Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger – Volume 108 – September 2009

The much awaited (well by us anyway) new CD by Kimber’s Men recorded live in concert entitled ‘In Port’ is at last on the market. A project that seemed to take forever was further delayed last month when Disc 2 had a number of faults on it and the whole consignment had to be returned to the factory. Yes that’s right Disc 2! It’s a double CD, a full Kimber’s Men concert containing 27 songs with absolutely nothing left out, well apart from a bit off tuning that is. It has been received with much enthusiasm so far with phone calls of congratulations that include Bob and Kathy Dragge (Folk in Kent) and Pete Fyfe (independent reviewer) whose review follows later.

The whole package costs just £15 including post and packing with a donation of £1 going to the RNLI from every sale. If you want a copy send a cheque made payable to Kimber’s Men to:- Providence Place, Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire. HX6 1BA.

So whilst Kimber’s Men have had a successful year so far it’s not been a happy year for some of the artistes who have recorded with me in the past. This year to date to my knowledge we have already experienced the passing of Matt Armour, Viva Smith, Johnny Collins and Jim Couza; others might also have passed away unnoticed. Let’s hope there are no more.

So what did the Kiwi say when asked if he wanted England to beat Australia at cricket?
The answer was……….. “No! I hope you both lose!”

There is an awesome dance, called the Thousand-Hand Guanyin (????),which is making the rounds across the net. Considering the tight coordination required, their accomplishment is nothing short of amazing, even if they were not a ll deaf. Yes, you read correctly ... all 21 of the dancers are deaf. Relying only on signals from trainers at the four corners of the stage, these extraordinary dancers deliver a visual spectacle that is at once intricate and stirring. Its first major international debut was in Athens at the closing ceremonies for the 2004 Paralympics. But it had long been in the repertoire of the Chinese Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe and had traveled to more than 40 countries. Its lead dancer is 29-year-old20Tai Lihua, who has a BA from the Hubei Fine Arts Institute. The video was recorded in Beijing during the Spring Festival celebrations.

Click here: YouTube - Thousand-Hand Guan Yin

Meanwhile bookings are tumbling into our diary for next year

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

Aug 28th (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Aug 29th (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Aug 30th (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Aug 31st (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Sep 4th (KM) Hull Festival of the Sea
Sep 5th (KM) Hull Festival of the Sea
Sep 6th (KM) Hull Festival of the Sea

Sep 9th (Joe) North Bradford Men’s Forum. - Valparaiso
Sep 10th (Joe) Heckmondwyke Supper Club. - Robeson
Sep 11th (KM) Swanage Folk Festival
Sep 12th (KM) Swanage Folk Festival
Sep 13th (KM) Swanage Folk Festival
Sep 19th (KM) Deal Maritime Festival
Sep 20th (KM) Deal Maritime Festival

Sep 29th (Joe) Leeds Elmete Probus Club, New Inn, Eccup Lane, Bramhope. – Valparaiso
Oct 9th (KM) Clarinbridge Community Festival, County Galway, Ireland.
Oct 10th (KM) Clarinbridge Community Festival, County Galway, Ireland.
Oct 11th (KM) Clarinbridge Community Festival, County Galway, Ireland.
Oct 19th (KM) The Bridge Folk Club, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Oct 25th (KM) Scrag End Folk Club, Shoulder of Mutton, Oakthorpe, Leicestershire

Nov 14th (Joe) The News from Nowhere Club, Waltham Forest. – Robeson Lecture.
Nov 21st (KM) 'Folk At The Proke', St. Mary's Social Club, Melton Street, Batley
Dec 3rd (KM) Meadow Close School, Shelf, Halifax. HX3

May 14th (KM) Clennell Hall Folk Festival
May 15th (KM) Clennell Hall Folk Festival
May 16th (KM) Clennell Hall Folk Festival
May 28th (KM) Waterford’s Festival of Song and Sea Shanties, Ireland – Provisional
May 29th (KM) Waterford’s Festival of Song and Sea Shanties, Ireland – Provisional
May 30th (KM) Waterford’s Festival of Song and Sea Shanties, Ireland – Provisional
Jun 18th (KM) Falmouth Festival of the Sea
Jun 19th (KM) Falmouth Festival of the Sea
Jun 20th (KM) Falmouth Festival of the Sea
Jul 2nd (KM) Cleckheaton Folk Festival
Jul 3rd (KM) Cleckheaton Folk Festival
Jul 4th (KM) Cleckheaton Folk Festival
Jul 9th (KM) Stonehaven Folk Festival, NE Scotland
Jul 10th (KM) Stonehaven Folk Festival, NE Scotland

