Joe Stead - The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Eight - May 2001.


Let me start off by addressing one third (200) of the readers of this newsletter. I'm talking to those of you who live overseas.

Foot and Mouth Disease.

1. It is very rarely caught by humans. So the chances of you being shot, then burnt at the stake like Joan of Arc to be finally thrown naked into a pit of lime is very remote. There have only been two confirmed cases of humans catching foot and mouth in Britain. The most recent case involved a slaughter man who got drenched in the fluids of a dead animal that had the disease. You are unlikely therefore to get the disease yourself unless you intend sticking pointed instruments into dead cows. 2. Upon re-entering your country of origin it will not be necessary to spend three weeks in quarantine. Indeed quarantine will not be necessary at all. 3. You will not have to go through a de-lousing period when passing through customs/immigration in either direction. Strip searches will still only be levied against suspected arms and drug dealers. 4. There are no road closures in Britain, at least none of any consequence. You can still drive almost anywhere and walk anywhere you choose. The odd farm lane or field will be out of bounds but the likelihood of that being on your itinerary is negligible. Anyway one farm lane looks very much like any other, so you do have alternative lanes in which to enjoy yourselves. 5. Our tourist industry is suffering because of the abundance of rumours similar to the above. (Mainly I understand in the United States of America). Who is responsible for this foolishness? That is anybody's guess but I understand over excited under informed American travel agents have a lot to answer for. 6. There is a human complaint called Hands, Foot and Mouth. This disease is world wide and can affect you as easily in your own country as it can in Britain. The symptoms are sores of the hands and feet and ulcers in the mouth. It is a completely different virus which is normally only contracted by small children. It comes around every other year or so, your next door neighbour might well have had it and you never knew. It is cleared up with anti-biotic. It is unpleasant - but completely harmless. 7. Finally (and most importantly) there is absolutely no link whatsoever with BSE, Mad Cows Disease, Chicken Pox or Weasels. This means there is no chance of dying in 15 years from muscle and brain wastage, suddenly busting out into nasty itchy spots, or suddenly finding yourselves chasing around the countryside being nasty to field mice and frogs. Unless, you have died in the meantime from other causes, and the Buddhists and Hindus have been right all along and reincarnation is not simply a myth believed by 66% of the world population. (Excuse me while I kick my dog, I think she might be Hitler).

I have to confess to slight amusement at the indignation President Bush showed to China keeping one of his spy planes. And it causes me to wonder what the American attitude would be to seeing Chinese spy planes touring up and down the American coastline listening into the secrets of Washington.

Can anyone tell me how it was possible for the American plane to land safely on a Chinese airfield when, to be in International airspace, it was at least 60 miles from the Chinese mainland and lost considerable height when the collision happened? God damn it if George W wasn't such a nice bloke I'd be tempted to believe that plane wasn't in international air space at all.

Meanwhile not everybody in America is happy with George W. "President George W Bush, polluter of the free world" By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles - 30 March 2001 At a single stroke, the United States has condemned the planet to a more polluted, less certain future. That was the growing realisation yesterday as world leaders rose up to denounce Washington's decision to abandon the Kyoto Protocol and turn its back on cutting emissions of greenhouse gasses. But the country that emits 25 per cent of the world's carbon dioxide with less than four per cent of its population is not going to slow down. On the emissions issue, for example, Bush wrote to the Republican Senator Chuck Hagel last week arguing that carbon dioxide was not a pollutant and was not considered as such by the Clean Air Act. Not only does this fly in the face of received scientific wisdom, it is untrue.

Rather than focussing on energy conservation and pollution control, Mr Bush is calling for an all-out bonanza of oil and gas exploration including drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Arctic Refuge. He has tossed out new standards regulating arsenic levels in drinking water. Mr Bush's policies appear to be based largely on what will appeal to his friends in the oil, gas, mining and heavy manufacturing industries, all of whom gave him lavish backing in his efforts to become president and who are now enjoying government representation at the highest level. You can, or could, read the full article at:

At home a series of adverts on British television have been worrying me quite a bit lately. It's the Budweiser adverts. Now there are a lot of people who are a lot more politically conscious and correct than me, for me this whole PC thing has gone a step too far, but no one seems to be objecting about the Budweiser advert. So am I suddenly being over sensitive? I think the advert makes anyone who is not white appear to be gibbering idiots. Black and Asians are made out to look like chimpanzees

I'm astonished that there has not been more commotion about it. Frankly the adverts embarrass me.

