Greg the One Man Band

The Songs Greg Plays

This page is just intended to give a flavour of the kind of thing you're likely to hear when I perform - and it is a right performance, whether the full band is playing, I am singing unaccompanied or (just occasionally) reading. Here I describe (in something approaching alphabetical order) some of the songs that are mainstays of the act or have been performed over the last 30 years...

Black Velvet Band
The traditional Irish ballad, which I learned from a Dubliners LP, telling the tale of how wicked women can lead a young man astray. Depending on the venue and audience and how easy I think it is to get people to join in I'll either sing it unaccompanied or with the whole band.
Crazy About A Woman
This is a Jesse Fuller song that appeared on his third "San Francisco Bay Blues" album. Under the name "She's No Good", or "You're No Good" - it depends on whether you looked at the label or the record cover - it was also the very first track on Dylan's first album too, so I've been playing it for quite a while. For a time I regarded it as my signature tune.
Goodnight Irene
Not sure where I first learned this song that's normally attributed to Leadbelly. It's in "The Penguin Book of American Folk Song", but I doubt that I read it before I heard someone sing it at a folk club or on a record somewhere. It has a good chorus, and seems appropriate played somewhere near the end of the evening.
Grand Coulee Dam
A Woody Guthrie number that I first leant from a Lonnie Donegan LP, "The Golden Age of Donegan" It's one of Woody's upbeat patriot numbers about one of the great public works of the depression years designed to get men working again.
House of the Rising Sun
I use the words sung by Dylan on his first album. These days I tend to play this on slide guitar, though I'll still do my old version on 12-String guitar, which features a lot of Harmonica, inspired by the Ramblin' Jack Elliott version, who was the first guy I heard to use a harmonica on this number.
Many Dead at Aberfan
Something I wrote myself in 1971, originally composed to be sung to the tune used by Woody Guthrie in his song "Dust Storm Disaster". The verses are almost entirely constructed from newspaper clippings found in Keesings Contemporary Archives.
Midnight Special
Not sure where I learnt this one. Perhaps from Lonnie Donegan, perhaps from Leadbelly. Some of the words I use come from The Penguin Book of American Folk Songs. Just about everyone from the Folk and Blues circuits from the 1960s will know this one.
The Mighty Quinn
There are so many recordings of this Dylan song. I tend to use his words rather than those used in the Manfred Mann version, but as I tend to encourage the audience to join in with the chorus, my version doesn't sound quite like either of the best known ones.
The Padstow Drinking Song
It depends on the mood of the audience, but sometimes I will just charge my tankard and let rip with this number unaccompanied by any instrument. Learned from an LP by Dave and Toni Arthur (She used to be a presenter on Play Away!) there's only four verses and a refrain that's well worth learning!
Putting On The Style
I've almost known this one from the Cradle. I sing more verses than most will know from Lonnie Donegan's recording. One I found in the "Lonnie Donegan Songbook" - Price 4/- - that I bought more years ago than I care to remember. In researching this song I came across versions from as far back as 1926.
Rock Island Line
Yes, I know it was Lonnie Donegan's first pop single, but I reckon that my version owes as much to Leadbelly as Donegan's, if that means anything at all! Wikipedia has some interesting background to the song.
San Francisco Bay Blues
Jesse Fuller was the inspiration of my One Man Band. I once sawed a table tennis table into pieces planning to built my own fotdella. I had bought Jesse's third LP, of which this is the title track, a couple of years after its release in 1963 and I've been playing the song since that time. It's one of the essential one man band numbers.
Take Your Money
Written by Graham Hine a founder member of Brett Marvin and the Thunderbolts, a band formed in the late 1960s by a teacher and student at Thomas Bennett Comprehensive School in Crawley, my home town in my teenage years. The band was still gigging regularly up till 2010 when one of the members died. My Ukulele is the lead instrument and I don't ask the audience to do more than bang the table, or add whatever other percussive effects they can produce, though it does have a chorus.
Mr Tambourine Man
Another Dylan song with a chorus you can get the audience to join in with, though many are more familiar with the Byrds version. I try to sing the Dylan words, but sometimes get them a bit twisted around, so often find myself making up a verse all of my own as I dig myself out of trouble.
A song I first saw in print, though I have heard a recorded version since, but I can't remember who by. With the recent interest in the centenary of the sinking it is one that is going to be heard again. It's a strange song, with a happy and bouncy tune and an easily learnt chorus, but with verses that don't always tie in with what we, these days, understand to be the facts.
Tom Joad
Written in January 1940, this is Woodie Guthrie's wonderfully powerful song version of the John Ford film of the novel, "The Grapes of Wrath", by John Steinbeck. It's 17 verses long and originally appeared in two parts on each side of a 78rpm single.
Wabash Cannonball
Another of the Train Songs that regularly feature in any set. Found in that 4/- songbook and first heard by me on that 10" LP, mentioned elsewhere. It's got a chorus, but I rarely manage to persuade people to join in.
When I'm Dead and Gone
Made famous by McGuiness Flint, the band formed by and named after two members of Manfred Mann and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. It's got a nice easy chorus so everyone can join in - and more choruses than verses, so there really is no excuse!
When the Saints Go Marching In
Most people only seem to sing variations of the chorus of this song. Long ago I learnt two verses to go with the chorus, from a recording made in the late 1950s by Ottilie Patterson with the Chris Barber Jazz Band.
Wild Rover
Another traditional song with a great chorus that's ideal for later in the evening when everyone is prepared to sing with gusto. If others have instruments and we can agree on a key to play it in, I say, let everyone join in!
Wreck of the Old 97
I learnt it from the "Lonnie Donegan Showcase", a 10" long playing record acquired by my sister-in-law from her parents. Its Lonnie's words that I normally sing, though there's a much longer version found in The Penguin Book of American Folk Song which is a source of other material I play.

Sometimes, music is not enough and I need to add still more fun to the show. Normally there are a couple of books by Spike Milligan tucked in my goody bag and I've been known to give a rendition of Spike's poetry. It really does depend on the mood and often the number of children (aged 90 or less) in the audience!