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Fred McCormick 1946-2015

Fred’s death in November robbed us of a very knowledgeable, well read, likeable man who was admired by those who knew him. The twin passions of his life were socialism and traditional music and it is the latter that we are concerned with here.

Like many, he came into our traditional music through the blues and other American roots music and it was attending folk clubs as a young man that introduced him to British music. I met him first at those wonderful T.M.S.A. festivals in the late 1960s.

He worked with Keith Summers and then with Rod Stradling on the Musical Traditions magazine and website, mainly on articles and reviews and by then he was focussed on the varied aspects of the Irish traditions. Rod wrote of his ex-colleague: “He was a constant paradigm for how to write well about traditional music,” and there are plenty of examples on the MT website to back up Rod’s opinion.

When Keith Summers died, his vast record collection went to Fred to join Fred’s own extensive collection and soon Fred had a very good use for it in his fascinating internet radio programme. By listening to this we discovered unsuspected aspects of one another’s tastes. I discovered that he had a deep interest in and knowledge of early New Orleans traditional jazz, and through messages he learned of my involvement in African traditional music. I think the African music he played came mainly from his inherited collection.

Something of an original thinker, Fred was a man of strong opinions; he could not abide political cant and inflated egos. Several protracted disagreements resulted. We both publicly opposed the attempted incursions of the BNP into folk song and suffered identity theft as a result of this opposition.

A noted singer of Irish songs, Fred was also a songwriter whose compositions reflected the internal assonances and cadences of Irish song. Many of these can be heard on his self-produced album, The Song I’m Composing. It includes a song that has been taken up by others, The Bacon Butty.

A funny story to finish with... Fred’s pre-recorded radio programmes contained inserted advert breaks provided by the internet company which was the host. After a while, one of the regular adverts was a recruiting drive for the C.I.A. Fred dealt with this starting a new section of the programme by apologising: “If listeners have had to endure some nonsense from the C.I.A.,” followed by a brief description of one of their dirty tricks and then some music from the country where this has occurred. Rather diluted the effect of the adverts, I thought.

Vic Smith