We are saddened to learn of Vin Garbutt’s passing earlier today at the age of 69, weeks after undergoing major heart surgery.
Vin fell in love with folk music playing in the clubs that sprang up throughout the area in the 1960s, including the Rifle in Cannon Street, Stockton Folk Club at the Stork and Castle pub and Eston Folk Club in the Cleveland Bay.
He completed an apprenticeship as a turner at ICI but became a professional musician in 1969, quickly establishing himself the most sought-after solo performer on the UK folk scene.
He also played in the United States and regularly tours Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the Far East.
He was named Best Live Act in the 2001 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and was presented with an honorary degree from Teesside University.
Vin made an invaluable contribution to Teesside folklore and developed a unique brand of humour that brought tears of laughter to audiences throughout the world.
However, many of his songs were deadly serious and addressed some of this biggest issues facing the world today. He could have you crying with laughter one minute and crying with sadness the next. Thirty years ago Vin was so moved by the story of a local woman who fought for the right of her son, born with spina bifida, to live that he wrote a song about it. He called the woman Linda and her son Kevin. The song proved one of his most popular, with him recalling that after singing it on Danish radio, the station received the most calls they’d ever had in response to a song.
On one of his recent visits to Ulverston most of his patter was about his first round of heart surgery – a subject that most people would treat extremely seriously; but not Vin. The doctor prescribed him some medicine that would have the side effect of making him pee like a horse. It did indeed. As a result he got banned out of the Arndale centre. When the surgeon told him that he was going to have a new groundbreaking procedure which had only been done 12 times before, his reaction was “What? I’m the 13th?” At the end of the night he announced that he would have to be re-booked as he hadn’t finished telling us about the surgery.
Our deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences to his wife Pat and their family.