Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger – Volume 72 – September 2006

I was delighted to hear that Roy Bailey has handed his MBE back to the government. It will have little effect on Tony Blair; but it means a great deal to me. Hopefully a few more famous entertainers will follow suit. It’s really good when famous people do something like that. If I was famous and had an MBE I would certainly have sent mine back and, probably at the very start of the Iraq war.

Of course, I’m nearly famous! I’ve been ‘nearly famous’ for the best part of 40 years. I suppose it started when I topped the bill over Ralph McTell (then known as Ralph May) at the Downe Folk Club at my first ever professional booking in September 1965. We both got paid the handsome sum of £2 each which was the equivalent of 20 pints of bitter; and I only topped the bill in my own mind because it was me who closed the evening. I’ve stayed ‘nearly famous’ all my professional life. In those early halcyon days of course I wanted deep down to be ‘really famous’, or even ‘just famous’ would have done, but I have no real talent to speak of and I don’t have the patience to practice. So ‘nearly famous’ it is. I’ve conned the world of entertainment for 40 years. Quite an achievement really.

“Is your name Ray?” The voice came from behind me, just one of a bunch of voices who were, apparently from the conversation, just popping off to Malaga to shag anything that moved. “Oi mate; is your name Ray?” The question came again; so I turned as slowly as possible towards him, hoping his basic instinct to shag any moving thing had not actually clicked in yet and that it would stay that way until landing in Spain. I assured him my name was not Ray, but that didn’t apparently stop me from looking like a friend of his fathers. “Well I know you from somewhere” he said. “Well I’m often mistaken for David Bellamy; but I doubt if he’s often mistaken for me” I said. “I’ve seen you on the telly then?” “Possibly” I retorted, “I’ve been an angry farmer in Hollyoaks more than once;”………. but it was my turn to order a drink; the queue had shortened, I was at the head of it and the conversation ended. It was Thursday August 10th the day when the balloon went up and whilst planes in and around London were non-existent the Leeds/Bradford airport was bustling and busy and the planes were nearly running to time. I was off to sing at Amsterdam Scheepvaart Museum. A weekend festival; my first ever in Europe.

“The Captain wants to see you”. The voice came from the air hostess as I entered the plane. Apparently he had seen me walking across the tarmac. So whilst the rest of the passengers turned right to walk down the aisle of the plane I was ushered in the opposite direction into the cockpit. “Is your name Joe Stead? I saw you at the Conwy River Festival last weekend with your group the Kimberley’s.” “I think you mean Kimber’s Men” I corrected. “Yes, yes, whatever” he said. “You were bloody good I had meant to buy a CD; have you got any with you?” “Only in the hold” I said “Christ we’re not even allowed to bring our glasses case into the plane – everything’s in the hold. But you can send me a cheque; I’ll give you my address.”

The Dutch are a delight. Unlike their French neighbours they are courteous, friendly, helpful and they all seem to get pleasure from speaking English. What’s more they are a highly organized bunch; their trains and busses all run on time and all have friendly female robots inside telling you where you are. Infrequently however they take their organizational skills to almost absurd limits. For an example: there is now an abundance of shanty choirs in Holland and apparently they all have conductors. This might seem like a good idea to some and certainly the Dutch obviously like it; or they would change it. But conducting folk music kills it. It takes away the soul of the song and this is never more apparent than in sea shanties.

I suppose it would be unfair to tar all conductors of sea shanty choirs with the same brush. I’ve only encountered one and he could possibly be the exception to the rule. This one was arrogant, obviously a law unto himself, and his choir followed his every instruction; this was annoying both to me and one other Dutch singer when he chose to end our songs prematurely when he thought fit. In my case I had sung just three verses and two choruses of ‘Blow the man down’ when I was overwhelmed by a thirty piece shanty choir bringing the song to an early finish at the end of the third verse. The man had no empathy with the music whatsoever. The structure of verse/chorus, verse/chorus had even escaped him.

But as a whole the weekend was a great success. Outside the festival I was amused at being accosted at Beverwijk Railway Station late one night by a bunch of youths who desperately tried to sell me a crate of empty beer bottles for two euros ninety, I had a delightful conversation with a complete stranger the next morning who turned out to be a psychiatrist on the train to Amsterdam Central and everywhere I went I was met with smiles and friendship; and especially from my hosts Narda, Carla and Louis. Nothing was too much trouble. Louis for example repaired my bandolin which was broken en-route either because for the first time in my life I forgot to detune the instrument, or by poor baggage handling, or, as is more likely as my tuner was also broken, by over enthusiastic careless customs officers looking for bombs. Strong glue was found, a catastrophe was avoided and a wonderful weekend ensued.

