Duo’s archive tape revived
Comedian and actor Billy Connolly tells the story of walking into a Glasgow bar, during his days as a folk musician, and seeing an extraordinary man playing a banjo “like an angel”.
“He played so brilliantly that I didn’t tell him I played banjo,” said the Big Yin. “I just sat next to him with my mouth agape. I had never heard banjo played so well in my life. I have often sat in glorious wonder, listening to the magical way his pure voice matched the tone of his various banjos to a tee.”
The musician Connolly was referring to was Clive Palmer, who lived in Cornwall for many years until his death in 2014 and was a big name nationally as well as on the Cornish folk scene.
Clive was best known for his work as a member of The Incredible String Band in the 1960s. He moved to Cornwall in 1968 and frequented the legendary Folk Cottage at Mitchell, as well as other venues, and was a member of the highly regarded Famous Jug Band before going on to work with other groups involving Cornish musicians.
This week sees the re-release (and its first time on CD) of a collaboration Clive made with St Ives-based poet, Bob Devereux.
The recording has been unearthed by well-known West Cornwall music promoter, printer and gallery owner, Martin Val Baker. The 14-track collection was first released as a cassette in 1978 on Martin’s Rainyday Records label. Martin, who at the time acted as a roadie-manager for the duo, explained his reason for reviving the album 40 years on.
“Earlier this year I spotted a copy of the cassette reaching a spectacular price online as a ‘rare item’,” he said. “So I thought it might be worth putting it out again, in CD format. In the late 1970s I was a roadie-manager for Bob and Clive and we would travel around the Westcountry doing gigs for £15 here, £20 there, and also making the occasional festival appearance. Once we got as far as Bristol, and there was one performance in London.
These recordings were made as demo tapes in 1977 and 1978, with three tracks being released on the Rainyday cassette, Suns and Moons, which was later put out as a CD by Robin Williamson’s Pigs Whisker label in 1999.”
A founder member of The Incredible String Band and Famous Jug Band, Clive Palmer played alongside such luminaries as Robin Williamson and Mike Heron. The Incredible String
Band was formed in Scotland in 1965 and the trio’s eponymously-titled first album was hailed on its release in 1966 as a beacon of progressive folk. Its sequel, The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, two years later, was cited by the members of Led Zeppelin as being a major influence. Legendary guitarist Wizz Jones described Clive – who was also a woodwork teacher and trades unionist – as “one of the
finest musicians I have ever known, he was an inspiration and a well-loved friend”.
Martin added: “Clive and Bob had each worked with pretty stimulating company before and since. However, I do think it is as this duo and as the later quartet Rhombus (featuring Tim Wellard
and Dick Reynolds) that they produced some of their most interesting work.”
Clive Palmer (left) and Bob Devereux in the 1970s and (left) the newly re-released album of their work