Tony Cuffe

Tony 2

Singer and guitarist Tony Cuffe was one of the most distinctive voices of modern folk song in Scotland, first in the music and song of his native Scotland, and later in the Irish music scene of North America. He worked with three seminal bands in the instrumental wave of the revival and his playing helped pioneer the transposition of Scots fiddle and pipe music to the guitar.

“With his native feeling for the emotive power of the words, his sensitivity to the aching beauty of the airs and his unfailing ability to mell guitar and voice in a creative whole, Tony graced the Scots tradition with songs which, in the brilliance of his interpretation, he made entirely his own.” Billy Kay

“Tony’s guitar playing continues to fire the imagination. His playing of fiddle and bagpipe tunes is entirely within the idiom he loved yet wholly new. His stand alone fingerstyle arrangements will always be a landmark in the instrumental music of Scotland.” Tony McManus

Tony was born in Greenock, Scotland on 6 April 1954, one of five brothers. Their father had arrived with his family at Port Glasgow from Roscommon at the age of seven, and was a great singer of Irish songs. Tony’s oldest brother, Tom, played the Highland pipes, and that tradition was to make a huge impression on his emerging guitar style. Tony’s younger brother Laurie was also well know as a guitarist on the rock scene.

By the time attended Glasgow University, Tony was listening to Scottish and English folk names such as Archie Fisher, Martin Carthy and Pentangle. He soon came to the fore as a singer and guitarist within the flourishing Scottish traditional music scene of the 1970s and was co-founder of Alba, a pioneering band that made an album of that name in 1978. A year later, he joined and recorded with Jock Tamson’s Bairns which came out of Edinburgh’s famous session bar Sandy Bell’s. Tony became a member of Glasgow-based Ossian in 1980 and with them recorded four albums: Seal Song, Dove Across the Water, Borders and Light on a Distant Shore .

In 1988 he made his solo album: When First I Went to Caledonia. With Ossian he toured Europe and North America, undertook considerable radio and television work, appeared with the influential 7:84 Theatre Company and contributed to the projects of Billy Kay, including his Fergusson’s Auld Reikie, and to Billy Jackson’s ensemble works The Wellpark Suite and St Mungo. In 1989 Tony moved to Massachusetts and settled with his young family in Arlington, near Boston. While continuing to tour with Ossian and the group’s Billy Jackson, he became firmly established as a popular solo performer, adding harp, whistle and harmonica to his skills, and was recognised as a popular teacher of traditional music. He performed regularly with the cream of Scottish and Irish musicians in the United States and worked extensively with the Windbags. Tony also taught at Boston College’s Gaelic Roots Summer School and the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.

Tony 1

Subsequent recording projects included tracks on Gaelic Roots, Fred Freeman’s The Complete Songs of Robert Burns series, Bonnie Rideout’s A Scottish Christmas and Jerry O’Sullivan’s The Gift, a release featuring several of his compositions.

A retrospective album Sae Will We Yet, featuring unreleased tracks and archive recordings, was released by Greentrax Records after his untimely death in December 2001.

George V’s Army

Scottish bagpipe music played on guitar by Tony Cuffe. Recorded Arlington, Mass. 2001.

The Old Man Hoy

Scottish fiddle music played by Stuart Eydmann, Derek Hoy and Tony Cuffe

Shepherd of the Glen

Mouth organ solo performed by Tony Cuffe, Edinburgh and Boston, Mass.

Jig of Slurs

Scottish bagpipe jig played on guitar by Tony Cuffe. Recorded Arlington, Mass. 2001.

Bonawe Highlanders

Recorded at a house session, Edinburgh. Tony Cuffe is playing a mouth organ retuned by himself to play in the bagpipe scale.

Jamie Raeburn [1]

From a tape supplied by the Cuffe family. Featuring Ossian, this may be from a live concert or broadcast.

When First I Went to Caledonia [1]

Song from Nova Scotia to a tune by Tony Cuffe. This song, in a studio recording, is the title track of his first solo CD (Iona Records IR011, 1988). Recorded Massasoit Community College, Mass. USA as part of their “In Person” (No.95) series. For a discussion of the song see:

http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=182

http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=149622

http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=84451

Waterson : Carthy have recorded the song at:

http://www.last.fm/music/Waterson%3ACarthy/_/When+First+I+Came+to+Caledonia

also Martin Simpson at:

http://www.martinsimpson.com/shop/cds/kind_letters/

and Fine Friday:

http://www.footstompin.com/products/cds/mowing_the_machair

Battle of Harlaw

Wee German Lairdie

Bonny Susie Clelland

O My Love She’s but a Lassie Yet

Up in the Morning Early

Braw Sailin on the Sea

Unidentified (Swedish?) Tune

Recorded by Stuart Eydmann at a house ceilidh, Edinburgh.

Road and the Miles to Dundee

Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation [1]

March / Ewie wi the Crookit Horn

Recorded by Kenny Hadden at Stonehaven Folk Club, 1987. Recording kindly supplied by Kenny.

My Handsome Nell

Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation [2]

Donald MacGillivray

From the TV broadcast of the stage show “There is a happy land”. With Iain MacDonald, bagpipes and Ossian.

