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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Graham Bradshaw 2018 Obit: RIP Derek Sarjeant (23) RE: 2018 Obit: RIP Derek Sarjeant 21 Apr 18


Derek Sarjeant was born in June (3rd I think) 1930. He was brought up in the Medway town of Chatham and always had an interest in things maritime.

He got involved in the skiffle craze in the 50s and was keenly interested in Trad Jazz and played trumpet in various trad bands of the day. He later got interested in traditional folk music and started a folk club in Chatham (as referred to by George Frampton above). He collected a good number of local songs from around Kent, which made up a good part of his repertoire, and some of which featured on his first recording "Man of Kent".

In the early 60s, he moved to Surbiton in Surrey with work - a management post for the then South Eastern Electricity Board.

It wasn't long before he got involved with folk in Surbiton, and formed first the Oak Club on a Sunday night (Rod Stradling was also involved in this as mentioned above), quickly followed by a much more ambitious enterprise on Wednesdays at the Assembly Rooms - the now legendary Surbiton and Kingston Folk Club. This started on 14th January 1962 with a Come all Ye night. They then followed with the first Guest Night on 7th February 1962 with Caroline Hester and Richard Farina, and it then ran weekly until into the mid 1970s. This reflected the interest in the folk boom of Greenwich Village at the time, and Derek booked many American artists that were making the trip over to the UK at the time. Doc Watson, Paul Simon, Tom Paxton and Julie Felix were just some of the names.

The club was famous for its eclectic policy - Bluegrass, blues, trad jazz, traditional folk from all parts of the British Isles could all be seen. Derek was responsible for bringing over some of the Blues greats - Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee (already mentioned), Rev Gary Davis and Jesse Fuller (who made his farewell appearance at Surbiton when people like Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton and Donovan were in the audience to see the great man). I also remember a very young Scottish lad called Rod Stewart who was brought along by Long John Baldrey one night.

Diz Disley was a regular at the club and when he persuaded Stephane Grapelli out of retirement to re-form the Hot Club de Paris group, it was Surbiton where they made their debut, before going on to tour the world's concert halls.

I first met Derek in 1965 when I first went to the club and did a floor spot. He must have seen something in me as he encouraged me in my playing, and took me along on his bookings around the country. We soon became an offical duo and, after a trip to Sweden for British Week in 1968, on our return we were joined by Hazel King to form the Derek Sarjeant Trio. We had some success and played at most of the clubs around the country, as well as several TV and Radio appearances.

I moved on to Coventry with a new wife and job in 1970, and Derek and Hazel carried on as a very successful duo with regular tours in Europe. They had married and had 2 children - Joanna and Christopher, both of whom are musicians. Derek's previous marriage to Diane in the 60s produced 2 boys - Graeme and Martin.

Derek lost Hazel to cancer some years ago, and retired to Bridport in Dorset. He still sang in the local clubs from time to time but never really had the will to start up his solo career again without his beloved Hazel.

Derek was what is now called a 'mover and shaker' in the folk world, but he was also a great singer. He had a rich brown voice, somewhat reminiscent of Burl Ives, and he was always spot on in tune. His voice led to him being signed up for a series of TV adverts in the 60s, and he made national notoriety when he sang a song at the NALGO union (now UNITE)national conference to put forward a delegate motion, instead of the mornal way of making a speech. It got him on the front pages of the national press at the time!

There's loads more I could write, but others will have their own memories. I always thought that, compared to many other well known characters of the time, Derek never really got the recognition he deserved. He was an important person in the folk revival, but what it really came down to was that it was all about the music.

"A Man of Kent or Kentish Man, it's all the same to me".


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