George ‘Spike’ Spicer, singer, 1906-1981.
George Spicer was born at Little Chart, Kent in 1906 and left school at the age of 14, when he went to work on a local farm as a general farmhand. After two years he became an under herdsman and at the age of twenty-six the head man. His early working life was spent on farms in the Dover and Deal area and continued on various farms in Kent near Faversham, Canterbury, Maidstone and Biggin Hill before moving to Selsfield, Sussex, in 1940, where he was employed as head herdsman with pedigree Guernsey cattle. Here he was to work for virtually all of the next 31 years until retiring in 1971.
George had a vast store of songs ranging from music hall tearjerkers to classic traditional ballads. Many he learnt from his parents, others from various relatives and still more from pub singsongs. After retiring he remained very active as a part time gamekeeper, village cricket umpire and enthusiastic gardener; he won over a thousand certificates at various flower shows for his skills.
A renowned singer, throughout his life George performed in village pubs at sing arounds - including the Cherry Tree at Copthorne where he encountered Pop Maynard - and various others around the Ashdown Forest area. He often sang in company with Harry Holman of Copthorne, a friend of Pop’s. During the 1950s he regularly took his son Ron Spicer along to play accordion while he did the singing.
The collector Ken Stubbs maintained that George was never ‘discovered’ by song collectors. He insisted George was so well known as a singer that anyone visiting the area in search of traditional material could not help but find him.
Brian Matthews remembers him as ‘a fine powerful singer who would dominate most pub sing-songs ... much to the annoyance of other singers, I gather.’ This was so marked that Brian only heard his son Ron Spicer sing in public after George’s death.
George died at Selsfield, Sussex in 1981 at the age of 75. He made one complete Topic LP, Blackberry Fold (12T235), 1974, and could be heard on tracks of several others: he sang I Wish there was no Prisons on the EP Four Sussex Singers (Collector LEB 7), 1961; and The Thrashing Machine and Lilly White Hand on When Sheepshearing’s Done (Topic 12T254), 1975.
Part of the booklet notes, written by Mike Yates, to the Musical Traditions Records CDs Up in the North and Down in the South (MTCD311-2)
George Frampton "I don't know if this is actually a folk song" The Life and Music of George Spicer (1906-1981)
- Part 1: A Boyhood in Kent https://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/g_spicer.htm
- Part 2: The West Langdon Years, 1928-35 https://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/g_spice2.htm
- Part 3: Crossing the Border, 1935-1953 https://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/g_spice3.htm
- Part 4: The Old House Years, 1948-1981 https://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/g_spice4.htm
- Various artists, Just Another Saturday Night, Musical Traditions, MTCD309-10 (4 tracks)
- Various artists, Up in the North and Down in the South, Musical Traditions, MTCD311-2 (6 tracks)
- Various Artists, Down in the Fields, Veteran, VTC4CD (2 tracks)