Interview with Simon Ritchie, 18 November 1998
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Series
Essex Folk Movement Oral History Project
Level: Sub-Series
Scope and Content:
Simon Ritchie [SR] interviewed by Sue Cubbin [SC] in Thaxted on 18 November 1998. Simon talks about growing up in Newcastle and Lancashire, getting involved in Morris and folk scenes in Essex and London in the 1980s, his involvement in Blackmore Folk Club, and his bands, including the So-Called Band and the Posh Men.

Tape 1 Side A

[00:00:00] SR talks about being close to his family; their work; his grandmother playing the violin; his cousins being musical despite the lack of radio; the arrival of radio in 1962-63; his family's musical achievements; his grandmother winning a Newcastle Gazette 'young talent' prize for writing aged 80; singing the Blaydon Races and Lonnie Donegan [LD] at family get-togethers in the late 1960s; Geordie songs; playing mouth organs.
[00:08:00] Not getting anything from music at school; moving to Lancashire between the age of seven and ten; missing his music exam at secondary school and not being able to progress in music education; learning folk songs at school, not being exposed to traditional music.
[00:11:31] Buying his first electric guitar with a student grant in 1973; teaching himself guitar.
[00:14:21] Music he listened to in the late 1960s and early 1970s; getting his first record player in 1969 and radio in 1967; Radio London, Radio Caroline, pirate stations; pop music; buying a Jimmy Cliff single and the album 'This is Desmond Dekkar'; listening to reggae; buying Martin Carthy [MC] and Dave Swarbrick's 'Bonny Black Hare & Other Stories'; the Byker Hill song.
[00:18:59] Playing in a band, the Nice Men; travelling to London after starting around Liverpool; the lack of venues; being played on John Peel's radio show; accommodation in London; working at HMV on Bond Street; pursuing a career in graphics; wages in London compared to Liverpool and the cost of living; moving to South Woodford and getting involved in the Woodford social scene; leaving the Nice Men; not liking people in the music business.
[00:26:54] Moving to Chelmsford around 1982; finding the 'Morris On' album and Jack Eliott's 'The Songs and Stories of a Durham Miner'; recognising names like Ashley Hutchings [AH] and Richard Thompson in Chelmsford Library; being invited to Chelmsford Folk Club to hear MC.

Tape 1 Side B

[00:00:00] Seeing Steve Ashley and buying his album; Albion County Band and being introduced to Morris music around 1974; seeing MC and his guitar style, buying the album 'Shearwater'; the contemporary music scene around 1982-83; going to Blackmore Morris; knowing Phil Heath-Coleman [PHC]; learning Morris dancing; dancing as a child.
[00:09:47] Attending a Plough Monday meeting in 1983, learning about Plough Monday from AH's album 'Rattle Bone and Ploughjack'; falling into the Chelmsford social scene; meeting Pete Billinge, Clive Taylor, Mo Fitzgerald, and Steve Monk [SM] at Plough Monday; carnival Morris dancing.
[00:18:30] Meeting SM; SM's melodeon; buying a melodeon in Covent Garden and repairing it, but being unable to play it due to being left-handed; different instruments; being inspired by marching bands in the north east, militarism; playing two tunes on melodeon at Blackmore Folk Club; melodeons and mouth organs; joining Chelmsford Morris.
[00:25:16] His Morris kit, made by the new girlfriend of Peter Allen [PA]; PA's kit, made for Plough Monday from photos of the Little Downham team.
[00:27:55] Running Blackmore Folk Club; the relationship between the folk club and social circumstances; the 1984 miners' strike; going to Thaxted for Easter 1984; voting for Margaret Thatcher in 1979 as the Labour candidate was Robert Kilroy-Silk.

