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15 Green Grow The Leaves.jpeg0 Green Grows introClick the blue title to go to the song

  1. Green Grow The Leaves
  2. Billy Is A Jolly Sailor
  3. Master Kilby
  4. The Mulberry Tree
  5. Green Holly & Ivy
  6. L Stands For London
  7. Captain Coulston
  8. A Sweet Country Life
  9. The Gablory Man
  10. Footprints In The Snow
  11. Jacket & Petticoat
  12. Green Gravel
  13. Jenny Lies In Care’s Bed
  14. As Rich As A King
  15. The Month Of Liverpool
  16. Abie My Boy

Harry.jpegPhotograph: Harry Reynolds, The Royal Worcestershire Regiment, France c.1917

The Harry of our title was my grandfather, Harry Reynolds. When I first sang for a living in the 1960’s folk clubs my mother said one day, ‘Your Grandad would have been glad to know you sing those songs.’ For five years, when a boy, we had lived with my grandparents. Grandad was a tall, quiet, intelligent man who often sang in the house and garden. He died when I was eleven or twelve but it wasn’t until my mother’s remark long after, that I discovered he had performed on the music hall stage in his younger days and entertained his fellow soldiers in war, though he was never a major, galloping or otherwise. 

My mother said he often made up his own words to well-known tunes and ‘knew all the old songs’. Certainly he would have known the ones on this album. It’s a pity I didn’t ask about his singing but as a child it hadn’t occurred to me that Grandad had something I’d think valuable when I grew up. Consequently, since no one else in the family had written down his songs or his story, everything is lost forever.

I remember him singing The Galloping Major when I was small enough to be dandled on his knee, but that’s about all, apart from Little Dolly Daydream and  Down The Road. My mother told me that particular one was his favourite song. Recording it for this album has now made it one of mine.

The music halls began in the mid 1800s, in the same way that folk clubs started in the 1950s; as casual sing-arounds in public houses. The development was complicated but, put simply, the songs, which were a mixture of traditional folk and popular art music, gradually moved from the bar to a room of their own in the pub. As the popularity of the do-it-yourself entertainment grew so the venues grew larger and eventually the songs, and anything else which could be called entertainment, began to be performed in theatres. 

By the 1880s new theatres, built specifically as music halls, were to be found in every city and biggish town.   Songs  were  being  written  for  the music halls  and professional performers would sing two or three songs in one venue, then jump into a waiting taxi to dash to the next stage for another audience. There were no recordings at first so a singer could make a good living with a handful of songs. Albert Chevalier’s memoirs are worth reading for a performer’s life and times. He sang My Old Dutch, for instance, in front of a painted backdrop of the workhouse, a hated and feared place designed for those who, by reason of poverty, age or infirmity, could no longer support themselves. The significance of separate doors for men and women was not lost on audiences of the day.

Some singers wrote their own songs, but most relied upon a small group of writers and composers who worked full or part time for their publisher. Sadly, although the whole vast profitable business depended on them, next to nothing is known about almost every single person who produced the songs. 

The music halls were looked down upon by the ‘legitimate’ theatre and frowned upon by the ‘better’ classes, but Variety, as it was known, gradually became the most popular type of entertainment. The halls themselves mostly survived two world wars before becoming cinemas or piles of rubble, and the songs and sketches continued to be performed on radio in such programes as The Billy Cotton Bandshow, Midday Music Hall, and Worker’s Playtime, (that meant six days a week!) well into the 1960s, and a great surge in popularity through television took it into the 80’s.

Some songs were originally partly spoken to piano or orchestral accompaniment with the tune sung only for the chorus, to which everyone in the audience would lend their voice. The subject matter allows for a fair amount of dramatic delivery! Many people I’ve entertained, even the elderly, know only the choruses and are surprised to find there’s more to the old songs than that. A few years ago my wife told me that the reason people in the residential homes I visited weren’t joining in with my songs was because the songs, not the people, were too old! I started singing 1950s songs and found a much better response from my frail audiences who were of course reminded of their younger heartier days. But my heart is not in 1950s popular songs and I finally, gratefully, admitted defeat and returned to my first love.

My CD collection of folk club songs includes several rare music hall numbers but for this album I’ve chosen songs which I didn’t collect, that almost everyone would have been familiar with at one time, together with a few that were perhaps not heard so often on the wireless. Recording them, and remembering my grandfather again, has proved surprisingly poignant and I wonder that I hadn’t done it sooner. 

  1. The Galloping Major
  2. The Amateur Whitewasher
  3. It’s A Great Big Shame
  4. I Live In Trafalgar Square
  5. The Future Mrs ‘Awkins
  6. Knocked ‘Em In The Old Kent Road
  7. When Father Papered The Parlour
  8. The Spaniard That Blighted My Life
  9. Strolling Through The Park 
  10. The Rest Of The Day’s Your Own 
  11. My Old Dutch
  12. Granny’s Old Armchair
  13. I Want To Sing In Opera
  14. ‘Arry, ‘Arry, ‘Arry
  15. The Night I Appeared As Macbeth
  16. Down The Road

And a couple more!

 

I Saw Stars.jpeg                With many thanks to debtony7 for the superb artwork.

A small selection from the many songs asked for by people in various college guitar classes I taught over forty years. Although they are quite a departure from my much-loved traditional songs, I enjoyed them well enough to want to do some of them justice on an album.

  1. I Saw Stars
  2. If Your Kisses Can’t Hold The Man You Love
  3. Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat
  4. Misty
  5. I’m On A See-Saw
  6. Manha De Carnaval  
  7. Bye Bye Blackbird
  8. Love Is The Sweetest Thing
  9. Change Partners
  10. Doctor Jazz
  11. Lazybones
  12. The Party’s Over    
  13. The Very Thought Of You
  14. The Way You Look Tonight
  15. Cooking Breakfast
  16. You’re The Cream In My Coffee
  17. More Cream In My Coffee
  18. Painting The Clouds With Sunshine