bert: The Life and Times of A. L. Lloyd (Pluto Press, 2012).

With thanks to Veteran Records, Topic Records, Fellside Recordings, the Cecil Sharp House Community Choir, and the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

Written,  produced and presented by Alex Bingham.

Alex Bingham: Camden 2012 and the choir of Cecil Sharp House are crammed into the basement for an evening of traditional song, their voices well-oiled by Jerry the barman’s fine ales.  The choir has been around for four years, the building for just over 80, but the sea shanty that reverberates around the walls dates back well into the 19th century.

So how is it that this song has survived, to be hollered by this group of landlubber artists, administrators and accountants, in an age where mechanisation has made the need to haul on the bowline and weigh anchor all but redundant?  The answer lies with a group of determined 20th century men and women who devoted to the collection and promotion of folk song, often as the communities that had nurtured the tradition for centuries were disintegrating before their eyes.

One such devotee can be seen smiling down encouragingly from the gallery of photographs that line the walls of the basement bar.  Dressed in a thick woollen jumper, shirt and tie, it would be easy to overlook A L Lloyd, or ‘Bert’ as he was known.  However, as a new biography reveals, he was not your average folk enthusiast, nor indeed your average man.  Songwriter and journalist, Alan Franks, met up with the book’s author, Dave Arthur, to discuss Bert’s remarkable life and his contribution to the folk tradition.

Alan Franks:  So Dave, it was a labour of love, it was 20 years in the making, it’s run to over 600 pages including a huge index – what gave you the idea for this book?

Dave Arthur:  Well I didn’t have an idea, it was thrust on me.  I just got thrown in because when Bert died in ’82 I had a phone call to say would I write an obit for the Folk Music Journal and would I do a radio documentary on him.  So I started there, I dashed round with my tape recorder and did interviews and of course the people I was interviewing were in their 80’s and 90’s, and who’d worked with Bert in the ‘30s.  So I ended up with this mass of tapes and a lot of people that were no longer around so I felt duty bound then to do something with it.  It was a lot of interesting stuff and I found the more I got into it the more fascinated I became.

AF: It was such a many-faceted life that I imagine that when you first got in touch with those people and heard their testimonies, that it must have been like pulling at the ends of little cords and little bits of rope and you didn’t really know where they were going to go.  Were you surprised by the directions in which this research took you?

DA: Absolutely because Bert in later life when I knew him in the sort of ‘60s, ‘70s he was very reticent about his early life, he never mentioned his early life so none of us on the folk scene at that time knew that he’d been a wonderful radio writer.  None of us knew about his work as a translator of Lorca or Kafka, none of us knew about his work with the Communist Party of Great Britain, his Marxism, all the stuff he was involved in and the people he knew in London in the left wing literary scene, the artistic scene, he was an absolutely central part of it and none of it came out.  And then suddenly I was finding all of these people who said, ‘Bert was this, Bert was that’ and I thought, ‘my god!’

N: Bert was born into a working class family in Tooting, South London, in 1908.  By the age of 16, however, he was on the other side of the world, working as a farm hand on the vast open plains of the Australian outback.

AF: So let’s try and make a little chronological sense of his life.  How did he come to be in Australia?

DA: His mother died and one of his sisters had died, his baby brother had died and his father had come back from the First World War and had been injured and then sent back again, he was back in England in hospital and he went back out and came back.  It wrecked him as a man, he was physically wrecked and he didn’t feel that he could look after Bert.  So the British Legion sponsored Bert’s trip on one of these schemes.  There were many, many schemes to send young people out to Canada, Australia, New Zealand.  The empire needed young people.  So that’s basically how he got there.  He left his grammar school in north London – Hornsey – and ended up in a farm a few miles outside Sydney.

So he went out as a young 16 year old but obviously a very bright 16 year old, who was only just discovering the world and if he’d have been in England, if he’d have gone to university, he would have had other people his own age to discuss art, literature, politics with, all these things which in Australia he didn’t have.  So what he tended to do was to educate himself from the public libraries out there, he would get books sent out to the sheep stations and read them voraciously.

AF: And yet in his own daily working life, kind of living what was subsequently called sometimes as attending the university of life and learning a lot.  One of the things he learnt, I suppose, which must have tipped into his fascination with folk song was the fact that he was there surrounded by people which had in common with their English working-class counterparts that they were chronicling their lives in song.  When he’d first gone out to Australia classical music was more his thing, wasn’t it?

