Roy Bailey has played a seminal role in the evolution of British folk music for more than four decades. Having launched his career in 1958 as a member of a skiffle band, Bailey has continued to perform as a soloist, and as leader of the Band of Hope, an acoustic group he formed with Martin Carthy, John Kirkpatrick, Dave Swarbrick, and Stefan Hannigan. While Mojo called him "the very soul of folk's working class ideals," Labour MP Tony Benn declared that Bailey was "the greatest socialist folksinger of his generation." Chris Smith, England's minister of culture, called him "one of the world's best carriers of the people's message." Turning to music while serving in the British military in 1954, Bailey helped to form a folk club while attending Leicester University. Initially inspired by the industrial folk songs of Pete Seeger and the Weavers, he increasingly veered toward political topics. He studied Marxism at Leicester University and had his convictions strengthened by three socialist students he met at Further Education College in Southend. With the encouragement of Ewan MacColl, he became the musical voice of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Bailey's first career break came when he was invited to replace Martin Carthy in Leon Rosselson's band, the Three City Four. Planning to begin teaching in a London college, he quickly changed his career direction and agreed to join the band. He left the group in the late '60s after accepting a position as lecturer of sociology at Bradford University. In 1972, he transferred to Sheffield University, where he headed the sociology department until 1989. Elected a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts in 1989, Bailey was awarded an MBE for "services to folk music" in 2000. His 40th anniversary as a folksinger was celebrated with a concert on March 29, 1988, at Royal Albert Hall that featured guests Billy Bragg, Martin Carthy, Tom Robinson, and Labour MP Tony Benn. Bailey has continued to mentor a younger generation of folk musicians. His most recent albums feature accompaniment by Karen Tweed, Ian Carr, and Andy Cutting.
Share this page