About Hobo

Having made an entry into the folk world many years ago Hobo have moved through many phases and genres but have now settled on their identity. This has seen their focus change over the last 30 years from trad folk as Sun Valley and the Rizlas, through the blues and experimental Transient Groovers to what now could be described as anything between blues, folk, electric rock, or just down right weird (Most of the latter is kept back for quality control reasons… but some slips through).




So when did this all start…..

…….Probably when Skets moved south to the Home Counties in the late 1960’s…..and hooked up with Willo at Junior School. Against all odds both made it to STABGS in 1971. Just a week before going to STABGS in the summer of ’72 Bass first met Willo through a mutual friend (Yo Tim) and on enrolment at that august academic institution he was introduced to the class joker…Skets….

Some time passed…in aimless teenage boredom…but in considerable middle class comfort…sounds were being absorbed …..as were cans of low rent cider at local youth clubs and at limp little parties occasionally enlivened by the threat of biff which even more rarely actually broke out.

By Xmas ‘75 Skets was grade 8 piano and Bass had spent a couple of years scratching around, to little effect, trying to teach himself guitar. Willo generally played rugby.
Xmas ’75 arrived and Skets and Bass both became owners of brand new playable 6 string acoustic guitars….things were looking up. This momentous turn of events also coincided with the arrival at school of a couple of rather hairy young teachers who set up a ‘folk club’ that was to meet lunchtimes and be introduced to the niceties of ‘proper’ folk music. We went along and weirdly Willo came to…not having an obvious instrument in his hand at the time he was given a pair of spoons and became an instant rhythm section.

Thus was born Sun Valley and The Rizlas our first incarnation. Rapidly Willo found the spoons too limiting…so taught himself penny whistle using his knowledge of maths, Skets acquired a mandolin, Bass on 6 string – other members were Weed on 6 string, Johnny M on fiddle and a motley selection of singers who were chosen on the basis of the pullovers they wore for public performances.
The repertoire…was…well rather trad folk: Spotted Cow, Sullivan’s John, Whiskey in the Jar, Adieu Bon County but gradually a few other influences crept in: Hesitation Blues, Fog on Tyne (?)..etc etc.
There were 4 public performances of this combo, all at school and in front of incredibly long suffering parents.

Behind the scenes however much worse was beginning to breakout – electricity had been discovered and so Skets , Bass and Willo tooled up for adventures in a new space ….playing very badly and loud…it’s a winner. Through our ever growing social scene we recruited a bass player George, Willo got some drums and truly dodgy sounds began to emerge.

The electric set included such gems as Route 66, I Know You Rider, Magic Bus, Chauffeur Blues, That’s It for the Other One, It Hurts Me Too, Bertha…so a big Grateful Dead/SF scene bias. We usually played at one or others house after the parentals had exited to party, dinner dance or otherwise lighten the mood of the generally depressing 1970’s. Mind expansion was now part of our mix alongside any booze we could lay our hands on. The surviving cassettes from this period shouldn’t have…

So 1978 arrives and pretty soon the crew is breaking up, Skets to go to Uni in Cardiff, Willo after an abortive attempt to broaden his mind in the Para’s decided a life on the ocean waves would be more interesting and signed up as a cadet officer in the merchant navy…next stop Singapore, KL and the wide spaces of the Pacific. Considerably duller…Bass stayed at school until autumn ’79 when he toddled off north to Sheffield to Uni. and what he hoped was a ‘happening’ music scene.

Meanwhile Bass was at Sheffield indulging in bedsits, plays, student newspapers and a great music scene that resulted in the participation of the following bands:

A Little Twisted: power funk and doom chug music, guitar, bass, drums, sax and vox. Rehearsed in the basement of a terraced house ( nippy in winter), did  pub gigs, halls of residence and final gig was supporting Vendino Pact at the infamous Limit Club for which we got £5 each

Junk: an attempt to play more interesting music without losing the punk element hence combining Jazz and pUNK. This was musick for the committed, blocks of sound welded together with anguished vox and top-notch free jazz sax, providing tasteful support were various guitars, basses, drums, percussion. This first incarnation came together after we’d done our finals in summer ’82, played about a dozen gigs (including two at The Leadmill), recorded a proper 8 track demo and then started to eat ourselves. Bass sacked due to musical differences August ’83!