DA: Oh much more, yes.  Again he was discovering it, he knew little about it but he applied again to the library – the Sydney lending library – and they sent stuff out.  They had this scheme to send this stuff out to bush workers and you would be a box of 78s of Mozart, of Bach or whatever.  And then he had a wind up gramophone and he had a little shed that he lived on the last farm he was at.  And he would sit at night with a lantern lit and sit out on the stone outside in the yard, in the horse yard, with Bach pouring out of the doors of his little hut.  And he was initially not very interested in Australian working-class culture and he was quite scathing about some of the things.  He said about the life, he went to a country fair and he was criticising the scraping of the fiddle and the squeezing of the concertina.  He hadn’t discovered it, his idea of culture was classical music, literature, art – all the arts, he was very interested in contemporary art.

AF: It shows you the breadth of the man already.  Now, many people – I don’t want to trade in stereotypes – but many people who are knowledgeable admirers of classical music simply haven’t got the time for the simplicities of folk music.  What was it do you think that was appealing to Bert at that age already about the form?

DA:  Yes, I don’t think much of it did appeal to him until later on perhaps before he left.  Although he always said that when he sat round in the evening with the men having their meal, they would sometimes swap songs and go round the table.  And this way he heard shearing songs, he heard ballads and things.  But I don’t think it was his great idea, I think it really came out of his politics because when you worked on the big sheep stations, at some point you joined the agriculture union, the workers unions, and he became not radicalised so much but aware of the difference between bosses and workers.  The big sheep stations were owned by men with a lot of money and a lot of workers didn’t have much money and they worked very hard for what they did get.  So I think he became aware of politics at that point when he was in his 18, 19, 20’s.  Then he came back to England and then fell straight into the whole left-wing Communist Marxist situation in London.

N: In 1930 Bert returned to London and a hotbed of Communist activity.  With the intimate cafes of Parton Street providing the backdrop, and its bookshops supplying a steady flow of left-wing literature, this small area of Soho became a magnet towards which gravitated poets, novelists, artists, journalists and students, all keen to discuss the latest political ideas and the possibility of revolution.  Bert was no exception and he became a life-long devotee of Communism as a result.

AF: So, yes, back in London and it’s Fitzrovia, a time of great left wing activity.  It seems to me, Dave, that up to this point in his life his view of politics is lived in rather than book learnt.  Was that the case?

DA: I think it’s through experience and in Australia he learnt the basic politics, of course it was the time of the Depression in Australia and then, when he got back to London, of course, there were 3 million unemployed in the early 30’s and the Daily Worker had just started and he met Leslie Morton and Allen Hutt and a group of Marxists Communists and then got involved in Communist politics in north London where they would go.  They would do street work, they’d go around and interview people to get petitions up, they’d write articles on the poor conditions, of living conditions of working class people.  I think he was thrown in at the deep end, when he got back it was right in the middle of the Depression and the Jarrow Marchers were coming down a couple of years later, and there was huge, huge turmoil and enormous poverty, people were dying of starvation, I mean they really were.  So this was what he found when he got back and that really radicalised him and he became very much aware.

AF: And it was a time when supposedly moderate – I use that word in quotes – ‘moderate’ men and women were more than happy to think in terms of the possibility of a revolution.

DA:  Well the thing is, it seems that when you go through all the work of that period, the artistic work had to be 90% seen to be, were left wing.  There were very few right wing writers that were around because it was, you know, they could see the poverty and the disparity in society and they tried to do something about it, which is why they formed the Artists International Association to promote revolutionary art, the Workers Music Association was started in 1936, Alan Bush started that to present working class music as opposed to popular and classical music fed down to the workers this was workers music for themselves and for the outside world.

AF: And as we’ll see from Bert’s own life that mission of exposing the music to fresh audiences became, in a way, his life’s work.  

