4 track 1/4 inch reel to reel tape recorded in mono – The Couriers Folk Club, Leicester

We were recently sent a ¼ inch tape by Ed Bates that included recordings from the Couriers Folk Club in Leicester,  which ran from Autumn 1964 – June 1974.

The tape features performances from The Couriers (Jack Harris and Rex Brisland), George and Thadeus Kaye, Bill Pickering, Mark Newman and Mick Odam.

Jack Harris, who alongside Rex Brisland ran the club, describes how ‘traditional singers like Bert Lloyd, Ewan MacColl and Pete Seeger, Bob Davenport were regular visitors together with ageing ploughboys, miners and fishermen who were often so infirm or unlikely to make their own way to Leicester they had to be fetched by car.’

As well as supporting grassroots folk music from the local area, well known performers such as musical superstar Barbara Dickson, Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell graced the stage.

Inside of tape box, The Couriers live at the Couriers Folk Club Whyte Swan 6.8.66.

The tape recordings we received span five years. The first recording was made on 6 August 1966, then 3 September 1966, 8 February 1970 and finally 9 April 1971.

Each performance was recorded on a separate track in mono. This means that the 7” long spool contains 8 hours of music!

Like today’s MP3 digital files, the quality of the recorded sound is compromised because so much information is squeezed into a smaller space on the tape. A better quality recording would have been made if all four channels were used for a single performance, rather than one track for each performance.

The speed at which recordings were made also effects the quality of the recordings, simply because you can record more information per second at a faster rate. The tapes we were sent were recorded at 7 ½ per second on what is likely to have been a domestic tape recorder such as the Sony TC-263D. Ed’s letter to us speaks volumes about the conditions in which the recordings were made:

‘I was present at the Couriers Folk Club in Leicester when they were recorded so I can say that the recording quality is not good. The Sony recorder was used as an amplifier and on some occasions (if someone remembered) a tape was recorded.’

While the recordings certainly would have benefited from less haphazard recording conditions, the quality of the transfer is surprisingly crisp, as you can hear from this excerpt.

Excerpt from the digitised recordings of the Couriers folk club

The tape was in good condition, as Philips magnetic reel-to-reel tape often survives well over time, which aided a good transfer. One thing we were especially attentive to in the transfer process was carefully adjusting the azimuth, because of the slow speed of the original recording and the narrow track width.

Diagram of how to record on magnetic tape using a 4 track recorder, demonstrating a 1/4 inch tape divided into four lines on which each track can be recorded

Image taken from the BASF magnetic tape manual that  illustrates  how  four tracks can be recorded on magnetic tape

The emergence of recordings of the Couriers Club is especially timely given the recent launch of the English and Folk Dance Society‘s The Full English online digital archive . This contains a massive 44,000 records and over 58,000 digitised images about English folk history.

With a dozen or more tapes recently found from the Club, we look forward to helping this unique part of cultural heritage become accessible again.


I was knocked out when I discovered that the long ago recordings from the Couriers Folk Club have survived.As you see I am the “Mick Odam” (should be” Odom “) one of the performers featured.I knew that Rex Brisland routinely recorded acts at the club, and I’d often wondered if any had survived, especially as Rex sadly passed away a while ago.I would dearly love to acquire a copy of my performance.Can you help?
Best Regards Mick Odom

Ed, who owns the tape has let us know he’s happy for us to share his contact details with anyone who’s interested this recording. Please contact us through our website form…

Fran Williams

Hi. We used to be regulars in the audience at paddys between 1968 and 71. Would love to buy couriers music if available. Regards. Fran

I was also a regular and would love to buy any copies of these tapes, any condition.

Mark Newman

Now this really does bring back memories. Are there any more tracks available? I guess there must be and it would be good to hear more.

Terry St. Clair

I have a copy on CD of Joni Mitchell at the club. Rex Brisand made it available many years ago. I had spoken to him about it. I was a regular at the club, but not at the Joni gig. He told me he’d recorded Paul Simon but the tape had broken.

Paul Goodfellow

My wife found your website whilst looking for information on Thadeus Kaye.I was a Couriers Folk Club regular from the beginning at the upstairs room at The White Swan in Leicester market place in 1964 until the end in 1974 at The Holliday Inn via St. Patricks Club and other one off venues.I well remember the Joni Mitchell gig, mainly for the sparkling metallic tights she wore(!) and was contacted by Jack Harris many years ago since he thought I might have the reel to reel tapes recorded that night.Now at last they’ve been found.
Great to see names from the past-Mike Odom,Terry St. Clair and Mark Newman whom I last met at Rex Brislands funeral.Great days.Would love to have any surviving live recordings to compliment my small collection of Couriers memrobilia(Photographs and folk club bills etc.)

Hi Paul

Thanks for your comment and memories about Couriers Folk Club – the owner of these tapes who asked us to digitise them is happy for us to pass on his contact details and I’ve emailed you with these.

Many Thanks


Bill Pickering

Great to see that some real to feel tapes have survived. I would love to get hold of copies of they are available. This was a great time in all of our lives. When I speak to Jack we often talk about the good times we had.It’s so long ago it seems like light years, our lives are very different now.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Bill Pickering

Hi Bill

Thanks for your comment – I’ve replied to you by email.


Ken Hudson

Hello – I was fascinated to read of the tape recordings from the Couriers Folk Club in Leicester. I have a monthly 2 hour folk show for Phoenix Radio in Halifax and have been corresponding with a listener from Leicester who mentioned The Couriers (Jack Harris & Rex Brisland). It has been suggested that a feature on Jaqui & Bridie would be appreciated and my listener tells me that they appeared at The Couriers Folk Club quite regularly.
Does the tape include any recordings from Jaqui & Bridie ? A recording of The Couriers would also be useful.
Any help you can give – greatly appreciated.
With best wishes – Ken Hudson.

‘Roving Folk’ – the 4th Sunday Folk Show – on Phoenix FM – Halifax, West Yorkshire.
Two hours of music, based in the world of Folk – 10.00am to 12 noon on the 4th Sunday of each month on Phoenix Radio at 96.7 FM or – for listeners out of transmitter range – online at http://www.phoenixfm.co.uk – with podcasts available on Listen Again on the Phoenix Website – and on http://www.mixcloud.com/rovingfolk after the show.

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