Lal and Mike Waterson’s Bright Phoebus Revisited

Mike and his sister Lal were both members of a famous musical family.  As a teenager in the late 1960s I used to attend a folk club upstairs at the Old Blue Bell, Hull to hear the Watersons boom out their unaccompanied songs.

They did much the same in Brighton’s Dome, though with lots of guests and fewer Watersons.  Lal died in 1998 and Mike in 2011 – but the concert was to celebrate the songs they wrote and performed on a 1972 album – Bright Phoebus.

I’m telling you this mass of stuff so that you will be as astounded as I was about two hours ago when I learnt that Mike Waterson is a cousin of mine.  He married Ann, a daughter of Ella.  And Ella was a sister of my father.

Bright Phoebus - the album cover (pagan sun according to Mike Waterson)

Bright Phoebus – the album cover (pagan sun according to Mike Waterson)

The concert was great – and the best part was the lovely flat Hull accent.  I have been exploring the life of Mike Waterson.  For some years Mike was a house painter in Hull.  He spoke (on a Radio 4 programme) about writing the title song – Bright Phoebus – whilst painting a large Victorian window.  After a few lines he climbed down from the window and nipped round to his sister Lal’s house in the Avenues to grab a guitar and fix the song in his head.  I don’t want to make too much of coincidence but I was brought up in the Avenues and I’ve also been dazzled by the sun reflecting off a big Victorian window whilst I was painting it – but I failed to write such a great song.

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