Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger - Volume 184 - January 2016


Special Anniversary Issue

Volume 5



By 1973 Sweet Folk All Recordings was in full swing and totally unprepared to meet head on the phenomenon that was Shep Woolley.  I'd heard about him vaguely from others when in Portsmouth, seen him do a couple of floor spots but was not sure what to do when he approached me to record him.  "I'll sell hundreds" he said.  This statement I have to admit, remembering the old proverb about words and deeds, did not totally convince me.  He seemed an honest enough guy, not prone to lying, but certainly no stranger to exaggerating.  But I didn't really know him.  Of course most folkies exaggerated in those days, and a lot still do today, so "I'll sell hundreds" came as no surprise.  "Have to record it live though" he said.  I didn't ponder it for too long.  By now I already knew that artistes started to make Sweet Folk All Recordings a profit after they had sold somewhere between 200 and 250 items.  So I offered him a deal where I couldn't really lose; "Tell you what" I said "You pay me £350 now for the first 200 records and you have a deal."  And in no time at all we had a deal.  He was that confident he didn't even flinch.


Shep, the son of a miner, hailed from Tamworth in Staffordshire and he didn't have the slightest inclination to follow his dad down the pit.  So in 1960 at the age of 15 he joined the Navy starting his career as all the young lads did in those days at HMS Ganges in Suffolk




HMS Ganges had been a training base for boys and young recruits since 1865.  Originally a ship, Ganges became land based first in Falmouth Cornwall, later moving to Harwich and then Shotley in Suffolk.  When Shep joined corporal punishment was still a form of discipline, indeed the cane or birch was used in the navy right through until 1975.  Life was exceedingly strict at Ganges and it was here that Shep would write a song about The Long Covered Way.  The song, sung to the tune of The Mountain's of Mourn,  was probably inspired by a fellow recruit fresh out of a Doctor Bernardo Home and Orphanage who given trousers with holes in the pockets promptly lost 6 bullets.  The punishment, six strikes with a cane, would have been for two reasons.  Firstly and most importantly for having lost the bullets and secondly for not having sown the holes in the first place.  Apparently he was taken to a room wearing only shorts.  After each strike of the cane the shorts were lowered by a second officer to examine the buttocks to ensure the birch had not raised blood.  The punishment ceased either after 6 strikes or when blood appeared. 



Long Covered Way


Oh really this Shotley's a terrible site

They teach us by day and they beat us by night

They educate us with words that they've said

WE sow our names in our kit with a red silky thread

But when our fingers are sore and our sowing's complete

They say lay out your kit at the instructor's feet

And if I had a choice I would leave here today

But I'm stood on my own in the Long Covered Way


Now joining the navy a brilliant idea

But God curse the bastard who sent us all here

In his recruiting office he's sipping his tea

While we drink the slush from the old CMG

He spoke to my mother so mild and so meek

But he'll send one more load of kids here next week

Just don't believe a word that they say

And it's cold on your own in the Long Covered Way


They've taken me civvies and cut off my hair

And given me ill fitting clothing to wear

And just when I thought all the danger had passed

They said we must climb up that bloody big mast

I stood on the rattlings a quaking with fear

Hope the bloke on the top doesn't get the diarrhea

When I come down, well I'll be on my way

Away from this place and the Long Covered Way


And now it's "Stand easy" don't that sound like fun

A hot cup on Kai and a hard current bun

But we talked in the line our instructor's turned pale

And now he's refusing to give us our mail

That drag arse'd fat bastard is sneaky and sly

I'd give a week's pay just to poke out his eye

But I suppose that would waste a week's pay

No fun with no mones in the Long Covered Way


They gave us a rifle to fire in the butts

This kid lost 6 bullets they gave him six cuts

WE laughed and we joked and we thought it a farce

Till we saw the bruises that crisscrossed his arse

That grown men could do this I couldn't believe

For such treatment as this he just didn't deserve

But no use complaining they have the last say

And the wind howls at night in The Long Covered Way


Now I miss my mother and I miss my dad

My brothers and sisters and it makes me sad

But the day of instruction whilst learning the course

This kid said he don't have a family at all

Except Doody and Bruisey and these mates of mine

And all of the lads who live in Cappell Nine

So I'll did in my heels and it's here I will stay

With my brothers who live in the Long Covered Way


We'll do what they tell us we'll bend all their rules

These foppish DO's and their instructors tools

And one day to the Fleet boys we'll all sail away

And they know what to do with their Long Covered Way

Junior seaman Woolley TO35675 HMS Ganges 5th January 1960




  1. The long Covered Way – was a slow sloping colonnade about 700 yards long. It was an access to boys living quarters on either side. It was often used as a punishment area where boys were made to double march carrying all manner of items in their arms, from Lee Enfield 303 Rifles to spit kids or loaded kitbags. Sometimes an oil skin coat worn back to front was the order of the day, and often a gasmask as well.


  1. Kai – Chocolate drink


  1. Cuts – Stroke so the birch or cane.


  1. CMG – Central Main Galley (Dining Room)


Shep's own description runs like this...........


I took the most beautiful tune that I knew and put this not so beautiful story to it and of all the songs & stories I have written about the Royal Navy’s boys training establishment HMS Gangs at Shotley Gate in Suffolk; this song is the most harrowing and one that brings a tear to the eye of many who joined there.


The establishment is viewed through the eyes of a fifteen-year-old trainee (Me) who couldn’t return home because he had signed for nine years.  If caught running away it would mean six strokes of the birch; and although he longs to be back home, he also knew that he would not be able to withstand the taunts of his school friends for  ‘Not being able to take it’. So the answer was to ‘Dig in & Win!’


‘Ganges’ toughened me up, taught me how to be a man & a sailor, however the regime was so tough, that it left scars that thousands of boys who are now men still bear to this day.




By the time I met Shep in 1973 he was 28 years old and HMS Ganges was but a distant memory.  He had sailed around the world again and again and in those thirteen years he had spent his spare time on shore performing as a guitarist/singer in pop groups; not only in GB but anywhere his ship had docked for any period of time.  The 'Dee Tees' and 'The Downbeats Ltd' being but two of the groups.  Of course the folk scene in Britain had taken a grip on the country in the 1960's but as Shep had spent a good part of that time at sea, or docked in foreign climes, the folk scene that I had grown up with passed him by.  But when he eventually came back to Britain more permanently he soon became acquainted with the folk clubs in Portsmouth such as The Railway Tavern a fabulous club that ran in Fratton for many, many years on a Monday night.  He ran into luminaries such as Jon Isherwood and Pat Nelson whom I have written about in earlier chapters.  And so it was probably at The Railway Tavern that we first crossed paths.  It was probably here that he told me he would sell hundreds.  And it was here and now that his image changed from just another average pop singer to a folk superstar within the navy.




And so it was we all made our way to The Sunshine Inn Folk Club in Farlington.  John Hassell was again my engineer.  The recording was done, the tapes were edited and a few months later the LP (SFA 008 - Pipe Down) was released.  I sent Shep the 200 copies he had already paid for and got on with my life.  Seven days later however he wanted another 100.  The first 200 had been sold within 7 days!  And thus it went on.  The first 500 that I had pressed were bought by Shep and sold within a month.  I could not believe the speed they were going out of my office.  HMV in Portsmouth phoned me ordering 50 copies.  Another record shop phoned me from Plymouth ordering 25.  HMV in Oxford Street wanted some.  Shep had become a super star almost over night.  I soon realised something that had passed me by when we first met.  He had an incredible following within the navy and this soon spread right across the general public especially in Portsmouth; and it all started at HMS Ganges.  Having never served in any military environment I cannot fully appreciate the comradeship men or women have for each other who have served and whilst HMS Ganges was a hell hole place to be it certainly cemented friendships that would last a life time.



Shep with John and Rozanne Evans - The Sailmakers


Shep was to make three LP's for Sweet Folk All in quick succession.  The second SFA 028 also recorded at the Sunshine Inn had a slightly longer title - 'Songs for oars and scrubbers and other dirty habits'.  The third 'Goodbye Sailor', recorded at The Whaley Club HMS Excellent on the 28th July 1976 was a double LP and marked Shep's exit from the Navy to go into the entertainment game full time.  


And so it was that I bumped straight into a phenomenon that day in 1973 without realising it.  "I'll sell hundreds" he said.  The truth is he sold thousands.  And do you know I've never even bought him a curry.