And thus it was I found myself closing a wonderful festival accompanied by the choir singing Leave her Johnny Leave Her. The fact that I sang it at a slightly faster rate than the conductor did not prevent him from slowing down each chorus to his rate. I was after all just the performer, he was the conductor and he expected me to do things at his speed. Shirley Bassey would never have stood for this I thought; but then she’s famous, these things only happen when you’re nearly famous.


The ninth anniversary of the death of the Princess of Wales is looming upon us with all its shocking memories and The Daily Express is exposing the possibilities that the accident was not an accident after all. The Express is daring to insinuate that murder most foul has been committed. If so by whom? Well we know that Tony B has no principles; he’s happy to lie to us and lead us into a totally unwarranted and unnecessary war, with the all the terrible additives of terrorism by home grown Muslims now multiplying by the month. Or perhaps Charlie Boy wanted her out of the way. Perhaps an unknown face in the corridors of Whitehall simply didn’t fancy the future King of England having a bastard sibling or half sibling fouling up the line. It’s not for me to say, and as there is the slight possibility that MI6 read my column I don’t really feel inclined to put my neck on the line any more than I have in the past. However for those who missed it nine years ago – here’s the poem I wrote shortly after that terrible accident. I got the idea from Bob Dylan and his song called ‘Who killed Davey More?’ It’s called ‘Who killed Princess Di?’ It is available on my album ‘Miles from Halifax’.

Who killed Princess Di, how come she’s gone and where’s the reason why?
Not I barked the paparazzi, sure we made her run
And of course we got good money, well what would you have done?
Anyway she loved it, we were courted from afar
It was us who made her famous, thanks to us she was a star
And as for all those pictures well we only fuelled a need
You can’t blame us for someone else’s greed
So, who killed Princess Di, how come she’s gone and where’s the reason why?

Not us said the public, piling up the flowers
You can see that we all loved her, we’ve been queuing here for hours
OK, OK, It’s true some of us bought The Sun
But after all those pictures were just a bit of fun
Part of life’s rich tapestry, the good comes with the bad
How could we have killed her when we all look so sad?
So, who killed Princess Di, how come she’s gone and where’s the reason why?

Not I sighed old Queenie, sitting on her throne
If she’d been more realistic, she could have stayed at home
It was just an ultimatum, she didn’t have to leave
And in that week of silence who said I didn’t grieve?
In situations such as this the upper lip is vital
Anyway I loved the girl……..I offered back her title
So, who killed Princess Di, how come she’s gone and where’s the reason why?

Not I moaned the ghost who drove her on that night
The paparazzi I was told…. “Leave ‘em out of sight”
Alright it’s true, I’d had a drink, but I mean who’s not done the same
I’m not the guilty one, it’s not me that you should blame
I mean an order is an order, I’m sure you will agree
So don’t go pointing any fingers at me
So, who killed Princess Di, how come she’s gone and where’s the reason why?
© Joe Stead - Fore Lane Music September 1997


Kimber’s Men, Don’t take the heroes, (A Private Label APL11)
Neil Kimber, John Bromley, Joe Stead and the late Roger Hepworth offer a brilliantly sung and researched collection of (mostly) traditional shanties and sea songs. And, lest we think that the days of naval heroes are over, they dedicate the CD and its proceeds to the work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Great harmonies.
Mary DesRosiers – Sing Out (Short Cuts Section).

Joint Fixture List for Kimber’s Men and Joe Stead.

Sep 3rd (KM) Ulley Sailing Club, Near Rotherham 6pm (Private Dinner)
Sep 6th (Joe) Filming in Heartbeat
Sep 7th (Joe) Filming in Heartbeat
Sep 26th (Joe) Bilton Men’s Forum. 2pm – Valparaiso round the Horn
Sep 27th (KM) The Cross Keys Folk Club, Uppermill.
Sep 28th (Joe) Cleckheaton Probus Club – Valparaiso round the Horn
Oct 3rd (Joe) Hove Edge 65 Club. 2pm – Valparaiso round the Horn
Oct 4th (Joe) Garforth Probus Club 10am – Valparaiso round the Horn
Oct 6th (KM) Tenterden Folk Festival
Oct 7th (KM) Tenterden Folk Festival
Oct 8th (KM) Tenterden Folk Festival
Oct 11th (KM) The Works, Sowerby Bridge.
Oct 13th (KM) Minstead Village Hall, New Forest, Hampshire.
Oct 14th (KM) Harwich Shanty Festival
Oct 15th (KM) Harwich Shanty Festival
Dec 2nd (KM) The Square Chapel Theatre, Halifax.
Dec 14th (Joe) St Paul’s Church, Harrogate Men’s Forum. – Valparaiso
Jan 12th (KM) Sixmilebridge Winter Music Festival, County Clare – Provisional
Jan 13th (KM) Sixmilebridge Winter Music Festival, County Clare – Provisional
Jan 14th (KM) Sixmilebridge Winter Music Festival, County Clare – Provisional
Mar 5th (Joe) Rossett School, Harrogate. (Life and times Paul Robeson)
May 5th (Joe) Sweeps Festival, Rochester. – Provisional
May 6th (Joe) Sweeps Festival, Rochester. – Provisional
May 7th (Joe) Sweeps Festival, Rochester. – Provisional
May 11th (KM) Clennell Hall, Alwinton, Northumberland National Park
May 12th (KM) Clennell Hall, Alwinton, Northumberland National Park
Jun 15th (KM) Alcester Folk Festival
Jun 16th (KM) Alcester Folk Festival
Jun 17th (KM) Alcester Folk Festival
Aug 12th (KM) Broadstairs Folk Festival – Provisional
Aug 13th (KM) Broadstairs Folk Festival – Provisional
Sep 7th (KM) Swanage Folk Festival
Sep 8th (KM) Swanage Folk Festival
Sep 9th (KM) Swanage Folk Festival
Sep 15th (KM) Halifax Traditions Festival


