John Tams and JP Bean
"After 5 decades in the business, John Tams finally plays solo!"
Saturday 6th June 2015
The Lantern Theatre, Sheffield
Having just finished playing “Baby, Let me follow you down”, John Tams astonished everyone by announcing that this was the first time that he’d played solo! Difficult to believe after 5 decades … but another first for a TalkingGigs audience.
As anticipated, this was a friendly and fascinating evening with John and JP Bean – clearly good friends enjoying talking to each other but including us all and happily answering a wide range of questions across both their careers.
The two had done a session based around JP’s book Singing from the Floor at last year’s Off the Shelf festival – just talking that time – and that’s where they started this time. In fact they had met through JP’s research … John being one of the early stalwarts of the 60s folk scene. He’d set up Alfreton Folk Club after attending a WEA ‘Build your own folk club’ night class and told us how that in the early days the club was visited by Special Branch officers watching out for communists and other determined to overthrow the world … one of whom enjoyed it so much that he became a member of the committee.
The evening spun along with each ‘interviewing’ the other about different aspects of their careers; JP doing some readings from his books – including the story of Bob Dylan’s first visit to the UK in 1962 and his inauspicious acting debut in the play Madhouse on Castle Street but his stunning performances of Blowin’ in the Wind and Ballad of the Gliding Swan; tales from John’s time acting and doing music for Sharpe – high praise for Sean Bean (no relation); stories of ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser and Sheffield Gang Wars – perhaps to be made into a film; a bit of singing and accordion playing from John; and questions from the audience could have gone on forever. And, almost as an afterthought – War Horse and John’s first encounter with the stage horse Joey which seemed to have a life of its own. John now does occasional War Horse music and reading evening’s with author Michael Morpurgo and Barry Coope – which sound a treat.
The evening ended with John leading us in singing one of his best known songs Rolling Home … and then they were off … not sure how you do an encore chat! It would have been wonderful to have had a few more songs from John but there seemed to be no complaints from the audience who stayed on to chat and have their photos taken with a real folk legend and get books signed by Sheffield’s premier author.