A blast from the past

Back in the hippy 60's, when I was a teenager, I knew someone called Frank Press.  A few years ago I heard he had died and did a google search on his name.  I found the YouTube song below by Canticle of Like a Rolling Stone.  I read that Frank had died in 2000. It was really lovely to read all those words and listen to him singing and performing again.  He was a great inspiration to me.

I knew Frank Press in Farnborough in way back the 60's and 70's and often visited the folk clubs around there, in Fleet, Farnborough and beyond. I was living at home at the time with my mum and dad, Margaret and Dennis Hill.  My mum was pretty active in music at that time and ran the Farnborough Young People's Music Club.  Another great musical inspiration. 

Frank was an excellent songwriter and wrote a lot of music and lyrics while he was alive.  His dedication to the poetry of a song, and great ability to find just the right guitar chords were always an inspiration and guided me on my way as a songwriter when I was in my teens.  I am in contact with Howard Fullbrook who sang and played with Frank in a number of groups.  He pointed me at this recording of one of Frank's lovely songs 'Early to Bed', played here by LIttle Johny England, an excellent roots folk rock band.

As for me, well I was beginning to get the 'bug' of playing guitar, inspired mainly by Dylan, Joni and Paul of course, and the amazing talent that was floating around Farnborough at that time.  I don't think I would ever have got into music had Frank and the others not been around playing, promoting and making things happen. I got into my first group, Next of Kin, in the late 60's when I was 16 or 17.

Here is a photo of Next of Kin visiting some kiddies home somewhere near Fleet I believe. In the back row, l to r, Pete Lambert, Frank Press, Paul Lambert, Margaret Hill (my mum) and Janet 'nut' Stephenson.  I managed to find Nut on Facebook and made contact after over 40 years.  She dropped by while visiting Bristol, where I now live, to say hello.  An amazing meeting after so many years!  In the photography, that is me sitting with a dulcimer and Paul's kid sister whose name I can't remember! 

We sang around the clubs in Farnborough, Aldershot, Guildford, and beyond and it was amazing. I am sure you can remember the musical inventiveness and creative bravery of those days?   I sang quite a bit on my own, songs like Little Miss Ugly and Porcelain Dove, singers like Susie Wadey, Susie Paterson and Fiona Simpson were around, I have all the faces, but few names.   It was lovely to make contact again with Susie, still playing music, and Susie Paterson, living in London and bringing up a musical family by the sound of it! 

Frank and Pete eventually teamed up with a third guy, he sang a song something about a River flowing? I can't remember his name now. They formed Canticle while I was still in Farnborough, and through them I came to know Bill Boazman, an amazing singer/songwriter.

Those were the days, as the song goes. The launched me into a life of songwriting and playing. I think it is true to say that singing and playing guitar have kept me on the planet and have brought so much joy and happiness.

I lost track of Frank, and feel very sad he has gone. I would love to have made contact again, but he seemed to have made a happy life and continued his music.  I think he was eventually a headmaster?

Here is Frank with Canticle performing Like a Rolling Stone. 



The next song 'Track 18' is a testimony to the terrible naivity of those days - we were in thrall with ourselves a bit I think?  Anyway, here is Frank reading a poem he was very excited about at a Canticle Rehearsal, and Howard McDermot, a very talented Farnborough songwriter, somehow combined a new song he had written with Frank's poem.  A fascinating snapshot of the times I think?

Also included is a wonderful song 'The Worm Forgives the Plough' (Track 14) written by Bill Boazman (aca Sonny Black) in the 70's.  He played with Howard, Frank and others in and around Farnorough.  The song did the rounds of all the clubs and is seen by many as a fine example of acoustic folk songwriting;  beautifully sung and played by Bill, who continues to tour all these years later as Sonny Black, playing the blues.

Finally, a live version of Bill Boazman's amazingly strong and moving song Victor Jara, performed by Bill, accompanied by Howard Fullbrook on Mandolin and Tim on accordian.

I hope you like these recordings - I think they perfectly capture a period of folk history in the making, back in the early 70's, and the seeds of much of the folk rock music we hear today.

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