Cocky King: Country Entertainer of the Bromeswell Cherry Tree

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Lanham, Neil 

It has been said that the latterday 'more-literate' mind seeks little more than information, whereas those people of an older and 'more-oral' culture were brought up on understandings (Walter Ong). Likewise, the modem mind prefers entertainment and does not seek the wisdoms of the mindset of 'the prior culture' (Walter Benjamin).

If you are looking, therefore, for information in just the words of a song or for a 'lovely' voice as is the case in the pop/tv world, then this is not for you. If, however, you would like to experience the ways of a country entertainer of yesteryear who has the skill to build a rapport with and knows how to work his audience, then Cocky King has that rare ability and displays it here to the full. Not just in the way that he manipulates his 4-stop ‘C’ Melodeon or changes his notes differently or the choice from his inherited Material, but the distinct way that he puts it all over which is something that appears over the heads of the 'Dot readers' in the current 'urban folk revival'. This is the true ORAL TRADITION, for Cocky carries with him the inbuilt natural way of entertaining by those of his home area as it has been since time immemorial. Not just in his distinct Bromeswell accent and Suffolk words, but more importantly in the little anecdotes that intersperse his twenty traditional and other songs that these country entertainers would use to captivate their audience in song, music and story.

Cocky tells us how he first learned to play, then why and where and how and who he entertained, and brings it all to life with his stories that put 'the flesh on the bones of information' in giving us the idiom of the people of that great age of 'uncanned' self entertainment. Cocky’s songs, although often bawdy as was demanded by the company that he frequented, were not learned from books or records but aurally from his father and the people about him that he met on his travels. And just you hear him tell a story. He firstly 'frames' it, then introduces the participants of the drama, then he slowly builds the plot, the participants then come alive with dialogue, expressing their emotions and so theplot proceeds until the final coupe de grace as the juxtaposition is revealed. His story of his father’s cart and the man with the sack on his back could easily have come out of Katherine Briggs’ Dictionary of British Folk Stories, and it is probably in there somewhere, but this is not a sterile rehash from hieroglyphics: it is THE ORAL COMMUNICATION OF LIFE. To compose story 'in the telling' in the manner that Cocky does is now rare and it is an ability that we are unlikely to witness again in this media-led urban techno-literate world in which we all survive and which now affects us all.

The songs that he sings are in the following order: Cock-a Doodle Do, The Chimney Sweep, There's Bound to be a Row, Rat-a-tat-tat, Wheel Yer Perambulater, The Faithful Sailor Boy, While London's Fast Asleep, The Threshing Machine, The Young Sailor Cut Down in his Prime, Flash Company, Little Pal, The Wanderer’s Warning, They Buried Him Out in the Desert, A Bunch of Young Squadies, Goodbye Old Ship of Mine, Died for Love, My Brother Sylvest, Sweet Violets.


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oral tradition, indigenous, vernacular, east suffolk, culture
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