I've been singing and playing folk songs since I was 13 or so. Then I thought that folk music was American and avidly copied the songs of Burl Ives, Peter Seeger, the Limelighters and Woody Guthrie. It never occurred to me that the stuff I had sung at prep. school with 'Singing Together', the weekly BBC schools broadcast with William Appleby, was truly 'folk music'.
When I was 13, I started to take my Dad’s mandolin banjo (he sang Stephen Foster songs in a ‘Blacked Out’ troupe) on my bike to youth hostels and ‘entertained’(?) in the evenings - mostly using the "New National song Book" which was very common in the hostels (There must have been very little else to do in a Youth Hostel back in the ‘50s!)
By the age of 14 I was hanging around smoking, drinking and fishing at the net shops by the Hastings Fishmarket (when I should have been in school) and very soon ventured into a pub in Hastings (The Anchor) clutching my first guitar to sing it to what I now recall as a very dodgy bunch of people! . (My Dad was furious when I bought the guitar....he said it was just a 'gimmick' and would never last)
Sadly, my school days didn’t last long. They were cut short when a series of escapades resulted in my being packed off to lodgings near Watford and a laboratory assistant job at the Ovaltine Factory. I did my first proper ‘floorspot’ in the Pumphouse (Watford folk club) back in 1962 - and I was invited to come back!
‘A’ Levels (at night school) and an HND in Chemistry eventually led me college - a very hazy 3 years spent singing folk songs and playing rugby, brutally ended by my finals - which, remarkably and unexpectedly, I passed. Morris Dancing had become part of my life by then and I wanted a concertina when I heard Bert Lloyd playing one. I went to Crabb's shop in Islington knowing nothing and they sold me a 36 key anglo. If I knew then what I know now then I would have tried to find a duet! I played the anglo for Aldbury Morris until 1974 when a move to Chesterfield necessitated the sale of the concertina. It was at a morris ring meeting in1973 at Thame that I met three elderly men - the remnant of the pre Great War morris side - who told me of my grandfather, Wal Savage, who had played for Abingdon Morris and then had made some sort of a living playing in pubs when he returned from the war. It's in the blood, but I didn't get a concertina again until 1993 or thereabouts and it has taken me a long time to get back to where I was in ’74! (For 15 years or so from ’75 my music was almost exclusively Gospel - lots of performances and several LPs - but that’s a whole other story!)