Albert Lancaster Lloyd (29 February 1908 - 29 September 1982), usually known as A. L. Lloyd or Bert Lloyd, was an English folk singer and collector of folk songs, and as such was a key figure in the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s. While Lloyd is most widely known for his work with British folk music, he had a keen interest in the music of Spain, Latin America, Southeastern Europe and Australia. He recorded at least six discs of Australian Bush ballads and folk music.
Lloyd also helped establish the folk music subgenre of industrial folk music through his books, recordings, collecting and theoretical writings.
Lloyd was born in Wandsworth, London, England. His father was an AA Patrolman and failed smallholder. His mother sang songs around the house and according to Lloyd mimicked the gypsy singers that she had heard. By the age of fifteen his mother had died and his father, an ex-soldier, was a semi-invalid, and Lloyd was sent as an assisted migrant to Australia in a scheme organised by the British Legion. There, from 1924-1930, he worked on various sheep stations in New South Wales and it was during this time that he began to write down folksongs he learned. In the outback of New South Wales he discovered that he could access the State Library and order books. His special interests being art and music he could get a grasp of those topics without seeing a painting or hearing any music. He also bought a wind-up gramophone and began to investigate some of the classical music he had previously read about.
Career as folklorist
When he returned to the UK in the Great Depression in 1935, in the absence of a permanent job, he pursued his interests in studying folk music and social and economic history, doing much of his research at the British Museum: he is quoted as saying that there is "nothing like unemployment for educating oneself". In 1937 he signed on board the factory whaling ship the Southern Empress bound for the southern whaling grounds of the Antarctic.
During this decade, he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain and was strongly influenced by the writings of the Marxist historian, A. L. Morton, particularly his 1938 book A People's History of England. In 1937, Lloyd's article "The People's own Poetry" was published in the Daily Worker (since 1966 renamed Morning Star) newspaper.
In 1938 the BBC hired him to write a radio documentary about seafaring life, and from then on he worked as a journalist and singer. A proponent of communism, Lloyd was staunchly opposed to Adolf Hitler, and, in 1939, he was commissioned by the BBC to produce a series of programmes on the rise of Nazism. Between 1945 and 1950 he was employed as a journalist by Picture Post magazine but he left the job in an act of solidarity with one of his colleagues.
By the 1950s he had established himself as a professional folklorist--as Colin Harper puts it "in a field of one". Harper went to note that, at a time when the English folk revival was dominated by young people who wore jeans and pullovers, Lloyd was rarely seen in anything other than a suit (and a wide grin). Ewan MacColl is quoted as describing Lloyd (with affection) as "a walking toby jug". In 1959 his collaboration with Ralph Vaughan Williams, The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, was published.
The 1956 film, Moby Dick, directed by John Huston featured Lloyd singing a sea shanty as the Pequod first sets sail. There is also a brief visual clip of him.
In the early 1960s, Lloyd became associated with an enterprise known as "Centre 42" which arose from Resolution 42 of the 1960 Trades Union Congress, concerning the importance of arts in the community. Centre 42 was a touring festival aimed at devolving art and culture from London to the other main working class towns of Britain. It was led by Arnold Wesker, with MacColl and Lloyd providing the musical content and Charles Parker on production. Centre 42 was important in bringing a range of folk performers to the public attention: Anne Briggs, the Ian Campbell Folk Group, The Spinners and The Watersons.
Lloyd recorded many albums of English folk music, most notably several albums of the Child Ballads with Ewan MacColl. He also published many books on folk music and related topics, including The Singing Englishman, Come All Ye Bold Miners, and Folk Song in England. He was a founder-member of Topic Records and remained as their artistic director until his death.
^Particularly in the period after World War I, Australia had a policy of recruiting child migrants from the United Kingdom, financially assisted by the British Government's Empire Settlement legislation. See, for example, the Department of Health website
^Britta Sweers, Electric Folk: The Changing Face of English Traditional Music, Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN0-19-515878-4