The Night we met Tornado Smith

REPORT FROM folk at the froize – 23rd June 2024 BY David Grimwood

Over the years of promoting live music, one word sums up all that is kind and good in the folk world…. Collaboration.

A shared love of storytelling and sublime music brings together so many of the folk worlds incredible artists to share yet more ways to enjoy this wonderful musical genre.

Brooks Williams and Aaron Catlow – both with their own musical journeys, are fine examples of this – collaborating to bring us words and tunes to lift the heart, make us smile and make us cry.

They enthralled us with tracks from their new album – ‘Greens & Blues’ along with many others – twinning musical brilliance with great stories.

One such song – in fact… the only song written about one of Suffolk’s lesser known figures – The one and only Tornado Smith – Maestro of the Wall of Death, made me smile even more.

Tornedo (George) Smith was son of the landlord of the White Hart public house in Boxford. He shocked, startled and entertained paying customers who packed the standing area at the top of the wooden Wall. They leaned over to watch, at first probably doubting and disbelieving, as he revved up his motorbike and began to whiz round and round the cylindrical structure, seemingly defying gravity, danger and any doubters.
Tornado is also remembered for his two special partners on the Wall of Death. One, a pretty brunette motorcyclist who rode her own Indian Scout with equal dexterity and appeared under the name of “Marjorie Dare”, she was in fact Mrs “Tornado” Smith. The other was a twelve stone lioness called Briton, first introduced in the show as an added attraction, riding on the handlebars and later, when she was fully grown, riding in the sidecar. When Briton died, she was buried under the forecourt of Tornado’s home, The White Hart pub.

Strange that no one else has ever written a song about Tornado Smith – although I have heard it sung by someone else.

The whole evening was enhanced by Brooks beautiful guitar playing and wide ranging vocal skills – and quite how Aaron didn’t set his fiddle on fire during some of the numbers is a miracle!

The audience loved it – much hand clapping and cheers brought an encore from the boys to end a pretty darn good evening.

…and the food was none too shabby either!

Next up its Katie Spencer on July 21st