Every superstar, because that is what he became, has one song everybody wants to hear.  Shep wrote a song called 'Ram it I'm RDP' (RDP means Run down period).  He got the idea and nearly all the tune from his old mate at the time Jon Isherwood.  The song is featured on 'Pipe Down'.  It became so notorious throughout the navy that the military band played the tune on the Ark Royal as she was sailing into Portsmouth for the last time before being decommissioned in 1979.  It basically, tongue in cheek, explains what the general rating thinks of the navy.  It's a very clever song.


Along through the years, despite my niggardly close-fisted and miserly parsimony, Shep has become a close friend.  He has sung with Liza Minnelli, Joe Brown, Chas and Dave and all manner of people and become a true star in his own right.  He's made countless recordings both in the long playing format and on compact disc; but none of them have sold as well as his first LP



A year went by and then one Sunday night whilst gigging in Horsham I found myself following a couple of young lads completely unknown to me, and probably at that time to the rest of the world outside of Brighton and perhaps Exeter, who had driven up to Horsham from Brighton College to do a floor spot.  They were just amazing and I immediately wanted to record them.  I had not seen talent the likes of this before.   They didn't need to tell me they would sell hundreds of LP's, I knew they would.



But I was introduced to start my second set immediately they came off stage so I had no chance to chat to them.  All I had time to say was "Don't go home before I finish I want to talk to you".  Thankfully they were still in the room when my set ended.  They introduced themselves as Paul Downes and Phil Beer.

"What are you doing next Thursday" I said

"Nothing much" came the reply

"Would you like to make an LP?  I've got some spare studio time, someone's just cancelled" (which was true).

Apparently they had come up to the stage area to talk to me one Saturday evening during the interval in The Double Locks Public House in Exeter four or five years previously back in the 1960's when both had still been at school.  I did vaguely remember having the conversation although what we would have chatted about is long forgotten now as it was then on that fortuous Sunday evening in Horsham.  The original conversation was certainly long before I had started either the agency or the recording company. 


But the chance was too good to miss so not only did I record them I cajoled them into coming onto the agency too.  I sent them all over Britain, sometimes for a pittance, but they were working an apprenticeship in a medium where club owners were very discerning whom they booked and whilst a known name like Jasper Carrott, or Alex Campbell would fill a club, Downes and Beer, being an unknown entity, would not.  When they weren't gigging I had them sessioning on countless LP's over a ten year period that included such luminaries as Alex Campbell, and Shag Connor and the Carrot Crunchers to name but two.  I guess they sessioned on nearly 100 albums in total which included a lot of country and western stuff.  They both took to it like ducks to water.  Phil Beer went on to work with The Rolling Stones and Mike Oldfield and many others before forming Show of Hands with another old school mate from Exeter, Steve Knightley.



Of course such talent could not be restrained forever and they've both gone on to become super stars in their own right.  They were so talented they would doubtless have got there without my help but I'm sure they will agree that I gave them both a good boot in the right direction.




An interesting booking at this time found me in Eastbourne one Saturday afternoon at a school with Michael Rosen.  Now famous of course, Rosen was completely unknown to me, and he entertained me certainly.  The children loved him.  I was able to perform a great deal of material I had learnt from Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. Michael row the boat ashore, Kum ba ya, On top of Old Smokey, Jimmie crack corn, The  car song, Howdy do, When I first came to this land, Abiyoyo, One big fat hen etc.  But I listened to Michael carefully that afternoon and learnt a lot about presentation, especially to children, quickly learning 'Going on a bear hunt'; a story song I've used many, many times since.  'Going on a bear hunt' was to prove very useful in America later in my life where grown ups seemed to adore it.  Especially in Cape May.  But Rosen was supreme.  He held the children spellbound.  I imagine he still does.


Michael Rosen as he looks today


As I looked then



As 1973 slowly rolled around through 1974 and into 1975 I was busy recording both in the studio and on location when not gigging.  The infamous Liverpool poet Brian Jaques was recorded along side Jon Isherwood at Jasper Carrott's Boggery Folk Club in Solihull.