Aug 20th (KM) Fano – Denmark
Aug 21st (KM) Fano – Denmark
Aug 22nd (KM) Fano – Denmark
Aug 27th (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Aug 28th (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Aug 29th (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Aug 30th (KM) Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Sep 24th (KM) Exmouth (venue to be confirmed), Devon
Sep 25th (KM) The Castle Inn, Combe Martin, High Street, North Devon


KIMBER’S MEN – In Port (A Private Label APL12)

Kimber’s Men are something a little extra special…a shanty crew that everyone can enjoy! Consisting Joe Stead, Neil Kimber, Dave Buckley, Gareth Scott and John Bromley the ‘Men’ all have fine voices each as good as each other and then there’s that resonant bass ringing masterfully at the end of “Fire Marengo”. Captured live in concert by Tony Bottomley this handsomely packaged double album is a true testament highlighting how powerful good shanty singing can be…full of passion but with plenty of warmth. The sailor’s life is not always a happy one and of course the tragedies and tribulations, conveyed in the lyrics of Bill Meek’s “Harry Eddom” and Neil & Roz Kimber’s “Don’t Take The Heroes” show that this particular style of song will echo through the ages unlike the pap that purports to be popular music nowadays. Now, I don’t quite know what it is but the performance of “God Moves On The Water” led brilliantly by Gareth Scott brings to mind how Martin Simpson might sound with a shanty crew and trust me…that’s a compliment. On a more optimistic note, Joe Stead & Pete Seeger’s poignant “Darkest Before The Dawn” is the kind of ballad that encapsulates the thoughts of sailors and better days to come whilst familiar rousing choruses including “Blow Boys Blow” and “Leave Her Johnny Leave Her” coupled with strong contemporary story-telling this is an album that more fully satisfies than most in a year that has seen the passing of Johnny Collins (another great shanty singer) and couldn’t have come at a better time. If you do purchase the album (and I sincerely hope you will!) at the very reasonable cost of £15.00 that includes a donation to the RNLI don’t be confused by the unconventional track listing on the back sleeve. It’s just there so that you can skip the introductions if you want to. Glorious stuff!



Jim Couza.
Every so often world throws up a genius in the folk world who is flawed only by some form of illness unknown to most of us. In Britain we had Alex Campbell, who was followed by Hamish Imlach and Tony Capstick, all three were fantastic entertainers blighted and brought to an early demise by alcohol. In Jim Couza’s instance it was food. Stories of Jim’s eating exploits are indeed legendary. There was the lady who had risen early from her bed to bake 52 fairy cakes which she had iced ready for the women’s institute that afternoon. She went out to buy Jim some bacon and sausage for his breakfast only to return to discover Jim had already found his own breakfast; all 52 fairy cakes had disappeared! (Told to me first hand by the lady who baked the cakes). I first discovered Jim at The Philadelphia Folk Festival one sultry Saturday morning late in the August of 1981. He was sitting with an excited crowd around him in the camping grounds jamming away on his dulcimer as only Jim could. I, like everyone else, was spell bound and I immediately realized that such talent as his should be recorded. I persuaded him (with little difficulty if I’m honest) to come to England to record on my Greenwich Village label. He arrived in Britain in the December of that year and we made the album at Bill Leader’s studio in Halifax; West Yorkshire in January 1982. Jim loved England so much he decided to stay. And England initially loved Jim with equal enthusiasm but as refrigerators were emptied overnight, as chairs and beds buckled under his enormous weight, and as children went to school hungry because Jim had eaten their breakfast in an overnight frenzy of gluttony his popularity waned as fast as it had risen. I know this because I was Jim’s agent/manager and I made the bookings and received the angry phone calls after he had completed his engagement. Now it might seem to some to be in bad taste to write such as this after the man has died; but there is no point in writing an obituary without spelling out the truth however pleasant or unpleasant it might be. In truth Jim was ill, although none of us realized it at the time. Not the kind of illness that doctors can cure however without drastic surgery. It is understood that the eating disorder started after he returned from Vietnam; just how true that is, is not really founded other than in hearsay; but it would make sense if true. As a musician the man was a genius and it amazed all who watched his 25 stone frame bent over that multi-stringed instrument with hands so light and fast that it was difficult to follow what he was doing. You can catch a glimpse of the man’s undoubted genius on You Tube (I urge you to look for ) when I arranged for him to appear on Pebble Mill at One. I have to confess I purposely lost contact with Jim when I moved to Yorkshire in 1985; although I did drive to London to represent him at the Home Office when he was fighting to keep in Britain and not be forcibly repatriated to America. As his manager and recording company I explained that Jim was unique to this country insofar as there were only two other hammered dulcimer players of his ability in Britain and neither played his style, as such he was not depriving any British people from getting work, indeed he was adding to the cultural prosperity of the country. So I not only brought Jim to Britain I helped to keep him here. He was a wonderful musician and great company with a lovely sense of humour. Never slow to help other musicians he would happily give guidance to anyone seeking advice and he showed me one or two banjo licks I never knew about including some modal tunings that were far too clever for my limited ability. He was a wonderful entertainer who could have given us so much more; but let’s be thankful for the music and joy he spread around with such boundless enthusiasm. He lost his battle with his health problems on Sunday August 2nd. One thing is certain. There will never be another Jim Couza and the world of music is all the poorer for his passing.