Perhaps we are suddenly becoming less politically correct? Segregated football crowds! Have you ever heard of such a thing? It happened in South Africa and Nelson Mandela and his cohorts spent many years in prison for objecting to it, along with a few other less important apartheid related matters, like poverty, rape, murder etc. I understand a 'think tank' of the present government is contemplating introducing a segregated section at football grounds to encourage ethnic and black races to attend football games! WHAT?

The New Deal String Band made a very rare appearance in West Yorkshire this week and it was a joy to listen and speak again to two American old timers who have been on the scene since Noah's Ark landed back on soil. Tom Paley and Joe Locker were on top form. I first saw Joe perform in 1960. I was 19 then and apparently he was 21. Joe had just come to England via Paris where he had been performing on the streets with Alex Campbell. I had never seen banjo playing like it and became an immediate fan of Joe's. The night I saw him way back in 1960 he broke a banjo string during a song.

Not having a replacement he simply tied a knot in the string and carried on as if nothing had happened. A trick he had learnt on the streets. I've not seen anything like it again until last night. Yep you've guessed it.

He broke the fourth string on his guitar during the first set and tied it up together again during the interval.

Talking of old timers….do you remember Jasper Carrott? The old folkie who never actually sang a folk song in his life? He's now worth Forty Eight Million Pounds! Staggering. Most of this wealth has come from inventing the TV show 'Who wants to be a Millionaire?' Jasper has made more money than all the contestants combined! And all so simple! I could have done that! But, and here comes the secret, he did it first!

So what am I up to in the next few weeks and months. Not an awful lot to be honest. I absolutely loathe the prospect of telephoning club organisers to remind them of my availability. So I tend not to do it. A millionaire I will never be. As a consequence other more enterprising acts get booked in my stead. (This is a mild hint to any folk club organiser reading this that I'm still available to play your club and I'm very good at it too).

But you can nonetheless find me lurking in the following locations over the spring and early summer….. Rochester Sweeps Festival during the first weekend in May. May 5th (3-5pm) 'Liverpool to Valparaiso' in the Visitors Information Centre, and then the same day (8.30-11pm) Fort Pitt Grammar School. Sunday May 6th (8.30-11pm) Visitors Information Centre with Bob and Kathy Drage. May 10th The Puzzle Hall Inn, Sowerby Bridge. (Free entry) June 23rd. Letchworth Arts Centre. - Valparaiso round the Horn July 6th and 7th. Cleckheaton Folk Festival July21st and 22nd. Stainsby Folk Festival



Now to a few of the many letters that came in…..

Dear Joe,

Thanks for your musings. I won't comment on the teachers debate - I was one for 26 years, but work on the assumption that you can't win whatever you decide to say. I won't comment on the Labour Government debate largely because I don't have much problem with the present Government and I have been left of centre in my politics for almost 40 years. Again, you can't win - you only have to listen to phone-in programmes on the radio or the BBC's Question Time to realise that there is no consensus. I do have a problem with the 'instant society' who want solutions immediately: I worked through the 80's when the Tories were encouraging teachers to take early retirement with handsome inducements (the simple minded of us thought that with falling pupil numbers we would get smaller classes). Now, we don't have enough teachers and suddenly it's Tony Blair's fault. Yes, we need more; we need more nurses, doctors, policemen, etc. etc. Is the

solution simple? Of course not. Increase income tax (after all there's

only so much cake to share out) I'd vote for that. Do away with the armed forces - they cost a lot. A lot of people would be very unhappy about that. We will never achieve Utopia or even anywhere near it. The vast majority of people are not badly off - there's a frightening amount of disposable income around - but there are still some social ills and some poverty and too much unemployment, so there is much to be done. I know where my vote is going next time.

I'm pleased Dirty Linen took note of your CD. It is a fine publication.

I've always defended Ian Anderson of fRoots along the lines of 'he got off his backside and made it happen' Others tried and failed. I do find it a frustrating publication, though. Last year a very talented bunch of approx 19 year-olds (some younger) won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award. I produced their CD. Now, I've released over 300 albums in 25 years and so, I guess, I know a thing or two. I thought it was just a bit good. So did a lot of other people. fRoots, put it in the 'also rans' at the back. A very good way to encourage promising young musicians......? This month my record company, Fellside Records, is 25 years old. The only company going longer in the UK is Topic. We have celebrated this with a Festival at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick (yes, it is still on - Cumbria is not closed), press information, advertising and a celebratory CD. The CD is Mojo magazine's CD of the month. fRoots, our premier roots music monthly?