DA: I think what it was because at that time Bert was capable of doing almost anything because he was a painter – he came back from Australia, he’d painted in Australia, he sold some paintings when he got here, he was a poet – he wrote poetry in Australia – he translated works, he was a linguist – he could speak then at least two or three languages, he could speak German and French definitely and later on he added many more – so all these things he could do but everybody else could as well.  I mean all the pubs in Fitzrovia and up round Soho were full of artists, painters, poets, writers, designers who at the drop of a hat would read you their latest poem.  Dylan Thomas was a great friend of his.  So Bert didn’t have anything, he could do all these things to a certain degree so he was looking, I always felt, for something that was his – a niche.  He could actually be the one eyed man in the country of the blind, and he found it in folk music.

N: As well as contributing to the Left Review and various Communist Party publications, Bert also began writing scripts for BBC radio documentaries.  His first piece – Voice of the Seamen – was inspired by a six month whaling trip to the Antarctic, which he embarked on in 1937.  The frozen, gruesome, blubber-covered decks of the steel whaler were a far cry from the cafes, pubs and living rooms of Soho and Fitzrovia, where Bert and his friends plotted the revolution over a mug of Meg’s tea or a pint of best bitter.

AF: In the late 30s he meets a whole lot of whales in the ocean.  What took him on that particular trip?

DA: Well he always said that… again it was one of those areas where he was a bit reticent in later life as to how he got there but what happened was he came back from Australia, he got a job working for Foyles – he was Foyles’ foreign book manager and Christina employed him and she liked him very much, they were great friends.  And then the next thing he pops up is him going whaling and in Bert’s version of the story he was broke throughout the 30s and spent his time trudging between signing on the dole and the British Museum, where he educated himself in folk music.  He read a lot of texts of ballads and studied broadsides and this sort of thing.  And then it got to the point where he needed the money, he was broke and he signed on the whaling trip.  But, I don’t know, I mean, as far as I know he was working at Foyles and was doing reasonably OK and definitely he went whaling, he signed on.  But then a letter appeared in Australia a few years ago saying that he was working at the time for Unilever and another guy in their art department said that Bert was a copywriter for Unilever and went on the trip as a copywriter to write stuff for the company.  So we don’t know.  He still worked, I mean there’s no doubt, he worked as a labourer on the ship, because I’ve got his diaries, I’ve read his diaries, there’s no doubt about it.

AF: And his descriptions are vivid and gruesome, ‘visceral’ is the only word, with bits of whale all over the place.  

DA: Well of course what’s fascinating is the cinematographic and exotic, yes; he always had this incredible eye and ear for ideas, for stories.  Even back then he was constantly locking things away to use at a future date.  And he saw the beauty in a whaling ship, which most people nowadays think is absolutely unbelievably gruesome, but there is a beauty in that sort of thing as well – in the snow, the mist, the blood, the bones – and it is the choreographic thing of whalermen working on these enormous sperm whales the size of 20 elephants dragged up onto the deck, the flensing deck, and these guys in black boots and spiked boots with flensing knives climbing over the bodies and slicing the whales.  So it is an incredibly visual picture, however gruesome it might be.  Once it’s in your head you can’t forget it.

AF: And of course he became a shanty man himself in the film of Moby Dick, didn’t he?

DA: He got the job, yes, when John Huston was making the film of Moby Dick, Bert got the job of shanty man on the Pequod and he had to grow a beard for it and wear an eye patch and there’s only one shot of him at the beginning of the film peering through the riggings singing Blood Red Roses – a great song, it’s a fabulous song.  He does a great job of it.

N: Bert continued to write for radio and in 1939 was commissioned by the BBC to co-write and produce an ambitious documentary series called The Shadow of the Swastika.  Charting the history of the Nazi party, the series attracted 12 million listeners, making Bert one of the best known writers in Britain at the time.  It was the production of another, less high-profile programme, however, that had an ultimately greater impact upon the direction of Bert’s life.  Saturday Night at the Eel’s Foot, recorded in 1939, captured an evening of traditional song and extraordinary characters at the Eel’s Foot inn in Eastbridge, Suffolk.

AF: Very soon after that we come to an important part of his broadcasting life when he was responsible for recording the famous Eel’s Foot sessions down in a Suffolk pub of that name.  Can you tell us a little bit about what those sessions were and how Bert came to be there?