Hi, Joe
Sometimes we find a second niche to fill. What you are doing now through the Ramblings couldn't have happened without the www - 'live', or even on some kind of TV spot, it would not encourage the people who sound off to be quite so open and forthright. And besides, you have the editorial freedom through this medium which would not be granted you on TV or radio or in a theatre.
And don't forget you have Kimber's men, too, to satisfy the urge of live performance; still providing access to a strong English/international tradition on an almost world wide basis.
Long may you keep on doing both!

Doug McIntyre may speak for America but Richard M. Weed speaks for the world. It has made my day to read such concisely stated, honest reflection and recognition of truth by an ordinary citizen of the USA with a vision that extends beyond his own backyard and the maturity to see things from outside the playpen. Congratulations and - if he'll accept this from one who considers himself to be spiritual but not Religious (note the capital R) -blessings to him. Through your pages, should you allow, I heartily shake his hand. His letter is printed out and will comfort me in the terrible times which I am sure are still to come.
Basically, the USA was a Good Idea. A place where those fleeing ideological persecution by undemocratic and usually Religious/ideological authority could find sanctuary and honest reward for their labours. Shame they had to commit near-genocide in order to settle there and perpetrate economic and social oppression on those who remained from before them, barely excused by the fact that those were naive and brutal times. Shame too, that those Founding Fathers' secular and humane ideals are, as Richard so rightly writes, being cast aside, in these days which are supposed to be more enlightened, in the face of the aspirations of politicians who are no less imperial in their outlook than those from whom the original settlers were fleeing.
Basically, - and some of you on both sides of the argument are not going to like this -Israel was a Good Idea. A homeland for a persecuted people, who had suffered atrocities at the hands of several European and other regimes for centuries. Shame they have had to commit near-genocide in order to settle there and continue to perpetrate economic and social oppression on those who remain from before them, in what are supposed to be these more enlightened times, without, it would seem, realising that they are acting in a manner not so far from that of the regimes who systematically persecuted them.
Bush says that God told him to invade Iraq and impose his preferred system of politics on it.
The Israeli government says God gave them the land and the right to defend it.
Anybody else spot the similarities here? In both cases, it's JIHAD by any other name and it stinks. Religious war is still an abomination of ANY so-called 'faith', Muslim, Christian or Jewish.
Yours in Peace
Roger Watson

Shock with your 70th Ramblings.
You think you are running out of everything because of the immigrants
What about your country policy about all those things (water, electricity etc) you are worrying so much?
I heard that your pipes systems is so old than an enormous amount of water goes "down the drain".
Maybe you can use the immigrants "surplus", you are complaining about for building reservoirs or changing the pipes. For a Spaniard a bit of a joke to hear a Britt complaining about water.
About the mentality of "grants benefits", how about "real British"? Are they suffering from the same illness?
You, that you lived such a "golden times" in Britain, how you took advantage of those times? How many professionals among your close relatives? Did your children go up social ladder?
How did you make your money?
I think you are getting really, really old.
Elena Fernanz (Madrid).


Guido the Italian Lover....
A virile, middle aged Italian gentlemen named Guido was relaxing at his favorite bar in Rome when he managed to attract a spectacular young blonde woman. Things progressed to the point where he invited her back to his apartment and, after some small talk, they retired to his bedroom where he rattled her senseless.
After a pleasant interlude he asked with a smile, "So, you finish?"
She paused for a second, frowned, and replied, "No."
Surprised, Guido reached for her and the rattling resumed. This time she thrashed about wildly and there were screams of passion. The sex finally ends and, again, Guido smiles and asks, "You finish?"
Again, after a short pause, she returns his smile, cuddles closer to him and softly says, "No."
Stunned, but damned if he was going to leave this woman unsatisfied, Guido reaches for the woman yet again. Using the last of his strength, he barely manages it, but they end together screaming, bucking, clawing and ripping the bed sheets. Exhausted, Guido falls onto his back, gasping. Barely able to turn his head, he looks into her eyes, smiles proudly and asks again, "You finish?"
Barely able to speak, the beautiful blonde whispers in his ear, "No, I Norwegian!"