Dear Joe,
I’m not sure if we have ever met, but I have been receiving your emailed Ramblings for quite some time. I was brought up in the UK, but have been in the USA since age 15 (1960). After some informal coaching by Lou Killen in the 1960s, I have been performing 18th-century British folksongs for visitors to Colonial Williamsburg. I also teach English Country Dancing every week – our group meets Tuesdays 8-10PM at 710 South Henry Street, Williamsburg, Virginia, so if you ever find yourself in this area please drop in. Perhaps you have encountered the dance “Corelli’s Maggot,” which has achieved a certain amount of notoriety on both sides of the Atlantic; my wife & I wrote it one evening while doing the washing-up after dinner!

Now, about Muslims: Muslims in general are just as nice as Christians or people of any other religion. Very often, however, right-wing fanatics of any religion (including Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Hindus) accentuate the more violent side of their heritage. The modern problem arises when the Wahabbi (I hope I got the spelling right!) sect of ultra-conservative Muslims in Saudi Arabia found that they had access to enormous amounts of revenue paid by Western countries for petroleum. Using that money, the Wahabbis have been sending congregation leaders of their stripe to shape up Muslims in other countries (including the UK and the US) into their backward views, and they have been financing maddrasas (religious schools) in Muslim countries such as Pakistan that lack a proper educational system. The theory is that a maddrasa education is better than no education at all, even if many of the products of the maddrasas turn out to be right-wing vicious thugs, some of whom join Al Qaeda. Every time we fill up our tanks with petrol or diesel we are paying for the expansion of the Wahabbi maddrasas – we are shooting ourselves in the foot every day! Because we have been buying so much petroleum for so long, the Wahabbis have a huge head-start on us, but all is not lost yet.

What can the West do about this situation? Ideally, the West could stop buying in-the-ground petroleum and cut the producers off dead, but who could afford to go without petroleum? Actually, very soon we all could! The Solazyme Company in San Francisco, according to the prestigious Aviation Week Magazine, has been in profitable production since at least September 2008 of artificial petroleum made from sea water and the algae that naturally live in sea water. This process is profitable as long as oil sells for more than $39 per barrel (this week, it is selling for $65 per barrel). Since sea water and the algae that live in it are virtually unlimited, it should be possible to scale this process up relatively quickly so that all countries of the world with a sea-coast can make all their own oil. An added advantage is that all the carbon in the artificial fuel was taken by the algae out of the carbon-dioxide already in the atmosphere, so this system represents a closed cycle that never adds a single gram of carbon-dioxide to the atmosphere! This artificial petroleum has been subjected to rigorous testing in the past year, and has been successfully used in jet aircraft, among other applications.

Several other companies are working on similar processes. I hear that both Shell and BP are hard at work, but so far the rival processes claim not to be profitable at an oil price of less than $65 per barrel. Maybe they will have to pay royalties to the Solazyme people and use their process instead. There are also other companies already in profitable production of artificial petroleum made from wood chips, wheat stalks, excess vegetation, the parts of animal carcasses we don’t eat, and animal “poop” (and presumably possible to include human “poop” as well).

In parallel to the cutting off of oil revenues that fund the fundamentalist poison-spreading, Western countries need to work with the governments of countries that are at risk to build and maintain a first-class state educational system for them, rendering the maddrasas unattractive. When we completely cut off buying in-the-ground petroleum, and build quality educational systems for countries that need it, the fundamentalist activities that so alarm many Westerners will quickly fade away. Muslims living in non-Muslim countries will resume the process of smooth integration into local society. Let’s get onto it right away!

