is an English singer, songwriter, comedian, author, poet and broadcaster. He is known as 'The Rochdale
Rochdale is a large market town in Greater Manchester, England. It lies amongst the foothills of the Pennines on the River Roch, north-northwest of Oldham, and north-northeast of the city of Manchester. Rochdale is surrounded by several smaller settlements which together form the Metropolitan...
Cowboy' after one of his hit records. In addition, at various times of his life, Harding has been a stand-up comic, photographer, traveller, filmmaker, playwright and musician.
Harding's father, Louis Arthur "Curly" Harding, was a navigator
A navigator is the person on board a ship or aircraft responsible for its navigation. The navigator's primary responsibility is to be aware of ship or aircraft position at all times. Responsibilities include planning the journey, advising the Captain or aircraft Commander of estimated timing to...
in the RAF. who was killed during World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
, a few weeks before his son's birth. Harding is of Irish descent on his mother's side.
He was educated at St Anne's, Crumpsall, and St Bede's, Manchester
St Bede's College, Manchester is an independent Roman Catholic day school situated on Alexandra Road South in the Whalley Range area of the city, and is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference....
. After a varied career as a road digger, dustbin man
A waste collector is a person employed by a public or private enterprise to collect and remove refuse and recyclables from residential, commercial, industrial or other collection site for further processing and disposal...
, schoolteacher, steel erector, bus conductor, boiler scaler and chemical factory worker, he took a degree in English and Education at the University of Manchester
The University of Manchester is a public research university located in Manchester, United Kingdom. It is a "red brick" university and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive British universities and the N8 Group...
Harding began performing as a folk singer
Folk Singer is a 1964 album by Muddy Waters. Waters plays acoustic guitar, backed by Willie Dixon on string bass, Clifton James on drums, and Buddy Guy on acoustic guitar...
and as a member of several local Manchester bands in the 1960s, making his first recordings for the Topic
Topic Records is a British folk music label, which played a major role in the second British folk revival. It began as an offshoot of the Workers' Music Association in 1939, making it the oldest independent record label in the world.-History:...
label. He began telling jokes between songs, eventually extending them into longer humorous anecdotes which became the main focus of his act. He released his first album, A Lancashire Lad
, in 1972, followed by Mrs 'Ardin's Kid
in 1974. In 1975, the single release of "The Rochdale Cowboy", which reached No.22 in the UK pop charts, brought him national attention.
As a stand-up comic he made several series for the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...
and appeared on numerous TV and radio programmes, including two series of travel films in Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...
and the Appalachian Mountains
The Appalachian Mountains #Whether the stressed vowel is or ,#Whether the "ch" is pronounced as a fricative or an affricate , and#Whether the final vowel is the monophthong or the diphthong .), often called the Appalachians, are a system of mountains in eastern North America. The Appalachians...
of America. He also played rock and roll
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of African American blues, country, jazz, and gospel music...
with his band, the Stylos, with the Lowe Brothers. He has had many albums and singles released. Singles include "The Rochdale Cowboy/Strangeways Hotel" and the "Man 'nited Song". As well as comedy, he has released albums of serious songs, most notably Bombers' Moon
, the title track of which tells of his father's death. The album also contains "The Accrington Pals
The Accrington Pals was a British First World War Pals battalion of Kitchener's Army raised in and around the town of Accrington in Lancashire. When the battalion was taken over by the British Army it was officially named the 11th Battalion, The East Lancashire Regiment.Recruiting was initiated by...
" and cover versions of Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen , nicknamed "The Boss," is an American singer-songwriter who records and tours with the E Street Band...
's "Factory" and Eric Bogle
Eric Bogle is a folk singer-songwriter. He emigrated to Australia in 1969 and currently resides near Adelaide, South Australia.-Career:...
's "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda
"And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" is a song written by Scottish-born Australian singer-songwriter Eric Bogle in 1971. The song describes war as futile and gruesome, while criticising those who seek to glorify it...
Harding composed the music scores for DangerMouse
, Count Duckula
Count Duckula is a British animated television series created by British studio Cosgrove Hall, and a spin-off from DangerMouse, a show in which the Count Duckula character was a recurring villain. The series first aired on September 6, 1988 and was produced by Thames Television for 3 seasons and...
