Dai Bando’s Music Room #14: Saint Paddy’s Day / Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder?

By Dai Bando

“It’s an Irish trick that’s true

I can lick the mick that threw

The overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s chowder”

I dislike most of what I call “green beer” St. Paddy’s Day music, but this one is an exception. My dad used to sing “Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder” on St. Paddy’s Day and also whenever my mom made her awesome white clam chowder. Coincidentally, the lady who lived across the street was named Mrs. Murphy and my dad had convinced me that the song was written about our neighbor. Why not?

Now, Mrs. Murphy was lovely, but her husband was a different cat altogether. I myself would have gladly thrown my overalls in that old geezer’s chowder. Never did I get even a ‘hello’ from Mr. Murphy, even when hand-delivering his Sunday newspaper.

The Murphy’s only child Margaret was a rare thing, “fine as a beeswing” as Richard Thompson would say. Even in grade school, she was ethereal and somewhat precocious. I remember once Margaret informed me that female kangaroos “have bosoms.” I think I was in 3rd grade and didn’t have the slightest clue what the fuck she was talking about. (I did know what a kangaroo was.)

Margaret died far too young, bless her soul.

Mr. Desautel lived across the street from the Murphys, and that old bastard was so mean, he made Mr. Murphy look like Fred Rodgers. Mr. Desautel once challenged the Ice Cream Man to a fistfight because a few popsicle wrappers had blown onto his lawn. (I did witness Dougie Neederlitz brazenly toss his popsicle wrapper, though I didn’t rat him out.) Mr. Scotti, our ice cream truck driver, would’ve volunteered to throw Mr. Desautel’s overalls into the chowder with Mr. Desautel still wearing them.

“Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder” was written by George L. Geifer way back in 1898. Bing Crosby had a hit with it in 1945. I prefer the Maxwell Sisters performing the song in this short film (above) from the late 1940s.

And speaking of films – here are my Top 10 Irish movies:

Ryan’s Daughter” (1970 David Lean)

– Critics hated it, the cast hated each other. David Lean was so traumatized by the experience, he didn’t make another movie for 15 years. I love every fame, especially the ones featuring the Dingle shore. Maurice Jarre composed the soundtrack which featured the memorable “It Was a Good Time (Rosy’s Theme)”

“In Bruges” (2008 Martin McDonough)

– Great performances from Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, and Ralph Fiennes. McDonagh’s dialogue is raw, often hilarious and sometimes pure poetry.

“I Went Down” (1997 Paddy Breathnach)

– This hilarious road movie was my first taste of actor Brendan Gleeson, who might be my favorite actor in the world.

“The Quiet Man” (1952 John Ford)

– On my first trip to Ireland, a bank teller in Dublin told me I spoke “just like John Wayne.” Though not at all true, this remains the best compliment I’ve ever had.

“The Commitments” (1991 Alan Parker)

– Maybe not the best of Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy books (I loved “The Van”), it is certainly the best film adaptation mainly because of the amazing musical performances by a truly great soul band created for the film.

“The Magdalene Sisters” (2002 Peter Mullen)

– Excellent film on the subject of Catholic Church abuse in Ireland. Be prepared to become very angry.

“In America” (2002 Jim Sheriden)

– Beautiful biographical story of Sheriden’s immigration from Ireland to NY’s Hell’s Kitchen in the sixties. Two sisters age 6 and 11, Emma and Sarah Bolger, acting for the first time, steal the movie. The movie concludes with The Corrs singing “Time Enough for Tears,” one of my favorite Irish songs.

“The Butcher Boy” (1997 Neil Jordan)

An Irish “A Clockwork Orange,” complete with Sinead O’Connor as the Virgin Mary (Sinead sings a great version of the folk song of the title.) Very disturbing.

“Finian’s Rainbow” (1968 Francis Ford Coppolla)

Despite the talents of Fred Astaire, lyricist Yip Harburg, and Francis Ford Coppolla – this thing was a mess. Still, worth it if only for Petula Clark singing, “How are things in Glocca Mora?”

“The Banshees of Inisherin” (2022 Martin McDonough)

My choice for ‘Best Picture’ in 2022. Outstanding performances from Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan.