Best wishes, John F. Millar (Virginia USA)

Hi Joe
Well as we get closer to old age I have to confess I don't see too many signs of it in your writings. What a hoot Jonathan and Aon bringing their marriage forward and you missing it. I expect you made the best of the trip anyway. I must confess given the choice of watching Manchester United play Barcelona and any living creatures fighting to the death I know which would have been my choice. Congratulations on adding diversity to the Stead branch of the family. The Skrine's have also done their bit to improve world relations. We have a Maori/Dutch, my sister in law Margaret (who is married to Patrick); a Korean/Fijian, my nephew Michael's wife Lindy-Ann (Sarah and Tony's son); a Croation,Sarah's husband Tony and two Jews - my niece Jessica's husband Justin (whom I think you may have met) and Pete's (my brother) wife Irene. No Muslims though. Where do the Italians come into the family?

I am certain we heard the news about Peter Harvey on the news in NZ. Yes, teachers are expected to have the patience of saints and there are 'swines' who know they can push the boundaries as far as they like without punishment. Generally, I have always been happy that Corporal Punishment, like Capital Punishment has been abolished. For me, Corporal Punishment justified being a bully (In some cases). However, there are times, I wonder whether it was such a good idea for it to be abolished. We recently had a case in Dunedin where a University Lecturer, suffering from narcissism stabbed his ex-partner 216 times and used the defense of provocation; the good news is he was found guilty of murder. Like we needed a trial by jury to reach that conclusion. Now, to think that Clayton Weatherston would get 'a bullet in the head' would have been a far better solution. Far more humane than the mutilation of his ex partner, Sophie Elliott. So, yes there are pro's and con's on the subject. We consider ourselves to have evolved to be better human beings with the rationale that two wrongs don't equal a right and all that claptrap. There is no easy solution, I think.

As far as my own experience of Corporal Punishment goes; I have never forgotten in my first year at Wootton Bassett Secondary Modern School being smacked over the back of my hand with a dessert spoon for fiddling with the cutlery during grace at lunchtime. I expect the teacher would still justify it as 'reasonable action'. The good news is "no permanent damage to my delicate knuckles". Anyway Joe I considered it unreasonable then and thinking back, I still do.

Sarah and I are flying to London in late November. Jessica is having baby number two (she could have picked a slightly better time of year - like Spring or Summer haha). Tony will not leave his business and Sarah will not fly alone, so I get to be 'travelling companion'. It is all rather exciting. We will be in the UK for 3 weeks and arrive back in NZ a week before Christmas and no doubt appreciation of somewhat warmer weather. We will try to bring a heat wave with us.

Anyway Joe........ Life is what we make it and I can't say I have too many complaints, certainly none worth putting into print. I trust Nora is well and no doubt your Banjo is getting a good work out.

Love from your Kiwi Cuz,


Well done Joe,
I very much enjoy reading your 'Ramblings' and take great pleasure in the fact that there is still someone who is not afraid to express their feelings and leave them open for discussion.
As a non sports person my suggestion for the Kiwi said competition would be: "Don't like rugby mate, pass me that towel please."
Ron Gardner


Always mean to say "thank you" for sending this along. It brightens my day and provides food for thought on issues prominent in the UK that we don't hear about much across the pond!
I sincerely hope all is well with you and family.
Chuck (somewhere in the US of A)


Dear Old Codger,
As a former school pupil who received beatings almost every day, including a rounder’s bat across the base of my spine at the age of 10, which required surgery later in life, I object most strongly about campaigning for the re-introduction of child abuse,

It's abuse, pure and simple, usually carried out by cowards who can't teach without resorting to violence. That only teaches the kids to resort to the same. Abusers were usually abused themselves. As or the type and level of pain to be metered out, who decides that?

I never knew anybody at school or since who have been deterred from rebellious behaviour by resorting to corporal punishment, whether by a slap around the head, the cane, slipper or strap on hand or arse. Nor did it have an effect on irrational kids or those who didn't care, since they received worse at home.

I remember some, even welcomed the status of being beaten, just as many of today's ASBOs are welcomed as a streetwise sign that they are bad and not to be confronted. One lad even nutted the judge when he was bound over, so he would be sent to Borstal because his brother was already there.

Yes, some children were sacred of punishment. They were those who rationalised and could be dealt with by any half-way decent teacher, a word with a parent and some counselling.

