With a whimper then a bang!
A nostalgic meander through the start of SongSmith
So, the idea has been brewing for a while.
SongSmith launched in Bristol on a chilly bonfire Monday night at Mr Wolf’s with a handful of people and three singer songwriters. History (our spreadsheet) does not record who was involved and played. My memory is that it was a bunch of musical mates who did a sort of round robin rather than an open mic.
History is more forthcoming on our second night when the acts were Ella Moray (the songs of my then singing teacher Ben Woodwood – I played bass and we had Anna and Matt on guitars and keys respectively, plus Andy on violin), James Gale (Helen’s former business partner) and Jetfly (a solo artist with quirky songs – our speciality – and an act who had played regularly for Helen’s High Note Music)
As basically a free night as Monday was usually pretty quiet we ran on donations and paid people for flyers bought in by those coming to see the acts.
SongSmith and Jumping Joint were born as the mutant bastard child of Quentin John Burton (for ‘tis me) and Helen Ditchburn (who was running her own High Note Music Management). Helen had run the Bristol Acoustic Roots Singer Songwriter Festival already for several years with James Gale and I had done sound for them that year. I was looking for a in to music promotion. We were both singer / songwriters ourselves and Mr Wolf’s was a great small 100 capacity venue with ripe toilets and delicious noodles. It did, and up until last March continued to do, live music at least six nights a week and operated as an over 18s club till the wee hours. It was a small family business and Helen got us an in and a meeting with Mr Wolf himself (Mark) and he wanted someone to take over Monday nights which was a tricky night to promote. He was very fair, he agreed to pay for a host, and was willing to give us 18 months to build it up. As good as his word he was always a generous ‘employer’ to us and in return we must have done something right because we continued pretty much every Monday till October 5th 2019. We then switched to Sunday monthly and only stopped when the lockdown bit with our last gig on Sunday March 15th. After three months it became clear venues were not going to open anytime soon and so, at least temporarily, I shut the live business and event management, and moved to Valencia region in Spain.
What happens next? Well very much pandemic dependant. Until now when I have decided to rebrand as SongSmith Global and do a mix of reviews, artist profiles and maybe some live streams until live music events are possible again. Maybe they will happen in a limited way before September but the plan is to do this from my hillside near Alberic, just outside Valencia City, until then. What happens after that? Who knows. Where? Who knows. Online at least and that is global. (There is more than a hint and nod to a political situation …. more may be revealed next time.
What? Well that will be the subject of my next ramble. Meantime I will be putting up our first artist profile and review following with the aim to do at least one weekly in the time following.
I will maybe do some more SongSmith history. For now I shall confine myself to recording that our acts for the rest of the year were Labels For Jam Jars, Hilary Pavey*, Dave Totterdell (who sadly left us some years ago), Simon Scardanelli, Undercover Hippy* (aka Billy Salisbury), Richard Riley*, Edd Keene, Anna Young, Hazel Mills, Mireille Mathlener*, Doc Satori* and … erm ME*! Some of these are still working in music, some we have lost touch with, some we are still working with! All of whom we salute as supporting us in those early days.
This blog is dedicated to Helen Ditchburn, still a dear friend today, though she retired from the business a while back. She still plays with her partner Tim in a duo called Tarpazie. They played for us five times as recently as March 2019 and were it not for her I would not be writing this today. So basically it’s all her fault!
* These people are still working, I know for a fact, and all have recent work worth checking out. Some have remained dear friends, one or two not so much! Doc and I are now releasing material and working as the Real King(s) of Spain. Last single just released and available on all corporate exploitative platforms and other nicer ones ….