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The Watersons

The Watersons: The Watersons (Topic 12T142)

The Watersons
The Watersons

Topic Records 12T142 (LP, UK, 1966)

Recorded by Bill Leader.
Photograph by Sally Shuel

Originally, live recordings were made at the Watersons’ own club, Folk Union One, for an album to be released as Folk Union One. That record didn’t make it to completion but some of the recordings, together with a further studio session, made up the final album.

All tracks on this LP but The Plains of Mexico were included in 1994 on the Topic CD Early Days. The CD also has an out-take from the original folk club recordings, Rap Her to Bank. This and another out-take from the original recordings, The Barley and the Rye, can be found on the 4CD Watersons anthology Mighty River of Song

Some more live recordings from Folk Union One can be seen on the TV documentary and video Travelling for a Living.


In 1966 the Watersons were siblings Mike Waterson, Norma Waterson, Lal (Elaine) Waterson, and their second cousin John Harrison.


Side 1

  1. Dido Bendigo (Roud 584; TYG 76) (2.53)
  2. The North Country Maid (Roud 1367; G/D 5:1058) (2.31)
  3. Brave Wolfe (Roud 624) (4.27)
  4. The Jolly Waggoners (Roud 1088) (2.53)
  5. I Am a Rover (Roud 1112) (4.59)

Side 2

  1. Fathom the Bowl (Roud 880) (2.52)
  2. The Thirty-Foot Trailer (3.30)
  3. The Holmfirth Anthem (Roud 1046; TYG 55) (1.58)
  4. Twanky-Dillo (Roud 2409) (3.38)
  5. The White Hare of Howden (Roud 1110; TYG 79) (1.59)
  6. The Plains of Mexico (Roud 207; Henry H496) (1.49)
  7. All for Me Grog (Roud 475; G/D 3:580) (2.39)

All tracks 14 trad. arr. Watersons except
Track 7 Ewan MacColl

Sleeve Notes

The Watersons’ enviable combination of dark good looks, ringing voices, abundant charm and immense vitality have already given them the kind of star status within the folk song revival which is usually reserved for pop singers outside it. They are unpretentious and unconventional stars, taking television appearances, top billing at concerts and ovations at clubs in their stride. Their gypsyish zestfulness is worlds away from the strictly commercial glamour of the world of pop music: but their own glamour is all the more potent since it is the product of personality rather than publicity. There are four in the group, Michael, Norma and Elaine Waterson (two sisters and a brother), and their second cousin, John Harrison. Michael Waterson sings lead most often and they all come in on choruses with their own hand crafted harmonies, an immediate recognisable and uniquely distinctive group sound which is uninhibited, spontaneous seeming and rich in texture.

The Watersons sing songs from all over the country but pay special attention to those collected in their native East Yorkshire. They live in Hull, the great seaport beside the Humber that also produced one of our greatest poets, Andrew Marvell; and in Hull they have for some years run their famous club, Folk Union One.

They already have one LP on Topic, the widely praised collection of ritual and ceremonial songs Frost and Fire, and are also featured on the anthology record New Voices. They are no longer new voices but familiar and feted ones, singing on this new record, songs they have made particularly their own.