concertina

Stuart Eydmann’s PhD thesis on the history of the concertina in Scotland (and much more) can be read at the excellent site: www.concertina.com. The site also contains his article on the concertina in the folk revival in Great Britain.

This page carries revised, supplementary and updated information relating to the concertina and its players in Scotland.

Alexander Prince

Alexander Prince, Glasgow & Nottingham. Schottische.

Alexander Prince, Glasgow and Nottingham. Honest Toil. Recorded c. 1916.

Alexander Prince, Glasgow and Nottingham. Scotch Reels.

Alexander Prince, Glasgow and Nottingham. Lads of Scotland. From 78 rpm record Regal G7003 28055.

Alexander Prince, Glasgow and Nottingham. Tam o’ Shanter. From 78 rpm record Regal Regal G7512 69626.

Alexander Prince, Glasgow and Nottingham. Hornpipe Medley. From 78 rpm record Zonophone, Serial no. 450 Matrix X-49113 # 78 rpm # 10 inch. File supplied by Chris J. Brady who wrote: “Severe scruff mark for first 10 seconds and possible groove jump.Recorded using Goldring / Lenco electric deck at 45 rpm (this was stable, 78 rpm was not). Audacity was used to ‘speed up’ recording to 78, and also to remove pops and clicks etc. Interestingly when played at 45 rpm the Hornpipe Medley sounded very good. When speeded up to 78 rpm the high notes sounded impossibly high, and the speed of playing impossibly fast.”

Alexander Prince, Glasgow and Nottingham. Silver Heels. From 78 rpm record Zonophone Serial no. 450 Matrix X-49117 # 78 rpm # 10 inch. File supplied by Chris J. Brady who wrote: “Severe scruff mark for first 10 seconds and possible groove jump. Recorded using Goldring / Lenco electric deck at 45 rpm (this was stable, 78 rpm was not). Audacity was used to ‘speed up’ recording to 78, and also to remove pops and clicks etc.”

Alexander Prince, Glasgow and Nottingham. Woodland Flowers (Schottische). Music by Felix Burns. From 78 rpm record Winner 334 2167. This tune was absorbed into the Irish tradition as Mrs Kenny’s Barndance. See: https://thesession.org/tunes/1603/

Walter Dale

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Walter (Wattie) Dale was a popular and influential player of the English concertina active in Glasgow in the first half of the twentieth century. A well known music hall turn he was also a regular player on the Clyde steamers and a teacher of concertina. He recorded several sides of Scottish traditional music for the Sterno label. His son Tommy was also a professional concertina player.

Walter Dale, Glasgow. Orange and Blue. Walter Dale, Glasgow High Level Hornpipe

Tommy Dale

Tommy Dale, Glasgow. Lopeziana. Music by Lou Adler. From 78 rpm record Sterno 552 matrix S1000.

George S. Morris

Aberdeen born George Smith Morris (1876- 1958) was a blacksmith who married the sister of entertainer Willie Kemp and subsequently took over the Kemp owned hotel at Old Meldrum. He became well known as a concert party leader and writer and performer of ‘bothy ballads’, accompanying himelf on duet concertina. He made over 40 records for the Beltona label during the 1930s.

George ‘Dod’ S. Morris, Aberdeenshire. A Sunday Morning Ramble. Monologue and concertina playing from the comedian and song writer. From 78 rpm gramophone record Beltona 1718 M13733E.

Jack Easy

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Jack Easy (Joe Maley) (d. 1980) was one of a number of oustanding concertinists who emerged from Glasgow in the first decades of the twentieth century. He was associated with the Logan Family of variety theatre performers and was a close friend of the late Jimmy Logan. Some memoirs from Ross Campbell who supplied the recordings:

“Joe Maley’s stage name was in fact “Jack Easy – the Musical Midshipman”. Originally from Glasgow, he and his wife Liz retired to Fleetwood, Lancashire in the early ’70s, after a long career in music hall and variety. He suffered a stroke shortly after that, and, unable to play, he and the family decided to dispose of his precious concertinas (some of them novelty items – one of them had a slider adaptation in the middle of the bellows so that it could be split apart in mid-tune – and continue playing!). Liz nursed him at home in Abbotts Walk for a long time and eventually he regained mobility and speech. In September 1977 Neil Wayne and Alistair Anderson were invited to the Fylde Folk Festival to present a “Concertina Consciousness” workshop in the Mount Hotel, across the road from Joe and Liz’s cottage. Curiosity brought Joe and Liz to the meeting, in the course of which Alistair Anderson picked up that Joe knew a fair bit about concertinas and how to get the best out of the instrument. Alistair asked if he wouldn’t mind demonstrating for the gathering. At first Joe was reluctant as he didn’t have his own preferred concertina any more (a fifty-six key English, extended down), while Liz was afraid he would make a fool of himself by not being able to get his fingers to work. However, somebody in the audience provided the right instrument, and Joe proceeded to dazzle everybody with a selection of tunes. Local folk club organizer Ron Baxter was in the room and made a point of introducing himself after the workshop had finished. A few days later, Ron arrived on Joe and Liz’s doorstep with a concertina borrowed from Fylde Folk Festival organizer Alan Bell. Joe quickly recovered his full playing ability and started coming along to the old Fleetwood Folk Club at the Queens Hotel. In November, 1977 (the day after the flood, for anyone who remembers that) I drove Joe down to Haydock to a Concertina Convention run by an ex-miner called Harry Hatton. Harry knew of Joe Maley under his stage name of Jack Easy. He had been trying to track Joe down for years and was thrilled to meet him at last. In Harry’s estimation, Joe was the best player he had ever heard. While there were some very talented players at that meeting, including a couple of blazered gentlemen who played anglo in a style almost identical in smoothness and musicality to Joe’s, it was Joe’s playing that stood out.

