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Field Recordings of Folk Songs and Traditional Music recorded by Ken Stubbs between 1959 and 1980


UPDATED 8-11-2017

The Ken Stubbs Collection (21 reels of 4-track tape) has been digitised

Ken Stubbs was one of small number of folk enthusiasts that sought out and recorded traditional singers and musicians in their homes and in public houses during the 1950s and 1960s. The best known of these collectors was Peter Kennedy who had been collecting, recording and broadcasting folk music in Britain since 1944.

These mid-century collectors were following in the footsteps of a small number of dedicated and inspired academics who at the turn of the last century set out to seek out those who still sang the old songs. They each covered an area, moving from village to village, in some cases returning over several years, and noted down on paper, thousands of songs, airs and dance tunes. The singers were found at work, out in the fields, in the public houses, in their homes and in the workhouses.

Although some early collectors recognised the importance of preserving the songs for their texts and airs before they were lost, for others, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, George Butterworth and Percy Grainger, the drive was to gather raw material which they then drew upon, reworked and used as inspiration for their compositions. English classical music from this period remains widely popular today.

The collectors who went out looking for songs in the 1950s and 1960s had a different motivation. It was believed music could be used as a tool of educational and cultural revolution and folk music, in all its forms, gave ‘the people’ a voice. Using 'portable' tape recorders they were able to capture not only the song, but the way the singer sang it in their natural voice and accent, and the location in which it was sung. Many of Ken's recordings were made in Public Houses, with all the hub-bub of the bar and in some cases the fruit machines paying out.

Ken borrowed a portable Philips for his early recordings then bought himself a Stellaphone. Both recorded mono onto reels of tape using a basic hand-held microphone. His collecting was self motivated and self funded.

The performances Ken captured on portable equipment, in less than ideal conditions, outweigh any limitations in the recordings. We all believe it is important that all of Ken’s recordings should be made available. Some of his recordings have been issued but selections can give a distorted view of both the repertoire of a performer and of Ken’s collection.