Legendary folk fiddler Dave Swarbrick tells us about a pivotal moment in his early musical career.
“So, we entered this skiffle contest, the ‘Barr Beacon’ Skiffle group, 2 guitars, tea chest bass and washboard. The prize for winning was to meet two famous people. Who could it be we wondered? Derek thought it might be Lonnie Donegan, I thought it might be Tommy Steele, Barry, who was never positive about anything was right. We won and we were presented to Beryl and Roger Marriott! Who are they? we whispered to each other as this grey haired lady and very English Gentleman shook our hands.“That moment was to prove the luckiest moment of my life, for Beryl and Roger ran a stupendous ceilidh band, and were foremost on the dance and song scene mostly for the EFDSS but not by a long shot exclusively so. I went on to join the band, Beryl was of course the most spectacular pianist of her generation playing traditional music, and I soon progressed from guitar to (at her request) fiddle. She knew that I had played it as a child but had forsaken it for the guitar. ‘Guitarists’ she said ‘are ten a penny ducks. Fiddlers aren’t.’
“The band acted as a springboard for me, from it I went on to do the Radio Ballads, and join the Ian Campbell folk group, and from the Campbells I went on to team up with Martin Carthy, travelling the world and making umpteen albums. We did reviews in Denmark, weaving our minstrel way through the strippers, to Texas booze joints to Bradford, Huddersfield and Bootle. Later (when we disbanded) we went on to play Australia, Hong Kong, NZ, etc. many times with many laughs.
“‘Hello Swarb, do you mind playing electric fiddle?’ said Simon Nicol to me.
“I was being introduced for the Unhalfbricking sessions. We had never met before and Simon was putting me at my ease.
“‘Yes’ I said, you see, I have always been hard of hearing.
“The journey from there to here is a long and winding one, through Liege & Lief, Full House, through delirious hours of mirth and glorious memories of Richard and Sandy, who plays the bass better than Peggy? The drumming of Dave Mattacks and Bruce Rowland, on to too many wonderful musicians to name, through to Whippersnapper, a lung transplant, Lazarus, Raison d’Etre, and whoa! It ain’t over yet!”
Thanks to Dave Swarbrick for the latest in our series of artist blogs.
This week sees the release of Fairport Convention’s 4Play, a new live double CD of 70s Fairport recordings assembled by Swarb on his label Shirty Records.
“These are live recordings that travelled the world with me. In the winter of 2005 while recovering from transplant surgery I transferred them from cassette to cd. Spent the next 5 years listening, sifting and editing, I thought way back then, that this was a great band, and now with the benefit of hindsight. I still do!” – Dave Swarbrick.
Catch Dave Swarbrick – solo, with Jason Wilson, or Martin Carthy – live this summer & autumn, including an appearance at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention in August.
More details on Swarb’s Gigs page.