Honorable Mentions:
The Guard, Waking Ned Devine, Once, The Field, The Snapper, The Crying Game, My Left Foot, Cal, In the Name of the Father, Secret of Roan Inish, Philomela, The Van, The Boxer, Hear My Song, The General, Into the West

GasLit Nation: Saving the DOJ

February 28, 2023


In this week’s Gaslit Nation bonus episode, we answer questions from our listeners at the Democracy Defender level and higher, including how to save the DOJ in a time of elite criminal impunity. To get access to this and every episode of Gaslit Nation, subscribe to the show on Patreon by signing up the Truth-teller level or higher on Patreon. You will not hear every episode unless you subscribe. Join our community of listeners today: Patreon.com/Gaslit 

CPAC strangles GOP

Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American

Heather Cox Richardson

March 6, 2023

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) met in Washington, D.C., over the weekend, sparking speculation over the 2024 Republican presidential field. Hard-right figures like Donald Trump and his loyalists Mike Lindell, the MyPillow entrepreneur, and Kari Lake, who lost the 2022 race for Arizona governor, attended, along with House Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) and right-wing media figure Steve Bannon, but many of those testing the 2024 presidential waters gave it a miss.

CPAC started in 1974, and since then it has been a telltale for the direction the Republican Party is going. This year was no exception.

CPAC was smaller this year than in the past, and it showcased the Republican extremism that is far outside the mainstream of normal American politics. “Feels like MAGA country!” Donald Trump, Jr., told the crowd.

The headliner was former president Trump, twice impeached, deeply involved in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and embroiled in a range of criminal investigations. In his speech, Trump embraced his leadership of those hardening around a violent mentality based in grievance that echoes that of fascist movements.

“In 2016, I declared: I am your voice,” he said. “Today, I add: I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed: I am your retribution.”

He claimed that he and his followers are “engaged in an epic struggle to rescue our country from the people who hate it and want to absolutely destroy it…. We are going to finish what we started. We started something that was a miracle. We’re going to complete the mission, we’re going to see this battle through to ultimate victory. We’re going to make America great again.” After listing all the “villains and scoundrels” he and his followers would “demolish,” “drive out,” “cast out,” “throw off,” “beat,” “rout,” and “evict,” he continued: “We have no choice. This is the final battle.”

Other Republican hopefuls are waiting in the wings. Trump has, in fact, never won the popular vote, and his leadership has brought historic losses for the party, but his control over his voting base makes him the front-runner for the Republican nomination.

Other candidates seem to be hoping that criminal indictments will knock Trump out of the race and open space for them without making them take a stand against Trump and thus alienate his followers. It seems likely that if such an indictment were forthcoming, they would blame Democrats for Trump’s downfall and hope to ride to office with his voting bloc behind them, without having to embrace that voting blocs’ ideology.

That hope seems delusional, considering the increasing emphasis of the Trump Republicans and their imitators on violence. The Republicans are hitting on a constant refrain that crime is on the upswing in the U.S. Since crime does not, in fact, seem to be rising, it seems worth noting that an emphasis on crime justifies the use of state power to combat that crime and normalizes the idea of violence against “criminals,” a category the Republican Party is defining more and more broadly. This will be an extremely difficult genie to stuff back into a bottle, especially as leading Republican figures are increasingly talking in martial terms and referring to the U.S. Civil War.

That emphasis on violence corresponds with something else on display at this year’s CPAC: how completely the Republican Party now depends on a false narrative constructed out of lies.

CPAC fact checkers had their work cut out for them. Linda Qiu of the New York Times found Trump repeated a number of things previously identified as incorrect as well as adding some new ones. Politifact fact checked other speakers and found they, too, continued to develop the idea of a country run by those who hate it and are eager to undermine it. Various speakers said the Department of Justice is calling parents worried about their kids’ educations “terrorists” (false), fentanyl will kill you if any of it touches your skin, thus putting us all at deadly risk (false), cartels have “operational control” of the U.S.-Mexico border (false), and Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky has said he wants America’s “sons and daughters to go die in Ukraine” (again, false).

