JOHN HARDY —
I first heard this song. from Shirley Collins of Hastings. The story of John hardy 's true. He worked for the Shawnee Coal Co. and he killed a man in the Coal Co. Camp, over a gambling dispute of 25 cents. He was hanged on the 19th of January, 1894 at Welch, McDowell County, West Virginia. This song was often mixed up with the song of John Henry and it is very difficult to know which of the verses are original John Hardy verses.
RIDING DOWN FROM BANGOR —
Bangor in this case refers to the Bangor in America (Maine) not the Bangor in Wales. This is an American stage song, also to be found in a number of student song books.
PRETTY POLLY —
This American ballad comes from an English ballad "The Gosport Tragedy". This was sung in England and the colonies about 1710.
John Jacob Niles claims he collected this song at the close of World War I, in Boulogne, where he says he heard a number of Barbados sailors singing it.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to A. L. Lloyd for helping me to compile these notes.
Previously not in evidence owing to guitar classes in the legendary suburbs, the bear like figure of Steve Benbow has recently been seen perambulating the streets of Soho. He could never be mistaken for the other pavement walkers. Lately he has also been heard singing some of the songs from his vast repertoire, in such haunts of the layabout musician as the Skiffle Cellar. Steve makes himself felt immediately, wherever he plays, as a formidable picker who can sing in four languages, and twelve dialects of them, not of course counting British variants. He must be heard to be disbelieved; for he is an authentic voice in folk music and in accompaniments his instrument frequently sounds like two guitars being played at once!
Good luck Steve Benbow — a remarkable guitarist and singer — here's to many a lusty session.
BALLAD OF LITTLE MUSGRAVE AND LADY BARNARD —
This ballad once well known in England and Scotland is now unfortunately rather rare. It is known to be at least 350 years old, as it is quoted in Beaumont Fletcher's "Knight of the Burning Pestle", which was written about 1611. I learned this song from A. L. Lloyd.
A BOY'S BEST FRIEND —
I also learned this song from A. L. Lloyd. It is seemingly a 19th Century stage nonsense song, originally English and also well-known in America. John R. T. Davies plays the rhythm guitar in this number.
TURPIN HERO —
This song, of course, is about the famous (or infamous) Dick Turpin. There are various tunes for this song, the one I have used is a tune very popular among folk-singers both in England and in Ireland and is used for a number of songs. John R. T. Davies plays the trombone intervals. I learned this song from Ewan MacColl.
GO DOWN YOU MURDERER —
Ewan MacColl wrote this moving modern ballad of the Evans and Christie Case. This case is frequently quoted for the justification of the abolition of the death penalty. Evans was hanged 9th March, 1950 and Christie on the 15th July, 1953. John R. T. Davies sings the choruses with me.
Notes from … Sings English Folk Songs
"Steve Benbow, ENGLISH FOLK SONGS … has given me more pleasure than any other". Owen Bryce in Disc, Jan. 20th, 1960, in a review of the year's top folk recordings. (Reproduced by kind mission of DISC magazine).
Traditionally, English folksong is usually unaccompanied. Where examples exist of accompanied singing, the preferred instrument would be a melodeon or another 'squeeze-box' family. The singer accompanying himself on the guitar is a product of the present folksong revival.
Today, the unaccompanied folksong is not readily accepted by the modern generation or town dwellers, but is, of course, of interest to the specialist and the folksong purist. However, people used to hearing their commercial popular music with a beat welcome the Benbow treatment of the old songs, Steve's repertoire includes many songs to listeners who are not necessarily folksong addicts, and his essentially rhythmic presentation commands attention. From the folksong purist view point, groups like Steve's are doing a fine job not even the most diehard purist could be offended by Steve's tasteful and musicianly treatments.
The line up of the group is Steve Benbow, vocal and guitar; Jimmy Macgregor, vocal, mandolin and twelve string guitar; Perry Friedman, vocal and banjo; Shirley Bland, vocal; Vic Pitt, bass.
Whaling in Greenland
This fine song, sung by Steve with the rest of the group as a chorus, tells of the perils of whale fishing in the old days. Remember the harpooning sequences from 'Moby Dick' and you will have the picture to which this song relates. Found in Great Britain and America, the song was published by Cecil Sharp, but his version did not have the sombre 'Greenland is a dreadful place' verse. Steve had this version from A. L. Lloyd,
Bendigo the Champion of England
Like other prize-fight ballads and songs this relates an actual occurrence. The fight between William Thompson (known as Bendigo) and Caunt look place on Tuesday, September 9th, 1845. Bendigo was professional pugilist and Caunt, said to have been a gigantic man, kept a public, house in St. Martins Lane. This song has been handed down as a printed broadsheet. Steve sings the verses with Perry Friedman joining him for the chorus. Here Jimmy Macgregor plays the twelve-string guitar.
Dirty Old Town
Ewan MacColl, who wrote this song, has a flair for writing a contemporary folk-type song without making it sound contrived and self conscious. The words and images, though simple, make evocative poetry and the melody is one which stays in the mind. This is a much requested item and Steve often features it. Notice here how the use of part singing by the group give the choruses a very full sound.
The Gentleman Soldier
This is one of the many songs concerning the amorous adventures of the army. Similar songs have appeared in the standard folk song collections under such titles as The Sentry' and 'The Bold Grenadier'. Steve learned this version from A L. Lloyd, and sings it accompanied by Jimmy Macgregor and Vic Pitt.
Following the successful Volume 1 of the Steve Benbow Folk Four (JEB 1), Collector Records now present a further four traditional songs sung and played in the tasteful and entertaining style of the group. Steve believes that folk-song has its place in the contemporary musical scene. The efforts of this group to present such fine songs as these are to be applauded, since their presentation does show that there is material from our own musical heritage which can be blended with elements of the popular musical styles of today to produce something to which everyone can listen and enjoy.
The group consists of Steve Benbow, vocal and guitar, Jimmy [sic] MacGregor, vocal, guitar and mandolin, Shirley Bland, vocal, and Vic Pitt, bass.
Steve and Shirley Bland are heard on the dialogue song The Coalowner And The Pitman's Wife, which has pronounced radical sentiments, and is thought to date from the 1844 Durham strike. It was probably written by William Hornsby, a collier from Shotton Moor, and it recently appeared in A. L. Lloyd's collection of mining songs "Come All Ye Brave Miners".
On our first volume we had a sporting song about boxing and here we have one about football. The Football Match describes a rather hectic match between rival village teams. This song was printed in William's "Folk Songs of the Upper Thames", and the tune came to Steve from A. L. Lloyd.
Shirley Bland is heard to advantage on North Country Maid, which is sometimes known as "The Oak and the Ash", and she is joined in the choruses by Jimmy [sic] MacGregor. The song is quite a well known one and will be remembered by many from their schooldays. The text was adapted from traditional sources by Chappell.
Steve's masterly singing of Captain Kidd really brings this song about the infamous pirate to life. Kidd was originally a New York privateer, who hunted pirates for both the American and English authorities. He eventually turned pirate himself (perhaps the profits were greater) and, after speeding many victims along the plank, was executed in London during 1701. The song originated as a broadside ballad, and is sung to the same tune as a similar song from the period called "Admiral Benbow". The extra voice in the choruses of Steve's version belongs to Scots folk singer, Robin Hall, who happened to be in the Collector studios at the time.