Brian Jaques


Malcolm Price, Don Shepherd, John the Fish, and the Wild Oats were all put onto vinyl by Alan Green at his new studio 'The Mid Wales Sound Studios' in Llanfair Caereinion.  Alan had built his own desk and was able to record 4 track.  This was an entirely new invention.  Even the Beatles had recorded most of their albums in the early days two track.  Now with four track we were able to record very slightly in layers.  Alan was a very clever guy.  He was about four weeks older than me and had spent his very early years ice skating.  Apparently he was very good at it and won many dance competitions with Heather Hibbert.  However Heather was just a wee bit better than Alan and by 1963 she had teamed up with Robin Jones.  Together they won the World and British Professional Ice Championship in 1963 and 1964 then came 2nd in 1965 but first in the British that year.  Peter Jones was British men's Champion in 1959 and 1961 and came 12th in Olympics and 6th in Europe and 14th in Worlds. 


The Malcolm Price session was extra-ordinary for a number of reasons.  Malcolm suddenly discovered through his friend John Atkins that Bill Keith and Jim Rooney were in the country doing a tour of mainly country and western venues and they had a couple of days off that coincided with the days we had allotted for Malcolm to record.  Bill Keith had previously been a member of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys and was rated at the time, and for many years after, as the finest five string banjo player in the world.  Bill decided he would get the best sound from his banjo if he stood in the corner of the room facing into the corner.  Malcolm reckoned it was to stop him seeing what Bill's fingers were doing.  Jim Rooney on the hand was no slouch either.  During the early 1960s he had served as director and talent coordinator for the Newport Folk Festival, moving to Woodstock, N.Y., in the early 1970s to manage at Albert Grossman's Bearsville Sound Studio.  He later moved to Nashville and released a series of solo albums and produced projects by Townes Van Zandt, Hal Ketchum, Bonnie Raitt and others including Nanci Griffith.  So we were really lucky to have them on board.  After the first day, when we recorded 7 tracks that made up Side I, we spent the evening in Castle Caereinion in The Red Lion Inn where Jim Rooney bought me a drink.  I mention this only because Ritchie Bull made a big thing about it - apparently Jim was not known at that time for buying people drinks. 


British folk singer and guitarist Malcolm Price in a recording studio, circa 1969.

Malcolm Price

Well we got absolutely plastered after Bill and Jim had driven back to the hotel where the band was booked for the night.  At about 2am in the morning Malcolm decided he wanted to do a bit more recording and thus started the most incredible impromptu session with Malcolm, Ritchie Bull, John Atkins and Mick French in which I've ever been involved.  We just turned on the desk and left them to it.  Between tracks such as 'Let me be your sidetrack', 'Homestead on the Farm', 'Red Balloon', and 'The pig got up and slowly walked away' Malcolm talked at length about his times in Soho with certain ladies who enjoyed using whips.  As a result the front cover of the album was an illustration from Kitch by Jacques Sternberg, with the title fitting the 'pig' song.  Just what Bill Keith and Jim Rooney from their very conservative backgrounds thought of it I'm not sure.  Anyway I sent them both a copy and Bill sent me an acknowledgement saying he very much enjoyed it.  Ritchie Bull drove his car into two ditches on the way back to the hotel, the second time staying in the car whilst Malcolm, John and Mick walked back to the hotel arriving apparently at 7.23am just in time for breakfast.  At some point during the evening Ritchie Bull was lighting farts; it was a very strange night.




Special Anniversary Issue

Volume 5


The End.


Meanwhile, back in the real world I would firstly like to wish all my readers a happy and peaceful new year,  I've had some lovely letters this past month from Spain, America, Australia and furthermore from really strange places in Yorkshire.  (One letter regarding Jon Rennard does not give the correct facts as I know them).  All are very much appreciated.  It's your letters that keep me going.  So many of you over the last 4 months have both written and suggested verbally that I should write a book I am now seriously considering getting it together.  Time will tell if I finish it !!!  I did start one nine years ago to be honest and then kicked the project into touch because at that time I really didn't think many people would be very interested in some of the stupid things I've done in my life.  After all I'm not Martin Carthy or Pete Seeger.  (Ooops - not suggesting they've done silly things; it just reads like that)  Books by and about Martin and Pete really are interesting.  So the bits and pieces you are reading today and tomorrow; and the bits you read yesterday will all be included.  But there will be a lot more in the book; some of it hopefully comical. I will also include some of the best jokes too.  Special joke section at the end - courtesy actually of you lot out there who send them to me.  Keep 'em coming.  If I don't find a publisher to pay me enormous amounts of dosh, I will self publish myself with a limited run of ten; or perhaps fifteen.


