Interview with Tony Kendall, 29 June 1999
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Series
Essex Folk Movement Oral History Project
Level: Sub-Series
Scope and Content:
Tony Kendall [TK] interviewed by Sue Cubbin [SC] in Chingford on 29 June 1999. TK talks about pursuing a professional music career, writing folk songs about Essex, his involvement in Albion and Chingford Morris, and researching Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Tape 1 Side A

[00:00:00] TK talks about his difficult birth during the Second World War; growing up in Walthamstow around music; his grandfather's work as a professional musician; learning folk songs from his family; the rural lifestyle of his grandmother; family singalongs; musicians in the family.
[00:07:01] Learning the recorder at school; country dance tunes; hearing BBC Music and Movement; developing a consciousness of folk after learning guitar; buying his guitar for Christmas; playing in public and collecting money for charity; his first public performance, aged five.
[00:12:52] Being interested in skiffle and American folk; looking for English folk songs, Ewan MacColl [EM], around 1955; meeting EM in 1965; his experience of rock and roll in school; joining a school band, the Consorts; learning bass guitar between 1959 and 1960; learning American pop covers; string instruments feeling natural; his style of guitar playing and adapting to bass; his continuing interest in folk; singing with his father and singing hymns in a church choir.
[00:20:40] Working at Walthamstow Town Hall; joining another band; writing songs from around 1960; becoming a professional musician with the Skyways, endorsed by his parents; balancing work and music; driving home from a Manchester gig and going straight to work; being a professional musician for three and a half years; meeting famous musicians; the decline of the band; different agencies; playing briefly in a soul band.

Tape 1 Side B

[00:00:00] Enjoying EM, performing; pursuing folk music; playing double bass; being a stand in for an Irish thrash folk band, DCR (Dublin City Ramblers); meeting Sandy Denny; attending folk clubs and singing; seeing Maddy Prior and Tim Hart before Steeleye Span were formed; the quality of English folk music; doing a residency in Enfield with DCR; working as a civil servant in Walthamstow.
[00:09:23] Joining Albion Morris; members of Albion Morris; the requirements of performing for dancers; sympathy for Morris music through his grandfather; forming a folk-rock band, Caliban, with Val Cutler and Sara Byers [SB]; watching Albion Morris before playing for them and admiring their creativity; the rift with Chingford Morris; disagreements within Caliban.
[00:17:35] Writing songs about his own life and Essex; having his poetry published; recording 'Rose of Essex' with SB; choosing songs for their album based on audience feedback; EM wanting to learn one of his songs; writing a tribute to EM for 'Close of the Heartland'; drifting from SB; singing with Hazel Bryner; the stress of the job while performing, taking too many bookings, and the effect on his health; his commitment to performing and to his job; retiring due to ME [chronic fatigue].
[00:27:16] Playing for Chingford Morris in 1993, after retiring; leaving Albion Morris in 1991; new recruits at Albion Morris; David Occomore and his book, 'Bushes and Briars'; meeting Ursula Vaughan Williams [UVW] around 1985.

Tape 2 Side A

[00:00:00] Continues talking about meeting UVW, researching Ralph Vaughan Williams [RVW] around 1991; writing an article about Essex smocks for 'Tradition', edited by Dave Vandoorn; inspiring Frank Dineen and researching with him; putting together performances about RVW for Ingrave Preservation Society; his interest in photography and taking photographs of villages where RVW collected; his interest in the singers RVW recorded; performing at Cecil Sharp House; the beauty of 'rustic' tunes and early RVW music.
[00:08:13] Learning the fiddle for Chingford Morris in September 1993; learning about Molly dancing from Simon Ritchie around 1987; Molly dancing, Plough Sunday and Plough Monday; dances coming from Little Downham Molly Dances and Cambridge City Morris Men; mechanisation killing the tradition due to the decline of ploughboys.
[00:15:03] Founding Sharps Folk Club in 1987; the dominance of dancers in the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS); singers at Sharps; the founding of Hale End Folk Club in 1992; attending Hale End, being booked, and financial success; the house band performing ceilidhs as the Pit Band.
[00:19:56] His involvement in the Maldon Millennium; celebrating historical anniversaries; writing music for a dramatic society; Maldon Millennium finances; writing a play based on the Battle of Maldon poem; the show being recorded by Dennis Rookard [DR].
[00:24:32] Appearances on DR's BBC Essex Folk Show; DR's broadcasting style; being played by other presenters; being interviewed after releasing 'A Bicycle Ride'; giving a lecture on RVW at Reigate; writing a chapter for the RVW Society, 'Vaughan Williams in Perspective'.
[00:28:48] His health at the time of interview; writing fiddle tunes; being a prolific writer; producing dances for his fiddle tunes.

Tape 2 Side B

[00:00:00] Continues talking about producing dances for his fiddle tunes; being commissioned for an exhibition of laundry equipment at Vestry House Museum; working with the curator of the Essex Regiment Museum on 'The Essex Ploughboys'; the relationship between folk and Essex regiments.
[00:04:28] Reflects on the importance of English song and dance; the difficulty in attracting young people; how to preserve English folk culture in Essex, teaching children from a young age; and folk as ‘a hidden culture'.
Dates of Creation:
29 June 1999
1 hour 42 minutes 54 seconds
Creator Name:
Sue Cubbin
Admin History:
Tony Kendall (b.1940, Walthamshow) became an expert on Essex folk and Ralph Vaughan Williams after pursuing a professional music career with folk rock bands. He was also involved in both Albion and Chingford Morris, playing guitar, bass and fiddle. At the time of the interview, he had produced at least five albums and was working on a variety of related projects.
Archivist Note:
Copyright transferred to ESVA
Physical Characteristics:
4 MP3 files [digital copies of original cassettes]
Related Unit of Description:
For a handwritten transcript of this recording, see SA 30/7/1/13/3
Dates of Description:
May 2022
Not Available:
Digital item(s). For access please email ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk