To contact the man for hire – Click here.
Cliff Haslam was born on 6 December in a small village by the name of Woolston, nearby the town of Warrington, England… He explains that it is about the mid-point between Liverpool and Manchester, but he does not call either of these home. In those days Woolston was part of the county Lancashire, but in 1974 the British government redrew the county lines and today Woolston is part of the county Cheshire.
Cliff has been singing all his life, between performing with his brothers at family functions at home to school and church choirs. He was constantly exposed to folk songs from family, music class, even the radio, although like most folk singers today he found himself distracted by popular rock & roll as he hit puberty. Cliff took up apprenticeship as a machinist but he never lost his love of the music. He and his friends would sneak into pubs and folk clubs at first as it was easier to get served underage, but it also reignited his love for folk music… He tells the story that one evening he “went to the loo” and upon emerging he was to discover that his friends had signed him up to take a turn standing and presenting a song to the assembled audience… shaking in his shoes, he presented “Sovay”, which he had learned from the singing of Martin Carthy, with its unusual meter. But it broke the ice and he was on his way to becoming a public folk singer.
When Cliff became 21 he applied for a job as a machinist in the US, coming to Connecticut in 1966 and finding that folk music was to be found in coffee houses rather than the pubs for the most part. While Cliff discovered that most of the songs he knew were yet to make it “to the scene” here, there was a rich folk tradition and he was now in the middle of it. He tells the story of how he would go to “The Exit Coffee House” folk club in New Haven, CT to sing but they wouldn’t believe that empty-handed Cliff was a performer, obligating him to pay the cover charge… He quickly learned that by carrying a guitar case in with him changed all that to his favour, placing some curtain rods inside for weight; soon, he picked up an inexpensive guitar and learned a few chords to actually use it, too! He also picked up the English concertina although he does not play it so much these days.
Cliff has been a resident of Madison, CT for quite some time with his wife Sandy. He can be seen every Monday (with rare exception) at the Griswold Inn in Essex, CT. He has performed at the annual Sea Music Festival in Mystic, CT and is still part of their rotation every other year or so. Various house concerts are part of his schedule as well as folk music festivals around New England and further.
Cliff …..Susan and I really enjoyed your music last Monday at The Gris!….are hearts were warmed to see and hear the younger generation singing along with such conviction….and as a public school music teacher myself I just wanted to compliment you and “the guys” on keeping the oral tradition of sea chanties alive and well to be passed on as a gift from your heart that will live forever in the hearts of others…Thanks to your music and Cd our trip was something to always remember!!!!
Sincerely Jeff & Susan Robinson
PS we are the couple from Michigan
Mr Haslem, my name is A.J. Mulhern and we knew each other from the EXIT. I sang with Randy Burns, and we stole all we could from your genius.
Hope you’re well.
Hello AJ. I am Joseph and I am Cliff’s webmaster. I’ll pass along your message… The man is still going strong! If you’re ever around Essex, CT some Monday night…
I first encountered Cliff at the Eisteddfod at UMass Darmouth (it was called SMU back then). I remember especially he did an impromptu outdoor concert with the Boarding Party. Among other songs they sang “Chicken on a Raft” with immense and hearty gusto!
Nice to see he’s still going strong. Great musician and a very nice man.
As someone who was a Cliff fan for much of the 1970s , it is very exciting to find that you are still performing! And it appears that you are still at the Gris — which is amazing. And that makes me sad since I can’t really see myself driving down to Essex from Cape Cod for a Cliff-fix on one or more Monday nights! But maybe I will try to arrange that at some point! Of course if I did decided to drive down, I’d have to make absolutely certain that you were going to be singing at the Gris that week!
I’ll drink an ale to that!
I remember Wednesday nights at the Jolly Beggar’s in Mystic in 1974, with its dirt floor, blazing hot wood stove in winter, Cliff leading the shanties, and the beer bottles banging on the tables. Wooden shipbuilders from the restoration shipyard at the Seaport, submarine builders from EB, and fishermen from Stonington. Was always a rowdy good time. After being out of the area for a few years, coming back in 1979 to find the Beggar’s gone and condominiums and a parking lot in its place. Was great while it lasted.