Obituary: Cyril Tawney
TO SOME, folk music opened the road to glory and they were prepared to adapt the songs, so that they would appeal to a wider audience.
That was certainly true of some popular figures in the great folk revival of the 1960s, such as the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary. This led to folk/ rock, a style which had found its roots in the British skiffle craze of the late 1950s.
At about the time Lonnie Donegan was bringing the railroad and plantation songs of the USA to suburban Britain, Cyril Tawney left the Royal Navy, where he had been an artificer (electrician) for 12 years.
Although not hostile to the chart ambitions of the new folk singers, whose American songs were often rooted in old British melodies, Tawney was a traditionalist, driven by the notion that songs reflect particular areas in peculiar way.
Even so, a few of his own compositions, notably Sally Free and Easy, had universal appeal. It was recorded by Marianne Faithfull, Bob Dylan (on bootleg albums including Ten of Swords in the mid-60s) and Davy Graham.
Tawney's light guitarstrumming style might have owed something to the big American, Burl Ives, but he was drawn to the West Country. …