I was brought up near North End Rd market in Fulham in the 1950s. My parents loved having parties and found any excuse for having a sing song. Later, in the 1970s, I lived in Bow in the East End where I heard loads of the traditional songs of the area.
I was a a bit of a hippy and wasn't interested in that stuff, I played electric guitar. Later, looking back, I liked the old traditions and it seemed sad to see them go.
I met a Pearly King in 1977, the year of the Queen's silver jubilee. He introduced me to the various families, and I was recruited to play at street parties with them as I was familiar with the old songs. I was given the title Pearly Minstrel of London, and took over from the previous minstrel, the Pearly King of Deptford.
MY CONNECTION TO LONDON TRADITIONS
Since then I have been appearing with various Pearly Royalty on special occasions.
For over 20 years I have been conducting a London singalong after the Lord Mayor’s Show in the City. First at the Olde Cheshire Cheese, and now at the Hoop and Grapes, Farringdon St.
Pearlies used to help out local folk, and after the introduction of the welfare state, just collected for charity.
I also play with Spit n’ Sawdust with Roger [ the Dodger ] Lewis on piano. Sometimes augmented by Tony Burt, son of Chas and Dave’s drummer, Mickey Burt.
PEARLY KINGS & QUEENS
Pearly Kings and Queens appeared in the 19th century, and were the heads of the street markets,
Each market had its own Pearly family who passed the title down to their children.
Henry Croft is known as the first, but Legend has it that he got the idea from Sam King, a barrow boy who wore lots of pearl buttons and became known as “Pearly King”.
For over 25 years I played with Denny Purssord,
walking around playing Banjos at various events.
Denny passed away from a brain tumour on 16th April 2011