Bob Blake: although thought of as a Sussex singer, he was, in fact, born in Tooting, south London, in 1908 and did not move to Sussex until he was nineteen. His father, a former sailor and farm labourer, had already taught him some sea shanties, and Bob had also picked up a number of songs from an uncle in Gloucestershire, another ex-sailor, who was visited during the school holidays.
Bob trained as a trimmer and, having moved to Sussex, worked in a garage near Horsham, lodging for a time with an elderly couple at a nearby farm. He soon developed a love of the countryside and took bicycle holidays throughout southern England, picking up more songs wherever he could. He worked variously as a farm-worker, a gardener, and, finally, as a bee-keeper, with hives scattered all over Sussex and the New Forest.
An immensely likeable man, he was, nevertheless, extremely shy and I never felt that he was totally relaxed in my presence. He loved to sing, but found it very difficult to do so in front of a microphone. I think that his nervousness made him a little unsteady with his tunes, which would often only settle down after he had sung the first couple of verses. Although Bob liked to sing occasionally in local folksong clubs, sometimes in company with Bob Copper and his family, he told me that he was not as extrovert as his father, who had loved to sing in the Gloucestershire pubs of his youth.
Part of the booklet notes, written by Mike Yates, to the Musical Traditions Records CDs Up in the North, Down in the South (MTCD311-2)