Tales from my father. Volume One

Derek Brimstone, father, folk singer, comedianMy father died recently, he was 84.

I won’t go into the medical details other than to say that whilst it wasn’t exactly unexpected, his ultimate demise was quite sudden but it was also very peaceful. I know that, because I was with him when he died.

He was a great man my dad, a legend in fact. I know many people says that about their fathers but in his case, it was true. Indeed, he is cited by many of his peers, including Billy Connolly and Jasper Carrott, as being one of the most influential figures on the British folk scene that exploded in the 60’s and 70’s.

However, it wasn’t simply his undoubted abilities as a musician that earned him that accolade, it was as much his skills as a story teller. Oh yes, the old boy could certainly tell a tale. Indeed, a quick search of Facebook will reveal numerous threads containing ‘my favourite Derek Brimstone’ joke.

I mention this now because one of the questions frequently thrown at me is how, and indeed why, I made the transition from humble serviceman to best-selling author and screenwriter.

Usually, my answer is something along the lines of ‘it was the only way I could think of to earn a living sitting at home watching football’ but the truth is, it was because of my father. For he was the one who taught me not only how to to weave a tale, but to construct humour. Be it as a simple one-liner or in a full length novel such as Billy’s Log.

Sadly, I never really acknowledged that until recently and I certainly never thanked him for it. But the truth is that every book and film I’ve ever written has the DNA of my dad running through it and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

RIP old man. Thanks for everything but especially the laughs. On which note…  Derek Brimstone at his finest. 


Dad’s funeral will be on the 24th March. If you would like details, please drop me a line at dougiebrimson@me.com

derek brimstone, folk singer, banjo, guitar, musician, comedian, cockney, cambridge folk festival

22 thoughts on “Tales from my father. Volume One”

  1. Dear Dougie,
    Sorry to hear about the death of your dad. I never put the two names together – but I saw him donkeys years ago when I was a student. It would have been at The Duke Pub folk club in Deptford or The Albany on Creek Rd.
    He delivered a cracking gig and I remember that he was a great storyteller. Gift of the gab – as my old Nanny would have said.

  2. A truly lovely man as well as a superb musician and storyteller. One of my most treasured possessions is a letter he wrote me on the death of my late sister, who loved him too. I am truly sad to hear of his passing. Shaun

  3. Hi Dougie sorry to hear about your Dad . I was lucky enough to have him spend a week with me in Germany, a great man .I last saw him at RAF Benson when he came to visit you.


  4. Just commemorating one of the greatest guys on the folk-scene. I first met him in a pub in Norwich and thought he was just a typical Londoner, all mouth and trousers, but very quickly discovered how wrong I was, and what a great guy he was. We shared a common interest in banjos and I’ll always remember him tuning up my old Barnes & Mullins English zither banjo for me and teaching me to play ‘Cocaine’. He stayed at our council house a couple of times and I thought the world of him, always trying to get to his gigs when he was around. Very talented and very funny, and I always thought of him as a real friend. I’ll probably be joining him soon, there’e not too much difference in our ages, only hope we can get our hands on a banjo.
    Black Jake.

    1. I tried to post the comment above but don’t know what else you want from me. I am not a robot and I am human, but I’m not very good with computers. Brimmo was definitely one of the greatest and there’s a big hole in the world of folk-music.

  5. Hello Doug.
    Just came across your ‘Dad’ comments –
    The reason:- I was having a search for a biog on the net prior to playing him on the wireless.
    Its an odd programme “Nothing after 1970” which gave me a problem because we (he/I) didn ‘t meet till about 72 – (I didn’t swear until then) anyway I searched through al ‘Brimmie’ stuff and found his Japanese CD – initially recorded in 69 – so its OK.
    I have consequently read you ‘My Dad’ comment – GREAT !
    I miss him a great deal and while we were ‘On the road’ we laughed a lot – Is you Ma still around ? If so give he my love.
    Oi Oi

  6. Derek was a wonderful performer and warm character. Lived life to the full. My late husband and i saw him perform many times and he was a friend of ours. I am so very sad he is gone and can never forget him, his music and songs and stories.

