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Seventies drop-outs drop in for a really wild time

By Frances Burscough

Published 06/06/2015

Frances Burscough
Frances Burscough

In case you've ever wondered what became of those teenage punk drop-outs from the late Seventies who vowed never to conform, well I can tell you, because I just spent a whole weekend with a whole lot of them. And guess what, they never did conform.

My big brother John — himself a perfectly eccentric example of the era — was over from England visiting for an Americana music festival and he brought a band of his merry men with him. The small, tranquil town of Ramelton in Donegal didn’t know what hit it.

Let me describe the entourage for you. First up, Chris ‘CP’ Lee, the headline act of the weekend and, frankly, the most wonderfully outlandish of them all. Chris is best known as the former lead singer of the 1970s cult rock band Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias (AKA. The Albertos). One creatively accomplished lifetime later he’s now a PhD-brandishing, ukulele-playing, singer, songwriter, poet, author, ventriloquist, lecturer, broadcaster and all-round comedy genius who is instantly recognisable for his eclectic hat collection, horn-rimmed spectacles and Colonel Sanders-style goatee.

When he arrived at Ramelton on Friday afternoon, the whole town just stopped what it was doing. Mr Lee was wearing a silver 1950s pinstriped suit, a vivid red kipper tie (a gift to him from the legendary jazz musician George Melly, no less) a brown homburg hat and matching leather brogues. As he unloaded his battered suitcase of its assorted ventriloquist dummies, various fezzes, toques and trilbies, numerous comedy props (including a string of rubber sausages) and miniature musical instruments, Ramelton looked on, perplexed.

Next in our motley crew was John Roberts, from the Celtic rock band The Motherfolkers. He’s a music promoter and session musician accomplished in various instruments but is most famous for playing the spoons. Seriously. In fact, he’s so good at it you might call him the Yehudi Menuhin of cutlery.

When he’s not touring the world in his double-bedded ensuite Bedford van (The Spoonmobile), he lives in County Clare in an animal sanctuary housing 150 cats. He too has an interesting facial hair and hat combo thing going on and chose to wear an Australian waxed bushman’s hat for his trip to Donegal. 

Following on from the maestro of spoons was Northern Ireland’s very own John T Davis, the legendary film-maker, artist and musician who was appearing at the festival in his guise as singer/songwriter and guitarist, to promote a new collection of songs about his various experiences on the road in America. In John’s case, everyone stopped and looked (again) at this tall, wiry, enigmatic figure emerging from a taxi wearing cowboy boots and Levi’s, carrying a guitar on his back and looking like a younger version of Bob Dylan. As far as the facial furniture went, John T was sporting a handlebar moustache and sideburns topped off with a ten-gallon stetson. By this time, Ramelton had battened down the hatches and booked every table at McDaid’s Bar, where the whole crazy bunch were performing.

And then of course there was the third John, Dr Burscough himself, who had flown in direct from Huddersfield where he had been to see the (few, remaining, alive) Beach Boys doing their (probably last ever) farewell tour. So as a tribute to one of his favourite bands, John arrived in full surfin’-safari gear complete with baseball cap, Hawaiian shirt and Joe-Cool shades.

Yes, Donegal was certainly in for a treat. It was a complete blast from start to finish and the craic never stopped for one minute in the whole 72 hours. In fact, the guv’nor of McDaid’s said he’d never seen a crowd like it and he now wants to run the festival twice every year. I won’t give too much away, because I don’t want to spoil the surprise for when you all flock to Ramelton for the return event, now renamed as Ramstock. So see for yourself and get ’er booked.

Belfast Telegraph

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