Fred Wedlock: Singer and entertainer who emerged from the 1970s folk-club scene

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The Independent Online

During the 1970s, a new style of entertainment emerged from the UK's folk clubs. These were male musicians who could sing funny songs and tell comic stories and, as comedy clubs had not yet materialised, they performed with great acclaim amid the traditional singers and instrumentalists. Billy Connolly from Glasgow, Jasper Carrott from Birmingham, Mike Harding from Rochdale and Fred Wedlock from Bristol all found national success. Wedlock's moment came with his Top 10 single, "The Oldest Swinger In Town", in 1981.

Fred Wedlock came from a footballing dynasty. Before the First World War, his grandfather, Billy "Fatty" Wedlock, despite his short, stout stature, was captain of Bristol City and won 26 England caps. His sons, including Fred's father, played for City and the family pub was opposite the ground. Fred was born on the premises in 1942 and he considered it an appropriate start for a folk singer.

In his youth, Wedlock was a head chorister, and after university, he became a teacher at a tough school in London's East End. He said that it conditioned him for floor spots at folk clubs where he might have to control animated crowds. One of his comic songs rewrote Paul Simon's "The Boxer" as "The Folker": "I do requests, just the ones that got two chords in / And I disregard the rest."

Wedlock turned professional in 1975 and released his own albums, usually on cassette, including The Folker (1971), Frollicks (1973) and Out of Wedlock (1978). He had heard a song by a Durham teacher, Ed Pickford, "The Oldest Swinger In Town", which had been written following the disco craze of Saturday Night Fever, where the oldest swinger had "all night to do what he used to do all night." He adapted the lyrics to suit himself and soon found it was his most requested song.

Wedlock's recording was regularly played by Noel Edmonds on Radio 1 and it was released as a single by Elton John's Rocket Records. The single climbed to No 6, but the follow-up, "Jobsworth", failed to sell. He released no more singles, but did make the albums, Oldest Swinger In Town (1981) and Fred Wedlock Live (1982).

The media realised that Wedlock was a natural broadcaster and he had his own programme on Channel 4, Wholly Wedlock, and was the regular guest on Acker Bilk's radio series, Acker's Away. He became a regional TV reporter and radio presenter, and he was featured in several series of The Bargain Hunters. Wedlock was a family man, who never wanted to leave the West Country. He was a popular after-dinner speaker and one of his recent TV ads was for Park Insurance.

Spencer Leigh

Peter Frederick Wedlock, singer and entertainer: born Bristol 23 May 1942; married (two daughters); died Bath 2 March 2010.

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