Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Albert Lancaster 'Bert' Lloyd, 29 February 1908; d 29 September 1982) British author, musicologist, singer; the most influential and revered figure in the post-war folk revival, a mentor for younger acts. He studied in Sofia and Bucharest and was eventually a visiting lecturer in ethnomusicology at several universities in the USA as well as Australia and even Papua/New Guinea. His books included The Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs '59: co-edited by Ralph Vaughan Williams (b 12 October 1872, Gloucestershire; d 26 August 1958, London) it sold 50,000 copies by the mid-1980s; Folk Song In England '67 was a standard influence on revival artists. Der Grosse Steinitz: Deutsche Volkslieder demokratischen Charakters aus sechs Jahrhunderten '55 and '62 in East Germany was a similar treatment of German folksong.

He lived in Australia in his mid-teens, 'sheepminding' as he called it; collected 'bush ballads' for nine years; returned to the UK during the Depression, went to sea in the whaling industry; chanced to hear a BBC programme about unemployment in the USA and approached the BBC about a similar venture on the UK from the point of view of the working man; The Singing Englishman: An Introduction To Folk Song '44, published by the Workers' Music Association, led to Folk Song In England when it needed revision and updating. He worked as a broadcaster, journalist (also wrote about the Spanish Civil War), was involved in radio series Ballads And Blues '53 (also inspired an early folk club formed by Ewan MacColl), with performances by Big Bill Broonzy, Alan Lomax, Lloyd, MacColl, Jean Ritchie etc. (This was still the heyday of radio in UK, TV beyond most people's pockets.) Later worked on MacColl/Parker Radio Ballads; one programme, 'Singing The Fishing' '60, had an extract on The Electric Muse '75 on Island/Transatlantic, Lloyd singing 'Shoals Of Herring' intercut with Sam Larner reminiscing about life as a fisherman, typical of MacColl's programming.

'The Banks Of The Condamine'/'Bold Jack Donahue' was a 78 on Topic with Al Jeffrey, but most of Lloyd's work was on microgroove: in '50s EPs The Banks Of The Condamine, Convicts And Currency Lads on Australian Wattle label; Row Bullies Row, The Blackball Line and Bold Sportsmen All all with MacColl on Topic. They also recorded with Harry H. Corbett, later famous in BBC TV comedy Steptoe And Son. Their work appeared on Riverside in USA; thematic albums included A Selection From The Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs '60 on Collector/Folklyric; The Iron Muse '63 examined industrial folk songs, with Briggs, Bob Davenport, Ray Fisher, Louis Killen, Matt McGinn, the Celebrated Workingmen's Band; The Bird In The Bush '66 was erotic songs, with Frankie Armstrong, Brigg, Alf Edwards, Dave Swarbrick; Leviathan! '67 about whaling, ironically found a new market in Japan '80s (all on Topic). Other albums included First Person on Topic; Haul On The Bowline and Off To Sea Once More on Stinson with MacColl; English And Scottish Ballads Vols 1--5, The Whaler Out Of New Bedford, The Unfortunate Rake all on Folkways; Sea Shanties, The Great Australian Legend, The Valiant Sailor all on Topic; and his field recordings included Rumanian Folk Music (10" LP '50s), Folk Music Of Bulgaria '64, Of Albania '66, all on Topic. Another Selection From The Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs '85 on Fellside included Carthy, John Bowden, Jez Lowe, Linda Adams, Roy Harris.

Ian Watson's book Song And Democratic Culture In Britain acknowledged its debt to Lloyd; his legacy is enormous. His work also has an enigmatic quality, however, for nobody knows the extent to which he shaped material. For example, 'Byker Hill', a Geordie working-class lyric set to a 9/8 tune, was a radical conjoining; yet even Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, who popularized it in the folk clubs, on their Byker Hill album '67 and on Life And Limb '90, did not know where the tradition left off and Lloyd began. With his knowledge of Balkans and Greek music Lloyd could have been slyly alluding to rembetes (people who lived in the Greek rembetika sub-culture, known for a casual attitude towards hashish), or he could have been using a Bulgarian or Albanian or even British model. As Karl Dallas later recalled, 'Though not considered by many as a songwriter, in fact Bert smuggled many of his own compositions into the ''tradition'', Thomas Chatterton-style, and the first time I ever shared a platform with him, he was singing his own versions of popular folk songs, like ''Are You Going Off To War, Billy Boy, Billy Boy'', and ''Keep-a-Goin' and a-Growin' '' (both of American, rather than British provenance, interestingly).' Speculation can be rife about Lloyd's work, which becomes part of its charm.