THE cattle are fed and watered: the horses tethered. The sun's gone down and the stars are appearing. Grub's come and gone and it's time to sing a song round the camp fire.
Instruments appear, throats are cleared, and voices are tried. And here are the songs the cowpokes sing: songs about the life they lead, the places they visit, the trails they follow.
I was first introduced to the songs of Woody Guthrie by Rambling Jack Elliot back in 1957 and have sung Woody's songs ever since. Although I have recorded at least one of Woody's songs on all my Continental records this is the first opportunity I have had to record any of his work in Great Britain. "Why Oh Why?" I learnt from Jack Elliot and as I am the father of two fine sons it is one of my favourites. I know how exasperating it can be when weans keep pounding away at you with senseless questions but I would not be without them God bless them. "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos" is a song that just gradually crept into my repertoire as I can't remember learning it from any specific singer. Although I love Woody's light-hearted children's songs it is his songs of social comment that give me the greatest pleasure to sing, for with these I feel I can associate.
It may seem presumptuous that on the same record I should include two of my own songs, but already one of these has been accepted on the folk scene (in fact it is my most popular song after "Been on the Road so Long"), this being "My Old Gibson Guitar". Only last week when being driven home from a folk club by a person fairly new to folk music I was being asked about my life as a folk singer. I explained that I had made over 40 records, been singing professionally for ten years, done innumerable films and TV shows and travel approximately 1,500 miles a week. At the end of all this I was asked the usual question: What do I do for a living? I wrote this song quite a few years ago to answer that question. "Don't You Put Me Down" on the other hard is really a song of protest; by both colleagues and some sections of the press I am accused of being politically naive in as much as I sing and march for CND and take part in anti-apartheid demonstrations and marches against the war in Vietnam, yet though I know I am achieving nothing by these gestures I feel that they must be made. I am not a raving communist nor even a left wing socialist but I believe in humanity and I believe that where there is injustice or intolerance we should do what we can to alleviate these.
Alex Campbell, London — August 1966