Bob Harragan, born in Romford in Essex in 1954, has lived in Llanelli in Carmarthenshire since 1972. A former News editor of the Llanelli Star, he has been a freelance journalist since 1990, specialising in such disparate subjects as coal, planning, schools cricket, and, of course, folk music.
"I can remember walking into a school lesson in 1970 with a clutch of LPs including the latest Martin Carthy and being told by a colleague he went to Brentwood Folk Club where they had a singer 'even better than Carthy'. I was naturally sceptical, but that singer was Nic Jones.
"I worked with some militant members of the Welsh Language Society who were fans of the Wolfetones and pro-IRA singers, and blowing their minds by persuading them to come and see The Boys of The Lough.'
Top Ten Folk Albums
Fairport Convention –UnHalfbricking
Bellowhead - Matachin
Nic Jones - The Noah's Ark Trap
The Dransfields - Rout of The Blues
Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts
The Copper Family - A Song For Every Season
English Country Blues Band - Unruly
Shirley Collins & The Albion Country Band - No Roses
Dave Swarbrick - Rags, Reels & Airs
Thoughts on John Peel - by Bob Harragan
Every record collection compiled over the last five decades was influenced by John Peel - those of folkies especially. Indeed, it can probably be said that it was the payment from sessions for Peel, Bob Harris and occasional others, that kept our leading folkies going through the oil crisis of the mid 70s. Certainly exposure on Top Gear was important to the folk-rock bands, and in the case of the original Albion Country Band and the Dransfields electric band it provided one of their few appearances.
There were favourite Peel tracks, too. I've been looking through my record collection to pick some out.
FAMOUS FLOWER OF SERVING MEN - Martin Carthy. The Master's first 'home-made' big ballad was a Peel favourite from the beginning. People were surprised Martin only played it in session twice, but the record, with its throbbing dulcimer, appeared many times.
THE ACE AND DEUCE OF PIPERING - John Doonan. One of those tracks which appealed to Peel, way out of his normal field, from the 'Flute for the Feis' album from Bill Leader's ultra traditional Leader label. I seem to remember the great man saying he found its bouncing rhythm redolent of sunshine.
HERE IN SILENCE - Sandy Denny. The single from the 'Pass of Arms' film, which should have been a hit. Peel played 20 minutes of Denny big ballads on the day she died.
JOHNNY O'BRAUDISLEE - JSD Band. The kings of the idiot dance. The JSD's followed that Lindisfarne -Jack the Lad tradition of rowdy sing and dance alongs. This was their wildest track, but they were a favourite for sessions, too.
THE OWDHAM CHAP'S VISIT TO THE QUEEN - Oldham Tinkers. Peel of more recent vintage. The Tinkers music-hall whimsy would often break in to the hammerings of techno and garage, and other distant musics of which we folkies know little..
THE GREEN MOSSY BANKS OF THE LEA - Nic Jones. A bit of a cheat this, because Nic was a most frequent visitor to the Peel Show in the several years he was not making records. Producer John Walters thought him a delight to record, as he could be sat down in front of the microphone and produce enough songs for two shows in the time it took to explain the process to most sessionees.
KING DOG - Mr .Fox. Another slight cheat. A shambolic Mr.Fox appeared on Peel's live 'Sunday Show' around the time of 'The Gipsy'. Despite the mass-harmoniums and fiddles zooming off in all directions - the power of the songs was apparent, though this little gem did not appear on record until a quiet acoustic version by Pegg and Strutt some years later.