Bernie’s Musical History:

As a very small boy Bernie performed on stage at the St. Peter’s Sunday School concert in Woolton Village, where his rendition of “I had a little pony, His name was Dapple Gray” - delivered in hunting clothes complete with a riding crop - brought the house down. Later with his brother Rod, he attended the Vernon Johnson School of Dance in Penny Lane, which no doubt accounts for Bernie’s marvellous sense of rhythm . At home he was always the first one to step forward with a party piece, whether it was a song or a recitation, such as “Old Tom Tomato” or the now politically incorrect - but very funny - Snitch & Snatch. Again with Rod, Bernie learnt to play the piano by gaslight under the strict tuition of Miss Mabel Pilkington in Church Road. The boys eventually started playing duets together but the arguments over which of them played a bum note became too much for their mother who restored comparative harmony to her home by selling the piano! During the skiffle boom of the 1950’s, as a thirteen-year-old, Bernie was lead singer, playing banjo and guitar, in a skiffle group playing local church halls. He also played a lot of folk and American old timey music with his sister Rosie and brother Rod. Having returned to Liverpool from college he soon established himself as a stalwart of the Liverpool folk scene, enjoying lengthy stints as a solo performer and as a singer and musician in folk groups, barn dance bands and Bluegrass bands, playing a variety of instruments, principally tenor banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle and melodeon. Bernie joined up with concertina player Andy Kenna to form “Liverpool Forebitter, appearing at many of the top UK shanty and marine festivals and a number of European events. They made several recordings, notably “Salt Water Ballads” - a selection of John Masefield’s poems set to music by Andy, which they also perfomed as as show to considerable critical acclaim. Later, Bernie formed “Liverpool Packet” with fiddle player Keith Price, continuing to perform in a maritime context and holding school workshops about the songs and life of the old-time sailorman. Over the years Bernie made many radio and tv appearances and broadcasts on the history of sea songs and was instrumental in keeping alive the sea song tradition of his native Liverpool in his role as co-organiser of the highly successful Mersey International Shanty Festival. Bernie also performed as a solo artist and his easy and amusing stage manner and consummate musicianship belied his deep knowledge of his subject and his familiarity with its practical aspects as a qualified yacht skipper sailing regularly on the sea near his Wirral home. This led to an appearance on a Gareth Malone tv programme during which Bernie demonstrated the various tasks for which shanties were employed whilst sailing up the English Channel. (See link on video page). Bernie was also known for his jig dolls and his musical saw - continuing in the tradition of his Uncle George whose actual saw Bernie inherited and used on stage - and latterly he played fiddle in the Cottonmouth Cajun Band. He especially enjoyed fooling around at the same time as playing brilliantly - who can forget his Liver BIrd, which played the left had of his melodeon, or his even more ridiculous attempts at playing the melodeon whilst wearing boxing gloves! It took ages for your stomach to recover from aching with laughter.
Bernie Davis 1945 - 2021