Billy Bennington

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Billy Bennington, Norfolk hammered dulcimer player, 1900-1986.

Billy was born at Barford in Norfolk, into a musical household - his mother played melodeon and his father played the tin whistle. Billy's first instrument was a glockenspiel, which he was given around the age of six. He was later given his first dulcimer by his father, who kept the King's Head public house at Barford. In 1912, Billy went to Hingham Show, where he heard Billy Cooper playing the dulcimer. Cooper's father was bandmaster of the Hingham and Watton band, and Billy took lessons from him. Billy frequently rode a bicycle with his dulcimer strapped to his back, with the ends sticking out above his shoulders. This made him look like he had wings, and so he acquired the nickname "the Barford Angel".

Billy usually played by striking the strings with cane beaters (hammers) bound with wool, but sometimes he would pluck the strings with the nails of the first finger and thumb. On some tunes he would even combine these two techniques. He played a wide range of tunes, including hornpipes, polkas, schottisches, jigs, and marches.

Billy spent most of his life as a gardener, and continued to perform well into his 80s at local folk festivals, frequently accompanied by his wife Iris. He died on October 18, 1986.


Discography

  • Billy Bennington, The Barford Angel, Veteran VT152CD (reissue of earlier LP) 24 tracks
  • Various artists, Down in the Fields, Veteran VTC4CD - 1 track
  • Various artists, I Thought I Was The Only One, Veteran VTVS07/08 - 10 tracks