Chas’n Dave – the ‘Cockney ambassadors’

I met with Kate Garner at the beautiful Brasserie Zédel off Piccadilly Circus. Kate is not only a composer and musician in the London music hall tradition who often performs at Zédel’s, but also comes from a very musical North London family: she is the daughter of Chas Hodges from Chas’n Dave, the iconic Cockney band. Chas passed away in 2018, but Dave is Kate’s godfather and still a part of her family.

Chas’n Dave was a nationally and internationally acclaimed rock duo in the 1970s and 1980s with chart hits like Ain’t no pleasing you, Gertcha, and Rabbit (Cockney rhyming slang: rabbit and pork = talk). They called their music style Rockney, also the title of one of their albums, and Cockney dialect and rhyming slang feature strongly in all of their songs.

Kate is convinced that this was part of their success: ‘In the 70s, all groups were singing in American accents. But they didn’t do that, they kept their own accents. And for them to do, that was quite unique and unusual at the time’. Her dad, she says, was always ‘completely himself’, on and off the stage. The accent ‘wasn’t a gimmick; it wasn’t done in a comedic way’. Also, the way they dressed – with a flat cap or hat, shirt and braces – ‘it wasn’t part of an image: That’s how they dressed!’

Kate with her father Chas (photo: Kate Garner)

Music always played a big role in her family. Like in many London families, the family would gather around the piano at parties and everyone would sing their signature song. Her grandmother, Chas’ mother Daisy, was a popular pub pianist and singer and Lionel Bart, who wrote the musical Oliver! and many others, used to go and watch her play the ‘stride piano’ – ‘a very London style of playing’, Kate tells me. At Dave’s sister Marie’s Christmas parties, where both Chas’ and Dave’s families would gather, Kate started her own singing career as a small child.

Chas and Dave at one of Dave’s sister Marie’s Christmas parties with Nanna Daisy on the piano (photo: Kate Garner)

Today, Kate performs songs she has written, inspired by Music Hall, the 1920s and 30s and her own London background. During lock-down, she staged weekly online sing-alongs via YouTube where people could request and join in to the old Cockney songs. To her, ‘London culture is having a good time and caring about each other. That’s what sing-along is, making people included, bringing everyone together in a song. When they’re in that situation and they’re suddenly all singing a song that they love. It’s unifying’.

Kate thinks that these positive feelings associated with Cockney music is what still draws people to Chas’n Dave. ‘They’ve got a lot of new fans. People who grew up in the 70s and 80s. It’s nostalgic, makes them feel good. Grandparents put their music on at parties. It still goes on in different generations’. In this way, Chas’n Dave continue in their role as ‘Cockney ambassadors’, not just transporting the London dialect outside of London, but also to younger people today. The same can be said of Kate, who found her musical home in the London music hall era of the early 20th century and reinterprets this style for new audiences.

And Kate is continuing another tradition: Chas & Dave wrote a song to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, which was performed by her grandmother Daisy. This Sunday, Kate is releasing the song Platinum Queen that she wrote in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this year. ‘What makes it particularly poignant for me is The Queen’s Green Canopy, encouraging everyone to plant a tree. I am releasing this song on 19th March, my Nanna Daisy’s birthday, as she is very much part of the story.’

Kate’s new song Platinum Queen is released on 19th March 2022 on Itunes, Amazon, Apple, Spotify etc.

Kate Garner performs live on 10th May 2022 at the Crazy Coqs venue in Brasserie Zédel. Tickets can be booked here!

Kate Garner (in a Cockney flat cap) and me at Brasserie Zédel
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