Quote for Arts Centres, Theatres and Folk Clubs:
Winner of BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards "Best Live Act" Award 2001
Vin’s career has spanned over 40 years of constant world wide touring which must make him some kind of elder statesman of folk. His songs were inspired by the folk tradition at the beginning of his career, they still are but have transformed into gritty social comment and life observations. He is renowned for his hilarious intros but for him his song lyrics are the crux of his performance.
“Vin cuts through the bull, grasping those he meets firmly by the hand and shaking them up with a dose of laughter and tears. It’s a true gift to be able to make us laugh and squirm at the same time, but Vin does both. He should be prescribed on the National Health.” English Folk Dance & Song Society.
“Every budding singer-songwriter please take note: attending a Vin Garbutt concert is now mandatory before your first public performance. Garbutt is the undisputed master of communicating with an audience.” Penguin Eggs magazine. Canada
BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Nominee for "Best Folk Singer" and "Best Live Act" Awards 2001
Winner of BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards "Best Live Act" Award 2001
Honorary Degree of Master of Arts awarded to Vin by Teesside University in 2001 for his music and his services to the arts and culture of the area of the North East of England.
BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Nominee for "Best Live Act" Award 2007
Vin Garbutt is reputed to have said that he is not interested in becoming a big star in the accepted sense. Nevertheless in the area of music where he performs, there is no bigger star. He prefers to be a big fish in a small pond. This attitude means that his need for privacy and a balanced home life are safeguarded and satisfied. What the world realised long before Vin did, was that the small pond had grown over the years into a considerable lake.
All this has happened without the hype from big Record Companies, and without the usual publicity from the mass media. He has performed all over the globe, and in parts of countries that the biggest stars will never see. This phenomenon has occurred solely by word of mouth, spread by people who have come across him, and felt the need to share this unique experience with their fellow countrymen.
He was born in South Bank, Middlesbrough, to an Irish mother and an English father. He discovered Folk Music whilst he was still at school, becoming a regular visitor (and performer) at The Rifle Club in Cannon Street, Middlesbrough. On leaving school Vin was steered into the safety of an apprenticeship at the massive I.C.I. Wilton Chemical Plant. During this period he set off regularly to Ireland in search of his musical roots. At the age of 21, he threw caution to the winds and became a professional musician. Armed with the rich repertoire of songs he had amassed, he spent the first summer busking his way around the bars of Spain's Mediterranean coast, and on to Morocco via Gibraltar. It was then that he found he had a talent for songwriting.
Back in England in 1972 he recorded his first album for Bill Leader - The Valley Of Tees. This firmly established him as a singer and songwriter of fine socially conscious, and environmentally aware songs. As one magazine very recently put it - "Vin Garbutt was green long before the Greens were green!"
THE man of British folk music
Throughout the 70's Vin's reputation grew rapidly until he became "the most sought after performer on the Folk Scene". The development of his 'Act' took in songs of the past and his own material, his introductions became more and more zany and funny, and his brilliant tin-whistle playing never ceased to amaze. "Half the fun on some of his numbers is spotting the story he has told you in the song he is singing" - to quote one review.
As "THE Man of British Folk Music" in the '80's he was asked to tour abroad: visiting the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Yugoslavia, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Cyprus, Singapore, Thailand, and Bermuda.
Modern protest singer
The modern protest singers would appear to have stopped writing because they feel threatened by the protests about their choice of topics. Not so, Vin Garbutt - if it's there, it's there to be discussed! His songwriting covers topics ranging from, exploitation of foreign workers, to unemployment, to oppression, to abortion, to abuse of agrochemicals, to sexual exploitation, to deforestation, to cosmetic surgery, to the genocide of Timorese people, to road building, to the North/South divide, to foetal experimentation, to industrial polution, to emigration, etc. etc. Needless to say there are many traditional as well as fun songs included. It is no surprise therefore to find that Vin has ruffled a few ethical/political feathers by his comprehensive range of subjects. His fellow professional musicians were filled with admiration at his gutsy stances - "he really sticks his neck out and occasionally gets it kicked in, but this doesn't stop him, I'm a big fan of his!" - Loudon Wainwright III.
The '90's saw an even bigger explosion of interest in Vin and his work. Trevor Burton of The Move fame saw him perform and handed a tape to Alan Whetton of Dexy's Midnight Runners. He went to see him perform and became an instant Garbutt 'nut', and demanded to produce his next two albums - When The Tide Turns and The Bypass Syndrome. Alan played the original tape to a number of 'Rock Names' who all volunteered to play on these albums including Robbie McIntosh of The Paul McCartney Band.
In an attempt to satisfy the demands for his services throughout the world as well as maintaining his huge home based following, he set off around the world in 23 days in 1991. He now does this every year, but sadly from the home point of view it is now taking eight weeks.
The biggest draw on the British folk scene
To get a sample of how he works try to get a copy of his 1996 C.D. - Plugged! This is a live recording, obviously a lot of the 'patter' is missed out, otherwise there wouldn't be room for the songs, but it does give you an insight into why he is still "The biggest draw on the British Folk Scene", and at the same time show you why "Vin Garbutt is the funniest and most serious man on the Folk Scene!"
30 years as a professional performer
During 1999 Vin celebrated his 30th year as a professional performer. He spent the early part of the year on a world tour, playing extensively in the Far East, Australia and New Zealand. As soon as he got back to England he set off on his “Take It Easy After 30 Years On The Road” tour. To coincide with the tour he released his “Word Of Mouth” CD, which as you can tell by the title, was a statement in itself. He played up and down Britain to packed theatres. The concerts were a showcase for Vin’s thirty years of song writing with the story of his career containing many humorous anecdotes. His fans made a huge effort to be part of the celebrations and it was a great year with the renewal of many friendships and the sharing of past memories. It was a great way to see out the 20th century.
