League Two Folk

BILL THE BIRO has his ear to the ground

Last month we were sent a newspaper clipping which mentioned the 1962 demise of Accrington Stanley, and that went into the Any Other Business page, together with a few paragraphs about Stanley. 

We followed that with a mention of Lancashire folk singer Stanley Accrington, and after we politely emailed him to tell him what we were up to, he sent us a quite long and entertaining reply:

"Well, I am honoured to be mentioned in such an august organ as Monkey Business.

"Although I am named after a football club, I have no links to the town of Accrington (other than having to grab my stuff and leave quickly from a pub in Accrington I was booked at because Burnley and Blackburn fans started fighting each other). I just nicked their name because they were non-league. Then the rascals came back into the league and a search for my name on th'interweb usually gives their info.

Stanley Accrington picture
Stanley Accrington
and merchandise
 - even if it's not his!
"In fact, once I started getting around the music scene, I found out that I was one of about half a dozen Stanley Accringtons. One was a 60's rock band from Northampton, another a comedian from Bolton and, most confusingly when I was after work, one was 'Stanley Accrington and the Third Division North', a ceilidh band based around Sunderland. I was once introduced to "the proper Stanley Accrington" who was a nice guy. If I ever appear in the north east, I am still described as "Not the local ceilidh band". However, I think I am the only surviving Stanley Accrington.

"It is sad that there are no other acts named after football clubs. Alexandra Crewe maybe, or Gill Ingham perhaps. Of course there was Fleetwood Mac, John Leyton-Orient and Brian Pool and the Tremeloes but it's a bit tenuous.

"I find that the music scene is generally not interested in football. You do have one supporter from folkland, the concertina wizard Steve Turner who has been a Pools season ticket holder and match sponsor even though he has never lived in or near Hartlepool and currently resides near Nottingham.

"There was once a comedic folk performer from Kent named Doug Hudson who once had the job as match announcer at Gillingham, but he got the sack after announcing bogus half time scores such as Aston Villa 7 Manchester United 1, Chelsea 0 Charlton 5 and Hartlepool 1 Scunthorpe 0.

"Anyway, thanks for the mention (to be quoted in my publicity, after having a poem in the Essex County archive and being quoted by a Huddersfield University lecturer to his students). I once lived in a road by Kersal Moor where Salford play and was very impressed with the way Pools snuffed out the sentiment (and football) in that televised cup game. I still think the aptly named James Poole is the best Hartlepool player I have seen in recent years. But, being a sad Oldham Athletic fan (as well as Rochdale of course), I am reminded of the satirical chant that Latics fans have when your manager returns - "Ronnie Moore, football genius". I hope he can work the magic again. [Obviously written before Ronnie was given the opportunity to work his magic elsewhere - Ed.]


"(One of the) Stanley Accrington(s)"

Anyway, that sent us off on the case of Pools season ticket holder Steve Turner, who, it turns out, knows former Monkey Business editor John Cooper, since they both live in the same small town near Nottingham (or suburb thereof).

We then wrote to Steve and he also replied, saying that in fact he played cricket with Stan for thirty years:

"I used to buy Monkey Business regularly at away games. I go to most of them. My wife says that my collection of old Monkey Businesses is taking up too much room! But I'm ashamed to say that since it went online I've not been keeping up. This will have to change!

"Looking forward to today's big game
 with anticipation, trepidation and whatever. I stand in the Town End, back right hand side." 

The match he was referring to was Pools at home to Yeovil a few weeks back. After the match he was straight off to Whitby for an evening gig, so you can see that he's not averse to fitting in gigs with Pools matches. He often performs in the North East and since then has been seen in Stockton, although he gets all over the country - and the world.

Cover of Steve Turner's new album
Steve Turner has been performing since the late 1960s. He first had success with the north-eastern folk band Canny Fettle, before striking out on his own, singing and playing instruments such as concertina and cittern, which was the renaissance equivalent of the modern guitar. Then he left the folk scene for a few years to concentrate on his musical instrument business (which unusually specialises in instruments other than the ones he's known for playing). However he came back to performing ten or so years ago, and his seventh album was launched at the end of February. Several of his albums have featured the legendary Martin Carthy playing guitar - the folkie equivalent of having Elton John playing piano in your backing band!

We just had to ask him how he came to be a Pools fan, since he's not local, and were wondering if he was one of that select band of Pools fans who came on board out of sympathy, in the days when Pools had to annually beg to stay in the league. He told us:

"I'm originally from Manchester, and as you guessed, was one of the sympathy followers. I used to watch Man City but got hopelessly entangled with Pools at the age of twelve when I saw their plight.

"So I first used to go and see them at Stockport County, then places as far afield as Southport in the early to mid-sixties. I remember being the only one waiting round the back of the ground at Haig Avenue when Brian Clough, who'd just been appointed manager, came out, and when I asked him for his autograph, he said, "You're the first person who's asked me for an autograph" - True? Who knows?!

"Brian Clough ...said, 'You're the first person who's asked me for an autograph' "
"Another pathetic early sixties story was when my father, who was not a football fan, took me on the bus to see Pools away at Chesterfield, and left me outside the ground.

"He went off into town, and I only realised when I checked my pockets that I had no money to get in! So, using my youthful initiative, I offered the man on the turnstile my watch as the entrance fee, which he turned down - even though I included a roll of Sellotape in the deal! So I stood outside looking despondent for a while, till a friendly Spireites fan offered to pay my entrance fee. 

We lost 3 - 1! "

Steve told  us how a Lancashire lad with no north-east links (other than Pools) got into a Geordie Band.

"Canny Fettle were flavour of the moment in Manchester in the late 60s and early 70s. I was doing a floor spot in a local club one night in 1970 when they were the guests, and at half time the fiddle player came up and asked if I'd like to join them, as the singer was leaving. There were only two north east guys in the band and they had met at Manchester University. I was with them for seven years and we did two albums and did various gigs around the country and in Holland and Germany.

Photo of Steve Turner performing
Steve Turner and concertina
"The folk world is indeed a footie-free zone. Music and sport don't seem to mix. I'm a Pools season ticket holder and go to every game I can, home and away, when I'm not doing gigs or playing cricket - my other obsession. So I'll probably go to thirty games a season." 

We also asked about the life of an itinerant musician, and whether he, like many of his contemporaries, had to sleep rough in the early days.

I did and still do stay with the folk club organisers, usually on tours. If possible, I'll drive home after the gig if it's a one off. Nottingham's good because it's in the middle of the country.

The interesting thing is that in the early days people used to give folk singers floors and couches to sleep on. But now they've got older, richer, and have their own houses, I always get a bed. Sometimes a hotel!"

Steve ended our little discourse with a positive comment about the otherwise dismal Notts County home match.

"By the way, Gray's goal in the Tuesday debacle was, in my fifty four years as a Pools fan, probably the best goal I've ever seen by a Pools player. Ronaldo would have been proud of that one!"

Thanks to both Stan and Steve for their help. Let's hope both Steve and Accrington Stanley (if not Stanley Accrington too) will be at the Vic next season.

Steve Turner's website is: www.steve-turner.co.uk

And here again is Stanley Accrington's website: http://www.stanleyaccrington.me.uk , so you can verify that he really has made loads of albums, and all with football-related titles.

ps The day after Pools had drawn with Northampton and ended their run, I actually got to see a Steve Turner gig - at a Northanptonshire folk club, would you believe, and he's a very fine performer. And he tactfully never mentioned the match - to the audience, at least!