Saturday, 26 June 2010

John The Fish

Yesterday I spent more than an hour speaking to John The Fish in his tranquil front garden in Perranwell. Something of a legend in Cornwall, in 1964 John was one of the original artistes booked into The Count House at Botallack, the first of many folk clubs that would spring up all round Cornwall in the '60's.

Whilst there he began his long association with Brenda Wootton, whom he accompanied throughout the early part of her career. He recorded four albums with her during this period. We also talked about 'The Folk Cottage' in Mitchell and 'Room at the Top' in Redruth, both only ten minutes or so from Truro by car. The former was significant in the early careers of Wiz Jones and Ralph McTell both of whom lived nearby. During Summer 68 - the time that the Reaction were playing some of their last gigs - Ralph McTell made his first recording of Streets of London on the album Spiral Staircase, helped by musicians from Cornwall. Later some of the same musicians teamed up with Clive Palmer to form 'The Famous Jug Band' and 'COB'.

'Room at the Top' was a bigger venue run by Dave Penprase after he split with Pete Bawden, and the club moved from Truro. John the Fish described a memorable gig by Davy Graham at 'Room at the Top' performed by the pioneering guitarist whilst, allegedly, strung out on heroin.

The Famous Jug Band, with Jill Johnson, played at both venues and Mike Grose and other members of Reaction remember visiting. Below is a picture of Ralph, Brenda and John with someone (and her dog) who was probably a visitor to the club. John thinks the guitar is probably Ralph's.

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