Scots wha hae wi Wallace bled

Ae Fond Kiss

March / Banjo Breakdown (hornpipe)

Sae Will We Yet [1]

Recorded by Kenny Hadden, Aberdeen Folk Club, 1975. Recording kindly supplied by Kenny.

Up in the mornin’s nae for me

Rantin, Rovin, Robin

A man’s a man for a’ that [1]

Unidentified Song / Blacksmith’s Reel / Shetland Reel

Recorded by Kenny Hadden at an informal session, Inverness Folk festival during the mid-1970s. Do we detect the Clark sisters singing along?

Johnny Todd

Recorded by Kenny Hadden, Stonehaven Folk Club, 1987. Recording kindly supplied by Kenny.

Auld lang syne

Whistle o’er the lave o’t

Tibbie, I hae seen the day

The Gauger (?)

Do you know the proper name and source for this song? Recorded by Kenny Hadden, Aberdeen Folk Club, 1975. Recording kindly supplied by Kenny.

March / Jimmy Tweedie’s Sea Legs

Recorded by Kenny Hadden, Stonehaven Folk Club, 1987. Recording kindly supplied by Kenny.

Guitar Solo

Recorded by Kenny Hadden, Stonehaven Folk Club, 1987. Recording kindly supplied by Kenny.

Gaelic Song

From the TV broadcast of the stage show “There is a happy land”. With Simon MacKenzie and Cathy Ann MacPhee

The Pride of Glencoe

A man’s a man for a’ that [2]

From a domestic rehearsal tape. Recorded Arlington, Mass.

March / Hornpipe

Bagpipe tunes. Recorded by Kenny Hadden, Stonehaven Folk Club, 1987. Recording kindly supplied by Kenny.

Blacksmith’s Reel

Bagpipe tunes. Recorded by Kenny Hadden, Stonehaven Folk Club, 1987. Recording kindly supplied by Kenny.

Rantin, Rovin, Robin [2]

Domestic rehearsal tape.

Macpherson’s Rant

From the TV broadcast of the stage show “There is a happy land”. With Ossian.

Jacky Tar

Recorded by Kenny Hadden, Stonehaven Folk Club, 1987. Recording kindly supplied by Kenny.

Battle of the Somme

Bagpipe retreat march. Recorded by Kenny Hadden, Aberdeen Folk Club, 1975. Recording kindly supplied by Kenny.

A weary pund o’ tow

Recorded by Kenny Hadden, Stonehaven Folk Club, 1987. Recording kindly supplied by Kenny.

When first I went Caledonia [2]

Recorded by Kenny Hadden, Stonehaven Folk Club, 1987. Recording kindly supplied by Kenny.

Bonny George Campbell

From a domestic rehearsal recording.

Sae will we yet [2]

Recorded by Kenny Hadden, Stonehaven Folk Club, 1987. Recording kindly supplied by Kenny.

Jamie Raeburn [2]

Recorded by Kenny Hadden, Stonehaven Folk Club, 1987. Recording kindly supplied by Kenny.

Shira Dam

A song associated with the construction of the hydro-electric dam at Shira Glen.

From the Electric Scotland website:

The writer of this song Helen Fullerton ran the little mobile shop serving the construction workers on the Glen Shira hydro-electricity scheme. She knew at first hand the hard work and danger facing the construction men, many of them Irish, who helped bring electric light, for the first time, to many parts of Scotland.

There’s a place that’s over-grown at the foot o’ Shira Glen,
Eleven years a hame frae hame for Carmichael’s men.
We came in tens o’ thousands tae build the Shira Dam,
And the gaiterin’ o’ a fortune it was every navvy’s plan.

I workit in the tunnel. and I workit in the shaft,
And then I poured the main dam, it was there I did me graft.
The nipper makes a fortune, a-stewin’ up yer tea,
I think he boils his underwear, for it tastes like that to me.

If the gaffer disnae like yer face, it’s “Paddy, are you tired?
I’ll keep ye frae the roarin’ rain, get doon the hill, ye’re fired!”
But if yer face it’s made tae fit, ye’ll work the winter through,
And what ye make in the wind and rain, ye’ll melt in the mountain dew.

And when ye’re doon the glen again ye join a dinner queue,
And at the end a grisly lump – I heard them ca’ it stew,
McKay’s fat dog it gets the meat, and the milk it’s watered sair,
And the soup comes up in the same old pail that’s went tae wash the flair.

The Shira it hasnae a Union, though I mind when it was tried;
Carmichael he came to the meetin’ and got up on a chair and cried:
“There’s no barbed wire around this place, so get ye up the hill.
If you don’t like it, jack up boys, your places I can fill.”

But that day we had chicken, aye, and the next day we had meat;
The third they took our spokesmen and kicked them on the street.
Aye, on a simmer’s evening we built the Shira Dam,
And if they ask you what we used just tell ’em spam and jam.

The swan it cries on Lochan Dubh and the seagull on the sea,
And city lights and clachan lights are burning merrily.
The Shira Dam’s a bonny dam and nothing more remains,
And the lads who died a-buildin’ her I could gie ye a’ their names.