February 11, 2016 at Crookes Folk Club in Sheffield.
After a decade of secretly writing songs that even he doesn’t want to hear, he finally plucked up the dutch courage to perform in front of real people in August 1979 at the Buffet Bar at Stalybridge Station, a local live music venue. No one heckled and some applauded, so he knew he was on the right lines, as it were.
Visits to other local folk clubs and sessions produced a realisation that humorous songs have an immediate impact. Out went the earnest 16-verse introspective ballads, and in came a raft of silliness and a rake of sarcastic and satirical songs. Not to mention hats and other props.
In December 1979, he got his first paid booking, at the Ring O’Bells at Middleton (north Manchester), a folk club run by Ken and Mags Whiting. The following day, he was playing live on local radio where the presenter, Harry Ogden, decided that Stanley’s medley of songs about disgraced politician Jeremy Thorpe might lead to legal attention. Two gigs in, and banned already!
Stanley realised that he would have to put in a lot of work to build up a performing career, so he set about it. The song writing came easily – a conveyor belt of songs inspired by current events or the style of artists he encountered on his travels. He therefore embarked on a series of visits to folk music venues in nearby West Yorkshire and built up a bedrock of bookings and a growing reputation as an oddball performer.
The hard work paid off and in 1982 he got his first Folk Festival booking, at Wath (the prize for winning the Festival Singers competition the previous year). No matter they spelled his name wrongly in the programme, he had arrived. While still supporting local clubs (notably the Directors in Castleton, the Waggon at Milnrow, the Gallows also at Milnrow, and the Star at Salford), Stanley was in increasing demand beyond North West England. (At this time he also did a lot of work on the local PTA circuit and other non-Folk venues.)
The song writing and playing was taking over Stanley’s life. This was only possible owing to his lack of domestic responsibilities (how sad) except for a patient dog called Pheido (how sad) and a day-job with the late (usually) British Rail that allowed flexibility and some free travel.
In summer 1982, a promotional job-seeking tour of the Midlands brought Stanley to a small club near Kidderminster. The guest for the evening happened to be Folk Agent Alan Smith (Highway Agency). He snapped up Stanley and the work mushroomed. Gigs and Festival appearances all over the UK followed.
In May 1983 it nearly all ended. After a tiring week of bookings all over England culminating in a Festival weekend, Stanley drove over 200 miles in an evening to join some friends for a holiday in South Wales. Still tired, he was driving next day when he fell asleep at the wheel and met a wall. Despite hospitalisation and RTA injuries that included a bitten-off tongue, he recovered after a few weeks and even played his first gig back (at Whitehaven) with his arm still in plaster.
In 1984 Stanley made his only Sidmouth Folk Festival appearance, doing well with audiences but falling foul of the booking policies of subsequent directors. However, chance meetings there led to breakthroughs into the international world. In the mid and late 1980’s he added the USA to his area of work with some brief tours, and in 1988 and 1992 was invited to the Hong Kong Folk Festival. (The Channel Islands, Scotland and Wales were also briefly attacked)
At around 120 bookings a year, this “hobby” was now getting out of control and in 1988, coinciding with a planned mid-life crisis, he found an excuse to ditch the day job.
Without ever making a breakthrough to other levels (or having much ambition to do that) Stanley maintained his Folk Club, Festival and other acoustic venue work throughout the 1990’s. By now he had become a regular performer at 2 of England’s finest Festivals, the Whitby Folk Week and Fylde Festival, playing both every year since 1985)
In 1991, Stanley married Julie (coincidentally the sister of a Folk Club organiser and owner of a Martin guitar). Twins Sam and Joe popped out in 1995, and Sally arrived in 2000. The only unfortunate side-effect was the inevitable return of the day-job in 1992.
At the time of the setting up of the long-overdue web-site, Stanley had done over 1500 gigs including over 200 Folk Festivals, and many radio appearances. He had performed at weddings, a black-pudding cookery demonstration, an anti-motorway demonstration, a theme night on “bees”, and a moorland restaurant’s Septic Tank Opening Night, to name but a few of the odd places he ends up in.
He continues to write material in a range of styles. Some of his songs have been picked up and sung, and recorded, by other artists. What keeps him going is the compulsive urge to write songs, to incorporate new styles and, mainly, to have fun.
Doors open 8:15
Singers and musicians of all standards and styles are welcome to come along and do a short floor spot.
Free entry: Collection & raffle for guest.