Jack Easy (Joe Maley) (d. 1980) was one of a number of oustanding concertinists who emerged from Glasgow in the first decades of the twentieth century. He was associated with the Logan Family of variety theatre performers and was a close friend of the late Jimmy Logan. Some memoirs from Ross Campbell who supplied the recordings:
Joe Maley’s stage name was in fact “Jack Easy – the Musical Midshipman”. Originally from Glasgow, he and his wife Liz retired to Fleetwood, Lancashire in the early ’70s, after a long career in music hall and variety. He suffered a stroke shortly after that, and, unable to play, he and the family decided to dispose of his precious concertinas (some of them novelty items – one of them had a slider adaptation in the middle of the bellows so that it could be split apart in mid-tune – and continue playing!). Liz nursed him at home in Abbotts Walk for a long time and eventually he regained mobility and speech. In September 1977 Neil Wayne and Alistair Anderson were invited to the Fylde Folk Festival to present a “Concertina Consciousness” workshop in the Mount Hotel, across the road from Joe and Liz’s cottage. Curiosity brought Joe and Liz to the meeting, in the course of which Alistair Anderson picked up that Joe knew a fair bit about concertinas and how to get the best out of the instrument. Alistair asked if he wouldn’t mind demonstrating for the gathering. At first Joe was reluctant as he didn’t have his own preferred concertina any more (a fifty-six key English, extended down), while Liz was afraid he would make a fool of himself by not being able to get his fingers to work. However, somebody in the audience provided the right instrument, and Joe proceeded to dazzle everybody with a selection of tunes. Local folk club organizer Ron Baxter was in the room and made a point of introducing himself after the workshop had finished. A few days later, Ron arrived on Joe and Liz’s doorstep with a concertina borrowed from Fylde Folk Festival organizer Alan Bell. Joe quickly recovered his full playing ability and started coming along to the old Fleetwood Folk Club at the Queens Hotel. In November, 1977 (the day after the flood, for anyone who remembers that) I drove Joe down to Haydock to a Concertina Convention run by an ex-miner called Harry Hatton. Harry knew of Joe Maley under his stage name of Jack Easy. He had been trying to track Joe down for years and was thrilled to meet him at last. In Harry’s estimation, Joe was the best player he had ever heard. While there were some very talented players at that meeting, including a couple of blazered gentlemen who played anglo in a style almost identical in smoothness and musicality to Joe’s, it was Joe’s playing that stood out.
Joe generously contributed his time and music to the local folk scene in Blackpool and Fleetwood over the next few years, and even travelled around the North West tp play in variety concerts revived by a local entrepreneur. Alan Bell introduced the Jack Easy Music Hall and Palace of Varieties as a regular event at Fylde, and Joe performed at these concerts till his death.
Joe was indeed a virtuoso of the English concertina. He thought, as I do, that the expression “Good enough for Folk” was an insult to both the audience and whoever came out with it, but he never let the standards he expected of himself get in the way of a warmth and generosity that were extended to any and all who were willing to learn. Joe and Liz’s hospitality remains a warm memory to many who accompanied Joe home after a night at the Folk Club. Liz would immediately have a cup of tea ready, often followed later by bacon, egg and chips (she and Joe had acquired the habit of eating late from years in travelling shows, when the main meal in theatrical “digs” would be provided after the last show of the night).
Alan Bell wrote the song “The Concertina Man” about Joe’s life and times, and the drive to entertain that sustained him and many like him. The words are available in the Alan Bell Songbook. From MUDCAT CAFE December 2007
Regarding these recordings Ross wrote to rareTunes in December 2007:
Joe was a member of a concertina band as a youngster in Glasgow. His taste in music was mainly light classical material, while Liz would always try to get him to play more popular stuff, show tunes and songs – they went down better! Harry Hatton met Joe for the first time at that Haydock session, although he knew him by reputation (possibly also from radio broadcasts – I never tried to find out if any trace of these broadcasts remains?) and had been trying to find him for years. Harry reckoned Joe was the finest concertina player he had ever met . For a classically trained musician, Joe was most unusual in his ability to perform and accompany by ear, although in his music hall and variety career he had often been required to score parts for the pit orchestras, and could do so with great speed. Performances would change nightly, or extra items would be required at short notice for other artistes, and pieces of music would be written, rehearsed and performed within the day. He was also able to use the chromatic scope of the English concertina to its full ability, often providing a soft accompaniment to floor singers at the old Fleetwood Folk Club in keys that would baffle the rest of us. Joe’s sister (I don’t know her name) learned concertina in the same band. While recognising his own unusual abilities, Joe always said that his sister was the better player. Although she never followed a musical career and played only occasionally, Joe reckoned her a “natural” who was able to pick up the instrument when they got together and play material that she had presumably learned fifty years before.
In a personal communication to Stuart Eydmann, c.1982, Buddy Logan recalled:
In 1947 the Metropole, Glasgow show was established. Joseph Maley was a Glaswegian of Irish descent. He lived in the East End near Barrowland. His wife was part of a sister act Lizzie and Mary Elliott.
There is a Jack Easy business card in the Scottish Theatre Archive, University of Glasgow:
More recordings to follow….