In the first in the Derbyshire Cultural Heritage article we're profiling musicians through the ages that have associations with Derbyshire and Derby City. Derbyshire is a vibrant county and is home to many fantastic contemporary musicians, so it will perhaps be no surprise to read that some of the greatest (and the most ridiculously famous!) musicians have composed in, taken inspiration from or heralded from the County.
What better point in time to start than in the 18th century with George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) who was a regular visitor to the River Dove area of Derbyshire? He is known to have been a frequent visitor to Calwich Abbey, at Ellastone. (pictured right: The ruins of Calwich Abbey where Handel stayed with his friend, Bernard Granville of Calwich
Image reproduced courtesy of Peak and Fell Walking)
Ellastone is a small village near Ashbourne on the Derbyshire border in Staffordshire. Handel's good friend Bernard Granville (to whom Handel bequeathed two Rembrandts upon his death in 1759) lived at the Abbey.
Reputedly, Handel took inspiration from this setting when composing 'Messiah' and 'Water Music'. According to many sources, he wrote 'Messiah' in 24 days whilst staying at the Abbey in 1741, and he is thought to have composed 'Water Music' in the Pavilion pictured below.
Pictured above: the Pavilion where Handel reputedly composed 'Water Music'. Image reproduced courtesy of Peak and Fell Walking
In a less austere form, music has always played a part in the lives of villages and towns around Derbyshire. A wandering minstrel called Singing Sam (pictured) lived approximately 250 years ago. He would perform his own compositions to the tunes he could scrape from a homemade fiddle!
Singing Sam appears as an illustration in a fascinating book called 'The ballads & songs of Derbyshire' edited by Llewellyn Jewitt (1816-1866) and published in 1867. This book details over 50 ballads originating from Derbyshire and can be read online here.
Pictured right: Wandering Minstrel Singing Sam courtesy of Derby Local Studies Library
The compositions are presented as lyrics, some with musical scores also, and with a brief history of the origins of the ballad and the composer. With song titles such as 'The Derby Ram', 'The Humours of Hayfield Fair', 'The Drunken Butcher of Tideswell', 'Little John's End', 'Squire Vernon's Fox Chace', 'Old Nun's Green'; and composers such as Sir Aston Cokain of Ashbourne, Eliza Cooke, Humphrey Brereton, Richard Howitt, Tom Handford (blacksmith) and James Bannard 'Wandering Poet in his 74th year'; it is a fine example of music originating from all walks of life and how the music reflected various aspects of living in Derbyshire from the nobility to wandering minstrel.
Of particular interest, turn to page 145 for 'Derbyshire Men' (first published 1864). It is a ballad by Mr Walter Kirkland that commences with the well known old Derbyshire saying that is often appropriated by other counties.
“I' Darbyshire who're born and bred,
Are strong i' th' arm, bu' weak i' th' head;”
And for pure place-name checks, turn to page 266 for 'The Beggar's Ramble', which in the quest for 'the nearest road unto the beggar's wells' takes the reader on a journey through the entire county.
'Thomas Ford's Ballads: A Facsimile Reprint of a Collection of Ballads First Published as Broadsheets by Thomas Ford of Chesterfield' is also a treasure trove of traditional music from Derbyshire.
There is also an interesting forum thread where the question posed is 'What songs are Native to Derbyshire?' that has dozens of answers suggesting many songtitles such as ' The Giant Ram of Derby', 'The Cow in't Gate' (Tideswell), 'Winster Gallop' and 'Tip O' Derwent'.
The thread also references one George Fradley of Cubley, Derbyshire, a folk singer whose repertoire included 'The Squire of Tamworth' and 'It's nowt t'do wi me!'
Many of the traditional folk music groups still practicing in Derbyshire carry on these traditions even today and carol singing is a well known form of public singing that remains as popular today as it ever was.
Carols often would emerge in the 'folk style' and there are many highly localised carols that have lived on into modern times and greater fame. From the Peak, there are many examples of local composers of carols including George Dawson (1840-1899), an Eyam shoemaker, who rewrote a tune for 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing'; Richard Furness (1797-1857), a school-teacher and poet from Eyam, who wrote over 30 carols; and William Newton (1750-1830), 'the Minstrel of the Peak', who wrote a Christmas hymn in 1797.
