Roll On, Roll On……

With great sadness we report that our friend and recording artist Tom Paley is no longer truckin’. He died peacefully on 30 September 2017 after a few months of failing health. Tom was 89. Never one to sit around for long, he lived his social and musical life to the full. Aside from festivals and paying gigs, often performing with his son Ben or the New Deal String Band, every week he did the rounds of the folk clubs and sessions near to his home in London. His other love was photography. He was never to be seen without his bulky metal camera case which, apart from a camera, contained everything but the kitchen sink!

Much has been written about Tom’s musical history. As a young man in 1953 he made the first revival album of Old-Time Mountain Music for Elektra Records. In New York City he befriended and performed with Woody Guthrie, attended weekly sessions at Lead Belly‘s apartment and he was a founder member of the influential New Lost City Ramblers. Modestly, he played down the times he gave guitar and banjo lessons to budding young musicians such as Jerry Garcia, Ry Cooder and Happy Traum. In the mid-sixties he moved first to Stockholm (where he acquired a penchant for Swedish fiddle music) and then to London where he remained and became a fixture in the UK folk scene. Hornbeam were honoured when he agreed to launch our label with the “Roll On, Roll On” album in 2012. It revived interest in him and resulted in a number of TV and radio sessions. Subsequently he performed at Leadbelly Fest concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and Carnegie Hall, and in April this year he was reunited with Ry Cooder after an interval of more than 55 years!

Tom inspired and influenced a great many musicians, always willing to give advice when asked. It was fun to see the twinkle in his eyes whenever he met a pretty girl. A very intelligent man, he had a wry sense of humour and an active mind. It  was constantly on the alert for idiosyncrasies and puns in the written and spoken language. To Tom “Kings Cross Station” became a royal crab – “Kings Crustacean”. He wasn’t interested in playing “real tennis”. It would have to be “pretend tennis”, and if you knew any limericks Tom would counter with one from his vast repertoire.

Tom, it was  an honour to have known you. You gave much pleasure to a lot of people. We’ll miss you greatly.


Tom & Cerys Matthews
Tom’s instruments
(and that camera case!)


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