country singer and dancer


says Norman Warwick

When Colin Lever and I were performing live as Lendanear (Left) throughout the late seventies and early eighties we were on the folk music circuit rather than on the country music scene. Many on the folk circuit gently ridiculed the fact that country music in Britain bemoaned cheating lovers, and was full of drunken brawls and even loyal dogs. I mean the songs were full of that sort of stuff not the musicians. Although they were aptly named to suit their self-deprecatory act, Haphazard, Jack Lee and his wife and daughter were great musicians and kindly people who sang instead of Dixie Darlings. Nevertheless, even now, according to The Daily Mail, country and western’s appeal is all about its salty depictions of everyday life

Even in the UK, country music has its flag-waving soldiers of colours both blue and grey and cowboy songs live side by side with Eagles and Byrds and even Dylan was kidnapped from the folkies.

So the saga of genre aficionados Mike Delph and June Wilson, as reported by The Daily Mail on 12th February would make a fascinating song, perhaps called Please Don´t Send Me Mail or You Can Pay The Postage.

In fact it´s a tale that would have perfectly fit Colin Lever´s book called Open Mic, which looks into the one song each and you´re one off nights held in British pubs.

Kindle describes Colin´s book as a hilarious romp between musicl covers.

The book´s central character is the hapless Reg, as outdated as the corny motifs on his tee-shirts. Recently retired and at a loose end, he seeks sanctuary from his implacable wife. In the relative calm of the shed, Reg unearths his old guitar. The discovery sets him on a hilarious mission to relive past glories. But the hustle and bustle of OPEN-MIC nights are a far cry from the conservative folk evenings he remembers with such affection. Standing, dry-mouthed, behind a microphone for the first time, he experiences how unpredictable OPEN-MIC nights can be. Rescued by the imperturbable Pisspot, the dawning of Anna raises more than just his spirits. Reg’s hopes rest on the prospect of getting his first gig. From pop-up pipers and a tyranny of TV’s to tortured testicles and menopausal magnets, Reg’s road trip is filled with music and mayhem in equal measure. Like a Rom-com in reverse, OPEN-MIC uncovers the vagaries of the Open-Mic music scene. Whether you are a seasoned musician, a happy amateur or a watcher in the wings, Reg’s journey is sure to put a smile on your face.

Colin Lever (right) subsequently turned one of the chapters in his book into a thirty minute radio comedy, and it certainly evoked memories for me of when he and I, used to play the local folk and country circuit in Greater Manchester.

In fact, Colin explains on-line that The soundtrack to my youth was provided by the singer-songwriters of the sixties and seventies. Their thought-provoking lyrics and melancholic rhythms struck a chord that has never quietened. There was fantasy in all things Tolkien and darkness in the depths of a Denis Wheatley novel. All were an escape from a working-class environment, with those dark, satanic mills, equally as grim to a teenager as any fantastical creature. Life in the alleys taught me much, about community, about looking out for the less fortunate. A lesson that has stayed with me throughout. That sense of injustice was the catalyst for putting pen to paper. It led to a writing career spanning over thirty decades, with much of the early years spent penning educational texts and academic books. I have spent the last few years writing an opinion column for the local paper. This has taught me much in respect of being succinct and to make every word count. Even with non-fiction, I seek the new angle. My aim is to evoke, to provoke. I write to stimulate emotion, in myself and in the reader. Writing is my drug of choice and I am addicted. I am rarely frustrated by rejection. What is written is never wasted. The creativity, the research, the development of a sentence, a paragraph, a book. Letting your imagination run away with you is like flying. It is in this journey that I find true happiness,

Let us return, though, to the real life story of Mr Delph, the lead singer of a country music band, and Mrs Wilson, (both shown left) a dance choreographer, had discussed joining forces at gigs in their home county of Norfolk.

But a misunderstanding over a lift to a venue led to a dramatic breakdown in relations and the involvement of police after Mrs Wilson fired off 65 ‘abusive and nasty’ letters in six months – sometimes sending two in a day.

The 73-year-old former Miss Norwich was warned she faced a restraining order if she continued contacting her nemesis in what has been dubbed locally the ‘hoedown showdown’.

But in a parting shot yesterday, she insisted the letters were only intended to help Mr Delph improve his band, The Mustangs, and introduce proper dance moves instead of inappropriate ‘jigging’ at his gigs.

‘I think he is just jealous of my knowledge of country music,’ she added.

Meanwhile, semi-retired accountant Mr Delph, 64, told the Mail he had been shocked at the ‘incredibly rude’ letters and ‘just wants to get on with the music’.

The pair met at a Norwich café in June last year after Mrs Wilson put out the word she was looking to set up an event for country music fans.

Mr Delph, whose band regularly plays at venues with up to 150 fans around the county, says he agreed for her to teach dance techniques such as the Western Waltz, Texas Two-step and Country Swing the following month during the interval at a shindig in Hellesdon Community Centre.

But Mrs Wilson never turned up and claims Mr Delph was at fault because he had offered her a lift.

He insists this was never discussed and was impossible anyway as the three vehicles the band use are always full of equipment.

This was the trigger for the letters, which father-of-three Mr Delph, of Drayton, said lambasted his band, the ‘easy’ questions in his country music quizzes, and even his waistline.

He also claims the letters – some a dozen pages long – indicated his would-be collaborator wanted a romantic relationship with him and that he should leave his wife.

‘Her letters are abusive, nasty and we’ve had enough,’ he said.

‘She even sent me a bill for £250 for buying a phone but she never made any phone calls [to me]. She also charged me for postage.’

He added: ‘Who is Mrs Wilson to tell me how to run my events? If she doesn’t like them, why is she so desperate to come along and interfere with how we do it?’

Police turned up at Mrs Wilson’s Norwich home on January 20 after the ‘unwanted contact’ was reported to them.

But she has subsequently spoken about the fall-out, claiming she was merely ‘being honest’ and trying to help as she learned how to stage ‘authentic’ country events while living in Carolina with her second husband.

‘Yes, I have sent him letters but in them I was just telling the truth,’ she said.

‘I wanted to help him make his band and his club better. I also wanted to have the opportunity to teach there too because everyone there was just jigging about and not dancing in traditional style.’

The letters had stopped since the threat of criminal action, according to Mr Delph, who added he couldn’t find any evidence of her putting on any events in the past five years.

A Norfolk Police spokesman confirmed they had been contacted by a member of the public on January 12 about ‘unwanted contact from another person’.

He added: ‘The report was investigated, all parties were spoken to by officers, and it was established no crime had been committed.’

Those quick on the draw in the country music scene have always been quick to shoot down folk musicians as fingers in the ears  singers.

It was ever thus, but  current fall out about country-dancing? Well, its just out of line !

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