Interview with David Occomore, 12 January 1999
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Series
Essex Folk Movement Oral History Project
Level: Sub-Series
Scope and Content:
David Occomore [DO] interviewed by Sue Cubbin [SC] in Burwell, Cambridge, on 12 January 1999. DO talks about his band, the Waltham Blacks, and his extensive research into English and Essex folk songs, including the books 'Bushes and Briars' and 'Curiosities of Essex'.

Tape 1 Side A

[00:00:00] DO talks about his family background, living in Loughton; Methodism and hymn singing with family; talking about family history at family gatherings; going to school in Loughton and Debden; music at school in the late 1950s, generic folk, 'Soldier Soldier'; stopping playing trumpet and piano aged 11 to 12; teaching himself guitar aged 16; playing by ear.
[00:06:27] Playing American country music, Carter Family EP; seeing the church youth club skiffle group performing with an autoharp, Stoneman Family; buying an autoharp; working at the Post Office on Lyle Street aged 17; record shops on Charing Cross Road, Dobell's; discovering English traditional music, Joan Baez, Julie Felix; trying to sing; discovering Loughton Folk Club; the difficulty of finding folk music, an 'underground movement'.
[00:11:48] Forming folk groups with Ian Fraser and his cousin Steve Yelland, John Harris and Ken; clubs moving and changing, Loughton Folk Club moving to Buckhurst Hill, opening as Bedfolk; running the club with no beer; Alex Campbell's drinking, bringing their own drink; helping to run the club; floor singers; types of music at the club, traditional and singer-songwriter; friendliness, criticism, and finances of local clubs.
[00:20:14] Performing Irish material with his band, Waltham Blacks, moving into English, Ewan MacColl; local name and local songs; researching folk music; finding Cecil Sharp House and the collection of Ralph Vaughan Williams [RVW]; his experience at school informing his research as an adult; Charing Cross reference library.
[00:26:40] Finding songs for the band, being unable to sing them; researching for writing a book, advertising for help; working with Phillip Spratley [PS]; collecting songs in Essex, letters in Essex Countryside and East Anglia magazine; recording folk music from replies around 1975; DO and PS's book, 'Bushes and Briars, An Anthology of Essex Folk Song' [ERO LIB/784 OCS].

Tape 1 Side B

[00:00:00] Contents of 'Bushes and Briars', background; how the songs were sung; the illustrations; publishing in 1979.
[00:02:10] Discovering more RVW research at the British Library; hearing about research by Phil Heath-Coleman [PHC] on the people RVW had collected from; going to the RVW Society with PHC in the 1980s, getting a grant, meeting Ursula Vaughan Williams; lack of interest in published volume; reading the extension lectures reports at Oxford University, one featuring RVW; finishing the project, copies at Cecil Sharp House Library and the Essex Record Office; possible resurgence of interest in the work; RVW's popularity.
[00:14:20] Involvement in a singing group in the 1970s in Ivinghoe, Buckinghamshire; travelling, impact on his marriage; rehearsing in his flat, complaints about noise; buying a house, rehearsing; being unable to sing around his family, division between family man and extrovert; public speaking; the band's relationship, finding music to sing, arrangement; experience of performing, using humour; biggest gig at Ivinghoe Youth Hostel Folk Festival, splitting the performances; using local singers; buzz of performing, popularity; playing as Man of March .
[00:25:59] Giving a talk at Leigh Folk Festival with PHC, workshops, and craft stalls; the band disbanding around 1975; not making any profit from singing; accidents on the road; moving on to other projects, not missing singing; research into broadside ballads; birth of printing in Elizabethan London.

Tape 2 Side A

[00:00:00] Broadsides, Samuel Pepys, political debate and news; inclusion of country ballads on broadsides until the end of the eighteenth century; researching Essex ballads and broadsheets; publishing a collection of broadsides reflecting Essex folk over around 10 years; lack of indexing in British Library; RVW project taking eight years; finding a publisher, Mr. Wilkes in Romford, publishing under Ian Henry; lack of market for Elizabethan material; Steve Roud's folk song research, producing an index; his interest in broadsides; other folk song collections, Lucy Broadwood, Alfred Williams' 'Folk Songs of the Upper Thames'.
[00:13:40] Drifting away from folk clubs once the band disbanded around 1975; lack of recordings of the group, broadcast on Whipps Cross Hospital Radio; equipment and the effort required to record folk clubs; the changing atmosphere; listening to classical and melodeon music; lack of folk music in record shops; vinyl collection; decline of folk clubs.
[00:18:31] 'Curiosities of Essex: being glimpses of Essex history as seen from broadside ballads', published in 1984; later research, 'Essex Pot Pouri', scraps collected while researching for other books; sales of his publications, selling 'Bushes and Briars' to bookshops himself, Dillon's Folk shop.
[00:25:03] Interest in social history, folk music as local and society history; Bert Lloyd's book 'Folk Song in England' (1967) as inspiration; Tony Kendall's work; the Oxford lecturer's report being unfindable, thankful of having done the research; reflections on research.
Dates of Creation:
12 January 1999
1 hour 33 minutes 29 seconds
Creator Name:
Sue Cubbin
Admin History:
David Occomore (b.1948, Epping) is a historian of folk music in Essex. By 1999, when the interview was recorded, he was researching Ralph Vaughan Williams' collection and broadside ballads. He also performed in several Essex folk bands.
Archivist Note:
Copyright transferred to ESVA
Physical Characteristics:
3 MP3 files [digital copies of original cassettes]
Related Unit of Description:
For a handwritten transcript of this recording, see SA 30/7/1/5/3
Dates of Description:
9 May 2022
Not Available:
Digital item(s). For access please email ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk