In my day it was about this time of year when the summer sun began to show its face that we first spotted something called a busker.
Course nowadays you can hardly wander passed a shop without tripping over someone strumming a guitar. Usually accompanied by a scrawny mongrel guarding a flat cap containing a smattering of loose change.
Mind you the early ones were a bit different and we tended to call your old time busker a One Man Band. Noisy Herberts. The typical one managed to bash out a tune with a bass drum topped with a cymbal strapped to his back. A concertina between the knees, kazoo and harmonica hanging from a frame around his neck all topped off with a ukulele. He certainly made sure that he could be heard.
Now for the most part they’d stick to the bigger towns, so the quiet of
the countryside was not normally disturbed. That was until a young guitar player from Kettering called Ralph May discovered the local bus service. Or bus-ker service as he called it.
To be fair to Ralph he wasn’t a one man philharmonic. He had worked on
the Carousal at Wicksteeds taking tickets and writing songs as the punters rode round and round. He just had a guitar and mouth-organ, which was lucky because bus conductors were all powerful back then and routinely turned away anyone carrying a bass drum.
Ralph would follow what is now the 50 bus route from the Horse Market in
Kettering through Burton, Finedon and out towards Irthlingborough and Rushden and back, stopping off along the way to play until the next bus arrived to take him onward and upward. You’d often find him sitting on the kerb outside the Co-op strumming away and singing some new ditty that had come to him at a quiet moment on the carousel. Generous locals would drop a little something in his hat on their way to pick up something for tea. The shop manager at the time encouraged Ralph when he realised the music put his customers in a good mood for spending.
He did it for two or three summers starting about now until he got
discovered, changed his name and went off to seek his fortune. But now and again you still hear folk singing to themselves on the way to the shop. Usually, a few bars of his first hit; ‘June is buskin’ out all over’.