  7. Hi Dougie
    Sorry to hear of your dad’s passing, what a tremendous performer. I loved the ‘knights of old england’ track from his ‘Live’ album, which I believe was recorded in Pirton, I think I can be heard knocking a pint of beer over in the audience.
    I have the cassette cover signed by your dad and dedicated to my late wife, unfortunately I’ve lost the cassette, do you know if this is available anywhere or anyone I could contact to make a copy.
    As I said, a great performer and many happy memories

  8. Sorry to hear of your dad’s passing. Back in the 60’s my mate Tony and I worked in Hemel Hempstead for the council and lived in Hatfield. Tony and I teamed up with each other to be a kind of folk duo and one one occasion we went to the Hemel Hempstead Folk Club run by Derek and he invited us to be resident for a while, if I remember right. We did some great performances doing both our own stuff and Tom Paxton songs (anti war and struggles) along with otherincluding Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles (Norwegian Wood) and other eclectic stuff that produced interesting harmonies. Tony had learnt guitar from his school mate Donovan in Hatfield and was a great guitarist. I sang, did harmonies and played mouth organ. We were well received and it set us off for the next few years until the demands of our day jobs and a move split us up. But I’ll always be grateful to Derek for his faith in two rather young, scared and inexperienced performers who really enjoyed the Hemel experience and gained a lot from it. Cheers, Derek…

  9. Well Dougie, what can I say that the rest of the world hasn’t already said. Your dad is a legend. I knew him well through the 60’s and 70’s booked him many times. and loved him like a brother. He was always so proud of his family, especially his boys.Often talking of your prowess in the boxing ring and being a chip off the old block. He and your mum were just the nicest of people. Derek was not just a great musician and story teller he was a great human being, always making time to talk to others. Of course he didn’t get the fame and glory that many of his contemporaries got, but he did deserve it. I had the good fortune to spend many evenings with Derek putting the world to rights over a pint or two. I will always remember the first time we met in the 1960’s he said to me ” I didn’t know you dug me man ! ” Well did and still do. RIP Derek Brimson

  10. We were just reminiscing about a lads trip to Whitby donkeys years ago. We took a trip to Robin Hoods Bay and there was your dad, due to play in the hotel that day. We of course stayed on to watch him and loved every minute. We chatted afterwards and sang a few songs ourselves. Just a day in a pub in Yorkshire, but he left his mark. We remember him well and fondly after all these years. So natural. So charming. So funny.
    Martin Smith

  11. Hearing your dad play play at a concert when I was only 20 inspired me to take up guitar and find out all about this style of playing so maybe that one concert change the direction of my life and gave me a very social and enjoyable hobby and at 68 still play many of his timeless arrangements in my repertoire which people enjoy and want to know where they came from well done Derek

  12. Back in the early 70s several of us ran ‘The Rover’s Folk Club’ in Bishop’s Stortford where we were also the resident group. Derek was one of our regular guest artists and always a great favourite with the audience (and us too, of course!). I still play guitar a bit and having just been singing a few of the old songs – some of which I have not played for years, I was musing on the number of the great folk singers of that time that are no longer with us. I just ‘Googled’ ‘Derek Brimstone’ when I found, to my sorrow, that he had departed this life a while ago. I am sadened to hear that so may I extend my belated sympathies. He was one of the true ‘greats’ of the time and I am proud to have known him.

  13. Way back sometime in the 70s, I worked as a sound assistant on a BBC TV Outside Broadcast of a folk concert at a Guildford college. It was called “The Folkies” though I don’t know if it was ever broadcast. There were 5 singers: Derek Brimstone, Jasper Carrott, Tony Capstick, Colin Scott & Noel Murphy. I came away with a 1/4″ tape of the show which has been since transferred via minidisc to mp3. Is there anyone out there who remembers that concert?

  14. I had gone to a number of Derek’s gigs back in the ’70s and found his website where I could order CDs and some tapes. But the process of ordering was to write to him enclosing the cash in an envelope (he didn’t do technology, did he?). So I sent off an order for ‘All Them Songs’ and ‘Derek Brimstone Live’, enclosing £10.
    He phoned me because the live albumn was a tape rather than a CD and only cost £5. He phoned to ask if I wanted £5 change or another tape. When I could get a word in edgeways, I opted for another tape… but not before he’d told me that his name was Brimson and ‘Brimstone’ was initially a typo in Melody Maker, which he decided to stick with, that you were a writer and Eddy was doing stand up and that he has six grandchildren and a few anecdotes about people he’d worked with and that Donovan was his mate but he didn’t like Sunshine Superman… It was an hour-long conversation in all and he had me in stiches with some of the anecdotes. It was not just that he knew how to be funny… he didn’t know how NOT to be.
    I met Dave Mills (Gypsy Dave, Donovan’s friend) a while after that through my interest in art (he was a wonderful sculptor). He had very fond memories of Derek. Sadly, Gyp, too, is no longer with us.

  15. A wonderful commedian, story teller and a magnificent person who lived a great life. His books on National Service were inspiring. Great to see his sons have inherited his talent. Wes

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