Doesn't mention our anniversary in its news section, isn't sending anyone to the festival (despite an invitation) and the the 'also rans' at the back! I am left wondering what you have to do to be considered newsworthy. Am I bitter, annoyed, generally pissed-off? You bet. But it won't last long because life is too short and I'm too busy getting off my own backside and making a very successful little company work.

There! I feel better all ready.

Take care,

Paul Adams


Dear Joe,

Thanks for the newsletter. I agree 100% with your musings on the music business and the emphasis on "flavor of the month" in some folk publications.

Over here a lot of songwriters seem to want to use folk as a place to start and then leave to go to more lucrative markets (then pretend folk doesn't exist, or make fun of it). It's interesting the lengths people go to, to avoid using the "f" word when describing their music.

After I first got a Phil Ochs album and a page of xeroxed chords, I was never interested in anything but folk music. I'm thinking of starting a monthly column like yours called The Folkcurmudgeon Review: why we liked this stuff in the first place. It'd be on the website and I hope to solicit other folks opinions as well.

All the best,

--Phil Cooper. (USA)


Hi Joe

Thanks for taking the liberty of putting me on your mailing list ~ I enjoyed reading the varied subject matter and felt I must reply to Don Haines comments about early retirement in state occupations, even though Don has cancelled his subscription (sounds like Private Eye). I wish to defend the public servants who are often criticised for early retirement, in particular the emergency services and armed forces. Compulsory retirement is set at 55 years for the lower (working) ranks. It would be negligent of the employers, (i.e. your Mr Haines) to subject a 55+ body to the harsh abuse it receives over the usual 30+ years it takes to earn and pay for that pension he is so jealous of. No matter how fit that person may appear to be. There is nowhere near the same rate of incidence of the phenomenon (early retirement because of ill-health, or more commonly,

stress.) among, for instance, self-employed owners of businesses. Many civil servants cannot even complete the time required for that revered pension and are forced into early retirement with serious injury and or severe physical and mental health and a shortened life expectancy. In the late sixties, I joined the fire service and was told my life expectancy was only 9 years after retirement ~ I and my colleagues don't have time to whinge !

I'll try and catch you at Rochester Folk Festival

Cheers. John New - Editor - Essex Folk Diary.


Dear Joe

I was fortunate to be able to review two of your CDs for the San Francisco Folk Music Society, and I do not even live in San Francisco. Before I submit the reviews of Miles From Halifax and Valparaiso round the Horn, I need to check some facts with you.

1. Are you British? You sound like you are and your recording company address is. 2. Do you know of Tom Paxton? He writes a lot of political and other satirical folk songs. 3.If you know of Tom Paxton, would you mind being favourably compared with him? 4.Would you like a copy of the review. I have to say it is limited to 250 words or else I would have praised you more. I love the entire Halifax CD, and cannot get Boys In Blue out of my head. 5.Are your CDs being sold in the USA? Sincerely

Steve Sproger


I'm pleased to announce that Chris Fyfe is now out of intensive care and has been moved to:- CONQUEST HOSPITAL, c/o Tressell Ward, The Ridge, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, TN37 7RD. Send him a get well card if you know or knew him. His original problem was a massive blood clot to the stem of the brain.

I was recently loaned a book published before the 2nd World War.

Unfortunately the exact date is not shown. It is called 'Real Life Problems and their Solutions'. I thought I might share one of them with you. You never know it could sort out a problem you have at home yourself!


"You really don't mind, dear, do you?" This is a phrase I have been hearing from my wife several times a day almost from our honeymoon. Before we were married she appeared trim and smart, and I looked upon her with pride. But almost as soon as we had settled in our home she began to appear at the breakfast table with her hair in curlers and wearing a big working apron.

It was soon "you don't mind" for a number of things - when the meal was cold, or when something was overlooked, or when I had a job to do myself!

I have dropped hints on several occasions but nothing much has changed.

What should I do?

Well…… Here comes the solution.