DA: He came back from the whaling trip in ‘37/’38 the winter season, he was back in England in ‘38 and wanted to be a writer.  Even when he was in Australia he realised that writing was the thing that really interested him and he’d written some things for the Left Review and that sort of thing.  But he wanted to get into radio and he heard a radio documentary on unemployment in America that came out of the Columbia Radio Workshop and it was an experimental workshop where they used music, sound effects and all sorts of things.  And Bert thought this was a great idea and he wrote to the BBC and said, ‘I’ve just come back, I’ve been at sea and I’d like to do a documentary similar to the one I heard the other day on the life of an ordinary seaman – would you be interested?’.  And as it happened it was an idea that Laurence Gilliam had actually thought of, he was interested in the idea of about life at sea for ordinary sailors and he got Bert in and it was so good that they gave him a job at the BBC as a writer producer.  And then he set about doing various programmes for them, wrote programmes, and then he went up to Suffolk to visit Leslie Morton – his old Marxist friend from north London – who then had moved to Suffolk and on Saturday nights Leslie used to go down to the local pub which was the Eel’s Foot where there was singing and he took Bert along and said, ‘Look, you’ll enjoy this.  Every Saturday night, all the fisherman come in and the country, the farm labourers and they sing songs, folk songs’.  So Bert went along and couldn’t believe his luck!  There was all this music that he’d been reading about in the British Museum and he’d read Cecil Sharp’s collection, he knew what folk songs were but he’d never come across them live, he thought they’d died, he thought it was a thing of the past and then suddenly there were people on a Saturday night singing these songs that had been around for 200 or 300 years, 400 years, 500 years some of them, the roots of them.  And it was a living thing and he couldn’t believe it.  So he then went back to the Beeb and said, ‘Look, we must record this session at the Eel’s Foot’ and they came down with one of the very first portable recording units – a van set up with a machine in it run on batteries from the van – and they recorded the session at the Eel’s Foot, which was really the first recording of traditional performers live.

AF: People who study folk music history in this country say that was one of the crucial moments where stuff that could have been sent the way of extinction got resurrected and went on to be very, very influential in its own right in terms of what happened subsequently to folk song.

DA: Well of course now it’s been reissued on CDs and the nice thing is that contemporary young singers now in 2012 are listening to these guys that have been dead for the last 50 years and are learning from them.  I mean that’s the thing that Bert did, he preserved this, he saved this for us, for future generations to hear and if he hadn’t have done it those six, ten singers in that pub that night would have gone, we’d never have known  – well, we’d have known about them obviously – but we would never be able to hear them. And now you have a window into this culture which hadn’t changed for hundreds of years and Bert captured that moment and this is what Bert was, his whole passion was that ordinary people can create wonderful things.

N: As war came and went and the ‘40s rolled on, Bert grew ever more determined to further the cause of English traditional music.  He began performing songs publicly and took to examining the tradition from a more academic angle.  One of the most significant examples of his output at this time is The Singing Englishman, which sought to wrestle folk song from the parlours of the middle classes and place it back in the hands of the workers to whom, Bert believed, it rightfully belonged.

AF: By the time we’re in the 1940s, post war, he begins performing in his own right, singing songs in folk clubs.  How good a singer was he?

DA: Well technically I don’t think he was… again, it depends on what you’re using as a benchmark.  But he wasn’t a technical singer in the way you would assume a classical singer is today.  But he had listened to a lot of traditional music and by the time he started singing in the late ‘40s and actually put himself out publicly… and a lot of things that traditional musicians did, like decoration and slides and these sort of things that are very folk styles of doing things (they’re not classical) he could do these.  He had a good technique and at the time he was one of the only people who could do it.  I mean, the folk revival in the early days had no idea about anything really.  They were chonking away on guitars, they were singing away, and Bert was one of the few people who really listened and had studied how to traditional performers put things across.  But I think Bert’s main skill, for me, is that he could tell a story and folk songs are narratives and they’re all stories and unless you hear the words and you can connect with them then they’re meaningless.  But Bert, whatever song he picked, you knew exactly what he’d sung, you knew what he was getting and what was happening in the song, you were somehow affected by it, particularly ballads, long ballads, he would sing 10, 15, 20-verse, 30-verse ballads, and you hung on every word, people would sit on the edge of their seat waiting for the story to unfold, and that is how I always think of him as a performer.

AF: Yes, and someone who had the air of a teacher, of a benign teacher whose interest and obsession sometimes was to impart knowledge that he had.