Right-wing media amplifies this narrative. Depositions in the Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit against the Fox News Corporation made it very clear that both Fox News executives and hosts work closely with Republican operatives to spread a Republican narrative, even when it is based on lies—in that case, in the lie that Trump won the election, which they privately agreed was ridiculous. So, when House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) gave to FNC personality Tucker Carlson exclusive access to 44,000 hours of video from the footage from the Capitol on January 6, 2021, he indicated the Republicans will continue to try to garner support with a false narrative.

Carlson’s coverage of the videos started tonight, with him depicting the rioters as “sightseers” and claiming that other media outlets have lied about the violence on January 6. In reality, Carlson simply didn’t show the many hours of violent footage: more than 1,000 people have been arrested on charges relating to their actions surrounding January 6, more than half have pleaded guilty, and around one third of those charged were charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding police officers.

McCarthy’s desperation to maintain the party’s narrative shows in his unilateral decision to give Carlson exclusive access to that video. A wide range of media outlets are clamoring for equal access to the footage while congressional Democrats are demanding to know on what authority McCarthy gave Carlson that access. The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol had arranged to transfer the films to the National Archives, but when the Republicans rewrote the rules in January, they instead transferred the video to the House Administration Committee.

McCarthy did not consult the committee when he gave access to the films to Carlson. Nor did he consult House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-CA), who has noted that releasing the films without consultation with the Capitol Police is a security risk. Instead, McCarthy apparently coordinated with Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight. Loudermilk led a tour of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021.

Representative Norma J. Torres (D-CA), ranking member of the Oversight Subcommittee, told Justin Papp of Roll Call that McCarthy “totally went around, not just the subcommittee, but the entire committee…. I hope Ethics will have something to say about this. I think it needs to be investigated on all different levels.” In contrast, House Administration Committee chair Bryan Steil (R-WI) appeared unconcerned with the end run around the responsible committee, saying that “the key is that we’re balancing the transparency that’s needed for the American people with the security interests of the House.”

Republicans are planning to take this disinformation campaign across the nation. Despite their insistence that they want to slash government spending, Republican leaders are in fact urging their colleagues to engage in “field hearings” that will take their “message” straight to voters at a time when they are not managing to accomplish much of anything at all in Washington. Jordan’s Judiciary Committee has requested a travel budget of $262,000, more than 30 times what it spent on travel last year and 3 times what it spent before the pandemic, and it is not just the Judiciary Committee that is hitting the road.

As Annie Karni and Catie Edmondson of the New York Times noted today, this also means that they speak at the plants of Republican donors, thus giving them free advertising. Congressional Democrats say they received almost no notice of these trips.

News broke today that an Israeli tech firm has uncovered a vast network of as many as hundreds of thousands of fake Twitter accounts designed to promote Trump and his vision, creating the illusion that he is more popular than he is. The analysts at the firm, Cyabra, believe the system was created within the U.S. “One account will say, ‘Biden is trying to take our guns; Trump was the best,’ and another will say, ‘Jan. 6 was a lie and Trump was innocent,’” said the engineer who discovered the network, Jules Gross. “Those voices are not people. For the sake of democracy I want people to know this is happening.”

Republicans have advanced an increasingly false political vision—what theorists call a “virtual political reality”—since the 1980s, and now their base has hardened into true believers who claim to be willing to fight for their vision. But in the years since Trump took office, previously uninterested Americans have seen what it means when those who believe in that vision take power.

Those who believe in equality before the law are standing up for that principle. Tonight, for example, social media is flooded with video clips refuting Carlson’s narrative point by point, suggesting that McCarthy’s decision to help him shore up the Republican narrative might only have strengthened its opponents.

Les Cousins Music club was the centre of the universe for British ‘contemporary’ folk and blues

Les Cousins Music club. The centre of the universe for British ‘contemporary’ folk, blues and beyond was a cellar at 49 Greek Street, Soho. By Ian Anderson.

Les Cousins membership card, 1967.

