The City Ramblers Group was formed in 1955 by Russell Quaye and Hylda Sims. Their aim was to promote original skiffle — as played by the early negroes and poor whites with improvised domestic instruments — and folk-music — both English and American. Since those early days, the group has had a varied existence — playing in the streets of Soho; making a six months' tour of the continent, where they appeared on German and Belgian television, and were the first skiffle group to visit Europe; and more recently with the popular success of skiffle music, topping the bill in a British variety tour. At present The City Ramblers are the main resident group at the Skiffle Cellar in Soho.
RUSSELL QUAYE — Quattro, kazoo, vocals.
Studied art at Beckenham and Brighton where he formed a students' jazz band. He has an arts degree, but has done most things from street singing to being a hotel receptionist. Bearded Russell was teaching art and painting jazz musicians before he led the City Ramblers on their tour of Europe.
HYLDA SIMS — Guitar and vocals.
Was a dancer and a teacher, but has always been interested in collecting and singing folk songs. Married to Russell Quaye, twenty-five years old Hylda fits in skiffle sessions between looking after small daughter Vivienne.
JIM MACGREGOR — Guitar, vocals.
A twenty-seven-year-old Scot from Glasgow, Jimmy is the newest member of the City Ramblers. He came down south a few months ago and joined the group after an informal song-swapping session. An accomplished self-taught guitarist, Jimmy is also a potter and still makes pottery when he is not making music.
CHRIS BATESON — Blue-blowing, jug.
This seventeen-year-old phenomenon also began as an art student, but decided he wanted just to "play the blues". The City Ramblers discovered him when he stood in at a Soho street session, and he has been with them ever since. He bases his playing of an old trumpet mouthpiece on Twenties records of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and their accompanists. He has various attachments for his mouthpiece, including a paraffin funnel and a post horn. More recently he has taken up jug blowing too.
SHIRLEY BLAND — Washboard.
At twenty-three Shirley has been a ballet dancer, a waitress and a garage attendant. As well as playing the washboard (which she has fitted with a cymbal, cowbell, woodblock, motor horn and frying-pan), Shirley also sings when she can overcome her shyness.
PETE MAYNARD — Tub-bass.
Joined the City Ramblers as the driver of their old van on the continental tour. Graduated to tub-bass when the van was abandoned owing to old age. Twenty-three years old, he was originally a scrap-metal dealer, and then a builders' accountant. Pete, a genuine cockney, rarely smiles but concentrates all his energies on pitching the tub-bass. Like most cockneys, he also plays the spoons and the bones.
GOOD MORNING BLUES — The City Ramblers' version of this blues, sung here by Russell Quaye, is based on the Huddie Leadbetter version, although the boogie-guitar accompaniment was learned from Big Bill Broonzy when Russell was painting his portrait in 1952. This blues shares its lyrics with many other country and urban blues.
DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE — One of the best known Negro Spirituals, it is sung by blacks and whites alike in chapels all over the South. It is likely that it dates from Civil War days. The version Hylda Sims sings is inspired by Big Bill Broonzy.
GREY GOOSE — This a song of mixed origins, deriving from Negro sermonizing and the repetitive work song of the South. In it the Negro identifies himself with the indestructible bird who flies away unharmed at the end of a long series of misadventures. This version, sung by Jim Macgregor, was collected by Alan Lomax.
JUBILEE — This a barn dance fiddle tune from the Appalachian Mountains. Hylda Sims, who leads the vocal here, bases her version on that sung by Jean Ritchie, the traditional Appalachian singer. It is probably of Irish or Scottish origin.