Traditional folk music, dance and customs - Harrogate, North Yorkshire - Chas Marshall's Website

Kitsyke Will - Published in Folk Review April 1978

Bob Thomas, Paedar Long and Tony Bayliss
Bob Thomas, Peadar Long and Tony Bayliss

Have you heard about the Englishman, the Scotsman and the Irishman?

Avid readers of the 'Who's on Where' features in the folk press will be among the first to notice the rise in popularity of new singers and groups on the folkscene. This, however is insufficient recommendation for all but the boldest folk club or festival organiser, who understandably prefers to make a personal judgement before committing scarce funds to the payment of new faces. Kitsyke Will is the name of a group which must be on the minds of many organisers who have not had the opportunity to hear the group at work. The situation will soon be rectified by the release of a sampler LP by the Mrs Casey Agency which will feature three tracks of Kitsyke Will recorded by Bill Leader.

Kitsyke Will is reputedly the name of a miner who worked in the lead mines on Greenhow Hill which flanks one side of Pateley Bridge, situated in the heart of Yorkshire's Nidderdale. It is in Nidderdale where the story begins during January in 1975, at a small village folk club nestled beneath the rolling Pennines. The audience that night consists almost entirely of six local musicians and their wives and girlfriends. The performers deciding that the best must be made of a bad job turned the folk club into an extended jam session, which resulted in four of the party agreeing to meet on a regular basis.

Then followed the usual round extensive rehearsals and numerous floor spots which were made extremely difficult by the fact that one member of the group worked for the Ordnance Survey on a seemingly roving contract in the nether regions of Scotland. In an attempt to cut down the enormous distances travelled, he engineered a transfer to London so that he could be nearer the group!

Hard work coupled with talent inevitably led to a growing reputation in the North and when offers of bookings began to arrive from further afield the decision was made to turn professional. This move trimmed the group's personnel down to the current three members.

Three years is a short apprenticeship by folk club standards but the musical pedigree of each of the members is honourably long, if somewhat diverse.

The inspiration behind Kitsyke Will is undoubtedly Peadar Long, a Dublin man who received a formal musical training on clarinet followed by a spell on the showband circuit before moving to Yorkshire. Although I can witness the fact that Peadar is able to get a tune out of anything you can blow down, he confines his group activities to flute, piccolo, whistle and clarinet in the main. Spare time sometimes finds him playing saxophone in jazz sessions at a village near his home, and these influences can be heard creeping into the group's music (consider the 'unfolky' scales in the racy 'Gaberdine Angus' penned by Peader and included on the sampler). However the real joy of this man's music is the unexpected; thoughtful harmonies, unhackneyed phrasing and unusual arrangements. Such talents do not go unnoticed and Peadar is already in demand for session work. Besides his music, he is a man of immense charm as his rambling, eclectic introductions would indicate.

Rhythm and Blues and the pop scene in Germany seems a strange spawning ground for a singer of traditional songs, but this is the back- ground of Bob Thomas who takes the larger share of the vocal. (Bob still plays a mean mouth 'harp' when 'off duty'). Since his pop days Bob has been thoroughly immersed in the folk scene and now sings with rare conviction and I am sure that the uncompromising Ian Marshall-Smith (no relation) would appreciate his tasty bodhran. Recently, Bob has taken up the Northumbrian pipes and this is adding a new dimension to the overall sound. Born on a croft near Peebles, Bob lays claim to being the Scotsman of this tale.

Tony Bayliss (or 'Bunker' to associates) has lived much of his relatively short life around Cleveland in North Yorkshire and is therefore the closest to being English. An unusual character insofar as, unlike his contemporaries, he has not been through the Led Zeppelin or Beatles stage of life. Though he bemoans the fact that he was never a 'teeny bopper' and can't play rock guitar his long association with folk music is self- evident. Tony shares, with Bob, the vocals and provides the foundation for the group work on guitar and a recently acquired cittern. Although he was absent from the group for a while last year. Tony has settled back in and should provide the stability required for the coming year, which promises to be the turning point in Kitsyke Will's fortunes.

Those are the musicians, but what of their music? The majority of the repertoire is traditional with an inevitable balance between Scottish, Irish and English material. Whatever the source of the song or tune, the group make a deliberate effort to arrange it and give it the Kitsyke Will stamp. The proportion of songs to tunes is greater than one might expect from a group with instrumental talent, but Kitsyke Will prefer to fashion the instrumental work in and around the songs.

This approach to their music is now being vindicated as the blank entries in their bookings diary begin to diminish. There are probably few counties where they are not booked to appear but many folk clubs where they are still looking for their first opening. Perhaps you should try to get to see Kitsyke Will when they are in your area and judge for yourself, or if this is not possible, have a listen to the sampler - it may be your chance to listen to several people who are mentioned in 'Club Dates'.


The Original Kitsyke Will

As suggested in the article above, the original group was formed after a coincidental encounter one evening at the New Inn folk club in the Nidderdale village of Burnt Yates. Subsequently Bob Thomas, Tony Bayliss, Peadar Long and Chas Marshall went on to form Kitsyke Will. Very little recorded material from these early days exists, but I have managed to unearth an old cassette holding a copy of a recording made for the BBC Radio Leeds programme "Folkal Point" in 1975. The recording quality was probably never very good and has inevitably deteriorated over the years but still gives an idea of the nature of the material and the approach to its performance. Here are the 8 tracks:

1. The Road to Lisdoonvarna/The Bag of Potatoes/Da Underhill/Johnny McIljohn's : Peadar - Flute, Tony - Guitar, Bob - Bodhran and Bones, Chas - Tenor Banjo

2. Si Bheag, Si Mhor, Lord Wellington's Reel : Peadar - Flute, Tony - Guitar, Bob - Bodhran, Chas - Tenor Banjo

3. Johnny Cope: Peadar - Fife, Tony - Guitar, Bob - Lead Vocals and Bodhran, Chas - Tenor Banjo

4. Minorie: Peadar - Whistles, Tony - Bouzouki, Bob - Lead Vocals and Bones, Chas - Mandolin

5. McShane: Peadar - Chanter and Flute, Tony - Vocals and Bouzouki, Bob - Vocals , Chas - Tenor Banjo

6. Princess Royal, Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy: Peadar - Chanter and Flute, Tony - Lead Vocals and Guitar, Chas - Guitar

7. Embsay Stonemason's Lament, A-begging I Will Go: Peadar - Flute, Tony - Mandolin, Bob - Vocals, Chas - Lead Vocals and Guitar

8. Buy Broom Besoms: Peadar - Flute, Tony - Mandolin, Bob - Lead Vocals, Chas - Guitar