Morris Dancing – strictly speaking a 'dance' artform, but one that is inextricably linked with the music to which it is danced – was also a popular form of entertainment where troupes would perform on public holidays and at other gatherings. Morris Dancing has enjoyed a revival in recent years where numerous Morris troupes have reformed and gather to perform this traditional form of dance to folk music.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, popular music was performed, often in public houses by Catch and Glee Clubs. One singer of note in the Tideswell Catch and Glee Club was Samuel 'Singer' Slack (1757 - 1822), who was ' discovered' by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and who performed for King George III at Windsor.
Pictured left: Tideswell's Samuel 'Singer' Slack. Photograph supplied by Bygonederbyshire.co.uk
He possessed a magnificent bass voice and, as a younger man, he competed for a place in the College Choir at Cambridge. However, his ambitions had evidently left him later in life; when he was eventually invited to lead the choir in Westminster Abbey, he declined the offer, stating that he preferred to continue to sing with his friends in his home village.
Many people would associate Derbyshire – or at least life 'up north' – with brass or silver bands. And indeed Derbyshire has many that are still playing music and performing today. Typically associated with being a working class artform, brass/silver bands can be found in their traditional settings of fairs and church services, accompanying carols and entertaining the local community to which they belong.
To name only a few of the very many are - The Ashbourne Brass Band, established in 1861; Darley Dale Brass Band, established in 1890; Ilkeston Brass Band, established 1920s; Creswell Colliery Brass Band, established 1899; Whaley Bridge Brass Band, founded 1865; and Killamarsh Silver Band, established 1887.
Gilbert and Sullivan now have an established home in Buxton with the largest international G&S festival taking place every summer.
However, the work of Sir Arthur Sullivan is even more intertwined with Derbyshire than it just playing host to their operas. On parting ways with W.S. Gilbert, Sullivan composed an operetta based on the elopement of Dorothy Vernon (of the Vernon family of Haddon Hall). He wrote the operetta in collaboration with playwright Sydney Grundy in the Autumn of 1891 and it was called 'Haddon Hall'. The first night of 'Haddon Hall' took place at the Savoy Theatre on September 24, 1892 conducted by Sullivan himself.
Sullivan also visited Doveridge Hall as the guest of brewer Samuel Allsopp, the 2nd Baron Hindlip in November 1888.
Arthur Richardson was born in Staveley in 1882 and was internationally renowned for developing the design of a viola which gained him the reputation of being an 'English Stradivari'. He worked with viola player Lionel Tertis to try and create ' the ideal viola' in the mid 1930s.
Walter Thomas Cooper, better known as Gaze Cooper (1895-1935) was born in Long Eaton, Derbyshire. He founded and conducted what was to become the Nottingham Symphony Orchestra for 26 years and he taught at the Midland Conservatory of Music. He was also a prolific composer and his portfolio included 8 symphonies, 4 piano concertos, 2 ballets, an opera and a number of concertos for a variety of instruments including violin, oboe and viola. He also produced many other works, songs and chamber music.
The Derby Choral Union was founded in 1866, following the opening of the Market Hall in Derby with a performance of Handel's 'Messiah' in 1866. The event was so successful that a society was formed (officially 22nd June 1866) and the Derby Choral Union was born. The DCU is still going strong today.
Their first practice was 21 Sept 1866 in the Bag Lane School Room, but they soon moved their rehearsals to the old Assembly Rooms (pictured). This frontage shown in the picture shows it in situ in the Market Place in Derby. It has a new home at Crich Tramway Museum following a fire that forced the demolition of the old building.
Pictured above right: Old Assembly Rooms frontage in the Market Place in Derby prior to the fire that destroyed the building. Photograph supplied by Derby Choral Union.
DCUs first public performance was at the Corn Exchange in Derby in 1867 (Handel's oratorio 'Judas Maccabaeus'). Other performances followed - Vaughan Williams conducted the Derby Choral Union at the Drill Hall in 1926 in his own composition 'Sea Symphony'; they performed at Central Hall in Exchange Street for 20 years, of which there are two reviews reproduced from the Derby Evening Telegraph from 1944 and 1947; the King's Hall in Queen Street hosted many of their performances for over 40 years, including one in 1970 with the Halle Choir. There are many others too numerous to mention.
