" Bill Fell "
This picture was taken in 1977 at The Great Western Arcade, opposite the old Snow Hill Station. The occasion was to mark the centenary of the opening of the arcade. Every one was dressed in the fashions of the 1870's.
I got to know Bill quite well over the past year, or so. He was well into his 80's, but still playing. He wrote a short, but very comical book, called "Nothing Really Matters - The ravings of an intellectual lunatic". The book sums up Bill's razor sharp wit and intellect, which stayed with him right up to the end. Unfortunately we lost Bill on November 25th 2005. He is sadly missed.......
<<< Have a listen to Bill playing >>>>
Birmingham Style - The People
All the pictures and information here have come from various sources, some from old newspaper cuttings, some from photographs. If anyone has other pictures, either of players, instruments, or just memories of other Birmingham players, please get in touch. via my contacts page.
You can either use the scroll bar on the right, or if you wish to select a particular player of interest go back to the drop-down menu.
"Unknown player outside The Swan pub in 1890"
This blown up extract from the photo shows the player a bit more clearly.
If anyone can identify him, please let me know.
" Ernie Biddle "
Information on Ernie is a bit sketchy. This photograph was taken before 1914 at "The Stratford Mop", which was a street fair, one of the earliest 'Folk Festivals' with various acts and sideshows.
" Albert Edward Fell "
This picture was taken in 1910. Albert was the father of Bill Fell. According to Bill, Albert was quite well known for playing at a local boxing club while the boxers were knocking hell out of the punch ball, presumably to the beat of the tune. One of Bill's memories of his father was that he'd been invited to a 'posh do' where, instead of the ale he was used to, he was drinking whisky. Apparently he fell out of the hansom cab on his way home and was found lying in the gutter, drunk as a bobhowler, still clutching his dulcimer.
"Father & son "
This is a later picture of Albert playing together with son Bill. Looks as if he's saying "Should be this one 'ere son".
Note the ornate inlay work on the peg cover of Bill's instrument. This is a characteristic feature on most of the instruments made by Bill.
I never met him, this picture was taken from an article in "The Evening Mail" dated Nov 5th 1969. As a schoolboy, his interest in the dulcimer was stimulated by hearing a professional musician playing one at a concert. Apparently, this musician offered Leslie an instrument for £5 if he could learn to play it within 7 days. He did and a week later carried it home. He has played countrywide in churches, for charities, and for the BBC.
<<< Have a listen to Leslie playing >>>>
This picture was kindly donated by Pete Ariss. Albert was a distant relation on his father's side. Unfortunately, the only information we have on Albert is that he played semi-professionally and that Pete's father recalled seeing him play at the Elite Cinema in Bordesley Green, sometime prior to the 2nd World War. If anyone has any further info, please get in touch.
Here's another great picture of Bill Fell, taken around 12 months before he died. This dulcimer is one of many that he made. Unfortunately, the present whereabouts of them isn't known. The photo shows his wonderful, quick-witted, dry sense of humour, although the 'comment' balloon was a later addition by my friend, Dave Clifford....similar sense of humour!!
It was such a pleasure to have got to know Bill. I enjoyed his company on many visits to his home in Yardley Wood.
"Charlie Shenstone" (Unfortunately no photo)
I only got to know about Charlie when my first CD was advertised in the 'YOURS' Magazine Ann Shenstone saw it and wrote to London to find out who the dulcimer player was, not knowing of course that I only lived a couple of miles away. I called on her and she was chuffed. The dulcimer was under the bed and had been there for ten years, since Charlie died. I played it and it was still in tune with itís self, all a bit flat of course. When I looked up she was sitting there crying, she said it bought back a load of memories. I eventually took the dulce home and replaced the few missing strings, tuned it and recorded a few songs on to tape for her, only to be informed that she had not got a tape player. The Nonsuch Dulcimer Club now owns the dulce. I believe that with the money the club paid her for it she purchased a tape player. The dulce is now in the Nonsuch Collection.
It had got quite a lot of splash marks on the sound board, I asked her if he played it in the rain and she said no it was sweat dripping off him. She said he considered he had not played well enough unless he sweated.
<<< Have a listen to Charlie playing >>>>