(he also sang the main and end titles with Doreen Edwards), The Reluctant Dragon
The Reluctant Dragon is an 1898 children's story by Kenneth Grahame , which served as the key element to the 1941 feature film with the same name from Walt Disney Productions. The story has also been set to music as a children's operetta by John Rutter, with words by David Grant...
and The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship
The Flying Ship or The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship is a Russian fairy tale. Andrew Lang included it in The Yellow Fairy Book and Arthur Ransome in Old Peter's Russian Tales....
for Cosgrove Hall.
As well as being an acclaimed musician and comedian, he wrote The Armchair Anarchist's Almanac
, a humorous A-Z book; two collections of anecdotes, jokes and songs entitled The Unluckiest Man in the World
and The 14½ Pound Budgie
; and a comedy/thriller/fantasy, Killer Budgies
. His other books include a series covering aspects of his interest in British folklore
English folklore is the folk tradition which has developed in England over a number of centuries. Some stories can be traced back to their roots, while the origin of others is uncertain or disputed...
and history – The Little Book of the Green Man
A Green Man is a sculpture, drawing, or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit...
, The Little Book of Stained Glass
The term stained glass can refer to coloured glass as a material or to works produced from it. Throughout its thousand-year history, the term has been applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches and other significant buildings...
, The Little Book of Gargoyles
, and The Little Book of Misericords
; and the loosely factual autobiography, You Can See the Angel's Bum, Miss Worswick!
He has also read two of his short stories for Afternoon Story
on BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...
. In 1986 Harding wrote the foreword to Barry Pilton
Barry Pilton is a travel writer, radio and television comedy scriptwriter and novelist. He was educated in Dulwich College and King's College London. In 1967-8 he taught English in Paris and from 1969 worked as a journalist on the Sunday Post, becoming a freelance writer in 1976...
's book, One Man and His Bog
One Man and His Bog is a 1986 travelogue book written by Barry Pilton and published by Corgi which started life as a series of talks on BBC Radio 4. It gives a light-hearted account of his walking the full length of the Pennine Way in 21 days, from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the...
He more recently made a series of fourteen short films on minority religions in England for the BBC's Heaven and Earth
show, and since 1999 has presented the BBC Radio 2
BBC Radio 2 is one of the BBC's national radio stations and the most popular station in the United Kingdom. Much of its daytime playlist-based programming is best described as Adult Contemporary or AOR, although the station is also noted for its specialist broadcasting of other musical genres...
flagship folk and roots programme, The Mike Harding Show
, every Wednesday from 7 pm to 8 pm. Since 2000 Harding has presented the annual BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards
The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards celebrate outstanding achievement during the previous year within the field of folk music. The awards have been given annually since 2000 by British radio station BBC Radio 2....
Harding is a dedicated hillwalker
In the British Isles, the terms hillwalking or fellwalking are commonly used to describe the recreational outdoor activity of walking on hills and mountains, often with the intention of visiting their summits...
and a former president, and now life vice-president of the Ramblers' Association. He wrote, until a new format was sought for the magazine in 2008, a regular column for hiking magazine The Great Outdoors
and campaigned for 'Right to Roam
The freedom to roam, or everyman's right is the general public's right to access certain public or privately owned land for recreation and exercise...
' legislation in the UK.
He is one of the patrons of the Wensleydale Railway
The Wensleydale Railway is a railway line in Wensleydale and Lower Swaledale in North Yorkshire, England and the name of the company that operates services on the line....
, a group set up to re-open the once mainly derelict line between Northallerton
Northallerton is an affluent market town and civil parish in the Hambleton district of North Yorkshire, England. It lies in the Vale of Mowbray and at the northern end of the Vale of York. It has a population of 15,741 according to the 2001 census...
Garsdale is a civil parish occupying a narrow populated valley in Cumbria, England. It is on the western slopes of the Pennines, between Baugh Fell to the north, and Rise Hill to the south. The main hamlet, called “The Street”, lies on the A684 road, east of Sedbergh, and west of Hawes...
in Yorkshire, near where he now lives.
