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Band History

The Black Box Band (B3 to our friends) was founded in 1997 under the name The Herb Boys, with the aim of outlasting the Spice Girls, an ambition that was easily achieved. Our musical philosophy was to play energetic, mainly English dance music using piano as a percussion instrument. The original band members were Steve Harrison (melodeon & mouth organ), Vic Gammon (banjo & anglo-concertina), Julian Whittaker (piano) and Sue Coe (dance caller and step dancer). The piano stool was later taken over by Mary Humphreys and then by Alice Jones. Vic departed in 2005 to direct the folk degree programme at Newcastle University and was replaced by Chris Coe (hammered dulcimer). By this time, the old name had worn a little thin and so the band was reborn as B3 with the addition of Chris Partington on fiddle. Steve passed away in 2018, and his stool is now usually occupied by Pete.


Steve Harrison (melodeon, mouth organ) played and called in ceilidh bands both locally and across England for over 25 years. With Nick Barber, he founded the Euro roots band The Official Brawl in which he played saxophones, bagpipes, pipe-and-tabor and whistles. With Mary Barber and Vic Gammon he founded Rough Music in which he played bagpipes and recorders, and played in the eight-piece renaissance bagpipe band Pipework with James Merryweather and William Marshall.He appeared as a guest dance caller and musician with numerous other bands, including Hooke's Law, Sweet Liberty, English Rebellion, Tight Squeeze and The Red Parrots. He was for many years a dancer and musician for the White Rose Morris Men. He was an obsessive modifier and re-tuner of mouth organs. He was a member of Rod Stradling's Phoenix. Away from wathe dance scene, he was a member of the vocal group Dearman, Gammon & Harrison whose CD Black Crow/ White Crow was released by the English Folk Dance & Song Society in 2005. He also accompanied the singing of Annie Dearman, with whom he was a resident at the Ryburn 3-Step Folk Club.

Pete has had more than 50 years of music making on the English folk scene. His contributions include traditional song research, song writing in traditional style, the founding of several seminal bands (the founder member and visionary force behind The New Victory Band, Bandoggs and Red Shift) plus solo and duo performances, dance calling, recording, field research, local folk activism in Ryburn Three Step and teaching at various levels. Together with his wife, Sue, he received the Gold Badge Award from the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) in 2016 for their outstanding contributions to folk dance, music or song. https://www.petecoe.co.uk/

Chris Coe (hammered dulcimer). As a singer and player of hammered dulcimer, duet concertina, Appalachian dulcimer and step dance percussion, Chris has worked with some of the finest names in British folk music in 40 years of professional performance, including Pete Coe, John Adams, John Tams, Maggie Holland, Magic Lantern, New Victory Band, the English Country Blues Band, Tiger Moth, Bandoggs, Hooke's Law and Red Shift. In addition to her membership of B3, she currently tours with John Adams and performs locally in West Yorkshire with Annie Dearman. A pioneer musician, Chris has appeared at numerous folk festivals as a performer and tutor and in major concerts at the South Bank, Union Chapel, Kings Place, The Sage, Gateshead and elsewhere. Playing hammered dulcimer, she provided much of the music for the soundtrack of the film 'Mo' (composer Nick Hooper), which celebrated the life of Mo Mowlam. She has worked as dancer, singer and musician in productions at the National Theatre and elsewhere, and has guested on numerous commercial CDs. Her solo CD A Wiser Fool was released in 2001. Chris has extensive educational experience as a tutor of theatre design (Northern Ballet Theatre), singing and instrumental music. She currently teaches voice and singing at the University of Huddersfield (Drama) and on the Newcastle University folk degree programme. She has now mostly retired from the band.

Chris Partington (fiddle) has been playing for Ceilidhs, Barn Dances and morris teams locally and at festivals for nearly four decades. In London in the early 1970s he played with the late Dave Roberts (later of Blowzabella) in two bands, GBH and the North Circular Accidental Band, one of the most popular and innovative English ceilidh bands of the period. By the 1980s he had moved north to Yorkshire and joined ceilidh band Hooke's Law, with Janet Kerr, Chris Coe, John Adams, Pete Coe, and Mike Hockenhull. In the 1990s he was, with much the same personel plus Dee De Witt, in the bands Raw Material then Our Northern Branch and Jolly Straw Hat. He is currently a member of Tenterhooks String Band with champion Border Piper Paul Roberts and Alison Roberts on cello. He is also a member of The Barley Cote Band. He has deputised with many other bands, including earlier versions of B3. He has been a member of Earls of Essex Morris Men, Hartshead Morris, and is presently a musician for Hebden Bridge Hillmillies Morris.

Alice Jones (piano) sang and played clarinet, piano and whistle with The John Dipper Band, played piano with Sweet Liberty and the Family Band and whistle with the Ryburn Longsword Band. She is a past winner of the Dartmoor Stepdance Championship and a resident at the Ryburn 3-Step Folk Club. She has a double CD of Frank Kidson material with Pete Coe, and has a solo album to her name. http://alicejonesmusic.com/

Sue Coe (dance caller, step dancer) started calling with Hookes Law in 1996 and now calls most regularly with The Black Box Band. She has called at Sidmouth and Bridgnorth Folk Festivals with Our Northern Branch and calls regularly with Hekety, Trinculo, Sweet Liberty, Tenterhooks and The Rising Sun Band. She has also performed and presented dance workshops in Yorkshire Longsword and Appalachian step dance at various festivals, nationally and internationally. In 2000 she became choreographer to Northern Broadsides Theatre Company. She also teaches Longsword and ceilidh dancing in schools, including wheelchair ceilidh dances.
Together with her husband Pete, she received the Gold Badge Award from the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) in 2016 for their outstanding contributions to folk dance, music or song.
B3's members are all active in the Ryburn 3-Step folk arts organisation and are able to draw on the services of other distinguished musicians when deputies or a larger band are required. Our most frequent draftees are  Johnny Adams (fiddle, piano), Mike Pinder (fiddle), Robin Bowles (piano) and Terry Evans (dance caller).