It’s difficult to sum up the work of John Tams in a short paragraph since he has made such a great contribution to the folk music of these islands – but I’ll have a go.
A Derbyshire lad through and through, John left school at 15, worked on fairgrounds, became a journalist, then a folk singer and musician and when I met him in the early 1970s he was a member of the Derbyshire folk group, Muckram Wakes. They made a couple of very fine albums on Bill Leader’s label and then Tams left, moving on to work with Ashley Hutchings as a member of the electric folk group, Albion Band, with which he made some fine albums.
In 1974 he went to Clare with Neil Wayne and recorded the Russell family in Gussy Connor’s bar in Doolin. The resulting album was a classic and the music they recorded has since been released as a set on the Free Reed label.
He was a musical director and actor at the National Theatre from 1976 to 1985 and then again from 1999 to 2001, where he worked on such classic productions as Lark Rise To Candleford and The Mysteries. More recently he was musical consultant on War Horse, which is now being performed world wide.
In the 1980s, he formed Home Service, another band that released some sterling albums. Somewhere along the line he found time to record some terrific CDs on the Topic label and oversee the new series of The BBC Radio Ballads.
Some of you may know John Tams for the role he played in the ITV drama series Sharpe, in which he played crack marksman and poacher turned rifleman, Daniel Hagman. He also wrote the music for each and every film.
More recently he’s been working with Barry Coope and Michael Morpurgo, appearing at festivals and theatres all over the country.
So, all in all, he’s been a busy lad.
With Muckram Wakes:
A Map of Derbyshire (1973)
With The Albion Band:
The Prospect Before Us (1977)
Rise Up Like the Sun (1978)
Lark Rise to Candleford (1980)
1990 (1990) (guest appearance; vocals on “The Party’s Over”)
Live in Concert (1993, recorded 1977 & 1982)
The BBC Sessions (1998, recorded 1973 – 1978)
With Home Service:
Home Service (1984) (reissued as Early Transmissions, 1996)
Alright Jack (1986)
Live 1986 (2011)
The Reckoning (2005)