Bob Blake

Bob Blake sang a number of interesting songs in a sweet and sure tenor voice. He also played the fiddle [1] playing tunes that he learned from the likes of Bill Agate and Scan Tester. Here he describes himself in his own words[2] :

“Although I was not born with dung on my boots, having first seen the light at Tooting in 1908 which at that time was on the outer fringe of London, virtually all my life has been spent in the country. My school holidays were spent with my father’s brother in Gloucestershire. He used to play the concertina and sang many old songs including the ‘Gloucester Blackbird’ which used to shock my mother! My father was one of the last of the windjammer sailors and spent many years in the China Sea. One of his favourite songs was ‘The Chinese Bumboat Man’.

“In the early thirties I loved to just sit and listen to the old gaffers at the George and Dragon at Dragons Green near where I lived and memorised a lot of their amusing anecdotes and dialect as they played dominoes and shove ha’penny. I cannot remember exactly where I picked up all my songs, usually I know bits from here and there. The old people never seemed to know a song completely. Since the folk revival it has, of course, become easier to complete songs of which one knew parts.”

After he moved to live in Horsham, Bob Blake made something of a speciality of the songs of Henry Burstow. Mike Yates (as well as Keith Summers) recorded him in the early 1970s, having been introduced to him by Tony Wales. After Bob’s death, Mike found out more about the “easier to complete songs” aspect and in an article for Musical Traditions called “Bob Blake and the re-invented self” (http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/blake.htm) he berates himself for regarding Bob as a ‘traditional folk singer, rather than as a singer of traditional songs”. My own feeling is that Mike is being unnecessarily hard on himself. Bob Blake had associated himself with the old Sussex singers long before the folk revival came about and his singing style was identical to those he had sung with in the 1930s.


(Vic Smith 2016)

[1] In an (Oct 2016) interview with Bob Lewis, he mentioned that Bob Blake played the concertina. I have not heard any reference to him playing that instrument, though the photo below, taken at the Horsham Songswappers shows him playing the fiddle
[2] Taken from the booklet notes of the album The Brave Ploughboy (XTRA 1151) recorded by Karl Dallas at the folk club run by Vic & Tina Smith at the Lewes Arms in Lewes, May 1974.

Bob Blake playing the fiddle at the Horsham Songswappers.

 

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sl-feb2009-p178-179-thank-you-for-the-music.pdf
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eds-v29-no3-autumn67--70-73-george-townshend.pdf
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eds-v30-no1and2-spring-summer68-p8-joy-hyman-song-collecting-sussex.pdf
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eds-v29-no1-spring67-p19-20-sing-sussex-ethel-powell.pdf
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eds-v30-no1-spring68-p14-15-sussex-mummers-carol.pdf
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