Live at the Red Hart Pub in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England. 10th March 1975


But long before then the real start of it all was a wooden floored school room in a British Army Primary school in Hohne, Germany in the early fifties. I couldn't have been more than seven years old, and during music lessons, we kids would group ourselves around the piano where our very attractive, and rather young lady music teacher, would lead us in Singing folk songs. I loved every minute of it and it was an early introduction for me to a form of song writing that I found fascinating! Songs like 'Clemantine' and 'Camptown Races' I can Recall.

Most of my childhood was spent in Germany, and when the family moved to England in 1961, I felt lost and didn't feel that I belonged. It left me with a burning ambition to leave home at the first available opportunity and go abroad. Being a rather simple fellow I went for the easiest option that I could think of...I joined the army.

And was it fate or fortune that directed me towards my first posting at Tonfanau in North Wales? I ended up in Alamein Platoon, C Company, The All Arms Junior Leaders Regiment. This was where I was to befriend a blonde haired, guitar playing kid called Rob Van Spyk. It was April 1964 and we were both 16 years old. We shared a room for about eighteen months, and then went our seperate ways to our own respective units for the next six years, but did manage to keep in touch by letter and also enjoyed a couple of shared leaves together. But not once did our Regiments ever serve in the same place together, and between us we went to Germany, Malta, Libya, Malaya, Singapore and Northern Ireland.

When I had just turned twenty, and very much to my shock and surprise, I began to write poems or, more accurately, song lyrics! It would be a major turning point in my life. I think Bob Dylan has to share some of the blame for this! For I had latched onto him in a very big way, and played his recordings over and over again at every chance that I could get. My finale two years in uniform were spent in the tropics, in Singapore and Malaya, with 3 Commando Brigade. It was during this period where the lyrics just simply poured out of me. I fully realised that on their own they would be nothing and that they were crying out for tunes! As I didn't play a guitar I contacted Rob, and the Van Spyk-Friend song writing partnership was born. At the end of 1970, and after a tour of active service in Ulster, I left the Army and joined Rob, who by now was also a civilian, in Letchworth and we began to plan our first recording session.

We recorded ten songs at Easter 1971 and pressed four acetates. (which have long since been bootlegged all around the world!) Three fruitless years of rejection by every record label we approached would follow, so we took the decision to record our own albums independantly of the system. In Easter 1974 we recorded our first commercial album 'Follow the Sun' by 'R.J.Van Spyk and Friends.' Joining us in the studio was, our good friend from Tewkesbury, Brian Balster. He and Rob did most of the work, but I did join them to record my first self penned composition 'Come the Day', for I was now teaching myself to play the guitar! This was the acoustic version, of what would in a mere matter of weeks, become the Folk band 'Stonefield Tramp.' Our first album was recorded in only four hours with 'straight takes' and at £4 an hour, cost us a mere £16. Unbelievable by today's standards!

Things developed at a hectic pace and the album sold so well we returned to the studio and recorded another one. This time our sound was enhanced by Dave Lloyd on electric guitar and Chris Sutoris on Bass. It was September 1974 and Stonefield Tramp were now an official band. We also chose this moment to launch our own label 'Tramp Records.' Once again Brian joined us, but this time I took no part in the recording. The album was 'Dreaming Again.'



Rob Van Spyk, Brian Balster, Chris Sutoris, Peter Kiely and Terry Friend. Recording Session November 2005.