The Labouring Man

My banjo arrangment of a traditional English song I heard on a Critics Group album.

The song dates from around the time of the Napoleonic Wars but it’s central message hasn’t aged a day. You can read more about the song here –

You Englishmen of each degree,
A moment listen unto me:
From day to day you all may see
The poor are frowned on by degree.
To please you all I do intend,
So listen to the lines I’ve penned;
By them, you know who never can
Do without the labouring man.

In former days, you all must know,
The poor man cheerful used to go.
Quite clean and neat, upon my life,
With his children and his darling wife.
And for his labour it was said,
A fair day’s wages he was paid.
But now to live he hardly can—
May God protect the labouring man.

There is one thing we must confess,
When England find they’re in a mess,
And has to face the daring foe,
Unto the labouring men they go
To fight their battles, understand,
Either on sea or on the land;
Deny the truth we never can,
They call upon the labouring man.

Some for soldiers they will go,
And jolly sailors do we know,
To guard Old England day and night,
And for their country boldly fight.
But when they do return again
They’re looked upon with great disdain;
Now in distress throughout the land
You may behold the labouring man.

When Bonaparte and Nelson too,
And Wellington at Waterloo.
Were fighting both by land and sea,
The poor man gained these victories!
Their hearts are cast in honour’s mould,
The sailors and the soldiers bold.
And every battle, understand
Was conquered by the labouring man.

The labouring man will plough the deep,
Till the ground and sow the wheat,
Fight the battles when afar,
Fear no dangers or a scar;
But still they’re looked upon like thieves
By them who bide at home at ease,
And everyday throughout the land
They try to starve the labouring man.

Now if wars should rise again,
And England be in want of men
They’ll have to search the country round
To find the lads that plough the ground,
Then to some foreign land they’ll go
To fight and dub the daring foe;
Do what they will, do what they can,
They can’t do without the labouring man.

When the Old Dun Cow Caught Fire

When the Old Dun Cow Caught Fire is a music hall song written by Harry Wincott in 1893, and is most associated with Harry Champion. It’s also become a real folk club Standard.

I’ve arranged it for banjo playing in a two-finger thumb lead style. The banjo is my mid nineteen-thirties Clifford Essex Clipper, strung with nylon strings and tuned to fCFAC which is open G but tuned down by two frets.

Some pals and I in a public house
Was playing dominoes one night
When all of a sudden in the potman runs
With a face all chalky white
‘What’s up?’ said Jones ‘Why you silly old fool,
Or have you seen old Aunt Mariah?’
‘Me Aunt be buggered,’ then the potman cried
‘The bleeding pubs on fire.’

‘On fire!’ said Brown, ‘What a bit of luck!
Come along with me ‘ shouts he.
‘Down in the cellar, if the fire ain’t there,
We’ll have a fair old spree.’
So we all goes down ‘long with good old Brown
The booze we couldn’t miss,
And we hadn’t been there ten minutes or more
When we was just like this.

And there was Brown, upside down
Licking up the whiskey off the floor
‘Booze, Booze, ‘ then the firemen cried
As they came knocking at the door
‘Don’t let ’em in till it’s all mopped up’
Someone said to Mackintyre
So we all got blue blind, paralytic drunk
When the old Dun Cow caught fire.

Old Johnson flew to a port wine tub
And he gave it just a few hard knocks
He then starts taking off his pantaloons
Likewise his shoes and socks
‘Hold hard’ said Brown, ‘If you want to wash your feet
There’s a barrel full of four ale here
Don’t put your trotters in the port wine Jack
When there’s more old stale beer’

Just then there was such a dreadful crash
Half the bloody roof gave way
We were almost drowned with a fireman’s hose
But still we were all gay.
For we found some sacks, and some old tin tacks
Shoved ourselves inside
And we sat there getting bleary-eyed drunk
When the old Dun Cow caught fire
At last the fireman got inside
And found us all dead drunk
But like true heroes there they stood
They did not do a bunk
They saw the booze upon the floor
And gave a sudden yell
They took their helmets off and then
Upon their knees they fell.

‘At last! At last!’ the firemen cried
‘At last we know the news’
‘Come on! Come on! ‘ us lads all cried
‘Come on and have a booze.’

Jazzbo’s Holiday

A splendid piece of English ragtime written by Tarrant Bailey Junior in 1927.

Played by Russ Chandler (banjo) and Simon Armstrong (guitar).

Changes by Alan Price

This is my arrangment of the song “Changes” written by Alan Price as part of the sountrack to the 1973 movie “O Lucky Man!” directed by Lindsey Anderson and starring Malcolm McDowell.

It’s set to the old Salvation Army tune “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”.

Everyone is going through changes
No one knows what’s going on
And everybody changes places
But the world still carries on

Love must always change to sorrow
And everyone must play the game
Here today and gone tomorrow
But the world goes on the same

Old Blue

Just a bit of fun!

This is Clifton Hicks two finger arrangment of “Old Blue” played on my circa 1890 flush fret minstrel banjo.

I didn’t really video it with a view to making it public so the quality isn’t that great, but it’s a fun tune and I added a verse of my own to bring it up to date.

Clifton is a wonderful banjo player and historian and you can see his stuff here –

For No One by The Beatles

I like to introduce this song by saying I find most of my tunes on old records but in this case rather than a crumbly old 78 the old record in this case the old record was called “Revolver”..!

It’s a really simple arrangement of an under-regarded classic.

The Banjo’s Journey

The Traditions Festival was a special event of workshops, dance, music and talks based on cultural ritual and its effects on our sense of self. I gave a presentation called The Banjo’s tracing the history of the banjo from it’s roots in Africa up to how I am using it …

Chris Sands – Classic Ragtime Banjo

Wednesday October 22nd 2014 ~ Cecil Sharp House, London   The evening of October 22nd 2014 saw a really extraordinary concert of music at Cecil Sharp House in Camden, London. “Classic” Fingerstyle banjo was the sound of the Edwardian Britain. Played with an intricate and demanding technique similar to that …


Paris is a song by Clive Palmer, best known for his work in the Incredible String Band. This version is very close to the banjo arrangement by Wizz Jones. I asked Wizz to play it at Walthamstow Folk Club one evening. He said he hadn’t played it since he’d recorded …