It would pay you better to make a definite protest than to keep giving hints. The resentment you feel, if bottled up too long, will explode one day with perhaps disastrous results. The next time you have a genuine reason to complain of slackness on your wife's part, in her dress for example, tell her how proud you are when she is in a costume you like and how depressed it makes you feel to see her untidy. Use tact to make your point. If a quarrel cannot be avoided, at least she will have no further doubt about your opinions. There are more indirect ways of getting results if you feel timid about offending her. For example you could present your partner with some artistic overalls, or other articles of clothing which appeal to you. She could hardly refuse to wear these. An occasional well timed reference to another lady's becoming manner of dressing has been known to have effect, but considerable tact must be exercised. Wives who slack after marriage, or who fulfil their duties in a half hearted fashion, have been badly trained as children. They are lacking in concentration; are always looking for an easy way out and for someone to support them.

Perhaps so much effort has been spent on putting on a good face during courtship that there is a collapse once they think they have achieved marriage. For the sake of any children you may have, you should take a firm hand without delay. It should be easier for your wife to make an effort to pull herself together now, than in later years when habit and a growing indifference will have her firmly in their grip.

So guys you know what to do! If you have better ideas please let me know

This is but a selection of just wonderful advice within this marvellous little book. I might let you have another snippet next month.

Old friends of mine who have certainly never had that problem are Alex and Louise who opened the Bradford Topic Folk Club way back in 1955. It's still running (under different management) and is probably the oldest continuous folk club in the world. Alex and Louise sent me the following little story. I'd heard it before - but it might be new to you.

An investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The banker complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, "Only a little while".

The banker then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The banker then asked, "Ah but what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life".

The banker scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should

spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With

the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA, and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise".

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take"?

To which the banker replied, "15-20 years".

"But what then"?

The banker laughed and said "That's the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions. Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos"..

It will be Pete Seeger's birthday on May 3rd. He will be 82 years old. I first saw Pete at St Pancras Town Hall Theatre on October 4th 1959. I was already a folk music enthusiast, but this performance totally locked me on. Seeger the catalyst, Seeger the idealist, Seeger the friend, has surely been the inspiration for many performers. To me he is the Godfather of Folk Music. Perhaps the biggest thrill in my career was travelling across the Atlantic in April 1995 to do just one concert with the man. I've subsequently played in a second concert (a benefit concert for Rosalie

Sorrels) with Peter at Bodles Opera House in Chester New York. Now I had always intended to write a song about him, preferably before one of us died, and never quite got around to it. Then, in March 1996 I returned from another tour in the USA with a deep vein thrombosis in the leg.

Apparently, I had spent 12 days humping through Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware unaware of just how ill I was. Upon my arrival back in Britain I was rushed immediately into hospital whereupon it was discovered that the blood clot was on the move around my body. My deep vein thrombosis had turned into a pulmonary embolism. I suddenly realised that if my "Pete Seeger" song was ever to be written, now was the time. I called the song JUST ANOTHER FOLK SINGER. Why? Because that is how Pete perceives himself - we all know differently of course. As for me I had a 70% chance of dying. I count myself a very lucky guy and every day as a bonus. Here's the song I wrote.


Do you remember those days in the thirties, when you wandered the country alone? A young and self exiled traveller, searching perhaps for a home, In your wildest of dreams, such extravagant schemes, Must have seemed a light year away, But banjo in hand, you travelled the land, And you dreamt of a far better day.

And was it fun in the forties, with Woody and Millard and Lee, As you sang for the freedom of workers, in an Almanac fraternity, As you made up the rhyme, wasn't that a time, To be watching those at your back, But damn it instead, you were looking ahead, And with Toshi by your side you attacked.

As a Weaver of song in the fifties, you spread a great warmth through the land, But equality and friendship world over was not what your government planned, For McCarthy was there, and a chill filled the air, As they pointed the finger of blame, But through it all, together with Paul, (Robeson) You sang and you both overcame.

And what did you make of the sixties, Presidents in the Muddy waste deep, And the crimes that your country committed, all the lives that were lost, did you weep?, And so proudly you sang, anti-Vietnam, Whilst the wounded came home from the war, They called you a traitor, a red agitator, Whilst you and a few asked "What for?"

So you spent most your life swimming upstream, fighting odds stacked as high as a wall, Whilst some claimed amendments around you, you stood as you sang, straight and tall, And whilst some people dithered, you built boats and cleaned rivers, Spoke out when others were scared, And your obituary, it must surely be, Thank The Lord, thank The Lord, that he cared.

© Joe Stead - Fore Lane Music - March 1995

Happy Birthday Pete!

That's just about it for this month. Oh except this. Nobody wrote me a rude letter last month. The ball's in your court!.

Keep smiling and keep singing.