The year so far (2)
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What's for desert, Christy?

Christy
It used to be considered evidence of acquired respectability, since only the great and the good were supposed to be invited. Then the BBC started scouting around for any old riff-raff, provided they'd made a bob or two, to come on air and choose the records, favourite book and luxury they'd take to their Desert Island.

But thank goodness they've gone back to the old standards. This coming Sunday's guest on Desert Island Discs will be our old friend Christy Moore.

Well, he's certainly my old friend and I am grateful to Phil Myers, at the UK.music.folk forum, for giving me a few days to work out how to hear the show from France - yes, I know these things are really quite easy but unless it's for football, when mountains are moved in a flash, I sometimes struggle with the technology.

I wonder whether Christy will choose anything by his old mate from early days slogging around the English folk clubs, the late and much lamented Tony Capstick.

The reason I ask is that news of the broadcast takes me back to one of my earlier encounters with Christy, and my only one with Tony.


TonycapstickPicture: Folk Images
"Shildon 2202," I said, answering the phone just as I was about to get ready for the Sunday evening folk club I co-founded and ran at the Aclet, a big pub on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland. The previous week's experience, when Christy had been our scheduled guest but failed to show, made me fear the worst: it would be Tony saying he was struck in Sheffield.

It wasn't Tony. It was Christy. He'd arrived at Darlington station - I am at a loss to remember whether coach or railway station - and would I please come and pick him up.

No one will ever know who had messed it up. Bookings were often made several beers into an evening at someone else's club. Christy's diary said one date, mine the previous week.

The deal we reached was simple. We'd put up our prices for a double bill and hope for the best, with Christy pocketing everything beyond Tony's fee.

It worked a treat. From memory, no one had to endure my strangled attempt at High Germany that night, or be asked to applaud the shortcomings of other floor singers. We just had beginning-to-end class from two of the greatest entertainers I have ever witnessed on the folk circuit.

There was, mercifully, a bumper crowd, so no problems on the cash front, and it rests in the mind as one of the grandest live music experiences of my life.

These were not prissy times, and Christy was a long way from becoming the sober man we know today. Everyone, performers included, drank steadily through the evening. The perk for organisers and artists came in the form of free drinks during the stoppie-backie time as we cleared up the room.

Somehow, we got home in one piece. I have no illusions about the dangers of drink driving so will draw a veil over quite how this was achieved.

Christy and Tony then proceeded to drink my father's cocktail cabinet dry. We're talking 1970-ish County Durham here, so this was not a feat beyond the reach of an enthusiastic drinker. I recall few details, but can be sure that a fairly appalling array of tipples, from rum and Ruby wine to Babycham, was duly polished off.

And they both looked fine next morning. My father, on the other hand, didn't; I can only hope that in time he came to understand that his son had merely acted in the same professional way, looking after his artists' interests and needs, that he would have done as secretary of his workingmen's club.

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