Firstly, I’d like to pass on my sympathies to Karen, Chris’ partner, for her sad loss, and I feel I must write a tribute to Chris for his contribution to traditional music in the East. Chris, to my mind, was an unsung hero of the above, for various reasons. Going back in time - and I’m a bit vague about dates - and mainly in the late ‘60s, I was a regular at the King’s Head folk club in Islington, a wonderful trad. club run by Rod and Danny Stradling. This club was a magnet for folkies, and it was there I met Chris and his then wife Jenny.
They kindly invited me to stay at their cottage in the village of Bealings in Suffolk, and Chris allowed me to play (as an honorary member) in the East Suffolk Band, which he formed. As a ‘cherry on the top’ Chris had living in a caravan in their garden two of my other folk heroes - Annie Briggs and Johnny Moynihan. So on my visits we, the band, played in several very unspoilt Suffolk pubs, such as The Blaxhall Ship and The Crown at Snape - and we all got positively rat-arsed - ah, halcyon days!. Chris and Jenny also ran a terrific folk club at The Suffolk Punch pub in Ipswich, which booked great trad. performers, such as Irish fiddler Martin Burns, the Watersons, etc., etc.,.
So basically, Chris never received the recognition he deserved - or and Jenny, re. the club - for his contribution to trad. music in Suffolk. He, on our band ‘gigs’, also encouraged lots of old trad. singers to do their thing: people like Percy Webb, Oscar Wood on squeeze box, etc. This was all done in a natural, joyful way, unlike some mainstream folk clubs, which were becoming more serious and political.
In later years Chris and Jenny moved to Norwich, where he joined my loosely-knit band, now known as the Von Krapp Family, playing melodeon and eventually he formed Red Herrings, another cracking band, with Karen and the Ellis sisters. You can’t seem to buy actual red herrings these days - very salty!
So here’s to Chris’ memory - and I’m sure Karen will appreciate how important he was to the folk world.
Tony Hall, Oulton, Norfolk - May 2020