Fisherman's Friends performing at Port Isaac
|Origin||Port Isaac, Cornwall, UK|
|Genres||Sea shanties, Folk|
Fisherman's Friends are a male singing group from Port Isaac, Cornwall, who sing sea shanties. They have been performing locally since 1995, and signed a record deal with Universal Music in March 2010. Whilst essentially an a cappella group, their studio recordings and live performances now often include traditional simple instrumentation.
Fisherman's Friends are a shanty group based in North Cornwall. Their performances combine traditional songs of the sea with more contemporary folk music and a large dash of humour.
The members are: John & Jeremy Brown (brothers), John Lethbridge, Billy Hawkins, Jason Nicholas, Toby Lobb, John McDonnell and Jon Cleave.
In June 2014 Peter Rowe was the oldest member, at the age of 80.
In the original line-up, all of the members of the group "grew up within half a mile of Port Isaac harbour" except for John McDonnell who is a Yorkshireman. Three were fishermen, and the others are linked to the sea through service as coastguards or lifeboatmen.
In 2009 BBC Radio presenter Johnnie Walker was in Cornwall on holiday and happened to come across two of their home made CDs. Walker's manager, Ian Brown, then travelled to Port Isaac and was able to negotiate a recording contract worth £1 million for them with Universal Music Group who released their first commercial album the following year.
They sing the chorus on Show of Hands' popular song Cousin Jack on Show of Hands' "best of" CD "Roots", as well as on the title track.
Their repertoire is extremely varied and includes both shanties and other nautical songs, some of which are fairly lewd. With the addition of Jason & Toby (accordion and guitar) the group have added more musical accompaniment to their set. Billy and Toby are both supported by Vintage Guitars and regularly use their instruments on stage.
They performed at the 2010 Cornbury music festival in Oxfordshire, the Glastonbury Festival on several occasions, typically on the Acoustic Stage, but on one occasion performing on the Pyramid Stage and the Cambridge Folk Festival. The band have also appeared at Towersey Festival, Wickham Festival, Beautiful days, Costa Del Folk, Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Tunes in the Dunes, Boardmasters and Celtic Connections. Due to being "semi-professional" the band do not tour extensively and will usually embark on 12-15 date tours in November and February/March. They also often perform in Port Isaac, regularly singing on the beach in the Summer Holidays.
The group had released three CDs themselves before signing with Universal. In 2002, under the name Port Isaac's 'Fishermen's Friends', they recorded an album, primarily to raise funds for the RNLI, which was released on the Clovelly Label, Catalogue Number CLCD12702. The album, entitled Fishermen's Friends Are Home from the Sea, has 20 tracks and was recorded in St Peter's Church Port Isaac on the 26 and 27 April 2002. All the tracks are sung in the traditional a cappella style. The album was engineered by Bob Whitney and produced by John Perkins. Their first album with Universal, Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends, was recorded in St Kew Parish Church, Cornwall, and released in April 2010.
In 2010 they re-recorded their single, "No Hopers, Jokers or Rogues", with new lyrics, in support of England's World Cup campaign in South Africa.
In July 2015, the album Proper Job was released on the Sony Music label, in association with the St Austell Brewery, who brew a beer of the same name. This album also saw the first appearance of new member Toby Lobb.
2018 saw the release of 'Sole Mates', an album produced by Giles Woolley and band member Toby Lobb. The band's aim was to celebrate their history and create a simpler album that represented their live sound more accurately. 'Sole Mates' was made up of tracks that the band had performed during their previous two tours and featured additional instrumentation from Phil Beer from Show of Hands and Emma Murfin from Cornwall-based folk act Black Velvet.
The band have appeared on BBC One's 'The One Show' on two occasions, been the subject of an ITV1 documentary that charted their early success, a SKY ARTS documentary which featured their performance at the Celtic Connections festival, BBC's Countryfile with John Craven and many local news items. 2018 also saw them feature in the Songs of Praise Christmas Special.
The producers of the hit film Finding Your Feet bought the band's life rights to be made into a feature film. The writers Nick Moorcroft, Meg Leonard and Piers Ashworth adapted their story for the screen. Principal photography commenced on 30 April 2018 for 5 weeks on location in Port Isaac and London. The film was released in cinemas nationwide in the UK on 15 March 2019, and was directed by Chris Foggin.
The film stars an ensemble cast headed by James Purefoy, Daniel Mays and Tuppence Middleton, with David Hayman, Dave Johns, Noel Clarke, Maggie Stead, Sam Swainsbury and Christian Brassington playing key supporting roles. The film is based around a largely fictional story of Danny, a music industry executive who signs them to a London record label and develops a relationship with one of the band's daughters, played by Middleton, and covers the period up to their first album release.
All members of the band have cameos in the film and Ashworth explained "the singing is a blend of the voices of the group themselves and of the actors."
On 9 February 2013 a heavy steel door fell while the G Live venue in Guildford was being prepared for a Fisherman's Friends show, killing their tour manager Paul McMullen. Singer Trevor Grills was knocked to the floor and suffered serious head injuries, and died in hospital two days later. Following an investigation into the tragedy the company supplying the steel door, Express Hi-Fold Doors, was fined £30,000 for breaching health and safety regulations but the company director was cleared of manslaughter and gross negligence.
|Album Title||Album details||Chart positions||Certification|
|Suck'em and Sea||
|Another Mouthful From ... The Fisherman's Friends||
|Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends||
|One and All||
"Home From the Sea", released 2002 on Clovelly record label CLCD12702.
Shanty singers Fisherman's Friends were rewarded for keeping folk music alive and bringing it to new audiences with an honorary prize, the Good Tradition award [at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards].
Fisherman's Friends chart history
PORT ISAAC'S FISHERMAN'S - PORT ISAAC'S FISHERMAN'S FRIENDS : Gold Certification (Album) Friday, 7 January 2011 : UNIVERSAL MUSIC (UNIVERSAL) : Released Monday, 26 April 2010(Search required)