It was midnight, but in the Somerset pub the party was still in full swing. The village bobby noticed the noise and said to a young lad lounging outside: “What do you make the time, young Adge?” “Just gone midnight, Constable.” But instead of making an arrest the bobby shrugged: “I’d best be off home then; the missus will be worried where I am!”
The Somerset prison-warder had a difficult task; escorting a man by train up to London, across the metropolis and out again the other side. Doubly difficult, because the prisoner was an old mate and a friendly deal was that, if the handcuffs were released, the prisoner would not make an escape. Trebly difficult, because the warder had never been in London before and was uncertain of the cross-city route. As bad luck would have it Paddington was reached in the morning rush hour and the pair were separated in the crush. It was the prisoner who found the warder to be greeted; “Thanks heavens you found me; I would never have got home again!”
It was a hot summer afternoon during the Second World War, and a few locals were around Nailsea village when the huge convoy of tanks on military exercise arrived at the crossroads. The officer in the leading scout car halted and alighted to seek directions from the only man in sight – the village idiot! Within seconds maps were spread out in the dust, fingers were pointed, arms were waved around and the convoy set off down a cul-de-sac to Nailsea moor.
Imagine these ostensibly true tales in the hands, or should one say the lips, of that master raconteur with the fruity West Country accent – Adge Cutler – embroidered off the cuff, with flesh added to the bare bones.
As a young record producer, I first met Adge in 1966. His manager, John Miles and I, had first done business in the early ‘60’s but the subsequent acts he suggested did not fire my recording enthusiasm until as a P.S. he wrote: “…am enclosing a photo of an act causing some interested down here in Bristol.”
This was Adge Cutler and the Wurzels in the yokel garb they wore on arrival at Abbey Road Studios for a recording test.
The guitarist also had a banjo to carry, and these were suspended from a yoke, milkmaid-style! The songs they auditioned with were ‘Drink Up Thy Zider’ and ‘Twice Daily’: wonderful stuff, and word spread among the studio office staff until the control room was filled with laughter and applause. There was no doubt that a recording star was born, and so it proved of course with a successful single, EP and LP all being issued before Christmas. The first two ‘live’ albums were recorded at the Royal Oak, Nailsea.
The first went like a dream, but by 1967 Adge’s fame had spread and few will forget the scenes when ‘Family Album’ was engraved on wax at the Royal Oak and this small country pub was besieged by hundreds of ticket-less fans hoping to get in. Some of those excluded vented their frustration by means of a brick through the window (which can be heard on the LP) but Adge coped.
In those early days we would rehearse in the upstairs rooms of pubs, and spend the evenings relaxing in the downstairs bars with pints of ‘rough’ and Kingston Black.
My eyes would open wide at Adge’s never-ending anecdotes of the old Somerset characters he knew as a ‘young ‘un’ : Daniel Windell, Faro Moss, Lavender Bluett. . . With the arrival of ‘progress’ and the M5 I wonder if the Star at Pill or the Black Horse at Clapton-in-Gordano will ever see their like again? We can but hope.
Many of his old friends found themselves immortalised in Adge’s lyrics, and I remember EMI’s legal departments blanching when we discovered that some names, so outrageous I had assumed them to be imaginary and described in compromising terms, turned out to be real people.
Up Thy Zider was probably the first ‘regional breakout’
the British record business ever experienced, and still
turns up regularly on BBC request programmes.
How I wish I had had a cassette recorder running to capture Adge’s reminiscences of the Pill obblers, the poachers up over Failand, the ferret-breeders of North Somerset! They would have no commercial value but I somehow feel they should be buried in lead vaults at the Brisitsh Museum for prosperity to enjoy.
Sunday 5th May 1974 came the shattering news that Adge had
died in the early hours when his car overturned at a roundabout
approaching the Severn Bridge. He was returning alone to
his new house at Tickenham from a successful week of shows
I wonder if Severn Beach has forgiven him yet for Aloha Severn Beach? Whether the anger has mellowed of a lady who wrote to complain that Twice Daily was an insult to children and vicars? If the Common Market ever did reach Stanton Drew.
Adge Cutler was a true countryman: a Zummerset man who knew his homeland, its characters and their foibles. The wit of his lyrics encouraged both Bristolians and Somerset folk to laugh at themselves.
He was that rare bird – a born entertainer, just sightly bemused even to the end that his little songs had brought so much pleasure to so many. I suspect that they will continue to do so far beyond my lifetime too.