Be careful with bestowing time-sensitive names on emerging movements. Art Nouveau which flourished at the beginning of the last century is now Art Very Vieux. Modern Jazz of the 1950s is now antique, and the New Wave of the late ’70s has long since crashed on the beach. And so it was with the sounds christened Contemporary Folk in the 1960s, now irrevocably tied to nostalgia for that golden age of post-war youth culture of half a century ago. But it had an extraordinary blossoming in its day, and the hothouse and nursery for it all was a basement club at 49 Greek Street in London’s Soho.

On a grey day earlier this summer I rang on the doorbell of a flat in Frith Street and entered a hospitable folk Tardis, spinning back nearly five decades at the invitation of Diana Matheou, wife of the late Andy Matheou (or Matthews, as many knew him), whose parents Loukas and Margaret owned the restaurant below which the club was housed.

But first, a bit of pre-history. Veteran skiffler Ron Gould recalls the years BC (Before Cousins) when the venue housed the Skiffle Cellar. “As far as I remember the Skiffle Cellar was founded by Russell Quaye and Hylda Syms in 1956. The Skiffle Cellar was one of many rival skiffle venues in the area at the time. The most thriving was John Hasted’s club in Gerrard Street; if you went to one you were unlikely to go to the other or The 2i’s. It looked very much like a cave, as did most Soho cellars. After Bruce Turner left Humphrey Lyttleton and formed his own Jump Band, John Jack became their manager and took over the Cellar on Friday and Saturday nights in 1957 for all-nighters, with Bruce Turner’s Jump Band as the headliners.”

Diana picks up the chronology. It seems that in 1959, Loukas Matheou acquired the lease for the ground floor and basement of 49, Greek Street, putting a kitchen in the back of the basement and turning the remainder of both floors into The Soho Grill, a restaurant specialising in French cuisine. It proved larger than was necessary so after a few years he decided to use the other part of the basement for another purpose. French discotheques were taking off – La Poubelle, Le Kilt, and Le Disco­theque had all opened in Soho – so Loukas agreed with a public school customer called Phil (nobody seems to be able to remember his surname) to turn the unused part of the basement into Les Cousins, presumably named after the Claude Chabrol film.‘Les Cousins, Club Continental’ opened on Sunday 4th October 1964, was unlicensed, opened every night and had all-nighters with live bands. “However it didn’t really take off,” says Diana. “At some point there was a falling-out with Phil. Loukas told Andy to sit in each night to make sure everything was above board. Perhaps sensing a change was in the air, Phil asked Noel Murphy along to compère an all-nighter and musicians told each other there was a place to play – much like Chinese whispers. I do know that Phil was dismissed and that Andy was already listening to Dylan and was totally disinterested in running a discotheque. I’m sure these and many other factors all came together – the time, place and people were right and Les Cousins the iconic folk and blues club was born.”

Skiffle Cellar flier circa 1957.

The rebirth opening date that is often quoted is 16th April 1965. Early memories and pictures have it with sports car photos on the wall, plus a wagon wheel and fishing nets to make the disco a bit folkier.

Al Stewart, who at that time had a residency at Bunjies on the fringes of Covent Garden, remembered those early days in his interview in fR367/8. “I was talking to Noel Murphy and he said there was a brand new folk club just opened up a couple of blocks away which turned out to be Les Cousins. So Murphy said ‘Do you want to go over and check it out?’, so I said ‘fine’. I went over with Noel, I went down the stairs – there were maybe twelve people down there and they were all crowded round one guy playing the guitar, and that of course was Bert Jansch …”

“So I’d work at Bunjies and then I’d go over and hang out at Cousins and watch the people. I think it did all-nighters very quickly which is actually where I got my first gig, because Phil – who used to run it before Andy – by about three o’clock in the morning he’d basically had it and wanted to go home, so what he was looking for was someone who’d basically put people on and off. I got the gig as the compère of the Cousins which I had for a couple of years. It was my job to put people on and take them off which meant that round about 4 o’clock in the morning when everyone was asleep I could get up and start doing my own songs!”

The venue took off very quickly. Not only did it have an adventurous booking policy and a growing in-crowd, but it also had those all-nighters on the weekends.

For impecunious youths like myself, hitch-hiking up to London to see all these amazing artists who were being advertised in the Melody Maker Folk Forum each week and enjoying growing fame nationwide, it wasn’t only a musical honeypot but the cheapest hotel in London. And once you’d become accepted as a performer, you even got in for free.

