Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Out of Wedlock: Fred Wedlock dies at 67. "Boxer" parodist

The first time Fred Wedlock was heard on vinyl, it was via "The Folker," which borrowed Paul Simon's '"The Boxer" for new lyrics about the plight of being an obscure touring folkie. Since Fred recorded for the tiny "Village Thing" label, which barely pressed 2,000 copies for its artists, not many knew of his blend of traditional, comic and topical folk songs.

His albums for them, "Folker" and "Frolicks," were released in 1971 and 1973. In 2008 they were re-issued on CD, which goes to show that "out of print" doesn't mean "public domain" or "it'll never be re-issued so let's toss it all over the place." Fred issued several more indie albums before a fluke single hit the Top 10 in the U.K. and he became a one-hit wonder. It was the novelty tune "The Oldest Swinger in Town."

As one should realize, eccentric artists on indie labels generally don't make much money, so Fred Wedlock hustled all his life with gigs at everything from outdoor festivals to cabarets and pubs, and he put together several niche shows. Need an after dinner speaker? Fred could do it. Need to hire someone for your corporation's annual party? Fred could do that, too, adding custom-lyrics as needed.

His website was the usual mix of boasts and P.R., assuring prospective customers that the man was a total pro, ready to travel and perform at "Country Shows, Concerts, Festivals, Messes, Sports Clubs and Special Events," and that he'd performed not only "all over the UK, but also USA, Bermuda, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, France, Portugal, Cyprus, Israel, Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Spain and New Zealand." The website also mentioned his "over 60 songs published, and still generating royalties - some covered by the likes of Jasper Carrot and Little & Large." Not to mention 10 years doing a "community action TV series "The Good Neighbor Show" and more recently "2009: "Mrs Gerrish's Christmas Stockings" - sold out two weeks at the Brewery Theatre."

The journeyman entertainer worked pretty hard for the money, which is why, at the age of 67, he just wore out, dying from pneumonia. He chose a difficult profession and a difficult lifestyle, but it was the only one he wanted, and he was willing to sacrifice a lot, as are today's young performers who are making even more concessions due to the troubled economy, less venues, and more things free on the Internet.

Free via download, what may be your introduction to Fred Wedlock. It's two songs from his first album: "The Folkie" and "Skinheads," as well as that comic tune about being "The Oldest Swinger in Town."

The Folkie and Skinheads
The Oldest Swinger in Town

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