Tuesday 18 April 2023

Obit - Death of Bob Bolton, 1945-2023.

Click images for larger size.

Bob was not a Baby Boomer. As he explained, his father was recovering from pneumonia so was not called up & subsequently spent the war years working in a Protected Industry, consequently Bob was born before the War ended & the troops came back. Bob could be pedantic!

Obit on Folk Federation website

Obit on Folk Federation facebook page

Obit on BMC Facebook page

Obit on Facebook group Bob Bolton's photographs About - Crowdsourcing identifications of people in Bob Bolton's photos of folk events in the 1970s

Bob Bolton is the 2017 recipient of the National Folk Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award 

Bob joined the American Mudcat Cafe website in 1998 when it was 2 years old & helped spread Australian bush music & folk culture across the folk world.
Bob's posts on Mudcat.org

Mudcat 2023 obit - Bob Bolton 1945-2023

Pat & Bob Bolton, National Folk Festival 2017
(Chris Woodland photo)

Bob & Ralph & their friends arrived at the Bush Music Club in 1963, soon after Pete Seeger's concert.

Ralph Pride

Here are a few thoughts and a couple of photos

A very young Bob
(Ralph Pride Collection)

Bob was that rare phenomenon, a lifelong friend. The kind that become as close or even closer than family. In our very early days in the early 1950s, we lived just a few suburban blocks apart and met as kids at a bush Sunday School in East Bankstown – now known as Greenacre – but it really was the sticks back in those days. We spent heaps of time together as we grew up, doing all those things friends do – hobbies, socialising, travelling, bushwalking, and generally helping each other out in so many ways. We were even modern-day swaggies for a while. As adults, we had shared interests way beyond the obvious musical ones. His valuable knowledge, advice and insight was respected widely – not the least by myself. He was so many things to so many people. Then he just faded away from us. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the idea that he’s no longer here.

Bob at Little Marley Royal National Park - 1970's
(Ralph Pride Collection)

Bob at Ralph's hut at Meadowbank
(Ralph Pride Collection)

Dale Dengate

I remember Bob as a young lad coming to BMC, with Ralph, still in their late teens. Bob’s older brother Eric was in the BMC Concert Party Bush band. Ralph and Bob took off to Tasmania for adventures so Ralph will be able to enlighten us as I think romance entered their lives.

Bob c. 1963
(Bolton family collection)

Bob was ‘the brains of his family’ and became interested in every detail of Bush and traditional music.  In Tasmania, Bob met Pat and her 90 year old grandmother who shared lots of stories of past events. On his return, he had a job at Sydney County Council (now Energy Aust) in the photography department on George Street, Sydney. He would often walk from there past our Glebe house on his way to Leichhardt. Bob would invariably call in with a question about the latest song John had written or information he had just discovered and he took more photos of John performing than anyone. Bob was always generous with his photographic records and knowledge.

When I decided that ensuring Gay Scott’s book of Sally Sloane songs, collected by John Meredith would be an ideal project for BMC 50th, it was Bob who was able transform fragile foolscap pages of original copy into a format that could be printed like a Singabout Songster.

My last memory of Bob was at RPHA where Pat was accompanying him from an appointment as I was accompanying John to an appointment there, which was over a decade ago. Are there any photographs of Pat and Bob dancing? He took lovely ones of John and my dancing days; happier memories than those medical visits.

Raema Grieve

I would like to share some of my memories about Bob. It goes back to 1977, when Ray and I went to a BMC weekly meeting at Burwood Town Hall. Ray had an interest in music history and was keen to talk to someone about the subject. I remember us meeting Bob and his friends, Ralph and Dave and then Ray eventually sat in on some music sessions with them.

I recall Ray saying that 'Bob has an unbelievable knowledge of Australian bush music history!'

And so, Tuesday nights became a night of playing and talking endlessly about the subject.

Bob eventually discovered that I had a background in art and graphic design and said We need someone to do some work for the "Mulga Wire" magazine. It meant that instead of sitting on the sidelines (and dancing a bit), I now had a lot of work to do over the following years. Living very close to Bob and Patricia meant that he would call into our place often and the kitchen table became a sort of workplace for the Mulga Wire. I had a small space to make coffee and Bob informed me about the difference in putting the milk in the cup before the coffee, instead of the other way round. (He knew everything on that subject too).

There are two projects that I remember well. The first was his request that I draw an illustration of his concertina for the "Mulga Wire" front cover and secondly, to draw examples of men and women's dress styles from the 1820s to the 1890s period, for the First Colonial Subscription Ball, leaflet and posters.

Bob had done significant research into the subject and I will always value our collaboration over that time. He will be sadly missed by Ray and myself, and his many friends.

Dave Johnson

Bob Bolton: a Retrospective

Bob was always there at the Beer and Cheese Nights at Burwood when I first went along with Anne in about 1973. Each month there was a topic for the songs that we sang from either the Penguin Folk Songs of Australia or the BMC’s Singabout Songster. It was a hugely refreshing, unashamedly Australian, eye and ear opening experience. Bob often presented a recitation and occasionally led a song but his main contribution musically was his mouth-organ playing. The band in a waistcoat pocket was his main instrument with tin whistle, usually a Clarke in the key of C of course, being pulled out where it fitted.

The first Bush Music Festival I attended was organised by Bob and held at the Sydney Technical College with a brilliant lineup of Australian folk exponents including Sally Sloane.

BMC Newsletter, August 1975

As I became more and more engaged with the Club, Bob was there as an enthusiastic supporter of the developments: Monthly music workshops at the Burwood Hall in between the B&C nights; the BMC Booking Agency; the move to our own premises at Marrickville; weekly workshops for songs and tunes; weekly dance workshops; an annual ball; the Heritage Ball; a social calendar of picnics, camps, boat trips, barbecues, etc. And at all these events Bob was there with his camera documenting the goings-on. I tried to make a point of turning Bob’s camera on him from time to time to make sure he appeared in the record he was creating. Who will photograph the photographer?

To describe Bob as a Bush Music Club stalwart doesn’t quite cover the extent of his involvement. The Mulga Wire was initiated by Ralph, Bob and I but it was Bob who put it together month after month and organised the printing - in time for a get-together to fold and bind and label and sort them for posting. The Concert Party went through many iterations over the years with Bob as a key player and leader at times. Whatever the function or innovation Bob was totally supportive. He contributed many hundreds of hours to the Club and was always able to tell you the background to a song or poem or scrap of Club history. For many people Bob was the face of the Bush Music Club with his encyclopaedic knowledge of its history and his willingness to share it.

The Rouseabouts began with Bob, John Poleson, Ray Grieve, Keith Snell and myself, then over time the line-up changed but Bob was there as a cornerstone of the group for many years. Backblocks was a group established to play collected dance tunes on historically appropriately instruments and Bob was a key player with both button accordion and mouth-organ. He became a regular player with the Heritage Ensemble at our Heritage Balls, recordings and at performances at the National Folk Festival.

The inevitable tyranny of distance that resulted from my family move to the Southern Highlands made it difficult to maintain the BMC connections closely and it was mainly at events I organised for Bush Traditions that I was able to catch up with old friends like Bob. Hearing of his illness was terribly saddening. Such a bright candle dimming slowly – it seemed so unfair. But we should celebrate the bright light that shone.

Vale Bob Bolton

Tony Romeo

My memories of Bob were of his very regular presence at most BMC and folk events in general - whether taking photos, joining in with music, song or verse, or helping out behind the scenes - he was always there supporting whatever was going on. He was, of course, an incredible font of knowledge, you never failed to learn something from a chat with Bob!! And he was very generous with his time and energy - whether it was background information to songs or tunes, photos needed for publicity projects or grant applications, or a supply of hand made bones from various materials.

Some of Bob's bones
(Ralph Pride photo)

Margaret Walters

Bob loomed large in my life from the time he introduced himself to me in the late 70s/early 80s at a Festival of Sydney concert in the Domain - I think coordinated by Warren Fahey. I was manning a desk for the Folk Federation of NSW and the redoubtable Bob told me about the Bush Music Club.

I was pretty new to live folk music and my earlier influences had been pretty much confined to traditional English songs. However, singers like Declan Affley, Dave de Hugard and Trevor Shearston opened the world of Australian folk song and Bob Bolton drew my attention to The Penguin Book of Australian Folk Songs, Singabout and the Joy Durst Song Book and over the years he was an unfailing source of information and encouragement.

I served on the BMC committee for a time; my interests were more in song and when the BMC theme nights moved to Tritton Hall, I became involved in running “Folkus” nights every month for about 6 years. Bob was a constant presence during those days.

I have fond memories of the Bush Music Festivals held in the grounds at Marrickville's Addison Road Community Centre in the 1980s and Bob's photographs - taken at clubs and festivals far and wide - played no mean role in getting known as a singer. He had a way of capturing a fleeting characterful moment that would make the image memorable.

In a review of some event or other, he described me as "a consummate singer of good songs of all pedigrees and persuasions" – a quote that I still treasure.

Like many in the folk scene, I owe Bob a huge debt of gratitude.

Helen Romeo

We have been missing Bob’s presence for some time now but we always think of him when the BMC gather. The last time I saw Bob and Pat was at the National when Bob won his well deserved Lifetime Achievement Award. But the last time we spent some time together chatting about “everything” was at a Goulburn Gathering. It would have been about 2014 or 15. Tony and I and Bob had arrived early on Friday afternoon. We were settling into our accommodation and we invited Bob over to our cabin for a coffee. He brought with him some bones he was making and some files and pictures he had found. He was in fine form and we had a lovely afternoon.

I don’t remember when I first met Bob but I do remember he was always at every BMC gathering, Friday night session, Beer and Cheese Nights, Balls, Dances, Festivals and social get-togethers. He was leader of the Concert Party when I joined and was always supportive of newcomers to the music.

Concert Party, 1980s, Bob left & Helen centre
(unknown photographer. BMC archives)

Pretty soon I realised how important to the club and the genre of bush music he was. Not only as a player; concertina, box and mouthorgan but as a singer and reciter. He illustrated and produced Mulga Wire and was always happy to help with publicity material designing our Cooee Koala, our mascot for our festivals and help in making silk screens for stickers and t-shirts. He even drew letters for us when we didn’t have the correct Letraset for designing posters and handouts!!

Bob was the font of all knowledge bush music and folklore and was willing to impart that knowledge to anyone. Especially to new members, which assisted in keeping up the aims of the club. And then there were his photographs, which were numerous but all showing a canny artistic mind and captured over 5 decades. A huge legacy to not only the Bush Music Club but to the Australian national folk world.

Phyl Lobl

I met Bob Bolton when I moved from Melbourne to Sydney.

As Phyl Vinnicombe I had been singing at folk venues in Melbourne since the early sixties and was active in the 1967 Folk Festival well aware of the culture and sense of solidarity that drove the organisers of that Folk Festival.

After I married and moved to Sydney I performed as Phyl Lobl and it was no surprise to find a character like Bob Bolton in attendance at performances. Armed with his camera he was a fixture at almost all the folk venues and 'happenings.' His legacy of so many photos of so many performers is a GRAND UNIQUE LEGACY.

Phyl at Town Crier Folk Club 4/11/71
(Bob Bolton photo)

I am grateful to Bob for the photos he took of me, and to Bob and his wife Pat for their allegiance to folk culture.

Click went his camera, click, click, click.
Bob’s trigger finger it was quick.
Then from the dark-room images galore
Celebrate performers of Australia’s Folklore. 18/04/2023

Patrick Harte

Bob was able to share songs and explain where they came from. Bob loved the songs of Australia. One of his legacies is all the information and lyrics he shared to the Mudcat folk data base.

Thank you Bob Bolton


Warren Fahey AM

I can’t remember when Bob Bolton’s earnest face and camera weren’t at every turn I made at folk festivals and events. He was everywhere man! We shared the same passion for Australian bush music and stories. Bob’s knowledge and his willingness to talk and talk and talk knew few boundaries. His photographic archive is a treasure and we should be eternally grateful for his documentation.


Mike Martin

A loss to the Australian Bush Tradition and a great character. He has been missing from the festival scene - when I would always enjoy a chat and updated on all things bush! His legacy of photos is a reminder of the importance of capturing the tradition and recognising those that capture it. He would be Sir Bob in my book!

NFF2010 (Sandra Nixon photo) 

Pete Cahill

From the moment I met Bob I liked him very much. For me, he was the Soul of the Club. My fondest memories are many but the top of the list is his rendition of the poem “INCOGNITO”. I couldn’t take my eyes off Bob when he recited it. His devilish sense of humour was always catching me out and this poem could not be better suited. I hadn’t seen Bob for quite a few years now but the memories are many.

Bob reciting at the Loaded Dog Folk Club, Oct 2002 (Sandra Nixon photo)

2009 Illawarra Folk Festival (Sandra Nixon photo) 


Bob, June 1999
(Bob Bolton collection)

I will never forget your encouragement in my early days and I see you pumping that accordion in the Big Hall I hope to one day get too. God bless you Bob Bolton.

Chris & the Poleson family

I first met Bob when I was about eleven years old. He used to practice at our house in Nielsen Park with the band The Rouseabouts that Dad & Bob were members of. Bob always encouraged & spoke to us kids & we learnt a lot from him.

Rouseabouts, 1977
(Bob Bolton photo)

Later as adults, we came to play in the Monday night Concert Party. We became very dear friends & the CP was well-led by Bob for many years. When the Illawarra FF was held at Jamberoo Bob always camped in the same spot with his trusty Subaru station wagon & funny little tent. We shared many a breakfast chat there & I learnt about everything from waltzes to World War I weaponry. I later christened that spot "Bolton's Corner".

I miss Bob & those great times very much.

Farewell, dear friend.

Bruce Cameron 

Very sad to hear this news. Bob was a unique repository of knowledge when it came to Australian folk music as well as a myriad other esoteric stuff for so many years. I reckon he was a special kind of bloke. Regular Aussie Mudcatters "of old" would remember if there was a question on a topic about which Bob had knowledge, he was always happy to contribute ... with appropriate references, of course!

Bob's astounding collection of photographs provides a visual history of the Australian folk scene, with a strong emphasis on the revival of traditional Australian bush music. I know these photos are now being curated / digitised / collated / annotated slowly and carefully, and they will eventually become the important resource they deserve to be, hopefully in the National Library of Australia.

I'm sure Sandra in Sydney will be able to tell us more about Bob's long association with the (Sydney) Bush Music Club and his achievements as a musician and musical historian.

My condolences go to Pat, family and friends.

(posted on Mudcat Cafe)

Sandra Nixon

In 1995 a friend took over a folk club - folk music? I used to like folk music, I said & went along. The following week I was a member, collecting the money at the door, & joined BMC not long after that.

Bob at The Loaded Dog, March 2013
(Sandra Nixon photo)

Bob was The Loaded Dog Folk Club's photographer & while I don't remember the first time I met him after I joined The Dog in 1995,  I do remember him sometime later talking Advanced Camera to the bloke in Fletchers & I had my first (inexpensive) good-quality camera. He created a 4x6 cheat card so I knew what my new camera could do! I was using cheap film until the day I borrowed a roll of Fuji 400 from him, after that he could borrow Fuji from me. Some years later I again accompanied him to get a digital camera which I still have but I didn't need a cheat card this time - I just scribbled on the booklet!

Bob was always generous in sharing information. My knowledge of folk music was based on music played on the radio back in the 70s, & Bob was the major source of my knowledge of bush music and the Australian folk revival.

Bob was a polymath & we had many conversations on such diverse topics as medieval Japanese literature (all written by ladies of the Court, men wrote in scholarly Chinese!), historic costumes, crafts, Gymea lilies, history ...

Bob at National Folk Festival, 2000 wearing a PRESS
pass in his hatband (Sandra Nixon photo)


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