BORN 1933, working class family, Nottingham/Derby border. Elementary school until 15. Various jobs. National service in Royal Artillery. Regular service in RAF. On demob various dead end jobs. Turned pro as folksinger 1964. Retired from full time touring 1999.
SINGING. School Choir. Teenage talent shows, Al Jolson imitations, Nat King Cole ballads. Interested in Jazz, Blues, Country music, Music Hall, from around age 14. Folk music interest stems from then. Early favourites: Frank Crumit, Jimmie Rodgers, Carson Robinson, Bessie Smith. Later the folk revival pioneers from USA: Burl Ives, Josh White, The Weavers, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Cisco Houston, Big Bill Broonzy, etc. Later still: All the skifflers. I was an enthusiastic skiffler, played a mean washboard. Heard my first traditional song (McCafferty) and some others, in the army. Got interested in British stuff, started looking. When the folk scene started I was waiting for it. After demob in 1959 I used to go to London folk clubs to floor sing. While working in a S.London laundry I got around to more, including the Unity Theatre sessions.
FOLK CAREER. Skiffle and floor spots at early folk clubs. Moved to Cardiff 1960, there opened first folk club in S.Wales. Began semi pro career singing around S.Wales, Bristol & West country, Swindon, Cheltenham. Got sack from 3 jobs for taking time off to go singing. Decided to go full time after good reception at Sidmouth Festival 1964. Moved back to Nottingham (home patch) started touting for work. 1967 opened Nottingham Traditional Music Club. A great club lasted 22 years, had it's own Morris team, still running, Mummers, research group, home of Notts Alliance group. Booked regularly at festivals from 1966. Recorded for Topic, 5 albums. Recorded 'Tale of Ale' for Free Reed. Recorded for Fellside, 3 albums. Recorded live one (Hooray) for Wildgoose. 1976-80 Directed Loughborough folk festival, coined the phrase 'a celebration of folk music', and christened it 'The National' now running at Sutton Bonington. Compered 'The Folk Prom' at Royal Albert Hall 2 years. Toured in Europe, Canada, USA(23 trips) Australia(sang at Sydney Opera House) and was first professional guest at Bermuda folk club. Many appearances on radio folk shows, occasional TV home and abroad, theatre productions. Concerts, Festivals. I've also had a long career writing for folk magazines, my own column in Nottingham Evening Post, 10 years running the folk show on BBC Radio Nottingham. I had a 15 year career as a television actor, small parts, extras, etc., and provided music for a number of radio documentaries. In 1991 I opened the 'Traditions at the Tiger' club in Long Eaton, nr. Nottingharn, ran it for three years until moving back to Cardiff. The club is still going strong, and has a lot of respect
I've worked with most of the top names in folk music. And, I'm proud to say, gave encouragement to several of todays top names. In 1980's was hit by illness and throat trouble which has dogged me ever since. In 1999 decided to give up full time touring. Will still keep in touch with the scene, doing writing and consultancy, as now, but will only come out to sing on special occasions. It's been a grand life in folk music. tough at times, but worth it. It got me out of those factories and it sent me around the world. It introduced me to some great people, some lifelong friends. And it gave me that superb thrill of standing before an audience to join with them in song. Nothing can beat that.
ROY HARRIS. August 11 '99