Elsie Marley’s Mates

The Wheeze and Suck Band on this CD are:
Ian (The Pump) Macintosh – Vocals, Guitar, Melodeon, Dobro
Tony (Pyro) Pyrzakowski – Fiddle, Vocals, Mandolin
Geoff (One Shot Woody) Woodhead – Guitar, Vocals
John (Red Tips) Milce – Percussion
Nigel (Muddy) Walters – Vocals, Cello Mandolin


1. Elsie Marley (Trad)

Alice (Elsie) Marley, was an ‘ale wife’ at the Swan, in Picktree, near Chester-le-street. The true origins of this tune, however, lie north of Tyneside, amongst the turmoil of the Jacobite rebellion.
‘Elsie Marley is grown so fine,
she won’t get up to serve her swine
but lies in bed till eight or nine
and surely she do take her time.’

2. Johnny in the Morning (Ian Macintosh)
In the nineteenth century, when fifteen miles was a huge distance, the travelling salesman and his wagon of goods was often the only contact remote villages had with the outside world. ‘Johnny’ worked the Tewkesbury Road in Gloucestershire selling food, clothes, animals, you name it, he could get it! I recall vividly the spirit of ‘Johnny in the Morning’ in a traveller who used to camp in the layby with his wagon and mules on the Oxford – Stratford Road in the 1950’s and early 60’s.

3. Coal Hole Cavalry
Woody’s Mancunian lilt adds poignancy to this lovely snapshot of working class life. A time when a trip out back in the dark t’ coal ‘ole wit’ coal bucket was every English child’s winter dread.

4. Pyro’s Set (Pyrzakowski)
Aunt Kates Homework / Blazey’s Best / Fiddlestomp Three ripping tunes from the Wheezer’s effervescent fiddler, Tony ‘Pyro’ Pyrzakowski. Light blue touch paper and stand well back. Can be harmful to feet.

5. Cousin Jack (Knightley)
Steve Knightley, of English duo Show of Hands, wrote this great song about the migration of Cornish miners to the four corners of the Empire. South Australia is where they are best remembered ‘down below’. Muddy recorded his vocal at his UK studio before returning to Australia himself.

6. Saut Crapaud
A Cajun box interpretation of the tune from the Library of Congress recording of Columbus Fruge. The original lyrics are doggerel, ‘jump toad your tail will burn, take courage it’ll grow back. Its Jacques Petrin, with no hat on coming back from Lake Charles eating bananas.’ Fair enough – Lousiana Vivre!

7. Cuckoo’s Nest (Trad)
The Pump sings a saucy song that is popular with the Morris Men of England. Pyro leads off with a dance tune that has it’s roots in eighteenth century Ireland.

8. Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier / Rout of the Blues Pts 1 & 2
The Wheezers tackle the sadness of a mother, whose son has gone to war. The prelude is based on a musical riff by Muddy with Pyro’s weeping fiddle playing the lament. Woody takes the lead addressing the pride of a young woman as she follows the soldiers as they march to face another foreign foe.

9. The Charge of the Khaki & Grey (Ian Macintosh)
Dedicated to the men and women of Morris Motor Works and Pressed Steel Fischer who in my youth poured up and down my street on their bikes twice every working day… Just as our world switched from black and white to technicolour.

10. Santy Anna
Terry Riley inspired this unique arrangement of the well-known shanty. General Antonio Lopez De Santa Anna (died 1876) was ‘one of the 5 worst generals in military history. In the Mexican-American War alone he lost every battle he ever fought!’ However for the sake of a good sea shanty, Santy Anna defeats General Taylor, and he’s buried at sea with a spade!

11. Gallopede / Tannerman
Two great tunes from the playing of the Old Swan Band, given the Wheezer’s Touch.

12. Rag & Bone (Ian Macintosh)
This song was inspired by the last Rag ‘n’ Bone Man I ever heard early one grey morning in New Cross, London in 1975. Every Rag ‘n’ Bone man had a unique call and was once a colourful, familiar part of British life. The particular morning I recall I was feeling very low and felt that if I just lay down at the side of the road, the Rag ‘n’ Bone man would take me away from all my troubles. In a way, I suppose, he did.