The Friends of Fiddler’s Green vs. Stan Rogers
I grew up spending most of my spare time hanging out backstage at concerts, festivals and camps devoted to folk music and dance throughout the 70s and 80s. This was largely due to my father’s incessant gigging schedule with The Friends of Fiddler’s Green (pictured left in their heyday) and later as a participant myself dancing Morris. Though the FFG were awarded the lifetime-achievement Estelle Klein Award in 2003, this motley crew of mostly ex-pat Scots and English have been largely under-recognized for the role they have played in the Canadian Folk music revival since the 1970s.
A great example of the Friends’ influence was seen in their inspiring Stan Rogers to write Barrett’s Privateers, which has since gone on to become one of Canada’s most celebrated folk songs (and not just on St. Patrick’s Day). In his own right, that song helped lead Stan to go on to develop a rich musical repertoire of maritime-related songs, having been largely a coffee-house folksinger before the infamous incident. The exact story is not entirely clear but having heard it from many different people who were present, I feel I can present a reasonable summary here.
Much like at many other folk festivals, the stories arising from the after parties at the hotel/lodgings are among the most legendary and this anecdote is one of those cases. At the Sudbury Folk Festival (probably 1972 or 1973) one of the jam sessions at the after party (this time in the University dorm) was being dominated by the Friends, singing their large and boisterous repertoire of sea shanties. Stan Rogers, at the time, didn’t sing songs of this kind and reacted by noisily and visibly stormed out of the party in a huff. The following morning, Stan approached the table at which the tired and groggy FFG were eating their breakfast, slammed down a piece of paper and blurted out: “Suck on this, you Limey Bastards!”…. that piece of paper contained the lyrics to Barrett’s Privateers, which he had written in his room out of spite for the Friends. This account is one that strays the least from my father’s, published here but Ian Robb states in his liner notes for the album ‘From Different Angels’ that Stan’s famous outburst occurred before he performed the inaugural version of the song at the Sudbury Folk Fest’s wrap party…. but in either case, the rest of the story is essentially the same.
Listen to a clip of Stan’s song here, sampled from his album Home in Halifax: Barrett’s Privateers
… the saga continued, however…… the Friends being the mischievous and motivated hooligans that they are, decided to take a little wind out of the sails of Stan’s epic song by writing a parody based on an infamously riotous party where copious amounts of dreadful home-made beer was consumed, having been brewed by Stan’s brother Garnet Rogers. The Friends began singing Ian Robb’s parody, Garnet’s Home-Made Beer at festivals they would co-headline with Stan and thus continued the friendly rivalry that defined Folk relationships like those between Stan and the Friends.
Listen to a clip of the Friends of Fiddler’s Green singing their version, sampled from Ian Robb’s album From Different Angels: Garnet’s Home Made Beer