The Keelers - Story of the Group

The Start The Keelers were set up in 1986 in time for the Newcastle Tall Ships' Race. In fact, their first gig was a recording for BBC Radio Newcastle at the newly opened Fenham studios. Twelve shanties were put down in an hour and a half, and were used by the BBC as background for their coverage of the Tall Ships sailing day. They are still occasionally heard to back up something of a nautical theme. The group at its inception was Alan, Jim, Peter and the two Wilson brothers Steve and Mike. It's a little known secret that no practice whatever took place except for 5 minutes' discussion in the BBC reception hall about which shanties who was doing ! When we apologised for them being a bit rough, he said "but I want then rough-you're supposed to be working sailors aren't you?"

Early Years The group continued as predominantly a shanty group for several years, doing all the main maritime festivals in England and several in Europe, notably Holland, Frieseland, France, Germany, and Poland. During this time the group rose to seven with the joining of Danny McLeod and George Unthank. We played a major part in the second Tall Ships' Race in Newcastle in 1993, inaugurating a shanty composition competition for the crews of the ships, and visiting no less than 40 Newcastle schools as part of the Folkworks project. This culminated in a mass sing by the kids during race week. Some have accused us of having religion due to appearances on both "Highway" and "Songs of Praise" during these Tall Ships' Races, but there is little other evidence. Three of the group, "Pinch o' Salt" did a project on the poems of Cicely Fox Smith, culminating in an album.

Today we are down to a hard core of four, and whilst we still do shanties and sea songs, we have branched out a bit. The last album, North Sea Ground, has a number of north east songs, particularly of the pits, and is greatly helped by Alan's ability to put great tunes to otherwise dead poems.