Tape 2 Side A

[00:00:00] Folk sing-songs at Thaxted; Chelmsford Morris meets around 1983; organising the first Plough Monday; his folk singing experience, the Geordie song 'Buy Broom Besoms'; the kinds of songs he sung; session and pub singing; dancing with Thaxted Morris; the importance of beer; meeting Jim Catrill [JC] playing Geordie songs in the Masbury Fox pub around 1980; playing a Tommy Armstrong song and Jack the Lad album; the relevance of nineteenth century politics in the 1980s.
[00:11:52] Listening to punk music around 1976, inspiration for early music career; singing strike songs with Roger Johnston Stalwarts; losing the Jack Elliott album from Chelmsford Library and being unable to find Durham miners' songs; going to Blackmore Folk Club and singing 'Geordie repertoire'.
[00:16:33] His association with Blackmore Folk Club; attending in 1984 and regularly in 1986 with Brian Lynch; generational differences in the 1980s; temporarily agreeing to MC the folk club; the purpose of the folk club in the 1980s; nostalgia and lack of quality; not realising the meaning behind folk music and copying Peter Bellamy songs.
[00:21:44] Playing MC-style guitar with PHC and his wife, Bobbie Ritchie, previously Thorneycraft [BR]; fiddle tunes at Blackmore Folk Club; hearing English country dance tunes for the first time; playing in Suffolk pubs with SM, PHC and BR; experience at the Dennington Bell; hearing Billy Bennington and Reg Reader play hammered dulcimers, 'Streets of Ipswich'; feeling of genuine folk music; going to the Brundish Crown; hearing Font Whatling at the Cat and Mouse; meeting John and Katie Howson; running Blackmore Folk Club until 1988-89; working in London, moving to Thaxted and marrying BR.

Tape 2 Side B

[00:00:00] The Geordie folk revival, hearing JC; meeting Conrad Noel and Thaxted Morris dancers around 1984; Thaxted Morris attending Plough Monday, Dave Rooster; non-folk accordion at the Victoria in Writtle; interest in sing-songs, Oruskirk, Weston-Super-Mare and Chelmsford.
[00:04:30] Starting the a semi-electric band, Foxtrot Oscar, with PHC, SM, BR, and others; playing Chelmsford; swapping instruments; playing acoustic with PHC, getting together with BR and having to play accordion; the band falling apart due to disagreement over genre; running country dance in Thaxted with BR; playing with Harry de Coe; country dance songs; standing in for Mike Stud; starting and being the only member of the So-Called Band; the band name; finding active musicians for gigs; the last Blackmore Folk Club Ceilidh in 1992.
[00:12:18] Roy Harris missing a booking at Hale End Folk Club; playing with the Old Hat Concert Party in Suffolk; stepping in for Font Whatling at Sidmouth Folk Festival; attending London folk clubs with Old Hat Concert Party; being invited back to Hale End Folk Club and playing as the So-Called Band; ‘scratch bands’ with any musicians he could find.
[00:21:29] Being invited to join Ken Lees’ band, the Posh Band; learning ‘Banks of the Clyde’; replacing Dan Quinn, his hero; listening to 'Flowers and Frolics'; Reg Hall [RH] and the Irish music revival in Camden; his interest in the history of traditional music, criticism of the English Folk and Dance Song Society (EFDSS), 'neglecting' folk since 1933.
[00:26:31] History of the song ‘My Father’s Polka’; Ned Pearson busking across Europe; stories from RH; Ken Russell’s film ‘In Search of English Folk Music'; being too young to participate in the 1960s folk revival;; learning about Ewan McColl, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly in the 1990s; the importance of Lonnie Donegan in the north of England.

Recording note: Audio cut due to phone call on Tape 2 Side A [00:11:54].
Dates of Creation:
18 November 1998
2 hour 5 minutes 5 seconds
Creator Name:
Sue Cubbin
Admin History:
Simon Ritchie (b.1956, Gateshead) became involved in the folk scene in Essex after he moved to Chelmsford in the early 1980s. Having been exposed to folk music during his early career as a musician, he became immersed in the folk clubs around Essex and was a member of several bands, primarily playing melodeon for the Posh Men. He also led a series of 'scratch bands', dubbed the So-Called Band. He was inspired by Geordie tunes and Martin Carthy's guitar style.
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 30/7/1/3/3
Dates of Description:
6 May 2022
Not Available:
Digital item(s). For access please email ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk