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P o s i t i v e V i b r a t i o n s


friday night is folk club night

jim schwabe, cambridge weekly news 9/11/94

Thirty years ago the Blue River Boys were presiding over Friday night sessions at the George & Dragon (now the Spade & Becket) down by the River Cam on Jesus Green.

These were informal gatherings and the Club was actually inaugurated at the Horse & Groom in King Street and then moved to larger (but unlicensed) premises in the old YMCA buildings in Alexandra Terrace, by Petty Cury.

But an unlicensed folk club is like heavy metal without electricity, and there followed a move to the nearby Red Cow where the late Ken Woollard, founder of the Cambridge Folk Festival, was installed as the club's president.

Pubs seem to feature highly in the various venues adopted by the CFC and they have included the Portland Arms (twice), the Golden Hind, the Jolly Waterman and finally its present home, the Man on the Moon in Norfolk Street.

There it meets regularly on Friday nights for broadly-based acoustic music of all kinds.

By the end of 1965 the membership had grown to over one thousand.

American bluegrass music featured highly on the agenda in those days, inspired by, amongst others, Bill Monroe, 'Doc' Watson and later Jim Rooney, Nashville producer of Nanci Griffith, with banjo wizard Bill Keith, all of whom played the club.

The Crofters Folk Club broke away in order to cater for fans of traditional British and Irish music, eventually becoming the Mayflower FC which now meets on Tuesdays, also at the Man on the Moon, and helps greatly to keep music live in Cambridge.

During the mid-seventies Nick Barraclough, of Radio Cambridgeshire (and Radio Two) fame, was closely associated with the Cambridge Folk Club and its various 'house-bands', such as Duke, Duke and the Dukes, Nick Nick and the Nickettes (names that may sound silly to those without a sense of humour, and indeed even to those who have!), culminating in the magnificently named Telephone Bill and the Smooth Operators (featuring a young Andy Metcalfe - Aidan).

Robyn Hitchcock (of the Egyptians) played the club at that time and formed the Soft Boys with Kimberley Rew (later of Katrina and the Waves fame).

Andy Metcalfe from the Soft Boys joined Jools Holland's Squeeze and toured the world. Nobody seems to know if former Pink Floyd main-man Syd Barrett ever paid a visit (info please!); all seems lost in the mists of time.

Many artists who have appeared at the club have also played the folk festival, and often popped into the Club Tent on the Friday night, a tradition dating back to when England won the World Cup!

More recently, the Friday night venue at the Man on the Moon has given local musicians the opportunity to develop with the chance to do at least two songs or tunes.


n.b. This article has a fairly high bullshit-content; don't take everything in it at face value. The CFC, Mayflower FC and Folk Festival are still going strong, and regularly have 'name' acts playing under various degrees of anonymity (including a remarkably shambolic set by Robyn at the 1992 Festival, plus most of the Soft Boys' - and their other incarnations' - gigs), as well as the expected unknowns.

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