Diana has Andy’s pocket diaries and address book for the Cousins years and they make mind-boggling reading for people familiar with the burgeoning folk scene of the day. Not daring to ask if these valuable artefacts could be borrowed, I read some of the entries into my recorder. Apologies for imminent anorak list overdose and excited squeaks …“April 1966: Al Stewart £3. Diz Disley half the door. Trevor Lucas £8. Davy Graham £15. Long John Baldry £15 for the all-nighter. Sandy Denny, John Foreman… Spider John Koerner £25! (I was probably there for that, 10th April 1966)… Mox & John Lemont. Tuesday 26th, Van Morrison £3. Wednesday 27th, Jo Ann Kelly £6. Malcolm Price, Gerry Lockran, Sandy Bull (the American equivalent to Davy Graham), Bert Jansch, Sandy Denny… what a week!”

“June 1967. Friday, Tom Rush; Diz Disley for the all-nighter. Saturday, John Renbourn; Long John Baldry for the all-nighter. We go through to the following week… Friday 9th June, Sandy Denny in the evening, Cliff Aungier doing the all-nighter. Saturday 10th, Bert Jansch; all-nighter Noel Murphy and Wizz Jones. Friday 16th, Indian music.

Saturday 17th, Alex Campbell in the evening, Davy Graham on the all-nighter. Friday 23rd, Roy Harper evening, Al Stewart all-nighter. Saturday 24th, Young Tradition evening, Alexis Korner the all-nighter. It’s amazing, isn’t it?”

In 1967, Loukas decided to change the restaurant from French cuisine to Greek and renamed it Dionysus. Downstairs the wagon wheel went, the space was enlarged, the stage put in the centre, the old sofas and chairs replaced by church pews, and a friend of Andy’s came in to paint the walls with squirls and whirls inspired by acid trips. The Cousins (as most people knew it by then, not knowing who this bloke called Les was!) entered its golden years. It also, unlike most small clubs of the day, had a microphone plugged into a fairly decent hi-fi amplifier that fed the house speakers behind the stage.
I have a theory that the Cousins mic was single-handedly responsible for the performing posture of most of the 1960s singer/ songwriter/ guitarist legends. Look at photos of Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Al Stewart or John Martyn from those days, and they’re likely to be hunched on a stool over their instruments, bringing mouth and sound hole as close as possible together. This was before the advent of pick-ups in acoustic guitars – the early Barcus Berry transducers didn’t become ubiquitous until the start of the next decade – so you needed to direct everything into that one microphone, as closely as possible. We all got rather adept at it.

In her book about the era, A Blues For Annie (available via Amazon, recommended!), Annie Matthews recalls arriving there around that time. “Al Stewart, who played at Bunjies, was finishing the night by going to Les Cousins. A crowd were going with him. So we walked the several blocks or so to Greek Street, and we came to a narrow doorway. It would have been easy to miss. There was a folded sign by the door that had the name of the performer written on it. A steep flight of stairs led down into darkness. At the bottom was a stout young man with a round face and short black hair. He was collecting money from people as they went in. I followed everyone in to yet another dark cellar. It was a very large one. There was a small stage with a piano behind it, and church pews for seats all around it. At one end of the room was a section that was behind a counter where a young man sold sodas, coffee, and sandwiches. He had an Oriental cast to his face and a Fu Manchu moustache. Jet black hair swung around his ears. He bounced around to the music as he served customers coffee. The club was thick with cigarette smoke. Everyone was smoking. I stayed there all night.”

Mike Cooper remembers that “the all-nighters on a Saturday were a trial by fire of stamina and patience both for audience and performers. Leaving there on Sunday morning we would stagger bleary-eyed into a Greek Street being hosed down and swept clean, ridding all trace of the previous night’s reveries, and going for what was sold as coffee in glass cups at the Pollo Bar (still there but don’t read the Trip Advisor reviews) around the corner at 20 Old Compton Street.

John Martyn & Andy Matheou. Photo: Ray Stevenson.

