Making music has always been a 'Village Thing'
IAN Anderson, the man many believe put "The Village" into Clifton, is back – and playing his first proper Bristol gig for more than 30 years. He's lining up alongside his musical pal Ben Mandelson for an acoustic set in the city's well-known pub/theatre venue, the Alma Tavern, on Sunday night.
As concerts go, Ian, pictured right, won't have too far to travel to the venue, as he moved back to the city a year or so ago.
Better still, he moved back to his beloved Clifton.
Now, for those who don't know their Bristol folk and blues scene, or its history, Ian Anderson was one of THE names back in the late 1960s and the early 1970s.
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He was also one of the main driving forces behind the iconic Troubadour Club, housed in premises on Waterloo Street, Clifton.
In tandem with this musical outlet, Ian was involved in founding the cult Village Thing record label.
Life since those days has seen the musician continue to play, perform and make albums throughout an enduring and varied career.
Moving back to Clifton in 2011, his latest musical incarnation is as one half of The False Beards duo, the other being Ben.
And it's under this name the pair are playing the Alma this coming weekend.
Technically, this is something of a musical homecoming for Ian.
He moved to Bristol, aged 18, back in 1965 from Weston-super-Mare.
At the time he was studying accountancy but the lure of making music, blues and folk, over-ruled that particular career path.
He recalls a life-changing moment in October of 1965 when the Colston Hall staged the annual American Folk Blues Festival.
"I saw the legendary Mississippi Fred McDowell play slide guitar, which I had never seen anybody do live before," he recalls.
"It blew me away and, somehow, I'd had a 'lightbulb' moment."
He went back to his flat, sawed a couple of inches off a brass curtain rail, and used this to produce the desired slide guitar effect.
One night later, after skiving off work for the day, he had landed the last spot before the evening's main artist at the university Folk Club at the Students Union in Queen's Road.
"I finished my spot with my new slide guitar party piece."
As he left the stage the night's star, Phil Ochs, was approaching.
"As he passed me by he said, 'Great, man.'
"At that point, receiving such praise from a big star, I decided then and there I was going to make it as a professional musician."
And he did.
And still does.
One year later, in 1966, the legendary Troubadour Club with which he is inextricably linked, opened its doors.
It was originally the idea of Ray and Barbara Willmott, before being acquired by Peter Bush, a man who owned city nightclub Globetrotters.
A resident manager was installed.
Many Bristol Times readers will know him.
It was none other than John Turner, one of the best-known names in local broadcasting, thanks to his many years working for Radio Bristol.
The Troubadour, which at one stage was said to have a membership of around 30,000, could actually only cater for an audience of 180.
To make life even more complicated for artists, the Waterloo Street premises were arranged over two floors, a ground floor and basement.
"When it was full, artists had to repeat their set from one floor to the other," says Ian.
Despite its shortcomings in terms of performance areas, the Troubadour was the most successful folk music venue outside of London.
It was around this time that Ian believes the very first description of the area as "Clifton Village" evolved.
"It seems that I may have invented the term Clifton Village," he reveals.
"Basically, when I lived above the Troubadour in Waterloo Street between 1969-1972 the area was not ever called Clifton village.
"But by the end of the 1970s it was.
"Now, I know that in 1970 when I was still living above the club, myself and John Turner and Al Jones would go to Splinters coffee shop for breakfast.
"We decided that what the Troubadour needed was a generic poster which listed all the famous people who played there.
"I said wouldn't it be great to create something like Greenwich Village in New York.
"So we put the address as The Troubadour Club, Clifton Village, Bristol 8."
It's reckoned that that was the first reference to Clifton village, now the widely accepted description of this highly sought-after part of the city.
The "Village" theme was taken up, too, by Ian's cult record label, Village Thing.
And Ian says there's even been a suggestion that a blue plaque would be placed on the site of the old Troubadour in Waterloo Street.
Back to the present day, though, and these days, having returned to Bristol, Ian is founder and editor of fRoots, Britain's best known folk music magazine.
There are gigs, too, of course and he's looking forward to the upcoming one, literally on his own doorstep.
"This is my first gig in my own right for more than 30 years.
"I wanted to find somewhere you could do really acoustic things and thought the Alma Tavern was perfect."
The concert, Ian reckons, will be blues-based, along with some traditional numbers and some of those he's penned himself.
Some of the latter, he estimates he's not sung for years.
"I had to re-learn songs from 40 years ago off my records, so in a strange way I have become my own covers band," he jokes.
It promises to be quite a night for the Bristol folk scene and John Turner has told Ian he plans to come to the gig, too.
But there won't be any reminiscing long into the night at the Troubadour, thee days those famous Waterloo Street premises are a much more sedate beauty salon.
â The False Beards – aka Ian Anderson and Ben Mandelson – play the Alma Tavern, Alma Vale Road, Clifton, on Sunday, January 20, at 8pm.
Tickets cost £7. Contact 0117-317-9020 ext: 3 or almataverntheatre.co.uk.
The Troubadour folk club played host to legions of performers in its relatively short history. They included:
Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick
Adge Cutler and The Wurzels
The Incredible String Band
Pigsty Hill light Orchestra
Tir na Nog
Brenda Wootton and John The Fish