Joe generously contributed his time and music to the local folk scene in Blackpool and Fleetwood over the next few years, and even travelled around the North West tp play in variety concerts revived by a local entrepreneur. Alan Bell introduced the Jack Easy Music Hall and Palace of Varieties as a regular event at Fylde, and Joe performed at these concerts till his death.

Joe was indeed a virtuoso of the English concertina. He thought, as I do, that the expression “Good enough for Folk” was an insult to both the audience and whoever came out with it, but he never let the standards he expected of himself get in the way of a warmth and generosity that were extended to any and all who were willing to learn. Joe and Liz’s hospitality remains a warm memory to many who accompanied Joe home after a night at the Folk Club. Liz would immediately have a cup of tea ready, often followed later by bacon, egg and chips (she and Joe had acquired the habit of eating late from years in travelling shows, when the main meal in theatrical “digs” would be provided after the last show of the night).

Alan Bell wrote the song “The Concertina Man” about Joe’s life and times, and the drive to entertain that sustained him and many like him. The words are available in the Alan Bell Songbook.”  From MUDCAT CAFE December 2007

Regarding these recordings:

“Joe was a member of a concertina band as a youngster in Glasgow. His taste in music was mainly light classical material, while Liz would always try to get him to play more popular stuff, show tunes and songs – they went down better! Harry Hatton met Joe for the first time at that Haydock session, although he knew him by reputation (possibly also from radio broadcasts – I never tried to find out if any trace of these broadcasts remains?) and had been trying to find him for years. Harry reckoned Joe was the finest concertina player he had ever met . For a classically trained musician, Joe was most unusual in his ability to perform and accompany by ear, although in his music hall and variety career he had often been required to score parts for the pit orchestras, and could do so with great speed. Performances would change nightly, or extra items would be required at short notice for other
artistes, and pieces of music would be written, rehearsed and performed within the day. He was also able to use the chromatic scope of the English concertina to its full ability, often providing a soft
accompaniment to floor singers at the old Fleetwood Folk Club in keys that would baffle the rest of us. Joe’s sister (I don’t know her name) learned concertina in the same band. While recognising his own unusual abilities, Joe always said that his sister was the better player. Although she never followed a musical career and played only occasionally, Joe reckoned her a “natural” who was able to pick up the instrument when they got together and play material that she had presumably learned fifty years before.” Ross Campbell in email to raretunes.org December 2007

In a personal communication to Stuart Eydmann, c.1982, Buddy Logan recalled:

“In 1947 the Metropole, Glasgow show was established. Joseph Maley was a Glaswegian of Irish descent. He lived in the East End near Barrowland. His wife was part of a sister act Lizzie and Mary Elliott.”

There is a Jack Easy business card in the Scottish Theatre Archive, University of Glasgow:

http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/sta/search/detaild.cfm?DID=69826

Jack Easy, Glasgow and Fleetwood. Scottish Waltz.
Jack Easy, Glasgow and Fleetwood. March.

Peter McCabe

Peter McCabe, Glasgow. Love Divine. An Evangelical song. Recorded Easterhouse, Glasgow.

Jimmy Dickson

Jimmy Dickson, Galashiels. Wide, Wide is the Ocean. An Evangelical song.

Victor Smith

Victor Smith, Edinburgh. Stracathro.

Stuart Eydmann

Stuart Eydmann, Fife, Glasgow and EdinburghGaelic Hymn Played on English concertina. Recorded Glasgow, 2007.

Stuart Eydmann with The Whistlebinkies, Fife, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Bonny at Morn A Border lullaby. Recorded Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh, 27 August 2010.

Photographs and Texts

Saved as downloadable PDF files to allow appropriate citation and acknowledgement by others.

1.1 Alec Reid, concertinist – photograph.

1.2 Unusual Prospects : The Concertina – a photographic record.

1.3 On the Box – A short paper on the concertina in Glasgow prepared for a workshop held by the Glasgow branch of the Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland.

1.4 David Haxton and Peter McCabe – concertina players, Easterhouse, Glasgow.

1.5 Danny Toner – concertina player, Glasgow.

1.6 Bill Tennant Band – on PS Waverley, Glasgow, 1976.

3.1 Gordon Haxton and Peter Donald, concertinas with Phil Cunningham – Kibble Palace, Glasgow.

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