Willie Kemp

The King o' the Cornkisters


Available on Cassette - Catalogue Number - SLPYHT002T - Ł4.99

Singer, broadcaster and entertainer Willie Kemp was known throughout the north east as ‘The King o’ the Cornkisters’.  He was born in 1889 in Oldmeldum in the Buchan area of Aberdeenshire and grew up in the tradition of the bothy ballad.  His parents owned Kemp’s Hotel in the quiet country village and frequently hosted informal concert evenings.

When Willie grew older he took to the stage himself and leapt to fame via an unusual incident. 

He was taking part in a church concert in Aberdeen and giving a very animated rendition of ‘The Weddin’ o’ McGinnis’.  The audience loved it until the minister intervened.  The poor man was a newcomer from ‘the south’ and did not fully understand the quaint phraseology of the north east. The unrestained laughter of the audience and the antics of the singer lead him to believe that something objectionable was being sung, so he dragged the flabbergasted Willie offstage to the anger of many in the hall. 

 The upshot of the incident was that several families changed churches. The Kirk Session insisted that the minister apologise and soon afterwards he was moved to a new charge.  Willie however was made as a personality and the offers poured in.

He became a popular entertainer and began broadcasting with the BBC when their Aberdeen studio opened in 1923.  Between 1930 and 1939 Willie made around 100 recordings on the Beltona label. Beltona records were immensely popular in their day and preserved the work of Scottish artistes who would otherwise now be remembered in name only.  

He continued to make stage appearances almost up to the time of his death in April 1965. 

The original shellac 78rpm pressings used for this collection have been played into computer and digitally improved.  We hope you will agree that they have been well restored - and most importantly - that you can enjoy once again the singing of Willie Kemp.


14 Tracks - Total Running Time of 48 min 20 sec.

1.  The Tinklers’ Wedding


2.  The Weddin’ o’ McGinnis


3.  The Bonnie Lass o’ Fyvie


4.  The Wee Toon Clerk


5.  The Baker Man


6.  McGinty’s Meal and Ale


7.  MacFarlan’ Is My Darlin’


8.  Wi’ Ma’ Big Kilmarnock Bonnet


9.  Ye Canna Pit It On Tae Sandy


10. It Fair Cowes the Cuddy


11. The Dying Ploughboy


12. It’s Afa Like It’s Faither


13. The Muckle Gawkit Gype


14. McFarlane o’ The Sprots