London-born Daylesford resident, Danny Spooner, is regarded as the foremost traditional singer in Australia. Born into a working-class family in the East End of London just before World War 2, Danny Spooner grew up with the singing-round-the-piano tradition and folklore of a typical Cockney family. But for years he has performed at music festivals and in folk clubs all over Australia, New Zealand, North America and in Britain, singing and talking about aspects of the folk songs of Britain and Australia.
He learned his craft as a boy on the Thames. His master Bob Roberts was a good singer who taught him many English songs and enrolled his ‘boy’ in libraries along the coast to read history – which he came to understand was the explanation for the songs. He followed an apprenticeship as a Thames Waterman and Lighterman, becoming a Freeman of the River, then skippered a North Sea trawler and a deep sea tug, before working his way to Australia. This varied, almost nomadic life, has given Danny an all-too-rare education in the ways of working class people.
It was not until Danny arrived in Australia in 1962, he realised that there was an audience ready, interested, and willing to appreciate the songs of his childhood and working life. The Melbourne folksong revival of the 60s focused on British and American material. Thanks to a prodigious memory and a willingness to learn about his craft, Danny Spooner developed into one of the best singers of British folksongs in Australia. Over the years he has augmented what he had learned “on the job” with a vast repertoire spanning almost every part of the British tradition as well as a respectable portion of the Australian folk heritage, and now some irresistible American songs and French chanties. He was immensely honoured to find himself invited to work with Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. It was an opportunity to bring to classical audiences traditional songs and some beautifully crafted contemporary folk songs – a national tour in 2007 and the Festival of Maribor with the Slovenian Philharmonic and members of the ACO 2009.
Now he has retired, Danny has much more time for singing, and has enjoyed leaving the Australian winter behind to sing in the shanty festivals of Europe, the pubs and clubs and festivals on England, and performing in Canada and n-e America at festivals, summer camps, house concerts and pubs – wherever good folk gather to listen to a new song, or join in a familiar one. He’s treasured for his personal warmth, and loves to pass songs on.
If there is one thing that sets Danny Spooner apart, it is his generosity in helping others to sing the songs he loves. He simply enjoys ‘getting people singing’.