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Bob Hodgson

Bob passed away on 5 March 2015. Known to all as “Scotch Bob”, there are few who knew him who would not recognise him by his voice. He never lost his Glaswegian accent which, to the English ear, always seemed to make “hello” sound like a threat! His singing was a distinctive rich baritone which could be heard above all, even in the noisiest of pubs.

Bob's musical career started at school where he was strong enough (and had enough wind) to play the euphonium in a brass band. However, the turning point in his music was when he worked for the railways in London and met people from a variety of backgrounds and places which kindled his desire to travel. He also found his love of folk blues, in particular Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Hank Williams and Bob Dylan. Add into the mix Scottish folk, the poems of Rabbie Burns and a self-taught guitar, and the seeds of the Bob we know so well were born.

The 60s was a creative and exciting time and no less so for Bob. He travelled and worked as a singer/guitarist in many places in Europe, from Belgium to Formentera. He played electric guitar in West Berlin for a rock and roll band called Rattles and also played at Danny's Pan in Hamburg (of Beatles fame). In Brussels he met Derroll Adams, a well-known banjo player from Oregon, USA, where they played in bars and clubs. He also played with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in Paris. He returned to London on occasion, playing in coffee bars and busking in the West End. He hung out with Dave Brock (of Hawkwind fame) and Don Partridge (later of one man band fame). He also aspired to the Albert Hall and the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall as part of the London Buskers troupe.

The next step for Bob was the move to Norwich with his wife, Lilian, in 1973 and by 1974 he was part of the Norwich folk and blues scene. Along with Tony Hall, he was a founder member of the Yare Country Band in 1974, playing at the Ten Bells, the Shrub House and ceilidhs at the Norwich Folk Festival. In addition, he played at the Jolly Butchers with the legendary Black Anna and at the Elsing Mermaid with JB's band of Geoffrey Kelly, the late Mike Winton, Mike Parle and the late Alex Atterson. These were heady days, with great music, free flowing beer and whisky. Bob, however, never lost his ability to sing, with Goodnight Irene often the finale. He always retained this ability - in recent times he could sing when often he struggled to breathe.

After some 10 years at the Ten Bells, the band moved to the Reindeer, changed their name to the Reindeer Brewery Band and played for many years. As times became less heady, the band settled down to Tony Hall, Bob Hodgson, Skip Shipley, Alasdair Cameron and myself, and via one or two pubs of note, we found ourselves as the Von Krapp Family band at the Duke of Wellington. Before his illness took a stronger hold, Bob enjoyed his time there with new as well as old friends coming to listen.

During this period we toured Baltimore, on the West Coast of Ireland, for the Wooden Boat Festival. At the festival ceilidh Bob was encouraging and giving tips to a budding guitarist who came to play with us. Only later did we realise it was the actor Jeremy Irons, who lived in the castle down the loch and had turned up in his large yacht. The advice however seemed to be well received. That trip was also where the first signs of Bob's illness began to manifest themselves.

Reflecting on what is around 40 years of playing with Bob, I see in him a voice that was strong and powerful, which always made an impact on those around. In life he was strong, tough and fiercely independent. He did not suffer fools gladly, nor did he suffer bodhrán players gladly or uninvited players joining in with the band. His toughness and strength were fully tested in these last few years but he confounded all the medics. He was easily underestimated.

He was a constant in the band. He knew what he liked and, more importantly, what he loved. His guitar playing suited our style and, although we often joked about him as the “three chord king”, he was the foundation around which the rest of us played (and occasionally stumbled!). I am sure his wife Lilian and son Robert, along with many other friends, recognise that same solid foundation which he gave to his relationships.

Bob played in the band for 40 years and I do not know a period when he faltered in his desire to sing and play each Tuesday. He brought that same loyalty to his family and friends as well as his work. He was an entertainer. In the band, as in his life generally, people listened to his songs, his stories and anecdotes and enjoyed his humour. He was interesting and encouraging to all.

Bob had no airs and graces; he was down to earth, kind and helpful. His desires and ambitions were not for himself, but only for those he loved and who were close to him.

Peter Green (fiddle / banjo player in the Von Krapp Family Band)