DA: Oh yes, he was always very much a teacher, and everybody I’ve spoken to said that he would, at the drop of a hat, because of course his head was full of stuff, he had so much in his head and he couldn’t wait to share it and he would impart it to anybody.  Of course some people got a bit fed up at it as they felt they were being preached at, which I don’t think was his motive at all.  He was enthusiastic and if somebody asked a question he would go off for 10 minutes.

N: By the 1950s, the proponents of the folk revival faced a new threat.  The American imported skiffle craze spread like wild fire and captured the imagination of England’s youth.  Whereas traditional music may have seemed irrelevant to young people, or an unattractive reminder of the harsh toil of their ancestors, the bluesy, toe-tappingly pacey nature of skiffle offered them a relief from post-war drudgery.  Despite this, Bert pressed on and teamed up with the rather fiery Ewan MaColl in an attempt to nurture and promote English folk song.

DA: You were of the skiffle generation and this very rhythmic three chord music was coming over from America via Lonnie Donnegan and the Chris Barber Jazz Band and so forth, and eventually, although one wasn’t, I don’t think, aware of it at the time, eventually the combination of those things, this rhythmic, very basic pop music on the one hand and the legacy of the other music, the folk songs that we’ve been talking about, led to a very important movement, didn’t it, of folk rock.

DA: Oh yes, well the folk revival was Pete Seeger and the Almanac singers in the States in the ‘40s produced two of three albums of left wing labour songs, union songs and songs mainly put to traditional tunes that they’d written amongst themselves, the Almanacs had been written.  And they were sung to popular Appalachian tunes, many of them, and they’re very catchy and they came and Bert heard these albums in the late ’40s and was absolutely blown away by them.  And him and a guy called John Hasted used to meet up in London and have a coffee together and they decided that there ought to be a movement in England to do the same thing – political songs in a popular way to take politics to the people. So they started a group called The Ramblers which was one of the first folk groups, but Bert always included American stuff which they were doing, he always included some English songs that he’d heard back from the Eel’s Foot Days and that really started off the whole folk revival.

And then they met Ewan MacColl and MacColl had a similar idea for a people’s music and the skiffle era came in the early ‘50s.  The young people in England were making their own music and Bert realised that there was something here that could actually catch on and be used.  He realised that American culture was swamping British culture and he thought it was time to do something about it so he worked his way through the skiffle era and skiffle songs, which were based on American blues and country songs, and started turning up at clubs and singing English songs.  He’d get up in a skiffle club in London and say, ‘I’m going to sing three love songs, English love songs’ and people would go, ‘oh yeah’ and yawn and he’d just do three wonderful songs and they’d go, ‘crikey, this is good stuff’.

AF: You were mentioning, of course, Ewan MacColl who was another towering figure in folk music.  A different figure from Bert in a way, someone who perhaps penetrated the public consciousness even more, partly by marrying a daughter of the American Seeger dynasty in the form of Peggy Seeger.  Also by being an unexpectedly, sensationally successful songwriter with The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, Dirty Old Town, Manchester Rambler, many, many more but he was a difficult and controversial man, with whom Bert, tolerant though he was, did not always see eye to eye.

DA: No well they both started off with this similar idea, they wanted create a movement but you’re right, they were quite different.  Bert was once described as more the stiletto man and MacColl was the bludgeon and that was how it was.  Bert was much more subtle and he would get things done by implication, by giving you stuff, rather than telling you.  Whereas MacColl was very dogmatic, it has to be done this way and I’m right and you’re wrong and if you’re wrong you’re out.  You know, they’re the two opposites.

AF: Extraordinarily ironic wasn’t it that the music of the people should be subject to such dogma by an individual.

DA: Oh yeah, well by everybody and it always has been – by Bert as well.  I mean, to be honest, what was going on ordinary people, the folk people at the Eel’s Foot they were quite exceptional in some ways and the Copper Family in Sussex were exceptional but the majority of ordinary people sang a mixture of songs.  They sang what we would now call folk songs – what we would recognise as a folk song – they would sing church songs, they would sing popular songs, they would sing Come Into the Garden Maud, my mum sang to me, there’s this mixture of things.  But what the folk revival did and what going back to Cecil Sharp’s days in the early turn of the century, the 1900s, was to be selective and Bert was just as guilty of that as anybody else.  It was a very specific thing they were picking ones which suited their politics and, in Bert and MacColl’s case, they were picking on working class culture, a particular aspect of it, but the whole folk revival in that sense was built on a myth, actually.  It never represented popular culture in the wider sense, it was always a very specific idea of Bert and MacColl’s and people of that ilk.