Derbyshire had a Georgian and Victorian heyday in terms of attracting spa visitors to both Smedley's Hydro and Buxton Spa. All kinds of celebrities of the day came to stay at Smedley's Hydro, including Sir Thomas Beecham, the conductor; Ivor Novello, composer; Sir Henry Lauder, singer, actor and comedian; George Robey, music-hall star; Noel Coward, singer and composer amongst other talents. Smedley's also had in-house musicians playing in the lounge for the entertainment of guests. One pianist, Violet Carson, was to find greater fame later in life as Ena Sharples in Coronation Street!
Pictured above: Smedley's Hydro in Matlock (now the Head Office of Derbyshire County Council). Photograph courtesy of Robert Steadman.
We rush forward to the 20th Century, of which there are many rich pickings of great performers and great performances that have taken place here.
Louis Armstrong came in 1933 to Derby and played at what was then called the Central Hall on Albert Street. Duke Ellington (then an unknown jazz musician) played to a tiny audience in 1948 at the Buxton Pavillion. The Walker Brothers also commenced a 10-date UK tour at Buxton Pavillion.
Harry Webb, aka Cliff Richard launched his career in the Regal Ballroom in Ripley in 1958. Cliff and band adopted the name Cliff Richard and the Drifters shortly before this, their first large-scale gig. Club promoter Harry Greatorex who ran the programme of gigs at the Regal Ballroom is also credited with helping Harry Webb create his stage name of Cliff Richard. The Ripley and Heanor News were the first publication to carry the new band's name and so, Sir Cliff's career can be firmly tied to an origin in Derbyshire!
The Beatles sold out at Buxton Pavillion in 1965. The Rolling Stones played in the club now known as Zanzibar in Derby on 11th October 1962. Derby also hosted The Who, Pink Floyd - complete with Syd Barrett - and the Yardbirds in the 1960s. In the 70s, gracing the town with their sounds were Genesis - with Peter Gabriel - Hawkwind and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
The Sweet played a number of gigs around Derbyshire in the 70s including in South Normanton, Ripley and Long Eaton.
Punk hit Derby's Cleopatra's in 1976 when the Sex Pistols visited town. They caused so much chaos that a second gig planned for later that year was cancelled after they played a mischievous trick on local councilors. Promised a preview, councilors waited for more than two hours in an empty auditorium. Enraged, they called the subsequent gig off.
In the 80s Derby saw The Stranglers, U2 and The Smiths, Slade, Shakin' Stevens and Bonnie Tyler, Primal Scream, Human League, Toyah and Gary Numan, Bauhaus, The Fall and Joy Division. Ian Curtis, singer in Joy Division (and from Macclesfield), committed suicide only days after the band's gig at Derby's Ajanta club.
In the 90s, Oasis played Derby twice in one year. Both gigs were at the former Wherehouse on Friargate. Their first gig, in November 1993, was as the support act for the BMX Bandits. The crowd liked them so much that they came back just six months later as the main headliners.
Some of the notable gigs that have taken place in Derbyshire are as follows.
Louis Armstrong - 1933 - Derby Central Hall
Duke Ellington – 1948 – Buxton Pavillion
Cliff Richard and the Drifters - 1958 - Regal Ballroom, Ripley
The Rolling Stones - October 1962 - Derby Gaumont
The Beatles – April 1963 – Buxton Pavillion
The Beatles – October 1963 – Buxton Pavillion
The Yardbirds - November 1965 - Derby Gaumont
The Beatles – 1965 – Buxton Pavillion
The Who - April 1966 - Derby Gaumont
The Who - September 1966 – Odeon
Pink Floyd -June 1967 – Hippodrome
The Sweet - January and March 1971 - Storthfield Country Club South Normanton
The Sweet - March 1971 - Blue Orchid Club Long Eaton
The Sweet - April 1971 - The Cock Inn Ripley
Slade, White Rabbit and Judas Priest - September 1971 -Derbyshire Yeoman
Frankie Vaughan, Alvin Stardust, Gene Pitney, Gerry Marsden , Matt Munro, Ella Fitzgerald, Ruby Murray, The Searchers, Del Shannon, Jimmy Crawford, Johnnie Ray, Billy Eckstein, Cliff Richard, Gene Pitney, Roy Orbison, Freddie and the Dreamers – May 1971 - 1976 - Talk of the Midlands, Derby
Genesis - November 1971 - King's Hall
Van de Graaf Generator - November 1971 - King's Hall
Crazy World of Arthur Brown - June 1972 - Cleopatra's
Hawkwind -January1973 - King's Hall
Chris Spedding - January 1974 - Cleopatra's
Bill Haley and the Comets - Wednesday, April 17, 1974 - Talk of the Midlands, Derby.
