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Reginald 'Reg' Alfred Reader (1937-2014)












Reg Reader  was born on 4th May 1937 in Yoxford, east Suffolk. He worked in engineering, a job which took him away to Cambridgeshire for a few years in the 1960s. When he returned to east Suffolk, to live in Knodishall, he worked for Garrett’s in Leiston for many years and then for Pegg’s in Aldeburgh until his retirement in 2002.

Reg was close to his grandfather, Charlie Philpot, and would sit alongside him as a young boy, picking out tunes. He died in 1965, while Reg was living in Cambridgeshire and although Charlie left him the dulcimer, Reg hardly touched it for the next ten years or so. He started taking it more seriously due to encouragement from friend and neighbour Phil O’Dwyer who put him in contact with Leiston Folk Club and Magic Lantern, most of whose members who lived nearby at the time. Jeannie Harris tuned the dulcimer and Taffy Thomas invited Reg on outings around the country together with melodeon player Oscar Woods and singer Percy Ling. Keith Summers met Reg on one of his musical forays into Suffolk and made recordings which were issued on the seminal 1977 vinyl album ‘Sing Say and Play’.

John and Katie Howson first met Reg in the late 1970s, and in the early 1980s they set up the Old Hat Band with Reg, Jeannie Harris and Adrian Turner, as a ceilidh band and organised outings which became the Old Hat Concert Party: this always included Reg alongside a variety of other traditional singers, musicians and stepdancers from Suffolk and Norfolk. One of the most regular members in the early 1980s was Billy Bennington, who proved a great inspiration to Reg as well as a good friend. ‘Later I met Billy Bennington and he was good. I suppose really I learned more from Billy than my grandfather. He taught me tunes while Billy showed me the other bits and pieces. He was clever!’

The Old Hat Concert Party travelled the length and breadth of England, appearing at the Gateshead Garden Festival, folk clubs in Norwich, London and Swindon and folk festivals in Devon, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire. Reg was also a founder member of ceilidh bands Old Hat Dance Band and Katie’s Quartet which played for dancing both locally and across the country. Once Reg reached the age of 70, he curtailed his travelling and playing for dances to a certain extent, but continued to have a very active musical life locally, often playing at four or five pub sessions a week. He and a group of friends formed the band Shipshape who were, and still are, at the heart of many sessions in East Suffolk.

Dulcimer players from all round the world would call on Reg, share some music and ask his advice on tuning. He was a quiet, self-effacing man, generous with his time, and his influence on other musicians and dulcimer players is widespread and deep. In addition, Reg leaves another legacy: his grandson Tom Knight is an enthusiastic and able dulcimer player who is keen to carry on the family tradition. Reg died in 2014.

Keith Summers survey of the traditional music making in East Suffolk was published  under the title 'Sing, Say or Pay!' in 'Traditions Music' magazine in 1977 and is now available on line. Follow this link to read his interview with Reg Reader.



Reg Reader was recorded by Keith Summers (1977), as a part of: The Old Hat Concert Party (1986), The Old Hat Dance Band (1992), Katie's Quartet (1996) and by John Howson (1998). For further information follow the link:

Recordings of Reg Reader

Reg Reader's dulcimer which he inherited from James Philpot and Charlie Philpot

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Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture


Photo descriptions & sources

main photos:

Reg & Jen Newson, Blaxhall Ship - 2002 (J & K Howson)

Reg & grandson Tom Knights - Cambridge Music Festival - 2009 (J & K Howson)

1. Reg with Katie Howson - c.1985 (John Howson)

2. Eleanor Reader, John Howson, Katie Howson, Dan Quinn & Reg - Harvest Horkey, Earl Soham - 2001 (Maggie Hunt)

3. Reg with Ted Chaplin - c.1983 (J & K Howson)

4. Reg with Tony Harvey - Gressenhall Museum - 2005 (John Halliday)

5.Reg with Tom Smith, Ray Hubbard, Katie Howson & Cyril Barber, Worlingwoth Swan - 2011(Archant Newspapers)

6. The (original) Old Hat Band, Reg, John Howson, Katie Howson, Jeannie Harris & Adrian Turner - Blaxhall Ship - c.1080 (J & K Howson)

7. Old Hat Band, John Howson, Des Miller, Ted Stevens, Reg & Katie Howson - Whitby Folk Festival -1986 (Maggie Hunt)

8. Wickham Skeith Grimmer Fete - John Howson, Cyril Barber, Katie Howson, Reg & Billy Bennington - c.1986 (J & K Howson)

9. Old Hat Dance Band, Ted Stevens, Katie Howson, John Howson, Barry Coupe, Reg & Mel Dean - Cecil Sharp House, London - c.1992 (Brian Shuel)

10. John Howson, Katie Howson & Reg - Wells-next-the-sea - 2005 (Chris Gill)


a. Reg Reader's dulcimer front (John Howson)

b. Reg Reader's dulcimer back (JH)

c. Reg Reader's dulcimer bridges (JH)

d. Reg Reader's dulcimer sound hole  (JH)

e. Reg Reader's dulcimer stand  (JH)

f.  Reg Reader dulcimer profile (JH)

g. Reg Reader's dulcimer above  (John Halliday)

h. Reg Reader's beaters and tuning key  (JH)


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