In Praise Of Those Who Teach

In Praise Of Those Who Teach

DAD & UNCLE SID inspired Lendanear

by Norman Warwick, writing as  Ralph Dent

The vital role teachers play has never been more vital than it will post-covid and almost certainly never more appreciated.

On National Teachers Day, of 5th October 2021, Katie Haigh (left) posted on facebook that she  ´would like to thank the teachers in my life that have made a difference. The teachers who don’t think of themselves as teachers. Jade and Joanna who taught me inclusion, passion, dedication and much more. My fellow writers, too many to tag, who taught me to believe in my writing and better my craft. My parents who taught me to be caring, compassionate and that family are there for each other. My husband who helped me recover from a past trauma with patience and made me feel loved and showed me how to love. My children for teaching me to be their mum whilst also giving me their individuality and the honour of being in their lives. My friends for teaching me how to grow, helping me to cope and for sharing so much with me. And many more in my life. And finally to a teacher I had at High School who saw past my dyslexic errors and poor grammar and helped my creativity to flourish. Thank you to all the teachers who work so hard and do so much more than what’s on the surface, You give yourself for the benefit of others. Which is one of the most noble things you can do´.

She always writes straight from her heart to the heart of the matter does Katie, and what she had to say here brought many people to my mind. I recalled Mrs. Brookes and Mrs. Lightbown from a lifetime ago at my National Primary School, on Rectory Lane in Prestwich. Then, at my secondary School of Heys Road in Prestwich there was a maths teacher so universally known as Hot Dog that my Dad asked for him by that name at an open evening and there was Mr. Bracewell in Geography who delivered points with jokey aide-memoires. ¨The reason the waves at Land´s End can beat down rocks is because they have had a three thousand mile run up !´ One teacher who certainly went the extra mile for me was Mr. Noel Drury, who taught us English and gave me a 20 out of 20 for a review of The Pearl by Steinbeck and wrote on the bottom of it that I should go on to become a critic. That was life-forming enough, but he also treated the poetry I was writing as a hobby at fourteen as if it were very important, until I, too, realised how important it had become and would remain, regardless of its literary worth. Some forty years later I was taught as a mature student at The University Of Leeds by future Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, who taught me and others to savour language. For most of my working life I enjoyed a close working partnership with Colin Lever, a man I came to know not only as a friend and song-writing colleague but also as caring, sharing and daring teacher. I worked for many years for a government-funded agency called Artists In Schools, although I learned a lot more form the students than they learned from me. Nevertheless, as a peripatetic artist I saw scores of brilliant, inspiring teachers. Now my son has his own Education Academy in South Korea and speaks proudly of how his pupils and his staff and his family have coped with covid. Andrew is a very bright man but his life ethos was learned from karate sensies Geoff and Andy Sullivan, as he became a black belt at the former Salvation Army Halls in Heywood. Teachers all.

So, what has all that got to do with Dad and Uncle Sid, the subjects of this article?

Dad & Uncle Sid were perhaps an early Little & Large, (right) a great tv comedy duo of the seventies, and although they would have both hated to admit it they might even have subsequently been seen by some as the precursor to the revered folk duo of Norman Warwick and Colin Lever, known as Lendanaer. Dad was six foot high and wide and Uncle Sid was a little knee-capper. His stage name may have been uncle but Sid was actually my step granddad and I remember that he and my dad were great friends who always seemed to be surrounded by music and laughter. Dad had moved me and the family to Lancashire to deliver the cream of Manchester, leaving Uncle Sid and Nana Andy still living in Tad (caster) where Unc and my sixty or seventy cousins would work for any of the town´s three breweries that was hiring. I was about six or seven when dad moved us to where people proudly boasted that ´there´s Lanky spoken ´ere´. Over the next few years, a couple of pub singers, my Dad and my Uncle  Sid became local heroes.

Most weekend´s dad would drive us all, me, my young brother Graham, and mum, back over to Tadcaster to visit Nan and Unc. Occasionally they  might come and stay for a week or two in Prestwich with us, where Dad And Uncle Sid would take their ´musical act´ to the locals, (including Corrie stars of the time) in the nearby pubs of The Welcome Inn (left) (where Tom Pacheco, the American singer-writer would later appear) and The Coach And Horses, or into downtown Prestwich to The Junction or The Church.

Once when staying with us, Unc went on his own into Manchester and at Piccadilly station asked for a ticket to Prestwick, instead of Prestwich, (right) and didn´t realise he´d done so until he woke up in Carlisle !

Crooner is a 1932 American pre-Code musical drama film directed by Lloyd Bacon and starring David Manners along with Ann Dvorak and Ken Murray. It concerns the abrupt rise and fall of a popular crooner, Teddy Taylor.