N: It was not just English traditional music that Bert was interested in, however.  By 1956, he had clocked up many thousands of miles on foreign trips, including visits to Norway, Spain, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria.

AF: By the 1950s he was travelling again, not for the Australian outback or for the whales of Antarctica, but for musical purposes.  He went to Eastern Europe and became fascinated by the music there.

DA: Yes, well the reason he did that actually was financial because he lost his job at Picture Post as a reporter and journalist because of his Communism, and he had to think of a new career.  And he worked out that he could go to Eastern Europe – because he had a lot of connections through the Communist party in Bulgaria, Romania, places like this, Hungary – he’d go out there, he had access to it and he could do as much collecting, he could hear as much music in a month in Bulgaria as it would take him 6 months or a year in England to do the same amount of collecting.  There was a huge culture of traditional music – most of it propped up by the communist government and also managed by them to much extent – but he could get access to it he could bring it back, he could then make programmes for the BBC, he could do albums of Albanian music, of Romanian folk songs to the dead, these are the sort of programmes he was doing at the time.  So financially it worth his while to go to Eastern Europe.  But what it was, of course, was that at that time there was no real interest and nowadays, of course, world music, if he was doing the programmes now that he was doing then they’d be unbelievably popular but then there was only a very small audience for them and he was actually again years ahead of his time.  He realised the value of what was going on in Eastern Europe but very few other people did until the last 10 years when suddenly world music has become the thing.
N: In large part due to the hard work of the revivalists such as Bert, traditional songs were taken up by a fervent minority of young people in the 1960s and 70s.  The likes of bands such as Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span introduced electric guitars and rasping fiddles to the once unaccompanied music and, in doing so, opened the eyes and ears of a wider audience.

AF: He lived long enough to see his influence being extended by the folk rock bands and became – unlike Ewan MacColl – very interested in Bob Dylan and his contemporaries.

DA: Again, MacColl, electric folk an anathema to MacColl, it was like the heavens had fallen in.  But Bert was much more pragmatic about it.  He always said that it’s not the instrument, the fact that it’s an electric guitar or a fiddle or a concertina, or it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s what you do with it and what you’re trying to do.  The fact that it’s electric doesn’t make a difference, it’s still folk music.  He was very supportive of Fairport, partly because Sandy Denny was one of his favourite singers and Dave Swarbrick was one of his favourite accompanists and they were both in the band.  But he felt that electric music and electronic music, which he’d also been involved in a good few years earlier, could give an extra dimension to folk music – you could sing a ballad like Tam Lyn, a magical ballad, and then at the end of it, which Fairport did, they then run into this long instrumental which created amazing atmosphere, which is impossible to do on acoustic instruments.  So he was very supportive of the idea of experimenting within reason, you know, if you understood what you were doing and did it with taste.

AF: One last question, what will he best be remembered for?

DA:  It depends on various people, I mean I think, by people that knew him, for his generosity.  Everybody that had ever been in touch with him said that he was just incredibly generous with his time, his knowledge.  He would spend hours writing stuff out for you, if you gave him a query you’d get six pages back that must have taken him an hour, two hours to do.  And he had a great sense of humour as well, very funny, and again a lot of people don’t realise that and don’t mention it.  But Norma Waterson, of the Waterson family, said that her memory of Bert was his sense of humour – he was a very, very funny man.

AF: We were saying earlier that it was one of those lives that he didn’t live so much as got lived by it.  Is that your view, that his life led him?

DA: Well he did follow where it led but also he instigated a lot of things, he had a lot of visions.  He wrote a lot of things to the BBC suggesting programmes, he had the idea of the folk revival, he was very involved in industrial folk song so out of Bert’s work you got the whole industrial folk revival in England, in Britain, and the research has gone on since then and collecting and things.  You’ve got electric folk, the use in so many bands now use things that came from Bert – like Frank Zappa was a great Bert fan, so he’s had influence in the pop world to a certain extent.  People who are now listening to world music are now going back to his early recordings and hearing this wonderful Eastern European music that he recorded in the 50s, so he had a lot influence on all sorts of people, he did.

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