Troubador Sounding the Century: Bill Leader & Co

Released: 28/04/2022

ISBN: 9781803130910

Format: Paperback

Review this Book

Author Website

Sounding the Century: Bill Leader & Co

2 – Horizons For Some 1956-1962


After describing the processes of history at work on ordinary people (i.e. Bill’s immediate ancestors) in Glimpses of Far Off Things, the second volume finds Bill settling in at Topic Records and collaborating with Ewan MacColl and Bert Lloyd, the architects of the folk revival. It is set in the period of the Cold War, ‘Ban the Bomb’ and lingering austerity. Yet the small pond of UK folk is about to be stirred by breezes blowing from the USA. The folk revival was more advanced over there, and the influx of US visitors, the craving for diversity generated by the Stateside Hi-Fi craze, the irresistible rise of Lonnie Donegan and skiffle, all cleared the path for the UK folk revival proper.

It becomes clear with Horizons For Some that the author’s mission is to return its cultural inheritance to a nation that has somehow mislaid it, and may indeed be running the other way in hot denial. It also shows how tradition is not set in stone, but infinitely adaptable. The present volume anatomises how the folk demotic was influenced by the so-called special relationship. In his quiet way, Bill was central to these developments. Sounding the Century is rich in character studies of the remarkable people Bill (and the author) encounter, and wonderfully conveys the joy and absurdity of it all.

The Afterward

Be the first to review this book

Mike Butler

Mike Butler was born in late 1958. The date is significant. His musical consciousness was formed in the early seventies, when rock was an arcane and subversive pursuit. His own taste ran to the progressive variety. He was a callow 13-year-old, he will admit, but when can you be callow if not when you're 13? Prog rock led to jazz in three easy steps

Genesis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles Davis and the conversion was complete when Mike joined the record library at Middlesbrough's Central Library as a self-reward for passing 6 O levels (St Mary's College, 1975), and borrowed Tijuana Moods by Charles Mingus on his first visit. It was around the same time he switched his musical allegiance from Pink Floyd to Bobby Womack. A passion for deep soul and USA roots music almost ruined him for punk, until Poly's Records. He was to redeem himself academically with a first class BA hons in Fine Art at Manchester Polytechnic, 1986, which lay behind the relocation to Manchester. Subsequently he joined the artist-run Castlefield Gallery, 1986-1992, and entered journalism as editor of Granby Row Review, the gallery's house magazine (1987-1991), and as jazz editor of City Life, the Manchester what's-on magazine, 1989-2009. This is how he came to interview Nina Simone twice. He continued compiling listings, previewing gigs and interviewing musicians for Metro, 1999-2009. The discovery of the missing verse of 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' in 1994 (for Independent on Sunday) probably represents the pinnacle of his career in music journalism, and Sun Ra imparted the secrets of the universe during an encounter in Liverpool in 1990. Mike promoted UK tours by the visionary songwriter and Texas lawyer Abner Burnett, 1998 and 2001, the latter tour with Irish musician Johnny Moynihan, and co-promoted a joint UK tour by John Fahey and Abner Burnett, 1999 a rock & roll disaster story of such magnitude that it rated a feature in Mojo. Since 2009 he has been writing a major social and cultural history of Britain, as refracted through the long life and work of veteran engineer/producer Bill Leader. Mike Butler is on the steering committee of Manchester Jazz Society and is married to scientist and educator Eva Mar'Navarro L'pez.

Mike Butler at La Fugitiva bookshop, Madrid, 2017

Mike Butler and Bill Leader at the Irish World Heritage Centre, Manchester, 2012
  • Buy as a printed
  • £19.99

Also by Mike Butler / Related Books