Dr Feelgood - October 1975 - Cleopatra's
The 101ers – 20 Dec 1975 – Cleopatra's
The Sex Pistols - October 1976 - Cleopatra's
The Sex Pistols (BANNED) - December 1976 - King's Hall
The Jam - November 1977 - King's Hall
The Clash - December 1977 - King's Hall
AC/DC - December 1977 - King's Hall
The Clash - November 1978 - King's Hall
Peter Gabriel - August 1978 - Assembly Rooms
The Cure - July 1979 – Ajanta
The Undertones - October 1979 - King's Hall
Crass, UK Subs, Damned, Psychedelic Furs, Anti-Pasti (Derby Band), Discharge – 1970s/80s – The Ajanta Club, Derby
The Damned - May 1980 - Assembly Rooms
Human League - May 1980 - Assembly Rooms
The Tourists - September 1980 - Assembly Rooms
Madness - December 1980 - Assembly Rooms
Slade - February 1981 - Assembly Rooms
Siouxsie and the Banshees - February 1981 - Assembly Rooms
Stiff Little Fingers - May 1981 - Assembly Rooms
Toyah May - 1981 - Assembly rooms
Shakin Stevens- May 1981 - Assembly Rooms
Bad Manners - July 1981 - Assembly Rooms
Joe Jackson's Jumping Jive - August 1981 - Assembly Rooms
The Pretenders - September 1981 - Assembly Rooms
Adam and the Ants - December 1981 - King's Hall
Thin Lizzy - December 1981 - Assembly Rooms
The Human League - December 1981 - Assembly Rooms
The Stranglers - February 1982 - Assembly Rooms
Boom Town Rats - April 1982 - Assembly Rooms
Marillion - May 1982 -Tiffany's
Altered Images - May 1982 - Assembly Rooms
Squeeze - June 1982 - Assembly Rooms
Simple Minds - December 1982 - Assembly Rooms
Mari Wilson - March 1983 - Assembly Rooms
U2 - March 1983 - Assembly Rooms
Soft Cell - March 1983 - Assembly Rooms
Gary Numan - October 1983 - Assembly Rooms
10CC - October 1983 - Assembly Rooms
The Smiths - December 1983 - Assembly Rooms
OMD - March 1984 - Assembly Rooms
Take That - November 1992 - Assembly Rooms
Tom Robinson - February 1993 – Wherehouse
Chumbawamba - March 1993 – Wherehouse
Oasis - May 1994 – Wherehouse
Of course these are all bands that have visited to play gigs to the people of Derby and Derbyshire, but the County has also given the music world many stars itself.
Ronald Binge, composer, was born in Derby in 1910. He worked with Mantovani through the Second World War (whilst also signed up for his war service!). When Noel Coward invited Mantovani to play for his musical, 'Pacific 1860', Binge joined him at Mantovani's request and so he orchestrated the show.
Influenced by the acoustic sound of choirs and church music, Binge wrote orchestral arrangements for large orchestras (45 instruments were required to produce his creation) to attempt to recreate the depth of sound. And so, Binge helped to create what is known as the Mantovani sound – and in so doing, made Mantovani a multi-millionaire.
Binge's best known melody is 'Elizabethan Serenade', but he might also be known to some radio enthusiasts of the shipping forecast for the tune 'Sailing By' that introduced this broadcast. He died in 1979 and a plaque to commemorate him can be found in the foyer of Derby Assembly Rooms.
Captain Pugwash might not spring immediately to mind when discussing composers, musicians and other arty types … but someone had to create the theme tune! Captain Pugwash's jaunty theme was composed by Jonny Pearson, born in Chesterfield in 1925. He was also responsible for bringing the theme tunes of television series 3-2-1, All Creatures Great and Small, Mary Mungo & Midge and the ITN News at Ten to our ears.
