Interview with Roger Johnson, 17 February 2000
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Series
Essex Folk Movement Oral History Project
Level: Sub-Series
Scope and Content:
Roger Johnson [RJ] interviewed by Sue Cubbin [SC] in Chelmsford on 17 February 2000. RJ talks about his early life in Chelmsford, performing at folk clubs around Essex from the mid-1960s, his involvement with Blackmore Morris and Blackmore Folk Club in the 1970s, and the Gas Light & Coke Music Hall Company.

Tape 1 Side A

[00:00:00] RJ talks about his family; coming from Chelmsford; hearing music on the radio at home; singing 'The Barley Mow' on a family holiday in Austria; music at school, hearing folk music but not enjoying it at the time; compulsory school choir; the lyrics of 'Pan's Song'; singing hymns; the lyrics of 'Here in Country's Heart'; being in King Edward Grammar School's Corps of Drums aged 12 to 18; his drummer's sense of timing.
[00:07:18] Listening to pop music in his teens; the Beatles and Mersey sound as a cultural revolution; the established folk music scene, Bob Dylan; seeing Paul Simon at the Civic Theatre in Chelmsford, 1965-66; his first folk concert at the Civic Theatre; discovering British folk music, records; folk magazines.
[00:11:58] Performing at Chelmsford Folk Club around 1965-66, encouraged by the organisers; the club schedule, resident acts, singarounds; attendance numbers, dependent on act; sources of repertoire; attending folk clubs at Coventry University in 1966 and Ian Campbell's folk club at Birmingham University in 1967; regularly attending folk clubs in Essex, a different club every day of the week within 15 miles of Chelmsford; transport; performing wherever he could.
[00:21:48] Developing his repertoire, monologues, uniqueness; enjoying spoken word; balancing words and music in songs; the meaning behind lyrics, 'The Streams of Lovely Nancy'; adaptations of songs.
[00:25:34] Library School in Manchester, attending Manchester Sports Guild folk club; joining Blackmore Morris in 1970; the appeal of Morris dancing, relationship with national identity; barn dancing.

Tape 1 Side B

[00:00:00] The sociability of dances, schedule; being taught dances; the Morris Ring's attitude towards women, Blackmore never joining due to female musicians; the age of Blackmore Morris members; competition between sides; highlights from dancing Morris.
[00:06:45] The origin and membership of the Gas Light & Coke Music Hall Company (GLC); organisers of the Brentwood Folk Club; expanding repertoire, taking bookings; being invited to perform in Enfield; performing 'The Beachcomber' monologue; the end of the GLC, losing Mike Studd around 1986; the feeling of performing, nerves, adrenaline; not wanting to make a living from performing.
[00:16:35] Jointly running Blackmore Folk Club; the organisers of Blackmore; being away in Harlow, 1973-78, travelling to Blackmore; getting involved in a club in Harlow.
[00:19:30] Involvement in theatre, Chelmsford Theatre Workshop; his involvement in BBC Essex programme on the Mayflower Pilgrims; working with Dennis Rookard, 'Ring Out Wild Bells'; research.
[00:24:22] Rarely singing duos; Rick Jones in Harlow; Christmas carols with Alie [Byrne?] and Pete Billinge as 'The Christmas Goose'; contributing to BBC Essex Christmas folk programmes; his research into the origin of the Sheffield carol tradition.

Tape 2 Side A

[00:00:00] The decline of the folk scene around 1980; ageing participants; the definition of folk, changing perceptions of folk; describing himself as an entertainer; appealing to an audience; folk as 'roots' music.
[00:06:54] Giving up dancing due for health reasons; listening to other types of music; being a member of many Sherlock Holmes societies, the Sherlock Holmes Society of London; comparison with international folk connections.
[00:11:17] Activities with Chelmsford Theatre Workshop; directing his own show about Dracula; enjoying threatre at school; love of English language and culture; involvement with the Margery Allingham Society in Tolleshunt, putting on a display; planning to publish a book of essays about Albert Campion novels.
Dates of Creation:
17 February 2000
1 hour 23 minutes 54 seconds
Creator Name:
Sue Cubbin
Admin History:
Roger Johnson (b.1947, Chelmsford) was a regular attendee of many of Essex's folk clubs as a patron, singer and dancer. He was involved in the Gas Light & Coke Music Hall Company as a performer in the 1970s until 1986.
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 30/7/1/23/3
Dates of Description:
24 May 2022
Not Available:
Digital item(s). For access please email ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk