Bill Leader

Bill Leader

Bill Leader is an English recording engineer and producer. He is particularly associated with the British folk music revival of the 1960s and 1970s, producing records by Davey Graham, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Frank Harte and others.

Bill Leader was born in New Jersey in the late 1920s, of British parents. His parents returned to the UK while he was still young and he was brought up in Dagenham, Essex, Mottingham, Kent and Shipley, Yorkshire. Even as a child, he wanted to be a recording engineer and he moved back to London in 1955 to work in a film library in the Polish Embassy, with the intention of working in the film industry. [Colin Harper, Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival, Bloomsbury, 2006. ISBN 0-7475-8725-6. p.114] He began working for Topic Records and particularly recorded some of the Irish folk musicians who were in London in the late 1950s, as well as releasing a Rambling Jack Elliott record for Topic. To supplement the meagre income from his recording work, he took a job in Collett's record shop (specialising in folk, blues and jazz records) in Oxford street, London. Through his work in the shop, he met Nat Joseph who had set up Transatlantic Records and, from 1962, began working with him, part time, as a producer. [Colin Harper, Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival, Bloomsbury, 2006. ISBN 0-7475-8725-6. p.115]

The early days of recording folk artists in England were characterised by low budgets and improvised technology. In the 1960's, Leader lived in Camden and, using a semi-professional Revox tape recorder, recorded a number of artists in his own flat, sound-proofing the room with blankets and egg boxes. [Colin Harper, Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival, Bloomsbury, 2006. ISBN 0-7475-8725-6. p.146] John Renbourn described the early recordings of himself and Bert Jansch, in which Leader proceeded by "setting up the tape machine in the sink and having us play in the broom cupboard". [Sleeve notes from "The Definitive Transatlantic Collection"]

In 1969, together with his 2nd wife, Helen, he set up two record labels, Leader and Trailer. The Leader label was intended for recordings like those made by Alan Lomax, with extensive academic liner notes. The Trailer label was the revival scene. A recent compilation of Trailer tracks is "Never The Same - Leave-Taking From the British Folk Revival 1970 - 1977", in which some biographical details are given.

Until recently, Leader was in charge of the Audio Department at University College Salford.

He is now retired and is concentrating on transferring his huge collection of 78, 33 and 45 rpm records onto more modern systems.

Partial discography

Credited as producer

*"3/4 A.D." (1962) – Alexis Korner & Davey Graham
*"Bert Jansch" (1965) – Bert Jansch
*"Jack Orion" (1966) – Bert Jansch
*"The watersons" (1966) – The Watersons
*"The Young Tradition" (1966) – The Young Tradition
*"So Cheerfully Round" (1967) – The Young Tradition
*"Morning Stands On Tiptoe: (1967) Dave and Toni Arthur
*"Mason's Apron" (1967) – The Dubliners
*"Mainly Norfolk" (1968) – Peter Bellamy
*"Matt McGinn" (1968) – Matt McGinn
*"Humble Beginnings: The Complete Transatlantic Recordings, 1969-74" – Billy Connolly
*"The Humblebums" (1969) – The Humblebums
*"Fair England’s Shore" (1969) – Peter Bellamy
*"The Lark In the Morning" (1969) Dave and Toni Arthur with Barry Dransfield
*"Young Hunting" (1970) – Tony Rose
*"Cruel Sister" (1970) – Pentangle
*"Hearken to the Witches Rune" (1970) Dave and Toni Arthur
*"New Humblebums" (1970) – The Humblebums
*"Mr. Fox" (1970) – Mr. Fox
*"Reflection" (1971) – Pentangle
*"He Came From the Mountains" – Bob & Carole Pegg
*"Rosemary Lane" (1971) – Bert Jansch
*"Tir Na Nog" (1971) – Tír na nÓg
*"Tear and a Smile" (1972) – Tír na nÓg
*"Prosperous" (1972) – Christy Moore
*"A Lancashire Lad" (1972) – Mike Harding
*"Bright Phoebus" (1972) – Mike and Lal Waterson
*"No More Forever" (1972) – Dick Gaughan
*"The Boys of the Lough" (1973) – The Boys of the Lough
*"Tell It Like It Was" (1975) – Peter Bellamy
*"The Barrack Room Ballads of Rudyard Kipling" (1976) – Peter Bellamy
*"Kist O'Gold" (1977) – Dick Gaughan
*"The Noah's Ark Trap" (1977) – Nic Jones
*"Gerry Rafferty" (1978) – Gerry Rafferty
*"From The Devil To A Stranger " (1978) Nic Jones

Credited as engineer

*"Jack Takes the Floor" (1958) – Ramblin' Jack Elliott
*"Chorus from the Gallows" (1959) – Ewan MacColl
*"Red Hot from Alex" (1964) – Alexis Korner
*"Bert and John" (1966) – Bert Jansch & John Renbourn
*"Another Monday" (1967) – John Renbourn
*"Sweet Primeroses" (1967) – Shirley Collins
*"Rags, Reels & Airs" (1967) – Dave Swarbrick
*"True Hearted Girl" (1977) – The Watersons
*"Her Mantle So Green" – Margaret Barry & Michael Gorman

Other credits

*"Across the Hills" (1964) – Ian Campbell (credited as Supervisor)
*"Ramblin' Jack Elliott Lost Topic Tapes: Cowes Harbour 1957" – Ramblin' Jack Elliott (credited as Assistant Engineer)
*"Ramblin' Jack Elliott Lost Topic Tapes: Isle of Wight 1957" – Ramblin' Jack Elliott (credited as Assistant Engineer)

Leader/Trailer Label Listing

[ A full listing of titles on the Leader and Trailer labels] is in preparation on [ Folkopedia]


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