Kort nadat in 1963 het Newport Folk Festival voorbij was verhuisde Bill Clifton in de maand september van dat jaar met zijn gezin naar Engeland. Veel tijd heeft er waarschijnlijk niet gezeten tussen het Newport Folk Festival de de emigratie naar Engeland. Uiteindelijk zou Bill Clifton tot 1978 in Engeland blijven (met een korte onderbreking van drie jaar waarover in een later deel van deze reeks iets meer). Engeland was voor Bill Clifton de perfecte basis om als ‘Bluegrass music ambassadeur’ voor Europa een enorm belangrijke rol te spelen. Volgens mij is het voor een belangrijk deel aan Bill Clifton te danken dat we destijds een enorme reeks bluegrass optredens mee konden maken in Europa…

The move to England


And finally, at some point, I looked at  him and I said ‘Theo?’ And he said: ‘I was wondering if you were gonna speak to me’. And I thought: ‘Well, I don’t think I’ve changed that much’. It could have gone the other way here.

Yeah, probably never realized that he had changed. Well, I don’t know. And I asked him ‘are you in England for a while?’ And he said: ‘No, I’ve just come in from West Africa’. And I said ‘Which country?’, and he said ‘West Africa’. ‘Yeah, but where?’ ‘West Africa’. I can’t keep up with the names and the changes. Every time I turn around there’s another country with another name, itll be the same country. So, I still don’t know which country he was talking about. I think its changed names again since then.

Ik heb lang gezocht naar een aflevering van de Country & Western Express. Graag had ik er eentje gevonden met een link naar Bill Clifton natuurlijk. Dit plaatje is er eentje uit 1964 met Bob Dylan op de voorkant (maar dat had je natuurlijk al lang in de gaten).

There’s one other aspect of your career that I would like to get into. When you moved to Europe, ‘cause for European music that was a step that proved to have big consequences. When did you come over? I came over at the end of September, I think that it was, of I963. And I really didn’t expect to stay more than six or at the most nine months. And I say that because I had a lot of school aged children, not a lot hut I had several school aged children and so I thought: ‘well, you know, maybe we stay six months hut then maybe we have to stay till the end of school term. And meanwhile maybe we could travel a little bit and see a little bit of Europe and find out what’s going on and so forth’. I was prompted to do that by ‘Country & Western Express’ magazine in a sense that I was receiving copies of ‘Country & Western Express’ on a regular basis, thanks to George Hacksall who was the editor at the time. And I was aware of George Tye, who was the other editor, I mean, was the other main person of the magazine. And it tums out there was a third person, Alec Guess. But Alec was not involved with the writing. He was transporting one from one place to the other. Because one lived in Kent and the other lived in Essex and Alec was the only one with a driver’s license who could get one to the other place. So the three of them really were involved with it from the very beginning. And I had been watching this magazine over a period of years and I was astounded at the fact that all of my stuff was being released, that all of my recordings were being released by London Label, Decca group, England and some by EMl and some by a smaller company called, hmm, something beginning with an ‘m’. ‘Melodisc’, no something like that but I can’t remember the name of the label now. But anyhow, three or four different labels but almost everything was coming out through the Decca group and I thought: ‘Well, this is wonderful. The London label, they press a lot, the quality is good, a lot better than Starday’, which was what they were on originally. And so I was very interested and the magazine kept having these polls every year. Well, I don’t know how many people subscribed to the magazine but the polls kept putting me at the top. And I thought, well. Best Male Singer or Best Bluegrass Band or something. And I finally wrote to George Hacksall and I said: ‘I’d really like to come over and see what’s happening. What do you think I have to do?’ And he wrote back and he said: ‘Well, I think you have to get a visa or work permit and this kind of thing’. Well, I didn’t think I got time to do that so I’d just better go and see what happens, you know. So I packed up the family and we took a ship across and settled in Kent. Initially George Hacksall had found a bed and breakfast for us in Lea-on-Sea, which is out near Southend-on-Sea, not too far from where he lived in Essex. And it took me a week or two to find a house. I kept looking everywhere for a house and at the same time I was making contact with Decca and trying to find somebody who’d book me. And found a man who worked for Decca and who was willing to book me and take 25% of what I earned, named Pat(rick) Robinson. And he was a very nice guy.

I know that name from somewhere but… I don’t know where from but he, unless it’s from something that I wrote down somewhere, because he never really did do that for anybody else, he just did it for me. And he was living in Wilmington at the time and I was out in Sevenoaks in Kent, when I got settled. And we’d talk on the phone but basically he told me, when he first got with me, he said: ‘what you need is a record’. And I said: ‘Pat, I just had a single released on EMI’ or Melodisc, or whatever it was. ‘I have two new LP’s in the last six months’. And he said: ‘No, you know a new single’. And I said: ‘Yeah, but I just had a lot of records released’. ‘Yeah, I know’, he said, ‘you need something, you know, that’s topical’. I said: ‘I’m not Bob Dylan, and I don’t write topical songs’. ‘No, no’, he said, ‘I’ve got a friend at Southern Music who can write something for us’. He said: ‘You need to tell me what you see and what you hear in the first weeks here that is topical and that hits you as strange or different, or whatever’. The first thing that hit me was that headline saying, I mean the newspapers, saying: ‘Beatles Mobbed’

