British Folk Music Heroes, The Waterson Family
The Waterson Family at the BBC
The Waterson Family have been performing together as a group for over 50 years. The music is traditional folk music often with no accompaniment. Not that band members cannot play instruments. It is just that much of the time their different voices act as their musical instruments.
The Watersons hail from my hometown of Hull, in Yorkshire.
When I was young they were just getting started. They lived in the same area of town as us. This means they were not wealthy. Who was in post war Britain?. Norma, Mike and Lal's parents died when the kids were young. Extra hardship for them.
In the early sixties they served their folk music apprenticeship around the pubs and clubs of Hull and beyond. The Bluebell Inn located in Hull turned over its upstairs a couple of nights a week to become a folk club. Dylan was becoming popular in the UK and folk music was the latest trend.
The Watersons sung traditional folk songs arranged by themselves. They also began to compose some of their own music and perform it. It was early days but they started to be noticed.
Watching The Watersons Homecoming, filmed at Hull truck Theatre, I enjoyed the family history as much as the music. Norma who always seemed to take the lead was the main story teller. She told snippets of their history from their early performance at The Troubadour Club in London and their signing with Topic records to present day.
The original members are all now starting to show their age. Lal sadly died in 1998 and for a time the band stopped performing. Norma has obviously had health problems and needed the aid of a walking stick. Yet the voices are still so strong and tuneful. Perhaps Mike, who appeared a little deaf, was less tuneful. He made up for it though with an individual quality as he sang.
Martin Carthy, Norma's husband is a successful musician in his own right. Their daughter Eliza Carthy, who appeared in the Homecoming concert also, has made a name for herself in music.
Ye it is as a family that they seem their most happy. A large friendly, caring family. They like to keep their loved ones close and it seems to have paid off. Younger family members have had their times trying to escape folk music but all eventually return to the fold.
I love the fact that the original Waterson members still have a strong Hull accent. Most of us do. It is something we are not proud off but that we find hard to shed. The Watersons moved to Robin Hood's Bay some years ago but still retain the accent of their youth.
The Waterson's music is traditional English folk music that somehow has a timeless feel to it. It may be a thing of the past but this family manage to keep it current
Long may they continue to do so.
UPDATE June 22, 1011
My brother, who personally knew The Waterson's all those years ago, has just posted that Mike Waterson died early today, June 22, 2011. RIP and thoughts to the family.
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