Sunday, October 23, 2022

Sandy Denny and Johnny Silvo: The 3.10 to Yuma

3.10 to Yuma is a 1957 Western starring Van Hefflin, who had also appeared in Shane as Joe Starrett. This, its theme song, was recorded by Sandy Denny and Johnny Silvo for their 1967 album Sandy & Johnny, though I think this is not the take that appears on the record.

Sandy Denny has appeared on this blog several times, so let's talk about Johnny Silvo. He died in 2012 at the age of 75, and his Independent obituary is worth a read:

Johnny Silvo was the sort of populist folk singer for whom Britain's folk scene coined the expression "folk entertainer". He was an old-school folkie whose repertoire of folk and folk-blues standards, jazz and blues material chimed with the country's folk scene in the 1960s and 1970s in particular. 

His name seldom figures in accounts of the subject, except maybe as a marginal note associated with Sandy Denny ... through her time singing with the Johnny Silvo Folk Four and their joint album Sandy & Johnny (1967). Silvo's audience, concentrated in Western Europe and Scandinavia, did not care and stayed true to the end.

Born John Woods in Wimbledon, like the notable guitarist, composer and vocalist Davey Graham he was mixed-race. Supposedly, his mother was from Ireland and his father was an African-American serviceman. The story goes that his mother was killed in an air raid, so he grew up as a Barnardo's Boy. 

The historical record shows that it was hard enough being placed with a family after the war if white; getting adopted as a mixed-race child in post-war Britain was harder still. He lived in a succession of Barnardo's homes in Surrey and Hertfordshire.

Silvo also appeared on television as a presenter of Play School.

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