Then it was time to bring in the new. No sooner had the New Millennium begun than a new event was on the calendar. The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Vin was asked to present the award to The Best Folk Club 2000 and in the following year Vin was nominated for “Folk Singer of the Year” and also “Best Live Act”. Indeed Vin was the winner of “The Best Live Act” BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2001. Vin has now become a familiar face at the event and was delighted to be asked to again present an award in 2002. Later on in this same year Vin was congratulated as "Teesside’s roving ambassador of folk music" for performing and writing songs for over 30 years, gaining inspiration from the people and culture of Teesside. He was thanked for his services to the arts and the area of the North East of England.
During 2001 Vin published the first collection of his songs. “The Vin Garbutt SongBook”. The collection spans his career from ‘The Valley Of Tees’ written in 1971 to ‘The Troubles Of Erin’ written in 1999. The book was very popular and inevitably Vin’s fans were soon asking “Where is the CD which matches the book?”. So shortly after, Vin issued ‘The Vin Garbutt Songbook’ CD. This was Vin’s first ever complilation CD and was very well received. It is popular as a collection but also very popular as a sampler for people who are new to Vin’s music. Vin’s career has continued to flourish and 2004 saw him take on another world tour. Vin’s annual workload is pretty gruelling and the touring was tiring and of course Vin isn’t as young as he used to be but a check up did highlight a health problem. It was nothing to worry about at the time and occasional monitoring of the situation was recommended. However early in 2005 whilst on a sabbatical trip to Spain Vin’s condition deteriorated and on his return he was hospitalised. He needed a repair to one of his heart valves, which was quickly carried out, and Vin has since made a full recovery. It was hard having to be unable to perform for five months but Vin was soon back on the road and his voice is now as good as ever. An advantage of Vin’s recuperation period was that he was able to work on his long awaited album ‘Persona…Grata which was launched at The Sage, Gateshead on October 6th 2005.
The last four years have seen Vin back to normal. Fully fit and constantly touring as always. Apart from Britain Vin has visited Canada four times, Holland twice, two tours of Australia taking in Malaysia and Singapore and a full tour of New Zealand. He has also played in a few places for the very first time, Punta Prima in Spain in 2008 where there is a thriving folk club and also Merida in Spain. On this occasion Vin was invited by the Merida Book Club to play at the Merida Centre for Culture. The book club had been studying one of Vin's songs and decided to get him along in person to join in the discussion. The audience at the concert were mainly Spanish speaking so it was a new experience for Vin but he was very well received and his songs of political and social comment were especially appreciated. Another new destination was Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.A. Little Rock has a small but enthusiastic folk club run by Len Holton. Little Rock is a long way from anywhere! but Vin just couldn't resist Len's persuasive skills mostly involving the promise of as much tex-mex food as Vin could eat. So as you can see Vin's travels are still colourful and varied and 2010 sees him about to set off for his most extensive tour of Australia ever. Vin, what happened to that plan you made in 2005 to cut back on the workload? Here we are five years later and nothing has changed, there are a whole lot of people out there who are very glad about that!!
Vin has always toured alone but over the last few years Vin has had to get used to being followed everywhere by a camera. Film maker Craig Hornby has spent three years following Vin around the world for his documentary “Teesside Troubadour” a film about Vin’s life and work. Craig is interested in the influences that affect Teesside and found that Vin had already been recognised as an ambassador for the area. His songs about his love for the North East of England, the industry, the people and their values, have been taken to a world wide audience. Here’s what Craig has to say about the film.
“Vin Garbutt is a legend of English folk music. His trademark blend of traditional reels, passionate protest songs and zany patter has won him legions of fans across the world. And he has achieved this, not with any major backing or media profile but with non-stop touring and word of mouth.”
Now, after 40 years on the road, Vin’s unique story is told in this definitive documentary. Filmed in Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Europe and in his native North East, it combines fly-on-the-wall, unseen archive and live concert footage plus candid interviews. ‘Teesside Troubadour’ is typically Vin - fascinating, philosophical and funny!
The film was released in 2010 and shown at Cineworld on Teesside to packed houses for a week, a week which would have been extended had it not been for the release of the latest Harry Potter movie. I think Vin can live with that! Teesside Troubadour is now available on DVD. Vin’s fans have been vocal in appreciating not just a concert on DVD but the quintessential Vin life story wrapped up in a box!
2010 - 2014
Vin’s first tour of Australia was in 1977 and he has more or less toured there biannually ever since. He was the first British folk artist to tour in Australia invited out by Ray Downes. In 2010 he was away down under again but managed to get there twice in one year. He set off in February with singer songwriter Stan Graham as chaperone. He usually travels with his wife Pat but she had to pass the driving duties over to Stan to stay at home and await the birth of Vin and Pat’s first grandchild. Vin called in at Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to play concerts to his loyal audiences out there, then on to cover many miles in Oz, taking part in the summer festivals and clubs from Alice Springs to South Australia and Perth and even a quick hop over to Hobart in Tasmania. Quite a gruelling agenda for someone with a dicky ticker.
Following the tour he was invited to return that same year at Christmas to play at the famous Woodford Folk Festival. A huge festival - something that everybody should experience once in a lifetime. Vin had a fabulous time and was treated with amazing warmth and hospitality, he felt really valued musically.
In between these two long hauls he played 65 gigs in Britain and also launched his life story film ‘Teesside Troubadour’, information about the film is in a separate article on this page.
For the following years he continued his heavy schedule in Britain and in 2013 toured again in Australia and Tasmania. On his return he started work on his 16th album ‘Synthetic Hues’ with assistance and encouragement from Anthony Robb of Hooky Mat Records. The album was completed this year (2014) and is released on October 31st.