“But when you played Les Cousins you had joined ‘the scene’; been acknowledged, made it, whatever that meant at the time. It was the Vatican and Mecca and Jerusalem of the folk scene.”

“Iwandered outside in the interval of one session to roll another roll-up and Andy who ran the place was talking to a short, curly-haired guy in a brown suede jacket, who looked remarkably like Tim Buckley. So much so that I told him. He replied, with a smile, ‘I am Tim Buckley’ – to which I replied ‘Yes and I’m Tim Hardin.’ It was Tim Buckley, I later discovered, and lost the opportunity to tell him how much I admired his music and I still do. David Bowie turned up once as well and wanted to play but the guest list was full for that evening. Sorry David.”

You never knew who would turn up to play on an all-nighter. The singer-songwriter introduced as Steve Adams, who grew up to be Cat Stevens. A short American who Noel Murphy would stick on at 4am to try out some remarkable song he’d just written was called Paul Simon. A wonderful set from another American who’d come across to experience Cambridge Folk Festival but we already had his records: Eric Andersen. A really nervous, undistinguished singer-songwriter called Nick Drake who sent the audience to sleep. I have fond memories of a night when Spider John Koerner put Al Jones and myself on for a small-hours floor spot and Davy Graham got up and played bongos with us, and of Ron Geesin disembowelling the piano, passing bits of it out into the pews while playing, searching for an elusive sound. And of transporting music from the Third Ear Band …

Andy Matheou’s booking methods were delightfully ramshackle. Once he liked and trusted a performer, they’d be booked every few weeks. I remember when I was living in London over the blues boom winter of ‘68 / ’69 I’d get the tube in from Notting Hill every Wednesday lunch­time to get a Melody Maker at the news stand at Tottenham Court Road tube station, hot off the press.

Loukas Matheou

That was how you found out if you’d got a gig at the Cousins that coming weekend! But you didn’t mind because not only was it a great gig, those listings were pored over by folk fans and organisers all over the country and if you were listed there, you’d – as Mike Cooper said – made it. It was a guaranteed career boost.

Back to the diary: “October 1968: Friday 4th Michael Chapman and Saturday 5th, Jackson C Frank and Ron Geesin. Saturday 12th Young Tradition, Mike Cooper and Peter Sarstedt. Thursday 17th October – Al Jones and Ian Anderson (beginning a residency! Yay! There you go!). Saturday 19th October Al Stewart, evening; John Martyn on the all-nighter – Al Stewart was up to £20 by then! Gordon Giltrap, Sally Oldfield, The Strawbs, Andy Fernbach…”

As well as becoming an accomplished young blues singer and harmonica player who later joined Panama Limited, recording for EMI Harvest, Annie Matthews also ended up working there. Again from her book: “There was an opportunity to work behind the bar. I talked it over with Mr Matheou. The other person who applied for the job was a homeless man nicknamed Divinity. When his wife had died he had some sort of mental breakdown and lost his home, and ever since then he had been going around the soup kitchens and shelters. He did not have a big interest in music but Cousins was open all night. Mr Matheou suggested that he get a real job, and offered to give him money to buy a suit, but he refused.”

“One of our acts at Cousins, Ralph McTell, had a huge hit [The Streets Of London] telling a young woman who was complaining about her life that homeless people had a tougher lot, and that she should be grateful for her life. I had this nasty feeling that I had inspired this song.”

Annie remembers some of the other characters associated with the place. “There were a number of accompanying musicians and street performers who played between the main sets. Some of these people performed for the theatre lines and then came to Les Cousins as a warm place to stay until the first buses and trains ran in the morning. One example was Don Partridge. He was a one-man band. He had a guitar, harmonica, bass drum, and a cymbal attached to him. He was regarded as a novelty act. However, in the years to come he released a single that went to the top of the British charts.”

“Some other street performers that associated with him found out about Les Cousins through him. ‘Old Meg’ sang Danny Boy in a high trembling warble. That seemed to be the only song that she knew. ‘Paris Nat’ Schaffer played the accordeon and sang. He wore a peaked cloth hat to cover his bald head. He had some comedy songs that he performed again and again.”

