Sean Cannon - by Pete Willow, from Folks No 6 - March / April 1979
Roving Journey Man -
Spotlight on Sean Cannon
"Sean Cannon played his first guitar during the winter of 1962 /63 when taking lessons in the Swabian district of Germany. The material he was taught was mainly a selection of folk songs local to that area, most of which only required three or four basic chords and he states that many of the numbers he plays now are no more complicated. For three years he moved around the continent, staying in Germany, Switzerland and Spain, before eventually returning to Britain and moving to Coventry in 1965.
Although he had no burning ambition to be a professional folksinger at the time, Sean found himself heading Bill Hartnett, who introduced him to the Cofa's Tree Folk Club, which Sean attended at first as a spectator rather than a performer. In the meantime he was playing guitar and singing for his own amusement although early influence set in. he learnt material through he Clancy Brothers songbook and sang songs remembered from school and rebel songs, which at the time were more acceptable for folk club performances. Inspiration also came from seeing the Dubliners perform at Cofa's Tree. (Sean was later to support two concerts with them in Coventry and Redcar - (and later than this article in 1982 - he joined them - Ed.). Eventually Sean was to be seen giving regular floor spots as well as playing at various all-night parties, along with early compatriots, Lenny McIihone, Gibb Todd, The Kerries and Rod Felton.
Round about 1967, Sean and Bill, along with whistle and banjo player, Paul Welsh, became involved in a band called The Gaels. At this time they ran a club at Monks Kirby, later to be hosted by Dave Sampson. This became a very popular Saturday night folk venue, regularly packed out to the extent that many of the potential audience had to spend the evening in the bar down stairs. This was where Sean met up with guitarist Pat Cooksey, who used to entertain those who couldn't get in, whilst the club itself carried on upstairs!
The Gaels split up in 1970, as members got involved with marriage and college, and Sean found himself with time on his hands again. He still had no aspirations to be a professional soloist and when asked to do a booking he at first refused. He was finally persuaded to do his first solo gig by Pete Brown; the venue was Swadlingcote and the fee two guineas. This led to a return booking plus one or two more in other clubs.
Sean was able to travel further afield when he met up with the late Paul Riley, who at the time was roady for various acts, including Noel Murphy. Paul offered Sean lifts around the country, where he was able to play floor spots at clubs and obtain work as a result. It was when playing in a London club in 1972 that Sean was approached by Jean Oglesby who offered to obtain work for him, and since then the Oglesby-Winder agency has provided him with most of his bookings.
An even busier time is ahead for Sean now (ie 1979)when this article was written) as he has been booked to appear on the forthcoming Planxty Tour. This opens on Easter Sunday at the Hammersmith Odeon, takes him around the country for a while (including the nearest date to here (Coventry) - 20th April at the Birmingham Odeon), then ten dates in Germany, a couple in Switzerland, back to Germany then on to France, Belgium, a concert in Paris, a tour of Brittany and finally to Ireland, with a couple of appearances at Belfast and Derry included.
1. The newry highwayman
2. The banks of the bann
3. The bantry girls' lament
4. Siúil arún
5. The bay of biscay
6. The yellow bittern (an bunán búi )
7. The red-haired man's wife
8. Ned of the hill (Eamon an chnuic)9. The bonny bunch of roses
10. Erin the green
appropriately named as he reckons he travels about 50,000 miles a year to gigs. (His Morris Minor alone clocked up 30,000 miles since last April.) he has recorded a new album on the Ogham label for release hopefully in April. Sean hasn't thought of a title for it yet (but we can now tell you in with hindsight that it was called '
..but he's frantically doing research to write his own sleeve notes on the songs. Many sources of Sean's material are from records and books, although he sings songs learned from his mother and from friends, including Pat Cooksey.
Perhaps the main reason for Sean's popularity in folk clubs is his incredibly clear and haunting voice which, backed by an unimposing accompaniment on his Angelica guitar, adds great depth to the songs he performs. Particularly enjoyable are his his vocal 'instrumentals' where he sings wordless jigs and reels to a three chord backing. Irish folk music is very popular on the continent and Sean's presentation must stand out as unique compared with the great variety of five or six piece bands that tour around.
With all of his commitments and the fact that he's living in Yorkshire these days, Sean feels a little out of Dyres Arms where his old colleagues play regularly. he recalls that the music played in the days of the Cofa's Tree was extremely good. Generally these days he sees folk enthusiasts as people who like songs for their face value, when the folk revival started there was more of a political interest, with many left wing connotations in the material played. "The standard of playing now is better than ever. The instrumental ability of many artists today would have been amazing fifteen years ago" Sean speaks modestly of his own guitar playing though the tremendous feeling that he puts into his arrangements of songs leaves him in the minds of most club audiences as one of the most outstanding soloists performing in the world of music today.touch with the Coventry folk scene, although he visits the city as often as he can to give impromptu performances, usually at the
Ed - Sean moved back to Coventry form Barnsley in the mid 90's.
More of the Gaels on the Hobo A to Z of bands - Here