Two blokes are pushing their shopping trolleys around Woollies when they collide. The first one says to the second, "Sorry mate, I'm looking for me missus, and I wasn't paying attention to where I was going".
The second bloke says, "Ah, no worries, I'm looking for mine too. Ican't find her anywhere". The first bloke says, "Well, maybe we can help each other. What does your wife look like?"
The second one says, "Well, she is 27 years old, tall, with blonde hair, blue eyes, big knockers and is wearing short blue shorts and a tank top.
What does your wife look like"?
The first one says, "Ah, doesn't matter --- let's look for yours."


Three men were hiking through a forest when they came upon a large, raging violent river. Needing to get on the other side, the first man prayed, “God, please give me the strength to cross the river.”
Poof! God gave him big arms and strong legs and he was able to swim across in about 2 hours, having almost drowned twice.
After witnessing that, the second man prayed, “God, please give me strength and the tools to cross the river.”
Poof! God gave him a rowboat and strong arms and strong legs and he was able to row across in about an hour after almost capsizing once.
Seeing what happened to the first two men, the third man prayed, “God, please give me the strength, the tools and the intelligence to cross the river.”
Poof! He was turned into a woman. She checked the map, hiked one hundred yards up stream and walked across the bridge.


A man is sitting on his front stoop staring morosely at the ground when his neighbour strolls over. The neighbour tries to start a conversation several times, but the older man barely responds. Finally, the neighbour asks what the problem is.
"Well," the man says, "I ran afoul of one of those questions women ask. Now I'm in the doghouse."
"What kind of question?" the neighbour asks.
"My wife asked me if I would still love her when she was old, fat and ugly."
"That's easy," says the neighbour. "You just say, 'Of course I will'".
"Yeah," says the other man, "that's what I meant to say. But what came out was, 'Of course I do.'"


Climate change will affect us all, however some areas of the planet may react differently to others. Below we compare how the inhabitants of Scotland would fair in relation to other parts of the planet.
40 degrees – Africans shiver uncontrollably. (People in Scotland sunbathe).
35 degrees – Italian cars won’t start. (People in Scotland drive with the windows down). 20 degrees – Floridians wear coats, gloves, and wool hats. (People in Scotland throw on shorts and a T-shirt).
15 degrees – Californians begin to evacuate the state. (People in Scotland go swimming in the sea).
0 degrees – New York landlords turn the heat on. (People in Scotland have a last barbi before it gets cold).
-10 degrees – People in Miami are extinct. (People in Scotland lick flagpoles).
-20 degrees – Californians all now live in Mexico. (People in Scotland throw on a light jacket).
-80 degrees – Polar bears begin to evacuate the Artic. (Scottish Boy Scouts postpone winter survival exercise until it gets cold enough).
-100 degrees – Santa Claus abandons the North Pole. (People in Scotland wear an under vest).
-173 degrees – Ethyl alcohol freezes. (People in Scotland get angry ‘cos they can’t thaw their whisky).
-297 degrees – Microbial life starts to grind to a halt. (Scottish cows complain of farmers with cold hands.
-460 degrees – ALL atomic motion stops. (People in Scotland start saying “ A bit chilly Jimmy … eh?”).
-500 degrees – Hell freezes over. (Scottish people support England in the World Cup).




A woman came home and found this letter from her husband

My Dear Wife,
You will surely understand that I have certain needs that you with your 54-year-old body can no longer supply. However, I am very happy with you and I value you as a good wife. Therefore, after reading this letter, I hope that you will not wrongly interpret the fact I will be spending the evening with my 18-year-old secretary at the Comfort
Inn Hotel. Please don't be perturbed, I shall be back home before midnight.
When the man came home, he found the following letter on the dining room table:

My Dear Husband,
I received your letter and thank you for your honesty. I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that you are also 54 years old. At the same time, I would like to inform you that while you are reading this, I will be at the Ritz Carleton with Michael, my tennis coach, who, like your secretary, also is 18. As a successful businessman and with your excellent knowledge of math, you will understand that we are in the same
situation, although with one small difference: 18 goes into 54 a lot more times than 54
goes into 18. Therefore, I will not be back until lunchtime tomorrow.

Keep smiling, keep singing.

Joe Stead