Diana Matheou (Soar, as she was then) had begun singing at Colchester Folk Club in the early 1960s. “I came to drama school in London when I was nineteen. Before that my brother was studying here and when I was seventeen I came up to go to a do at his college and he said ‘There’s an all-nighter down at Cousins. You could go and sing. We should go to that.’ Anyway, I went down and I didn’t know when I passed by this chubby, woolly-haired guy on the door that this was going to be the love of my life! We just went in. It was the old Cousins, Derroll Adams was playing, there were old sofas, just old chairs, it was packed out. And I sat on this sofa all night talking to Steve Adams, soon to become Cat Stevens. And we got on really well… I was starting to do a bit of songwriting myself, he was telling me all about how he was too.”

Signed by agent Julia Creasey to Roy Guest’s Folk Directions agency, Diana started going to the Cousins regularly and by 1969 she and Andy Matheou had become an item. “It was like being at the centre of the universe. After I became pregnant, I moved in here in 1970. We were running the club from here, and I’d push Em, our little baby, in the pram, put her in the corridor of the restaurant upstairs, go downstairs and run the club. I did the door for a couple or three years.”

“Some singers and musicians became close friends to Andy and me, in particular John Martyn. He and Andy had a bond and a recognition beyond the ordinary. It was that which John initially wrote about in May You Never. One summer day he bounded into the Frith Street flat with the DJ Jeff Dexter and told us, ‘I’ve written a song for you.’ He and Andy spent loads of time together. Bev and John had a flat in Denning Road. Bev got pregnant with her daughter about two months before me so we shared our pregnancy and I went over to Denning Road quite a lot. Nick Drake was there as well, and Bridget St John.”

“The Matheou family’s contribution is hardly ever mentioned as, understandably, it’s the music and radiancy of the time that people remember most. However the fact of the family’s nurturing was significant. The young man who Andy was had an honest, fearless nature, a capable, curious mind, a generous heart – like his parents – and loved music. The Matheou family were the right people in the right place.”

“Andy was quick to discern what was authentic and, not being materially driven, became part of the family of musicians and the ethos of the time. Many turned up at the family flat in Frith Street, were fed and sometimes housed there too. Jackson C Frank truly became part of the family while he was in London, referring to Loukas and Margaret as ‘like his parents’.”

“Anyone coming into the restaurant kitchen hungry didn’t stay that way for long. Loukas would listen to the hard luck stories, responding with wisdom, dry wit and food.”

As Diana recounts, Loukas and Margaret returned briefly to Cyprus but within a year came the Turkish invasion and they were forced to come back to Soho. Margaret was dying of cancer. Within eighteen months Loukas lost his home, his land and his loving wife. “Loukas then went to Barking in East London to help his brother, also made a refugee who’d lost everything, helped him with a kebab shop, and he said to Andy ‘Listen boy, you’ve got a daughter and you’re not earning any money, and I’m going to open a wet fish shop in Barking. You should come and do it with me.’ So he did. I gave up my teaching and I went and did it too. We did that for eighteen years. Still living here, we’d commute. But it was beautiful. So we went into that, and it was as far apart from what we’d done before as you can imagine. But it gave us a very broad life. And we kept close to some of those folk who we’d always been close to through the club. We always kept in touch with Bert and Roy.”

Sadly, Andy Matheou passed away in 2005 from a heart attack brought on by diabetes, leaving Diana the custodian of the Cousins history and many happy memories. But there’s one sour twist to the story. There’s now an organisation and record label calling itself Les Cousins and it even uses the old Cousins logo from its membership cards.

“Something called ‘Les Cousins Music’ can be found on the internet run by a man called Mark Pavey,” says Diana. “He had nothing whatsoever to do with the club and has used the name and provenance without permission. I need to let this be known to honour the Matheou family whose hard work and generosity were fundamental to the club’s existence. It’s a little like someone taking your music and putting their own name to it – much like Paul Simon did to Martin Carthy with Scarborough Fair all those years ago. This behaviour is in direct opposition to the ethos of the club.”

Really, Les Cousins deserves a book!

Source: Les Cousins Music Club, Soho — Al Stewart, Bert Jansch