Ik kon het niet nalaten om toch iets dieper in de song ‘Beatle Crazy’ te duiken. Het is een song die een beetje een vreemde eend in de bijt is in het repertoire van Bill Clifton, maar tegelijk zijn er in de periode dat The Beatles enorm populair begonnen te worden erg veel singeltjes van deze song verkocht – iets wat Bill’s Europese carrière zeker goed heeft gedaan…
It was 50 years ago today (give or take a few months) that The Beatles truly became The Beatles. In 1962, Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr, and the band’s first single, ‘Love Me Do’, was released in the United Kingdom. The Beatles had yet to become superstars in the United States, however, when bluegrass singer Bill Clifton recorded the wry, jaded ‘Beatle Crazy’. Reacting to what he saw during a 1963 tour of England – where he observed the first blush of Beatlemania – Clifton helped cement what would become a burgeoning micro-genre of popular music: the anti-Beatles song. After The Beatles stormed the States in 1964, scores of pop artists began recording pro-Beatles songs, hoping to ride the group’s coattails up the charts. Instead, Clifton and his brethren chose to grumble. Full of avuncular chuckles and weary whatever’s, ‘Beatle Crazy’ makes light of The Fab Four’s funny looks, silly music, and onrushing fame, then gets violent at the end: ‘Beatles in the wastepipe, Beatles in the sink / Them Beatles are smarter than some folks think’, Clifton sings in an ornery drawl, ‘Can’t shake them loose / Would somebody pass the DDT?’ Before long, millions of grownups across America were shaking their heads and saying the same thing – oblivious to the fact that they were witnessing the birth of something more than a teen fad.

Not a comedy record as such, but more a simple piece of admiration. For an American country and western singer Bill Clifton was very quick to spot the Beatles potential and incredibly cut this tune before the Beatles had even set foot in the United States. It is a simple acoustic guitar backdrop behind Bill’s easy southern spoken poem about the Beatles. It ends with an almost Beverly Hillbillie sounding couplet, ‘Now there’s George, John, Ringo and Paul, so I’ll head for the hills, seeya y’all’.
In November 1963 Pat Robinson took Bill Clifton into Regency Sound, a low budget studio favoured by the Rolling Stones, to record ‘Beatle Crazy’, a song penned by Geoff Stephens, a schoolteacher from Southend striving to make his mark as a songwriter. Though somewhat overshadowed by Dora Bryan’s ‘All I want for Christmas is a Beatle’ (the first known Beatle tribute), ‘Beatle Crazy’ notched up steady and substantial sales well into the New Year and went on to become Clifton’s calling card during his three-year English sojourn (it was released in the United States in April 1964). Bill Clifton eventually returned to America where he continued to perform at Bluegrass and folk festivals in his role as a roving ambassador for the Bluegrass cause. Geoff Stephens would go on to pen many hits, including ‘The crying game’ and ‘Winchester Cathedral’. 
Het lijkt er op dat Geoff Stephens de persoon is geweest die ‘Beatle crazy’ voor Bill Clifton heeft gespreven. De producer was Patrick Robinson (dat was de naam waar Kees Jansen van zei die de naam hem bekend in de oren klonk). Ik las op de site van Bear Family Records dat de song nooit de Engelse hitlijsten heeft gehaald, maar dat er desondanks toch zeker 300.000 exemplaren van de single (met aan de andere kant het door Bill Clifton zelf geschreven ‘Little girl dressed in blue’) zijn verkocht. Ik vind dat een enorm aantal!
Een paar jaar geleden kwam ‘Beatle Crazy’ terug op deze CD, die destijds nog in het Muziektijdschrift Oor is beproken…

Ik heb de onderstaande LP ook in mijn platenkast staan en ben van mening dat de LP een uitzonderlijk lelijke hoes heeft, nog los van het feit dat het een ‘picture disc’ is waar dezelfde afbeelding ook op de eigenlijke plaat terug komt. Ook nu hebben we het weer over een interessant stukje ‘Bill Clifton geschiedenis’. Op de site van Bear Family Records vond ik een klein stukje met de gedachten van Richard Weize (de oprichter en eigenaar van Bear Family Records) over de totstandkoming van deze plaat…

20 years ago, a young American Folk and Bluegrass musician came to Britain. The well-established artist noticed with surprise the arriving of The Beatles. Being fascinated and amused by this group of young Beat musicians and their success, he put his ideas into a song, and despite the fact that ‘Beatle Crazy’ never arrived in the charts, it still sold about 300,000 units. The name of the artist is Bill Clifton. He already had a string of singles and LPs recorded in the USA for a variety of labels. He also was the organizer of the first Bluegrass Music Festival in 1958, near Luray, Virginia and one of the directors of the famous Newport Folk Festival. He came as an ambassador of American Country Music to Europe. He successfully toured not only Britain, but Continental Europe, too. He finally moved back to the states in 1978. These European years were only interrupted by a three-year stint in the Philippines. During these years he also went back and forth to the States. In July 1965 he tried an experiment to record British Folk Music with a group of American Bluegrass musicians, The Country Gentlemen. All four titles from this session are also on this record. I first met Bill Clifton in 1972, when I invited him to the Neusüdende Country Music Festival. During the following five years we had a friendly relationship, we helped each other along the way. He allowed the release of his recordings under the Bear Family logo, which made me proud. In turn I acted as his booking agent here in Germany. During these years we had a lot of fun in clubs, at festivals on TV and radio. Not long before he returned to the States, I had put the idea of this record to him as a matter of fact he did not like the idea very much, but eventually agreed after a lot of persuading from my side. After Bill had left, we somewhat lost contact, and the project though started, got lost along the way, only creeping into my mind on and off over the years. When I recently saw the cover painting by Robert Sgrai again, i felt that should really go ahead with the project. So here it is.

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