The trouble is, too many teachers were/are from middle class backgrounds, having gone to college and teacher training {now universities] and aren't experienced enough to teach children from deprived, often abused backgrounds, so actually exacerbate the problem.

I did have teachers who resorted to reason and employing the fact that they wee experienced. As for those weak teachers who resorted to the cane because they could, they only reinforced the idea that they were weak, especially when they clearly demonstrated that their heart wasn't in it.

Some of us would even prefer the cane from them, as it avoided detention, since it served to keep us in doors when we only wanted out. In my case, too do my job as a butcher's boy. If I was late for that, I also had a clip around the ear.

No it didn't stop me rebelling, it only impressed on me, that they were bullies and cowards which I could I take on physically or, which worked better, demonstrate I was more intelligent. Yes, it did provoke, especially when I refused to be beaten, the reason why I was smashed to the floor with the rounder’s bat.

Of course, I, like a lot of people get annoyed and feel like resorting to violence and have. That doesn't make it right. Nor, in the long run did it accomplish the same sense of shame as you do when you demonstrate you're more intelligent than those trapped in their own ignorance.

What next , encourage pedophiles because they claim to "love children"?

Jeff Sawtell

Joe ––
"Within the Stead family framework I can now include Buddhists, Rastafarians and Italians."

"Knock, knock!"
"Who's there?"
"Eskimos, Christians and Italians!"
"Eskimos, Christians and Italians who?"
"Eskimos Christians and Italian no lies!"

Serves ya right -- and sorry 'bout the dropped terminal "s"...

Eric Cowell.


From Eric Cowell at Brewhouse.
Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken wall at an MP's house.
One is from Luton, another is from Birmingham, and the third is from Leeds.

All three go with the parliamentary official to examine the wall.
The Birmingham contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil.
"Well," he says, "I figure the job will run about £9000: £4000 for materials, £4000 for my crew and £1000 profit for me."

The Leeds contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, "I can do this job for £7000: £3000 for materials, £3000 for my crew and £1000 profit for me."

The Luton contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to the MP and whispers, "£17,000."

The MP, incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?"
The Luton contractor whispers back, "£5000 for me, £5000 for you, and we hire the guy from Leeds to fix the wall."

"Done!" replies the MP.




Brian invited his mother over for dinner. During the course of the meal, Brian's mother couldn't help but notice how beautiful Brian's roommate, Jennifer, was. Brian's Mum had long been suspicious of the platonic relationship between Brian and Jennifer, and this had only made her more curious. Over the course of the evening, while watching the two interact, she started to wonder if there was more between Brian and Jennifer than met the eye. Reading his mum's thoughts, Brian volunteered, 'I know what you must be thinking, but I assure you Jennifer and I are just roommates.' About a week later, Jennifer came to Brian saying, 'Ever since your mother came to dinner, I've been unable to find the beautiful silver gravy ladle. You don't suppose she took it, do you?' Brian said, 'Well, I doubt it, but I'll send her an e-mail just to be sure. So he sat down and wrote this:

Hello Mum,

I'm not saying that you 'did' take the gravy ladle from the house, I'm not saying that you 'did not' take the gravy ladle. But the fact remains that one has been missing ever since you were here for dinner.

Love, Brian

A few hours later, Brian received an email back from his mother that read:

Hello Son,

I'm not saying that you 'do' sleep with Jennifer, I'm not saying that you 'do not' sleep with Jennifer. But the fact remains that if Jennifer is sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the gravy ladle by now.

Love, Mum


Two young boys walked into a pharmacy one day, picked out a box of tampons and proceeded to the checkout counter.

The man at the counter asked the older boy, 'Son, how old are you?'

'Eight', the boy replied.

The man continued, 'Do you know what these are used for?'

The boy replied, 'Not exactly, but they aren't for me. They're for him.
He's my brother. He's four. We saw on TV that if you use these, you would be able to swim and ride a bike.

Important Quotes

"I married your mother because I wanted children, imagine my disappointment when you came along."
Groucho Marx

"I feel so miserable without you, it's almost like having you here."
Stephen Bishop

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." Clarence Darrow

"I never liked him and I always will."
Dave Clark

"I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me."
Fred Allen

"I regard you with an indifference bordering on aversion."
Robert Louis Stevenson

"He hasn't an enemy in the world - but all his friends hate him."
Eddie Cantor

"He looked as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food."
Raymond Chandler

"He's completely unspoiled by failure."
Noel Coward

"He's liked, but he's not well liked."
Arthur Miller

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork."
Mae West

Keep smiling, keep singing,
Joe Stead