Photo of Dave and Fiona reproduced with permission from the Belfast Folk website*
Dave Shannon, who has died aged 67, was an exceptionally gifted musician, writer and performer who enthused many of those who encountered him and his work.
With hs great friend Sam Bracken, he played extensively in Northern Ireland and then the folk clubs of Great Britain before they recruited a fine singer, Fiona Simpson, to form Therapy, an innovative trio that included a few traditional pieces in an otherwise largely contemporary set.
The effect, back at the start of the 1970s, was explosive.
Of the bands and singers who performed at the clubs of North East England that I either ran or visited regularly, I remember few with comparable audience impact.
Only the Johnstons, the Northern Front, Noel Murphy, the High Level Ranters, Young Tradition and the Reivers - in their much different ways - spring instantly to mind. Others such as the Watersons were considered to have outgrown the smaller clubs.
Sam recalls at the Mudcat Forum - see the thread on Dave here - hearing of Dave's reputation for guitar-playing virtuosity in the Belfast of the late 1960s.
"I therefore went to watch Dave play tunes at a gig at the Imperial Hotel in Belfast," he says. "The tunes included Doc Watson's Windy and Warm and Davy Graham's Angie. I made myself known to Dave and asked him for advice on how to improve my playing, little realising that this meeting would be life changing for both of us."
Therapy enjoyed fair success, playing at the 1971 Cambridge Folk Festival and releasing an album, Almanac, a song for each of the stars of the Zodiac, all written and arranged by Dave. It was a very good recording that nevertheless did little justice to the depth of the trio's artistry and appeal.
Sam later left, popping up solo but also - as I recall - in Five Hand Reel, leaving Dave and Fiona to continue as a duo until Dave found a niche at the BBC. Among programmes he produced were Paul Jones's show - Sam recalls it as R&B while I could ahve sworn it was the Blues - and Bob Harris's country series.
I have three powerful memories of Dave, one of which I have already shared with Mudcat subscribers. That related to our first meeting, when Therapy played the Spinning Wheel folk club at the Golden Cock in Darlington.
I have no recollection of what we paid them. Perhaps £18-£22 plus a bit of beer and petrol money. They were sensational. What sticks in the mind is of the band following Cat Stevens's Wild World and, no doubt, a few other pop or rock songs, with Blackwaterside.
"And now for those who thought they were entering a folk club and wondered what had gone wrong," Dave had said. Fiona sang it beautifully.
The other memories are quite trite but I cannot think of Dave without them streaming into mind. One was that they arrived for one folk club night, at Darlington or Bishop Auckland, having spent a gloriously sunny and therefore atypical afternoon swimming in the Tees, which somehow seemed a very unfolk thing to do in that age.
And then there was the discovery that salads can be fun. Therapy had stayed the night, post or possibly pre-gig, at the homes of my parents and a friend, Phil Steele, an accomplished guitarist. Next day, my (French) wife and (well brought-up) Fiona insisted on preparing, as lunch, a salad with real, home-made mayonnaise and seafood that was such a revelation it made all the blokes forget their dreams of a bumper roast.
From Sam's summary, I will just add that Dave was born in Belfast, graduated with a first in music and history of music and taught at a Quaker school in Lisburn ("if you stray into the wrong part of Belfast, they want to know if you're a Protestant Quaker or a Catholic Quaker," I can imagine him joking).
Very early in his career, he met and married the woman of his life, Linda Wright (I've met Miss Right," Sam remembers him saying). His BBC work was in Manchester and they settled in Sale. After retiring from full-time work, he and Sam resumed their partnership, playing as Alternative Therapy for several years until ill health caused him to abandon performing.
To Sam, Dave Shannon was a "musician, arranger, guitarist, pianist, mentor, teacher, composer, singer and most of all a good friend". He is survived by Linda and their son, Davy, with whom he was still well enough to play a duet at his wedding last year.
* The photo of Dave and Fiona is from the Belfast Folk website at http://www.belfastfolk.co.uk/index.asp . I will remove it if there is any objection. At the site, Jackie Dixon recalls: "They played for us in the Walnut in the late 60s and it was probably the only gig we sold tickets for in advance ... and they packed the place."
Also from the Belfast Folk site: Sam and Dave in later years