In the mid 50s, Dave Darby the Authentic Singing Cowboy 'direct from Ontario, Canada' was in actual fact a milkman from Chesterfield who'd never left the country. David Harry Atkin (1927-1996) from Old Whittington was known as the `Singing Cowboy', and later in his career that spanned 5 decades he became David H. Lee touring with his band `The Leemen', appearing with Roy Orbison at the Manchester Odeon in 1968. Later in his career he worked as a musician on the Yorkshire Television series `The Darling Buds of May' starring David Jason. After much globe-trotting and a glittering career in music and composing he returned to Chesterfield in 1985 a sick and disabled man. Here he became Chairman of the Derbyshire Coalition for the Disabled, and teamed up with disabled keyboard wizard Keith Newton to form the duo `Newton & Lee'.
The Singing Cowboy's son, Neil David Atkin was born in Old Whittington near Chesterfield in 1946. Neil followed his father's footsteps joining him in show business in 1968. As 'Reb Lee' he hosted the Chesterfield Country Music Club in the late 1970's and early 80's and fulfilled a long-held ambition in 1993 when he recorded an album of Elvis Presley songs.
His first book of poems, An Offering, published in 1984 heralded the beginning of his serious writing career. A fierce defender of social equality, his perceptive social comment article, The Suicide Generation, published on the front page of The Inquirer, proved to be the first of his countless published works.
Neil became a Unitarian Minister in 1991 and as Rev Neil D Lee took up the post of Minister in charge of Stockton-on-Tees Unitarian Church. His fifth book, Rumblings in the Dust was published by New Age Poetry Press in 1993; this was followed by Discovering Derbyshire's White Peak, in 2000; Northern Derbyshire – Snapshots in Time 2007; Weird, Wacky & Wonderful Derbyshire Folk 2008 & A History of Old Whittington 2008 – all written under the pseudonym of 'Tom Bates'. Neil is now retired to rural Lincolnshire and is a full-time carer for his disabled wife.
Campbell Burnap, (1938-2008) jazz trombonist and singer (broadcaster and cricket fan) was born in Derby and later in childhood lived near Belper. He left the UK at age 19 and his wanderlust saw him touring the World playing to audiences and, in 1980, he joined Acker Bilk on a tour of Australia. Later in the 1980s he became a jazz presenter on Radio 2 and also broadcast on BBC World Service and Jazz FM.
Tenuous as it is musically, Tim Brooke-Taylor, born in 1940 in Buxton, had a very brief 'musical' career when he appeared with The Goodies on Top of the Pops with their song 'Funky Gibbon'. Other 'recordings' are The New Goodies LP; The Goodies' Beastly Record; The Least Worst of Hello Cheeky; The Seedy Sounds of Hello Cheeky.
Pictured above right: Buxton which is the birthplace of Tim Brooke-Taylor, Dave Lee Travis and Lloyd Cole. Photograph supplied courtesy of Deborah Porter
Kevin Coyne, musician, singer, composer, film-maker, and a writer of lyrics, stories and poems, was born in 1944 in Derby and died in Germany in 2004. He trained as an artist and in his later career devoted more time to painting, but first his career steered him towards music and the Blues. He signed his first record contract in 1968 and was touted often by John Peel who released Coyne's work on his Dandelion Records label. He turned down the offer to replace Jim Morrison in The Doors and was one of the first artists to be signed to the Virgin label. Fans of Coyne include John Lydon, Sting, Will Oldham and the Mekons.
In 1944 in Matlock, lead and rhythm guitarist Mick Green was born (died 2010). He played for most of his career with his band Jonny Kidd and the Pirates (later just 'The Pirates'), but he is also credited with influencing rock and roll with his uniquely developed aggressive sound. He has been cited as directly influencing great guitarists such as Pete Townshend and Wilko Johnson and thus changing the shape of English rock and roll. Green's songs appear on Dr Feelgood's albums ('Oyeh!' on 'Down by the Jetty'; 'Going Back Home' on 'Malpractice') and he has played with artists such as Bryan Ferry, Paul McCartney and Van Morrison.
