More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Bill Leader - folk revival giant!

Listened to the BBC Folk Awards last night and it was great to see Bill Leader get the recognition he deserves. Bill was an engineer and producer of folk music records from the late 1950s. He worked at Topic Records, producing albums by such greats as Rambling Jack Elliott, Ewan McColl and Alexis Korner amongst many others.
Alexis Korner
In those austere post-war years pay was low, so at the same time he was having to supplement his income by working in Colletts, the renowned record shop on New Oxford Street, London, specialising in folk, blues and jazz. Later he collaborated with Nathan Joseph, who had set up Transatlantic Records in 1962.
Bill Leader, secretary Sue Sharpe and founder Nat Joseph in the
 Transatlantic Records office in Hampstead in 1963  ©Brian Shuel
In the 60s he would often record artists in his own flat in Camden Town using a semi-pro Revox tape-recorder, reputably sound-proofing the room with blankets and egg boxes! The list of famous folkies he produced reads like the who's who of the genre - Davey Graham, Bert Jansch, The Watersons, The Young Tradition, The Dubliners, Matt McGinn, Billy Connolly, The Humblebums, Pentangle, Dick Gaughan, Gerry Rafferty, Nic Jones, Christy Moore - I could go on but suffice to say Bill practically recorded the folk revival single-handedly!
Nat Joseph (left) and Bill Leader recording in 1963
 ©Brian Shuel
By 1969 he set up the Trailer and Leader labels with his wife Helen. Leader was more of a folk archive with academic notes on the music, recording people such as Alan Lomax, the great American field collector of 20th century songs and folklore. Trailer was the label dedicated to the revival scene.

Bill has been and remains part of the bedrock on which the folk revival was built and we owe him a great debt. I couldn't be more delighted that last night at the Lowry Theatre in Salford he was honoured with the Good Tradition award, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the continuation of traditional folk music. Well done Bill, you've set the bar so high, but let's hope there are others ready to step up and continue your sterling work, bringing the music of the people to front of stage for many years to come.  Here's to you Bill!

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