Try to imagine such songs as ‘I Belong To Glasgow’ and ‘Maybe it’s because I'm a Londoner’ being sung in broad Somerset accents in various West Country pubs. Those numbers are perhaps still providing the basis for a singsong in some Somerset hostelries but it’s now more than probable that ditties with a local flavour written by ADGE CUTLER are providing the musical accompaniment to the sounds of cider drinking.
Adge (whose first names were really Alan John) was born in the village of Portishead. Somerset, but was brought up a few miles away, in Nailsea. He left school at 14 and his first job was as a market gardener. Then he went into his father’s bicycle shop before starting his National Service.
After coming out of the forces, Adge had a number of jobs, including civil engineering, working at a cider works and at a North Wales nuclear power station, before joining Acker Bilk in 1960 as his road manager. He had known the bandleader for several years and often used to drive him and his Jazz band to clubs and theatres.
Spain was the next port of call for Adge after he had been with Acker for some time. He was sent there to investigate property in the country for future use as holiday areas, but because of a credit squeeze the idea was dropped and Adge returned after a year and stayed in London before long taking up a show business career. As a result, however, he spoke perfect Spanish.
‘I gave my first public performance when I was about seven at the Village Institute, Nailsea. I sang ‘There'll always be a Nailsea’. Being a regular Saturdaynight drinker I later noticed that it was usually songs about London or Glasgow that were being sung in the bars and that there was nothing local to sing. I thought a good roaring pub song. That’s what they want. So I wrote 'Drink up thy zider about 10 years ago and the song just spread.
Then I started writing songs about different villages and they passed into local history. l even travelled to Liverpool and sang at the Cavern Club for a couple of quid. That was the first time I ever sang professionally’.
Appearances in the TWW television series ‘The Cider Apple’ led to Adge’s fame spreading and he formed The Wurzels’ to accompany him to clubs and theatres. At the time of this recording they comprised Reg Quantrell (banjo and guitar), Johnny Macey (bass, and Reg Chant (accordion).
About his own views of folk music. Adge said: ‘I suppose you can call the sort of music I write goodtime folk. I have hardly ever written a sad song. I write songs so that people can sing them. They have got to be simple for me to sing them. I’d like to have my own home in Somerset and one in Spain. The Spaniards seem to have the same attitude to life as West Country people the easygoingness and dry humour’.
Adge’s first single ‘Drink up thy zider’ was issued in December 1966 with extraordinary results. It was the bestselling record in Bristol (or 10 weeks and has became a standard on radio request programmes. It sold in enormous quantities all over the West Country to become one of Britain's first ‘Regional breakouts’ a phenomenon usually encountered only in the U.S.A. and even entered the national Top 50. It also gave rise to immediate issue of an EP, and Adge’s first LP (SCX 6126).
Since that day Adge Cutler and The Wurzels were rarely out of the news. A giant cidervat was named after him in the factory where he once worked; Bristol City Football Club adopted ‘Drink up the Zider’ as their theme song: Adge and The Wurzels had their Wurzel gear and instruments stolen twice one theft being reported on the West Country’s television programme ‘Police Five’ between thefts of jewellery and a lorryload of copper. Luckily his wurzelstick was insured for £100 against all risks except woodworm!
On Sunday 5th May 1974 came the news that Adge had died in the early hours when his car overturned at a roundabout approaching the Severn Bridge. He was returning alone from a successful week of shows in Hereford.
Adge Cutler was a true countryman, a Somerset man who knew his area, its characters and their foibles; the wit of his lyrics enabled Bristolians and Somerset folk to laugh at them selves. He was that rare bird, a born entertainer, just slightly bemused even to the end that his little songs had brought so much pleasure to so many people. We suspect that they will continue to do so far beyond our lifetimes too.
ROSS and BOB BARRATT.