He is the leader of the fictitious Ted Taylor’s Collegians. One night, his usual singer can’t sing. He decides to try out singing. However, his voice can’t be heard over the band. A dancer stops and jokes with him by handing him a megaphone. Taylor sings through it, and he is heard. The ladies are enamoured with his soft voice while the men are disgusted. Taylor becomes a big star over night, but his ego becomes inflated. Things come to a head when Taylor loses his temper and punches a heckler in the audience, who he didn’t realize was a cripple. Shunned, he loses his girlfriend, his band, his fame, and his dignity.

In the final scene, as a drunk and unhappy Peter Sturgis, who promoted Teddy Taylor into a singing star and gave up his fiancée Judy Mason to him, continues to drink heavily in a speakeasy, an announcer on the speakeasy’s radio proclaims, “…And now, it is our great privilege to bring to you the new sensation of the air, Bang Busby, who will croon for you in his inimitable manner, ‘Sweethearts Forever'”. As the song, which had already been sung a number of times by Teddy Taylor, begins to be heard, Sturgis grabs a bottle and hurls it at the radio, breaking it.

In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town is a popular song written by Ira Schuster and Jack Little with lyrics by Joe Young, published in 1932Ted Lewis and His Band performed it in the film The Crooner in 1932. His version was released as a single and it went to #1, where it remained for 10 weeks.

Then Johnny Long and His Orchestra had a million seller of the song in 1946. This version was a slight revision of the Long band’s 1940 version. Their version reached #13. Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a version in the winter of 1958/1959. Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads re-charted the song in 1956 where it reached #27.[4]

In the contemporary ‘stock’ dance-band orchestration published by B. Feldman & Co., sole agents for M. Witmark & Sons (arranged by Frank Skinner) credit is given thus: words by Joe Young and music by Little Jack Little and John Siras. Ira Schuster is not given credit. Ira Schuster is also not mentioned in the credits for the song in the 1940 film “Always A Bride” or in the 1951 film Lullaby of Broadway starring Doris Day.

What has all this to do with Dad and Uncle Side I hear you ask. Well, let me take back to the day of my son´s christening Sunday May 3rd 1980. By then my dad was a fairly successful professional in the brewing industry who had become determined that I should follow in his hard-working, sweat-stained footsteps that to me would have meant a journey through a life of drudgery. At the time of the christening I was on the way to becoming a responsible father but pretty much being supported by my wife as I tried to become an income-earning writer (and forty odd years later I´m very nearly there !) but dad was pretty disgusted that I was wasting my time playing in the folk clubs with my mate Colin Lever in the local folk clubs. Colin (seen left as we performed as Lendanear) by the way was an excellent but maverick teacher who cared about, and was often an eloquent defendant of,  his students.

Dad and Uncle Sid were still doing the same thing as Col and I were doing with Lendanear whenever they could get together so I asked what was the difference. Dad reminded me that he had a proper job and a good wage to support him and mum,….and pointedly suggested that his list of dependants not only included me, but now also the grandson I had given him. He was also at pains to remind me that he and Uncle Sid could both sing and had two voices that harmonised perfectly and that the (non-paying) pub audiences loved them.

Well, on the day of the christening my new-born son Andrew was serenaded by thirty or so of the regular gang who sang at local clubs like The Gallows, The Kings, The Fisherman´s and The Spring Inn. There were also around twenty family members and neighbours there too. Colin and I sang two new Lendanear songs, And Time that I had written for Andrew and Matthew´s Song that Colin and I had just written for his similarly aged first son.

Who knows what music our little baby boy embraced on that day, but it can be no coincidence that Steve Jones, an Australian banjo player par excellence, was a guy who played for hours for fun, and now forty years later Andrew plays the banjo for hours for fun. Pete Benbow played Tom Paxton´s children songs that our little boy has since taught to his daughter Olivia and surely some of the many Dylan and Baez songs heard that day must have also been taken in by osmosis.

Andrew, (left) now living in Seoul, where he and his South Korean wife Sue have their own school, spends his leisure time studying, writing about and playing the banjo and guitar songs of country, folk and bluegrass.

As even all the folkies in the room at his christening began to run out of songs Dad and Uncle Sid asked if anyone could play a particular tune but no one had heard of it,….. except the swagman that was Steve Jones who could pick it on the banjo. It was a sublime moment as Steve´s first notes sobered Dad and Uncle Sid to concentration. The song they delivered was In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town, which, amazingly I had never heard (of) before, and they performed it beautifully and sensitively enough to have them welcomed into the Kirkstall Avenue Hall Of Fame Of Folk Musicians (had there been such an organisation). My generation of folkies were soon fawning at their feet asking for more and Dad and Uncle Sid delivered of their greatest hits. These included songs from The Great American Songbook, covers of Dean Martin and Sinatra and their powerful a capella rendition of If I Ruled The World, that must have surely been learned from Tony Bennett, although I do recall how much Dad enjoyed Harry Secombe, (right, to whom dad actually was similar in size and also bore a slight facial resemblance) who also recorded and had a hit with the song.