The Global Hipsters: having left the band I’d started with Sir Bartney Scroat….was immediately called up by a true genius S. Crump Esq, artist, saxophone aficionado and cheese eater. We jammed for about 3 months, 6 days a week, extracted 3 half decent ideas, banged ‘em into shape and went into the bowels of the YMCA in Sheffield where a small 4 track recording studio resided alongside the Christian bodybuilders gym. 3 nights later we emerged with a finished demo…which might have been played on John Peel’s show…kudos if so!

ardiff around 1980 was really all about music for Skets, although he was meant to be doing an English degree. It was all paid for in those days – the education bit – so it didn’t feel like a total waste of time and money. The bands he paid a tenner to see around that time were the Clash, Undertones, Ruts. Then all of a sudden it was Specials and Bow Wow Wow.  Go wild in the country. What? And – how did this happen –  ‘Fade to Grey’ Visage and Spandau Ballet were showing us how to pose in kilts in Cardiff docks. No wonder his wardrobe was confused. Make up? Never wore it. And I never inhaled.


Skets wrote a musical called ‘The Bitter Suite Affair’ with a guy called Robin Hunt. They seemed to be sharing a 1930’s Raymond Chandler moment in 1980. The show was fantastic and it ran for a single lunchtime in the Sherman theatre. Next up was a lot of crooning on his 6 string, writing mawkish love songs about girls he either had and didn’t want or wanted but had not. Melancholy was an indulgence at the time, savouring the plentiful sweetness of student despair.  He still likes melancholy today when he can get it, considering it quite an underrated feeling and one that’s hard to find when you’re a bit busy.

Having decided that good old Blighty was not a particularly exciting place, Willo embarked on a career in Merchant Navy. This initially took him off to the far east, which certainly was a bit of a shock to the system having only really explored Hertfordshire to that point. The strange thing about being away for seven months at a time is how quickly you become out of touch with the music scene. Everything abroad being at least six months behind, coupled to the fact that there was invariably only one or two tapes behind the bar for months on end played over and over and over.  (Tom Waits Closing Time is a vivid memory as was Fleetwood Mac Rumours).
Luggage was always an issue so drums were not an option, but the penny whistle and the harmonica was the way to go. Many an evening was spent learning jigs, reels and the blues, on the poop deck sat on a coiled hawser in the middle of the Indian Ocean or Pacific.

There were periods back in the UK on leave or at college in North Shields spent visiting friends at University and trying to understand what a New Romantic was. – Willo didn’t get it. There was even a very wet weekend at Glastonbury with a certain Mr Davies who had spent many an evening listening to the early Rizzla offerings.
Latter trips presented the opportunity to visit the west coast of the States where much of the early musical influences had come from as well as New Orleans.   By the time Willo had qualified as a 2nd Mate the British Merchant Navy had declined by two thirds, unable to compete with rise of the Greek and Chinese shipping fleets so some random conversations led him into IT world when disk drives were the size of washing machines.



Some time 94/95 Bass and Skets hooked up again for evenings of booze and inevitably instruments were unsheathed, plecs buffed and some exploratory sounds ventured upon. Initially just acoustic doodlings, old songs dusted off and some rather good jamming…the intervening years hadn’t been entirely wasted. It’s 1995 and Willo decided upon a domestic restructuring which allowed him back on the scene for evenings of wine and song. All strictly unserious we met up perhaps every 6-8weeks played all the old songs, learnt a few newbies and got back in the groove. Skets now often on 12 string or mandolin, Willo on whistle, mouth harp and occasional 6 string, Bass, lacking imagination, still on 6 string but had acquired an ancient banjo which needed an outing.

Willo had been moaning on about the need to get loud, go electric and start writing our own material. This coincided with the big 4-oh…Bass got new acoustic, electric and amp…Skets had recently invested in keyboards…Willo splashed out on a tres ( Cuban gitar) we woz cookin’.
We also decided to get away for an extended sojourn in the country, a week of music with no women, children, pets etc when we could be totally self indulgent and see what transpired. October 2000…and it’s off to a half timbered house in Cratfield, Suffolk, and the Transient Groovers were born.

