Rory and Alex McEwen, and
Carolyne and Dick Farina:
Four For Fun

Waverly Records (ELP 113) 1963
Released in Scotland.

Songs:
Deep Blue Sea - 3:16
Banks O'Sicily - 2:25
Salty Dog - 1:57
Chastity Belt - 4:49

Rory (right) and Alex (left) McEwen were a popular Scottish folk duo in the fifties and sixties. They are briefly discussed in Hajdu's book. Hajdu doesn't mention this EP; he only states that the quartet recorded four songs in a London studio (p. 129), though other sources say this EP was recorded in Scotland. Despite Fariņa's penchant for self-promotion, he seems not to have made much of this record. There is only a passing reference to it, as an unnamed 45, in their inaugural Broadside of Boston spotlight article. I cannot detect a dulcimer on any of the songs, and only two of the tracks sound like they have Richard's voice.

Some notes on the songs:

"Deep Blue Sea" is the only song that features Carolyn on lead vocal. This folksong has been recorded by Odetta, Pete Seeger, and many others.

"Banks O' Sicily" was a song by Hamish Henderson, originally titled "The 51st Highland Division's Farewell to Sicily." This in turn was based on the tune of "Farewell to the Creeks," composed by Pipe-Major James Robertson of Banff, Scotland. Hamish's "Banks O' Sicily" is in Scots English and is difficult to understand even with printed lyrics. Fariņa did keep a species of the song in his repertoire, combining it with Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" to form the winsome instrumental they called "Hamish." (It has also been speculated that Bob Dylan adapted the melody of "Banks O' Sicily" for "The Times, They Are A-Changin'".)

"Salty Dog" is one of the two tracks in which I can actually detect Fariņa's voice. That's him saying "Take it away" to introduce a guitar solo, and he sings the following verses after the solo:

Down in the welldrip, sittin' on a log
Finger on the trigger and an eye on the hog
Honey let me be your salty dog.

Pullin' the trigger and the gun let go
Shot landed over in-a Mexico
Honey let me be your salty dog.

"Chastity Belt" is an imitation Elizabethan ballad. Originally titled "Sir Oswald Sodde," it was written for a South African musical revue, Wait a Minim. The lyrics can be found at http://users.bestweb.net/~foosie/minim2.htm. It's a silly song about a woman locked up in a chastity belt. Her husband goes off to war, taking the key to her chastity belt. She employs a locksmith to remove the belt, but it baffles his skills. Finally, the husband returns from war, but confesses that the key fell overboard into the Strait of Gibraltar. All parties consider the case hopeless until a page boy presents a duplicate key. I'm not sure, but I think Richard sings the page boy's lines in this recording. Carolyn of course sings the part of the locked-up wife. Richard and Mimi resurrected this song a few years later for a performance they gave with Barry Tashian of The Remains, when they were interviewed on MIT radio station WTBS. The Richard & Mimi version is much better than the one on Four for Fun.


Notes from the back of the EP:

Four songs, four singers, three men and a girl. It was the Edinburgh Festival of 1962 that brought Rory and Alex McEwen, two of the most popular folk singers in Britain, into partnership with Carolyne and Dick Farina, a husband and wife team from America. The four songs they sing all come from their Festival show. Two are American, one is Scots, and the other, a new one, is naughty in any language. The soprano is Carolyne. The harmonica is Dick. And Rory and Alex the guitars.




Two of the tracks, "Salty Dog" and "Chastity Belt," were re-issued on the Waverly compilation LP Folk Favorites (ZLP 2067) released in 1966.

Some info on Alex & Rory McEwen:

Four For Fun was part of a series of EPs that Rory and recorded. Shown at left is their second LP, Scottish Songs and Ballads (1957). They traveled the U.S. in the late fifties in order to learn American folk and blues, and in turn introduced Americans to Scottish music. After returning to Scotland, Rory and Alex were regular guests on the talk show, Tonight, and after that, Alex had his own show, Alex Awhile. They stopped performing in the mid-sixties. Rory became a botanical painter, and Alex entered the business world as a newspaper distributor. Rory died in 1982 by falling onto subway tracks. Alex died 6 December 2008.


Many thanks to Ian Woodward and Thomas McKean for supplying information and materials for this page.

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