BRITISH COUNTRY MUSIC ARTIST BECOMES CITY MAYOR
Bryan Chalker Named Bath’s Highest Official
Bryan Chalker, one-time stalwart of the British and European country music scene and champion of all things old, takes on a new role as Mayor Elect of the World Heritage City of Bath. He commences his post on June 4, following a major ceremony at the Abbey attended by more than 700 guests.
Chalker, now in his 70th year, has enjoyed a varied career but much of it linked to country music. Throughout the 1970s he fronted the highly popular and influential New Frontier band and recorded three ground-breaking folk-rock albums produced by Les Reed. In later years Bryan moved into radio as a presenter and spent three decades working for various stations here and in the Middle-East. In addition to his radio work he continued to record, producing the award-winning ‘From The Waters Of The Medway’ album for BBC Records & Tapes and a trio of folksy-style LPs for Sweet Folk & Country and Emerald, and contributing feature stories to such magazines as Stage & Television Today, Melody Maker, Disc & Music Echo, Country Music Review, Classic Car Weekly, The Automobile, Music Maker, Old Glory, Vintage Spirit and Classic Van & Pickup. He also found time to write his first book, ‘This Is Country Music’ (Phoebus) and during the 1980s produced three highly successful cookery books for Redcliffe Books and the Bath Chronicle newspaper. Bryan is now putting the finishing touches to a fourth book of recipes.
In 2002, Bryan Chalker retired from broadcasting and the following year stood as a Conservative candidate in the local elections and was elected councillor for Lambridge, Bath, where he is now beginning his third four-year term. In a whirlwind eight-year period Chalker has made his mark as Member Champion for Heritage & Historic Environment, served a year as Vice-Chairman of Bath & North East Somerset Council and then became Chairman. If that wasn’t enough to keep him occupied, he has also spent the past nine months organising Bath’s first-ever Americana Festival for May 18-22 and starring Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike, Leon Hunt & The Scoville Units, The Thunderbridge Bluegrass Boys, Brian Golbey, Tjaye Martin, Ian Cal-Ford & The Railmen, Kate Lissauer, Bob Fish, The Applejacks and the Olde Boston Tea Party. This has been a labour of love for Bryan Chalker and he has been able to assemble a small-scale festival to highlight elements of bluegrass and other Appalachian threads and focus on the autoharp, clawhammer banjo, dobro – and clogging!
Chalker’s last album, ‘Legacy’ was an artistic success for him and gave him the opportunity to exploit his fondness for quirky old songs – several by the late Jimmy Driftwood – and unusual acoustic instruments, including the autoharp, lap-slide steel guitar and jaws-harp. He is an excellent jaws-harp exponent and in recent months has appeared on radio and television demonstrating its unique sound.
Bryan’s theme for his year as Mayor of Bath is ‘Industrial Heritage’, as he feels that much of what the city achieved as a manufacturing centre from the 18th century until fairly recently, has been airbrushed from history. Bath was once associated with Sir Isaac Pitman and his Pitman Press, Stothert & Pitt crane makers, Harbutt’s Plasticine, the Horstman motor car, stone mines, brass and flour mills, furniture and soap manufacture, coal mining and brewing. Chalker is also conscious of the neglect shown to the River Avon, which flows through the city and is now part of a large and influential body intent on revitalising this vital element of the World Heritage Site. Bath also has its wonderful canal system and railway linked to one of Bryan’s great heroes, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The new mayoral year looks like being a good one for Bath, with an elected politician who loves Bluegrass, Cajun and Old-Time country music and drives a 1974 East German 2-stroke Trabant car; a slice of motoring heritage in itself.