Well I warned you about global warming ten maybe twelve years ago.  Pete Seeger has warned us countless times in his songs and stories; so I guess perhaps I was just repeating what he was saying.  But at least I was listening, which is more than you can say about the idiots who run this country and nearly all the others.  There is still time to sing some of his songs and I know that one or two of you are now seriously considering performing 'Darkest before the dawn' which I wrote based mainly on Pete's song 'Quite Early Morning'.  Don't worry about Copyright.  Pete's quick card of approval is shown below.  Any recording should carry the appendage 'Written by Joe Stead with permission from Pete Seeger.  Melody same as "Quite Early Morning"': Send royalties to The Royalty Network, 227 West 30th Street, New York 10001. USA.  You can find the song on the Kimber's Men CD - In Port.  Regrettably we no longer sing the song as the rest of the band object to performing political songs even when they have a nautical connection.  But that shouldn't stop you.


As you may know the whole of the Calder Valley was seriously affected by the floods.  I was fortunate as I live on a hill well clear of the badly affected areas.  I should at this point applaud Neil Kimber for the sterling work he has put in however helping shopkeepers and others clear up the mess.  Well done Neil.


I've been looking after the administration side of Kimber's Men since I formed the band in the summer of 2001.  However after 14 years I've decided, with total agreement from the rest of the lads, that it is time somebody else took the reigns.  It makes sense really.  I'm 75 next year and I don't foresee me going on forever.  It's no secret, because as I told you many months ago, that I have a form of cancer that is treatable but not curable.  I don't expect to die next week.  I don't expect to die next month or next year, but being realistic I don't expect to see 85 and if I do I probably won't be able to sing like I do today.  So John Bromley will be looking after bookings, song lists etc under my guidance from January 1st onwards.  You can contact John by telephone on 01422-358793 or by email  BromleyJohnbrom@aol.com .  But he won't respond to you until the middle of January due to holiday commitments.  I will still be looking after compact discs and finance.  And don't go feeling sorry for me; I've outlived many of my contemporaries and I don't want to end up in a nursing home having my bottom wiped by a nurse who clearly doesn't like me.


So here is where you can find Kimber's Men in the next 12 months.


Fixture List for Kimber's Men and Joe Stead



Jan 6th (Joe) Pudsey Men's Forum - Valparaiso round the Horn

Jan 30th (KM) Beeston Methodist Church, Chilwell Rd, Beeston, Notts. NG9 1EH

Feb 1st (KM) Barnsley Folk Club, Barnsley Trades Club, Racecommon Rd.

Feb 3rd (Joe) Bolton Methodist Church, Bolton Road Bradford BD2 4LB - Valparaiso

Feb 5th (KM) West Deeping Village Hall, King St, West Deeping, Lincs PE6 9HP

Feb 6th (KM) Afternoon workshop Caistor School - Provisional

Feb 6th (KM) Binbrook Village Hall, Kirmond Rd, Binbrook, Lincs PE10 0NR

Feb 12th (KM) Burton Joyce Village Hall, Trent Lane, Burton Joyce, NG14 5EY

Feb 13th (KM) Gunthorpe Village Hall, Davids Lane , Gunthorpe. NG14 7EW

Feb 19th (KM) Long Whatton Community Cente, The Green, Long Whatton.

Feb 20th (KM) Elmesthorpe Village Hall, Wilkinson Lane, Elmesthorpe. LE9 7SP

Feb 26th (KM) Morton Village Hall, High St, Morton, Lincolnshire PE10 0NR

Feb 27th (KM) Market House, Market Street, Long Sutton Spalding PE12 9DD

Mar 4th (KM) The Norbreck Castle Hotel, Bispham. With The Houghton Weavers

Mar 18th (KM) Harmston Memorial Hall, School Lane, Harmston. LN5 9SN

Mar 19th (KM) Frampton Village Hall, Middlegate Rd, Frampton, Boston PE20 1AR

Apr 25th (KM) Stavros S Niarchos

Apr 26th (KM) Stavros S Niarchos

Apr 27th (KM) Stavros S Niarchos

Apr 28th (KM) Stavros S Niarchos

Apr 29th (KM) Stavros S Niarchos

May 1st (KM) Rochester Sweeps Festival

May 2nd (KM) Rochester Sweeps Festival

May 8th (KM) Royal Traditions Shanty Workshop, Dungworth, Yorkshire

May 20th (KM) Clennell Hall Folk Festival

May 21st (KM) Clennell Hall Folk Festival

May 22nd (KM) Shepley Folk Festival with The Skelmanthorpe Brass Band

May 26th (KM) Ostend at Anchor Festival, Belgium.

