Autumnal Answers (October/November) Part Two
12/20/2006 (updated 12/28/2006)

My middle name is Ross, after my father's great grandfather and my brother has been tracing our family history via the UK census.

To our surprise, we have discovered the 'Ross' I am named after is William Gribbon Ross (our great great grandfather), music hall star of the 1840s and lyric writer of the ballad Sam Hall which I have just tracked down to your performance on one of your cds and purchased from your website.

My question is - as I have also discovered that Johnny Cash recorded a version of the song - are your lyrics with mention of 'the sherriff' the original music hall lyrics from 1840, or the same slightly Americanised version that Cash sings?

As a singer/songwriter myself (I worked with the Kinks during their concept musical days in the 70s and later joined the Gordon Giltrap Band using my voice as an instrument. I now focus more with music and songs to relax and heal) I am fascinated to discover that the 'writing gene' seems to have been passed down, and want to learn and perform this rather grisly ballad myself. I now have a line drawing of WG Ross performing in the 1840s in character as the chimney sweep Sam Hall, and would love to know when I come to sing the song, that I was using the exact words (or as close as possible!) that he wrote.

Thank you so much for your time and trouble in reading this, and I look forward to receiving a reply at some point.

Kind regards

Shirlie Ross Roden

Fascinating stuff. I used the version in a book called (I think) Songs Of The British Music Hall, Published By Oak. It also contains what I presume would be the same line drawing of W.G. Ross in the persona of the murderer. As I mention in the liner notes to !000 Years Of Popular Music, Sam Hall seems to be based on a song about Captain Kidd, from 100 years earlier, with the same word structure, and I assume (because Iíve never heard it) the same or a similar tune. Iíve never heard the Johnny Cash version.

I have long tried to figure out how to play Love is Bad for Business but can't get the right sound. Is there a special tuning being used?



I think that was played in straight tuning, I kept the open G string ringing through some of the chords. Thatís about as much help as I can be, itís been a while since I played or heard it.

You casually mentioned Flea in your answers to a question recently. He is widely regarded as one of 'rock' music's (whatever that means now) finest instrumentalists. You often talk fascinatingly about many obscure jazz, folk etc musicians who have inspired you, but I'd like to know if any of the current commercially successful rock players light your fire and enthuse your playing. John Frusciante for example, or the boys from Radiohead?

many thanks


Flea is a fantastic player, one of the best bassists in music, and the Chili Peppers are a great band. I had the pleasure of meeting them after their recent Earlís Court concert in London, and they were very gracious to my son and his friend. Radiohead I like a lot. As to new new, Iím struggling to thinkÖfrom the last 20 years of pop, anyway, Iíd say Weezer, Blur, Pulp, Ben Folds, Dido, Aimee Mann, Supergrass, Cardigans have all tickled me a bit, and Iím forgetting 50 others.

Why doesnít he come to Spain? His albums always get lots of press. Branch out Richard. The world isnít just USA and UK


Iíd love to, but some promoter has to think itís a good idea, and book me. Please pester your local promoter.

I really like the performance of "Remember O Thou Man" on 1,000 years. So in preparation for Christmas, I'm looking through an old News Chronicle "Christmas Melodies" from the 1940's inherited from my parents and I find "Remember God's Goodness", words trad. music Thomas Ravenscroft (presumably not the late Peel's son). It's different words to yours, same music but rather unpleasant modalities (you've got more appropriate minor chords and scales). So where did you come across this yourself?

This is reprinted in Chappellís Popular Music Of Olden Time (Dover Books), and attributed to Thomas Ravenscroft. I have seen other versions of the words, and it does seem to be an older song. I did leave out a couple of the more hellfire and damnation verses.

Wonderful performance at this years HSB festival in SF.

I wonder if you'd mind explaining your guitar set-up during that performance. You had a particularly good sound: crisp, harmonic, bassy but not muddy. If you'd not mind telling me your guitar type/pedals or any thing that might have contributed to the sound I'd appreciate it.

On the gear page of this website youíll find full details of onstage setups. Iíll summarize the acoustic setup:

Lowden L32FC guitar with Sunrise p/u and Countryman Isomax internal mic. Both p/u and mic go through a Ridge Farm ĎGas Cookerí preamp.

For many years I have been convinced that it is Richard playing guitar on 'Would You Believe Me' on John & Bev Martyn's Stormbringer. This isn't credited on the album and I have never seen it on any lists. Can you confirm?

Thanks, Paul.

Itís possible Ė I canít remember, and I donít have a copy.

Richard, are you familiar with Jorma Kaukonen's work and would you consider working with him in the future? Don Lennon

Well, I loved the Airplane, and Iíve heard a bit of Jormaís acoustic work, all fine stuff. He also runs a fine summer school. As to playing with Ė Iím not sure we have too much of a common musical language.