Walter Pardon

The traditional songs of England were preserved through the efforts of Walter Pardon (born Walter William Pardon). Although he did not begin singing in public until the age of 60, Pardon made up for lost time, recording four albums of centuries-old ballads, parodies, and country songs. An only child, Pardon lived all of his life in the redbrick farm worker's cottage in which he was born. One of the few members of his family to not become a farmer, he worked most of his adult life as a carpenter. Much of Pardon's repertoire was inherited from his mother's family especially from his uncle Billy Gee (born: 1863). Gee, who spent several years living with Pardon's family, had collected numerous songs from his father and Pardon's grandfather, Thomas Cook Gee, (born 1827), a church band clarinet player. As he remembered during an early-'70s interview, Pardon was scorned for his interests in traditional music. "My generation ridiculed songs. There were no young men who went near a man of 60 to hear the songs. That is a fact. I never did sing out of the house -- hardly."

Word of Pardon's singing and large repertoire began to spread in the mid-'70s. "Discovered" by Roger Dixon, a schoolteacher who had overheard him playing the melodeon, Pardon was given a tape recorder to record his songs. A copy of the tape was given to folk singer Peter Bellamy, who passed it on to Bill Leader, owner of the folk-oriented Leader record label. Leader was so impressed by what he heard that he divided the 20 songs on the tape in half and released two albums -- A Proper Sort and Our Side of the Baulk. Pardon subsequently recorded two additional albums: A Country Life and Walter Pardon. Despite the influence of his recordings, Pardon never achieved commercial success with his music. When he died in 1996, his grave was left unmarked until funds were raised during a benefit memorial concert at London's Conway Hall on April 5, 1997. ~ Craig Harris

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