May 27th (KM) Ostend at Anchor Festival, Belgium.

May 28th (KM) Ostend at Anchor Festival, Belgium.

May 29th (KM) Ostend at Anchor Festival, Belgium.

Jun 17th (KM) Mylor

Jun 18th (KM) Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival

Jun 19th (KM) Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival

Aug 5th (KM) Broadstairs Folk Festival - Provisional

Aug 6th (KM) Broadstairs Folk Festival - Provisional

Aug 7th (KM) Broadstairs Folk Festival - Provisional

Aug 8th (KM) Broadstairs Folk Festival - Provisional

Oct 2nd (KM) Tosside Community Centre

Oct 15th (KM) Churchdown Community Centre - Provisional

Nov 25th (KM) The Market Theatre, Sun Street, Hitchin.

Nov 26th (KM) Shaftesbury Art Centre, 13 Bell Street, Shaftesbury


Jan 20th (KM) Sixmilebridge Festival, County Clare - Provisional

Jan 21st (KM) Sixmilebridge Festival, County Clare - Provisional

Jan 22nd (KM) Sixmilebridge Festival, County Clare - Provisional

Apr 14th (KM) Greenwich Tall Ship's Festival - Provisional

Apr 15th (KM) Greenwich Tall Ship's Festival - Provisional

Apr 16th (KM) Greenwich Tall Ship's Festival - Provisional

Aug 17th (KM) Greenwich Tall Ship's Festival - Provisional








What a great pleasure reading about your adventures in decades gone by.


The reason I'm still up at 2.40am is that every Monday I go to a pub in Redfern (adjacent suburb) - just a small wine bar really - where between 9-11pm we sing sea shanties and I'm nearly always too keyed up to get to sleep! It's been going since about May last year - organised by a couple of young theatre guys and the audience is mostly under thirty years of age! They teach the shanties line by line and the whole pub joins in (only holds 50 - there's often a queue outside waiting for someone to leave so they can get in!). And the singing gets better and better and a lot of them are writing their own songs. It's an amazing phenomenon. They're very sweet and respectful of us old farts. I had a young fellow tonight - mid 20s? - saying that "If he was ten years older...." he loves my rendition of Shallow Brown so much! Check out the Redfern Shanty Club facebook page.


And hey! they've taught me a thing or two about politics. No one get's paid; everyone gets a chance to lead a song including the females; they never take for granted that everyone will know the songs - they teach them every time; if there's sexist or racist elements in the song, they try to give the context; the main lead singers resist attempts to give themselves a name that distinguishes them from the club when they get bookings at festivals - the same egalitarian rules apply at all their gigs outside Redfern. So I'm having more fun at 72 than I've had for years!!


And Joe - you've done a great job with the reworking of Darkest Before the Dawn.

Would you mind if the Roaring Forties sang it?

We do political songs and shanties in equal number so the lads won't need to be pushed!


And the funnies - I laughed myself silly!! thank you.


All the best to you and Nora.

Lots of love

Margaret Walters - Australia




Dear Joe,

Thanks again for your continuing reminiscences!

Here in the States, we just passed our Thanksgiving holiday and for me it's truly a time to be thankful. Back in the spring I didn't know if I'd see another birthday (October 13), much less Thanksgiving or the Holidays. I'm undergoing radiation treatments now that will, it is hoped, prevent a relapse of the lymphoma. Somehow we go on.

Hoping all is well with you as we advance relentlessly into the Holiday season!