First off we recorded using the then brilliant Sony digital minidisk system – a single mic carefully placed to pick up all sounds. Worked pretty well with acoustic music though the mic tended to get overwhelmed if we pushed up the intensity. On the other hand it was single take music with no overdubs and all depended on capturing a good performance. We then gradually started combining acoustic with say electric guitars, using drum machines and mics for the vox.

Musically we started out covering all the old songs and bringing in new bluegrass, country, folk, blues, psychedelia, rock, trance…any old shit was OK if we liked it. We also got back into jamming….massive jams of a humungous nature.
The first two TG’s disks from Cratfield and Transwellow Express (West Wellow) were about preserving the past and playing enough to get the accumulated dust out of our systems – covers and experimentation.

Next we went back to Suffolk: Blaxhall, and Willo kept nagging on about writing our own material. Before he’d arrived on the first evening Skets and Bass had written the first ever TG song: Long Road Home. By the end of that week we’d written 8 new songs and covered another 5 that became It’s Only A Sketch Pad.The next album, Golden Dawn, also compiled at Blaxhall, the next year, followed the same format, recorded on minidisk and blending original songs with covers and featured Willo’s move on the electric bass –  we could now be a legit electric band …give or take some talent, technique and tumescence…..

Third time at Blaxhall was an odd affair. Death and unemployment hovered over the band…in various ways….but we’d had the smarts to invest in a fantastic Zoom HD 8 track recording thingamajig so proper home recording could commence. Out of this technology came a new iteration of the TG’s with original material and covers. Benchstrength was a step up in quality as we also hooked up with our production maestro Nick who took the basic tracks, polished them up, mixed them properly and put a professional gloss on them that was way beyond our nascent recording skills.

2006 and its time for a change of location and we find Keepers Cottage, Oxnead, in deepest Norfolk. This time the covers take on a new character as we use cover lyrics but generate our own music which often bears no relation to the originals. We also manage to dredge up 7 originals lifting a phrase from one of the more Jungian tracks for the cd title: Transcendental Emanation. Alongside sending of the tracks for Nicks’ quality knob twiddling Bass was rightly outvoted and a drummer, Mike,  enlisted to overdub rhythm tracks…backwards yes but typical of our working methods. No question Mikes’ contribution made all the difference, new depth and dynamic was added…our first political song was allowed past the bullshit sensors – all was rosy in the jardin.

It’s a no brainer …back to Oxnead for another week, late’07 and we hit a rich vein of Americana that all hangs together and we deliver some decent performance’s, accept that we need to use some overdubs, especially of vocals which really ups the quality of the final sound. Again we follow the formula of using cover lyrics but do some straight covers and a handful of originals as well. Hard Cash seems to be the most completely realised of TG output…and has the best artwork! As before Mike and Nick have quality input and we’re chuffed as the proverbial canines’ cojones.

Willo’s itchy feet again take us to a new venue, Woodmill Lodge, Southrepps for 2008/09 –  a great base with a massive double height living room for playing and underfloor heating….bloody luxury…certainly compared to some of our previous shacks. Sadly we were in poorer condition than the gaff with all suffering variously from flu, colds and shonky backs. Output was consequently lacklustre…the difficult eighth album perchance? Recordings were made, songs written, covers covered but it didn’t come together. Time passed and lo we were back again in late 2009 all fit and with a ‘red’ results oriented approach to the project. We’d also arrived with two solid ideas half written and had written two more decent songs within a day…the 5 Year Plan was being fulfilled…perhaps even surpassed –  Praise the Lord! This time we also tried to take a slightly different approach to writing songs by drawing on real life stuff: Skets moving south as a child, Bass nearly moving to NY etc which seemed to make the lyrics, always the hardest part of the song writing for us, flow a little more easily/credibly. The resulting disc North & South is a mix of songs from both years but with 11 out of 14 songs originals not too shabby.

Hobo, as they are now, felt comfortable at Southrepps. It seemed to have all the right ticks in the box and the large main room allowed plenty of space to play and manage all the kit. Although there had been debate that a new location might inspire new songs they returned and were pleasantly surprised at the output that seemed to come fairly easily. This was probably due to the fact that Skets had got an electric and so a new sound and rhythm section was born. However there are still trademark sounds in some of the songs on Shop n Pray. The other feature was to have Suzanne on the end of a phone when they got stuck on lyrics and invariably she would provide the missing link.

© GoHobo