Dave Lee Travis might not spring immediately to mind in a discussion about music! But DLT, ex-graphic designer, ex-Radio Caroline and ex-Radio 1 presenter (and 'Pipe Smoker of the Year 1982', no less) hails from Buxton – born there in 1945.
Born in Derby in 1949 (died 2002), Roy Hollingworth, was a singer, composer and guitarist. Compared to Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen, he was admired by the music industry and was a friend to rock's greatest artists. As a former reporter with the Derby Evening Telegraph, he combined his gift for writing with his love of music and became a feature writer for Melody Maker in 1970. As a writer for MM, he was one of the last people to interview Jimi Hendrix before he died and is remembered for his review of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon which he described as 'diabolically uninteresting'. His scoops for MM include the split of The Kinks, the discord within the Faces and the tracking down of David Bowie, at a time when David Bowie preferred not to be found!
Tracie Young (born in Derby 1965) was discovered by Paul Weller when she responded to his advert in Smash Hits in his quest to find a female vocalist for band 'The Questions'. She also provided backing vocals on The Jam's 'Beat Surrender' single in 1982 and she appeared on Top of the Pops to promote the single, which became a number one hit. She was also voted "Most Fanciable Female" in Smash Hits 1983 readers' poll!
In a round up of popstars of recent yesteryears are Buxton's Lloyd Cole of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. Lloyd was born in Buxton in 1961 and grew up in Chapel-en-le-Frith, attending school in New Mills. Mark Shaw of Then Jerico was born in 1961 in Chesterfield.
Ex-depressive and recently revitalised frontman of The Specials, Fun Boy Three, The Colourfield and many modern morphing incarnations is Terry Hall, who now lives with his family in Glossop. Pete Dodd (guitarist and vocalist) and Jon Podgorski (drummer) of the Thompson Twins (formed in 1977 in Sheffield) live in Chesterfield. Dodd works as a freelance journalist.
Simon Friend of The Levellers was educated at Repton School (1980-85). Also schooled at Repton were Jonathan Harvey (composer) and Martin How (composer).
Ben Ottewell (vocals/guitar) from Indie band Gomez is from Matlock Bath. The band members met whilst studying at University (both Ottewell and Ball were studying Law at Sheffield University). Sam Genders from Tuung - an experimental folk band - and frontman to his new project, Diagrams, is also from Matlock Bath.
And can anyone remember 'Strawberry Fields Forever' by Derby's own Candy Flip, or White Town? Both bands from Derby achieved top charting hits – White Town went in straight at number one on release in 1996 with 'Your Woman' and Candy Flip's 'Strawberry Fields Forever' hit number 3 in 1990.
Less successful but just as important on the gigging scene in Derby and Derbyshire were the scores of bands that played hundreds, thousands of gigs in the County. Derby scenesters might want to add to this list perhaps? Anti Pasti, Avoid, Cable, Gorrilla, The Beekeepers, Gaia, You Judas, The Almanacs, The Millers, Johnny Domino, Peru, Twinkie, Cato, Plans & Apologies, Ten Benson ...
A contemporary popstar still plying his trade is James Morrison, who was discovered in Derby's Ryan's Bar on an open mic night. He debuted with his album ' Undiscovered' in 2006 topping the UK charts in its first week of release.
And finally, for contemporary songs composed in the folk style? Chesterfield and Derby County Football chants are captured here:
Check out our round up of contemporary musicians from Derbyshire, a small selection of the very many diverse talents in the County.
We've compiled a Google Map of Musicians mentioned in this article in 'at-a-glance' form. If you know of others, add them to the map.
We've also got a thread on our Facebook fan pages to carry on the discussion about all things musical.
If you have information that we haven't included here, then let us know! Similarly, if you consider yourself the expert on a particular subject, or you simply fancy writing up and getting some information published for this series, then get in touch by email at: email@example.com
Many thanks to Deborah Porter, Bygonederbyshire, Sharon Stevens-Cash, Carole Crompton, Peak and Fell Walking, The Derby Local Studies Library and Robert Steadman for picture contributions to this series.
http://www.theaa.com/walks/ellastone-and-itsfictional-past-420985 although other sources have it that the piece was written elsewhere
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