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Family Business

B.C. Of course, it was gradual. And being behind a bar is a great help; you're in the public eye. It's very akin to show business, quite honestly, and more so in a club than a pub, probably.

J.C. That recalls an anecdote there. I get Dad to give me a bit of help behind the bar and do a bit of cleaning, and it runs in the family. When Dad was my age, at exactly the same bar, he used to get Jim as an old man to come over from Rottingdean and give a hand. The day finally came when he said "Would you mind doing a bit of bar work?", early one Saturday evening. There were only two or three customers to deal with; but Jim had never done that before. After it was all over, Dad said "How did you get on with the customers then?". He said "Oh, no bloody trouble at all, boy. I got on with the shelves. I never took no notice of them and they never took no notice of me."

B.C. But the old man, when we were doing the radio programme The Life Of James Copper, we'd done the recordings and they were coming down to do some photographs for Radio Times. Dad turned up, and he had quite a nice appearance, white hair and a nice tweed suit, you could take him anywhere - he turned up this morning in his old corduroy weskit, a funny old cap, his old stick and a neckerchief. Joan, my wife, said "What's the matter with the old man? I think he's flipped." She was horrified, and I was a bit. But I said to her later; "Who got his picture on the front of Radio Times, the cunning old bugger?!"

Do you ever play up to it, put on your old clothes?

J.C. No, never (laughs). If anything, we go the other way. We turn up in best suits because it's an occasion. Just to say "if you think we're rustics, we'll go the other way". Peter Bellamy once said we look like a convention of country solicitors! Dad turned round to him and said "It's better than looking like Mr. Kentucky Fried Chicken, isn't it?". Poor old Pete!

B.C. But any pub singer had an extrovert streak, the ones I've recorded; my father for a start, Enos White, Turp Brown, they wouldn't have been there otherwise.

This feature first appeared in issue 20 of The Southern Rag (the original title of fRoots) in April 1984.


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