Sunday, 31 July 2011

The making of a busker... extracts one, two and three...

(Alan Young and Don Partridge in 2008)

From 'Don Partridge And Company,' pages 11-12.

I became aware of buskers from an early age as I often saw the Happy Wanderers Jazz Band1 plying their trade when I was about seven and out with my parents in London when we lived in Earls Court. Also, my father and my uncles would dress up as the Hollis Brothers2, an old school music hall act, in home-made jellebahs and fezes and do the sand dance to 'The Old Bazaar in Cairo' which my uncle Nobby would play on piano or accordion at every wedding or party held by the large and widespread Partridge family, affairs which, as a small boy, I enjoyed to the full. About that time, my father, a guitarist who was playing in a dance band when he met my mother, gave me a ukulele banjo and a couple of old music books with songs like 'Old Folks at Home,' 'Streets of Laredo,' and the George Formby standards. I became quite proficient: at future parties and weddings I would be included in the performance. I have always thought that one of my better personal traits was my ability to digest something and hide it away for future use, so I was already forming ideas about busking, albeit whimsically, at that tender age. When I was considering possible ideas about employment after school, along with engine drivers, firemen and pilots, occasionally the idea of busking would cross my mind, not as a job alongside the other stereotypes but more as a way in which I thought that, if I ended up a tramp, it could be a way to feed myself.


1 The Happy Wanderers Jazz Band – A group of middle-aged and older musicians who played traditional jazz in the West End of London in the 50s and 60s.
2 The Hollis Brothers – Albie and Harry, street buskers who did the sand dance, aided and abetted by Charlie Hilliard on accordion, known as the Roadstars. Ronnie Ross also worked with them although he later went solo. Played the West End of London. Harry Hollis was allegedly in the Guinness Book of Records for being London's 'most arrested man.'

From page 35:


Terry and I were were doing very well [in Paris] on the queues, making a comfortable living. Occasionally we would hook up with another musician, whoever might be drifting through. Which is how I met Dick (Richard) Farina2, who was a brilliant harmonica player. He became famous later as a writer but we knew him as a musician. He was married to Carolyn Hester, the famous American folk singer but had met Mimi Baez3, Joan Baez's sister, who became his girlfriend. Mimi's father had come to Paris to work for UNESCO and brought his wife and younger daughter. I saw her a couple of times in the Bar Monaco: like her elder sister she had lovely long hair and was very beautiful. Later they were married after Carolyn Hester divorced him and they had a few records out before his tragic motor bike crash in 1966, a couple of days after his book, 'Been Down So Long It LooksLike Up To Me,' was published and subsequently became a counter-culture classic. Dick came and played the queues with Terry and myself a few times and we clicked pretty well. This was when I was becoming more competent, in every kind of way, learning new stuff all the time.


2 Richard Farina 1937- 1966. American singer/songwriter and author of cult classic 'Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me.' Married celebrated folksinger Carolyn Hester and came to Europe on tour with her – where he met Mimi Baez...

3 Mimi Baez 1945-2001. American singer/songwriter and political activist, overshadowed by her more famous sister, Joan. She met Farina in Paris where she lived with her family at the time. They subsequently married after his divorce to Hester and made several albums together back in the US before his tragic death in a motorcycle accident.

From page 75:


By entering the busking universe I started to live in a world that was at right angles both to straight society and the coming of new colourful times – a part of them, to be sure, but allied to some older outlaw way of life... When I eventually worked with Jumping Jack I was to see this more clearly.

And I wandered from the old to the new and back – from West End to East End, North to South – although South of the river was a territory I only came to know better many years later. As pirate stations cranked up the volume of the soundtrack, London was dancing to new tunes. Some of which were supplied by the buskers – especially the new young breed of street musical anarchists, Don Partridge, Alan Young, Pat Keene. They stood above me in years and experience, but I could about hold my own musically. And I was willing to learn from them.


Friday, 22 July 2011

Don Partridge and Company... the book is about to be published!

At last! We made it! Welcome to the 'Don Partridge and Company' blog. Launched to publicise the forthcoming book written by Don Partridge, Pat Keane and Rod Warner: three interlocking narratives that start in 1960's Paris, move to London and Don's elevation to pop stardom culminating with the triumphant Busker's Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London in 1969 that Don put on with the help of his manager Don Paul and Max Clifford. With some aftermath/further escapades ranging from the UK to Europe to Canada and back... 

Unfortunately Don died last year – but the material I recorded during our interviews was just enough to go ahead with the project...

… which started many years ago, when I repeatedly asked Don if he was interested in writing his biography. To which he always replied: no. Until 2008, when he was in Loughborough to do a gig and we discussed it again. This time, he agreed – if we did it together and I added my story to his. Given that he was the more famous, I was not that keen at first until he convinced me that it could work. So we planned on writing this book – then Pat Keene came on board, after a conversation with Don in which it emerged that Pat still had all the negatives to photos he had taken in London in the late sixties, of buskers, young and old, on the streets plus a series of shots taken at the Albert Hall Concert. Don's wife Pam unfortunately died in 2009 which understandably delayed the project. I persevered with recording Don's reminiscences and editing them until we were hit by the shock of his death last year. A while later I went over the last recordings I had made a few weeks before his death and realised that we probably had enough to go with. I had also been trying to find a publisher – to no avail. Some interest was expressed but the economic climate was against anyone taking a risk on the far-out reminiscences of ageing bohemians or the unique photographs that went with the stories. So we decided to publish via my internet outlet Rawmusics on Lulu.Com – good quality paperbacks on demand plus the option of digital downloads. The project is about to be launched – with the first week in September 2011 as the planned date. Watch this space, as they say... When the book is published I will upload the link...