Jan Christensen - New York



Hi Joe,

Your piece on Jon Rennard brought me up short with quite an emotional kick. I used to run a folk club here in Harrogate in the early seventies and Jon was our guest on a couple of occasions and he instantly became what felt like a good friend. I suspect many club organisers will have that same story to tell, but not what follows. On the second visit he saw me playing my lute during a floor spot and was really taken with it. He told me he was in the process of putting together a tour of Britain that he intended to extend onto the continent. He went on to say the lute would be such an unusual sight that he wanted me to join him and for us to play together on the tour. Accordingly he came to my house a couple of weeks later and we started to incorporate my playing into some of his accompaniments. He even had the crazy idea of us doing a ragtime piece with the lute, to provide a really zany meeting of styles.

A week later a girl who I understand was one of his many 'close female friends' was sobbing uncontrollably at the folk club and had to be taken home by friends. I asked one of our members what was wrong and he told me Jon had died in a car crash. I was shell-shocked. Having been with him only days before I just couldn't believe it. Sadly it was true.

Ray Black





Dear Joe,

You lead a remarkable life. I enjoy your Ramblings very much and am glad to hear you're still alive and kicking.

Geoff Bartley

Host of the Monday Night Open Mike at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, Massachusetts.




Hi Joe!


This is the e-mail we sent to the contacts you gave me. I just wanted to let you know that the choir is going quite well and that we expect to meet you again next year in the shanty festivals.


I also wanted to thank you for your help and for all you taught us.


Hoping you are having a nice Christmas,


Ramon and Guillem, from El Pony Pisador






Jon Rennard... He played the Union Folk's club - think it was at the "Durham Ox" in Congleton. Last song was "The Parting Glass" and he was killed on the way home.

It's LONG tine ago and I was there seriously "illegally" and can't remember much about it other than thinking he was dishy. My mate John took me; he might remember, as we're still in touch. Ken Greenhough, the lead singer of the Union Folk, used to speak of him rapturously and the band were all deeply saddened at the news of his death. Was something about it on a Mudcat thread, I recall.

Susie Stockton Link




Hi Joe,

Great to read Ramblings again and looking forward to seeing if the 1975 live recording at Pateley Bridge is remembered. You may be interested to know that I am back shanty singing again, for about 6 months I have been standing in for Jim Lawton in the group Lime Scurvy and really enjoying the experience and hoping I would be asked to join the group when Jim was back in good health. Sadly Jim died on the 28  of November, his funeral is the 17 of December at which Lime Scurvy will be singing. It remains to be seen what will happen, if Jims partner Penny will want us to continue etc. Jim was a fine singer, a stalwart of Keighley Bacca Pipes and Otley Folk Club and he will be sorely missed. Carry on with your good work Joe and hopefully our paths will cross again in the future 

Zeke Deighton






What makes life 100%?

Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%?  We have all been to those meetings where someone wants over 100%.  How about achieving 103%?  Here's a little maths that might prove helpful.


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z is represented as:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.


H A R D W O R K  ( 8 1 18 4 23 15 18 11) = 98%

K N O W L E D G E (11 14 15 23 12 5 4 7 5 ) = 96%


A T T I T U D E (1 20 20 9 20 21 4 5 ) = 100%


B U L L S H I T ( 2 21 12 12 19 8 9 20 ) = 103%


So, it stands to reason that hard work and knowledge will get you close, attitude will get you there, but bullshit will put you over the top.








You have two cows.

You sell one and buy a bull.

Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.

You sell them and retire on the income.


AMERICAN  CAPITALISM (or Enron-capitalism):

You have two cows.

You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of

credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute

debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all

four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of

the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island

company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights

to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says

the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Sell one cow to

buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No

balance sheet provided with the release. The public buys your bull.



You have two cows.

You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.

You are surprised when the cow drops dead.



You have two cows.

You go on strike because you want three cows.



You have two cows.

You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and

produce 20 times the milk.

You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market

them world-wide.



You have two cows.

You reengineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and

milk themselves.



You have two cows.

Both are mad.



You have two cows, but you don't know where they are.

You break for lunch.



You have two cows.

You count them and learn you have five cows.

You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.

You count them again and learn you have 12 cows.

You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.



You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you.

You charge others for storing them.



You have two cows.

You have 300 people milking them.

You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the

newsman who reported the numbers.



You have two cows.

That one on the left is kind of cute...






And very finally:

What’s the difference between a rotweiller and a Jewish mother?


A rotweiller eventually lets go.



Keep smiling, keep singing