Dad and Uncle Sid´s performance at that christening was an hour I would later come to recognise again in Steve Goodman´s great song The Ballad Of Carl Martin. Dad and Uncle Sid had ´swept everyone under the table´. I was very proud, in many ways. I had always loved my dad´s voice whenever he sang and drove us all the way up beyond Ben Nevis and all the way down past Padstow on our annual North And South holidays. He was a funny guy, too, He loved Bob Monkhouse and enjoyed a joke and was always sharp with one-liners. Uncle Sid, with his attractive Welsh lilt, was always smiling. He was certainly the Sid Little to Dad´s always-teasing Eddie Large.

Dad and Uncle Sid passed over more than a decade ago now and will have been welcomed into Heaven´s great Choir, but I really miss the music and the friendly banter they shared.

In fact I have been thinking quite a lot recently about the songs dad had in his repertoire and wondering how he learned them and from where they were sourced. Then Katie´s piece for National Teachers Day certainly made me think about it all more deeply.

Dad would have been xxx now, having been born in xxxx, so it seems unlikely he would have learned In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town from the Crooner film in which it debuted in 1931.

Certainly, though, Lullabye Of Broadway was a favourite in Dad and Uncle Sid´s repertoire and I do remember that he was a fan of Doris Day and had a soft spot for the song, Secret Love. Of the music of my era, dad would turn up the car radio whenever Peter Sarsted was wondering where his lovely did go to, or whenever Matt Monro was sending something From Russia With Love. Frankie Lane, (left) whenever he came on BBC Radio Two singing Rawhide, would have to belt it out with Dad matching him note for note from behind the steering wheel. HERD ´´EM UP, MOVE EM OUT !!

Dad once bought ´the family´ a Christmas present of a reel to reel tape recorder, and we all woke up to find that not only had we received the machine but also a full tape of Santa, sounding a lot like dad sounding a lot like Sinatra. In truth, though, although Dad´s love of music was strong and genuine it was kept hidden during daylight hours, as dad obviously felt it didn´t belong in the real world of blood, sweat and tears. I don´t remember dad ever buying a record and yet whenever there was a Tony Bennett Special or A Christmas With Bing Crosby on tv he seemed to know the words to every song.

Of the hits of my youth he liked Mary Hopkins´ Those Were The Days, but even though he quite enjoyed some Beatles stuff he would have had no idea that Mary´s number one hit was written by Paul McCartney. He never seemed to care who had written a song, nor about anything else beyond the source from which he had learned it.

So, when dad once extolled the virtues of my band mate Colin Lever, in so far as ´Colin could carry a tune´ he failed to note, or more likely had never even contemplated the notion that the songs Colin could carry had all been written by the two of us under our group name of Lendanear. (Yes, of course I´d told dad that a million times!)

It was Dad (And Uncle Sid), though, who drip fed into my musical tastes a love of cowboy songs and the music of The Great American Songbook, and thanks to dad I was perhaps one of the few of my generation who loved Perry Como (right) long before he recorded And I Love Her So.

I always suspected, though they rarely reminisced to me, (perhaps it was that Graham was a far more willing listener to our parent´s memories), that dad and my mum Mavis  had shared many great nights listening to big bands (dad loved Joe Loss and His Orchestra, left) and that mum would sit and gaze admiringly at dad as he performed in Tadcaster Am Dram.

Maybe songs have a different way of entering Heaven than do humans, and perhaps there is an endless song-list, for Heaven´s singers to select from. It is a list that perhaps carries no history of a song´s recording artists, or writers, or production dates. Songs in Heaven are perhaps not listed in any terms of meritocracy and singers probably just pick the songs they like. I wonder if Dad and Uncle Sid have re-united up there for a comeback concert and (well, a son can dream, can´t he?) whether they will open with Mr. Cole The Haircut Man by Lendanear, (after all they both loved barbershop quartets).

Dad and Uncle Sid taught me a lot about the music I came to love and I remember their lessons long after they have gone.

It is strange that I don´t think my younger brother, Graham, realised how much Dad and Uncle Sid were teaching me, because he was too busy learning everything they could teach him about how to mend a puncture, change a light bulb or cook a meal ! He is still the practical one in our brotherhood and that is why on National Teachers Day, we both fondly remember Dad and Uncle Sid as teachers of all things to all men.

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