- A Lancashire Lad (1972, Trailer LER 2039)
- There Was This Bloke (1974 Rubber Records RUB 010) with Tony Capstick
Joseph Anthony 'Tony' Capstick was an English comedian, actor, musician and broadcaster.-Life and career:...
, Derek Brimstone and Bill Barclay
- Mrs 'Ardin's Kid (1975, Rubber Records RUB 011) – UK
The UK Albums Chart is a list of albums ranked by physical and digital sales in the United Kingdom. It is compiled every week by The Official Charts Company and broadcast on a Sunday on BBC Radio 1 , and published in Music Week magazine and on the OCC website .To qualify for the UK albums chart...
- The Rochdale Cowboy Rides Again (1975, Rubber Records RUB 015/016)
- One Man Show (1976, Philips 6625 022) – UK No.19
- Old Four Eyes is Back (1977, Philips 6308 290) – UK No.31
- Captain Paralytic & The Brown Ale Cowboys (1978, Philips 6641 798) – UK No.60
- On The Touchline (1979, Philips 9109 230)
- Komic Kutz (1979, Philips 6625 041)
- Red Specs Album (1981, Polydor 2383 601)
- Take Your Fingers Off It (1982, Moonraker MOO1)
- Rooted! (1983, Moonraker MOO2)
- Flat Dogs and Shaky Pudden (1983, BBC Records REH 468)
- Bomber's Moon (1984, Moonraker MOO3)
- Roll Over Cecil Sharpe (1985, Moonraker MOO7)
- Foo Foo Shufflewick & Her Exotic Banana (1986, Moonraker MOO8)
- The Best of Mike Harding (1986, Rubber Records RUB 047)
- Plutonium Alley (1989, Moonraker MOO9)
- God's Own Drunk (1989, Moonraker MOO10)
- Footloose in the Himalaya (1990, Moonraker MOOC11)
- Chinese Takeaway Blues (1992, Moonraker MOO11)
- The Bubbly Snot Monster (1994, Moonraker MOO14)
- Classic Tracks (1995, Moonraker CD MOO13)
- "Rochdale Cowboy" / "Strangeways Hotel" (1975, Rubber Records ADUB 3) – UK
The UK Singles Chart is compiled by The Official Charts Company on behalf of the British record-industry. The full chart contains the top selling 200 singles in the United Kingdom based upon combined record sales and download numbers, though some media outlets only list the Top 40 or the Top 75 ...
- "My Brother Sylveste" / "Uncle Joe's Mint Balls
Uncle Joe's Mint Balls are traditional mints produced by Wm Santus & Co. Ltd. in Wigan, Greater Manchester, England since 1898. Despite their name, the mints are not truly spherical but oblate spheroids. The ingredients of Uncle Joe's Mint Balls are: pure cane sugar, oil of peppermint and cream...
" (1976, Rubber Records ADUB 4)
- "Talking Blackpool Blues" / "Bogey Man" (1976, Rubber Records ADUB 10)
- Guilty, But Insane (EP): includes "Born Bad" / "Jimmy Spoons" / "Manuel" (1977, Philips CLOG 1)
- "Christmas 1914
Christmas truce was a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires that took place along the Western Front around Christmas of 1914, during the First World War...
" / "P.S. God" (1977, Philips 6006 585)
- "Disco Vampire" / "For Carlo" (1977, Philips CLOG 2)
- "Ale is Physick for Me" / "Ten Per Cent" on Deep Lancashire (1968, Topic 12T 188)
- "Sammy Shuttleworth" on Owdham Edge (1970, Topic 12T 204)
- "Ale is Physick for Me" / "Ten Per Cent" / Sammy Shuttleworth" on Deep Lancashire (1997, Topic TSCD 485)
- "Ale is Physick for Me" on And We'll All Have Tea (2000, Retro R2CD)
- Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society
The Royal Geographical Society is a British learned society founded in 1830 for the advancement of geographical sciences...
- Shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountaineering Literature
- Ralph Lewis Poetry Award (University of Sussex)
- 1991 Outdoor Writers Guild Award for Excellence for Footloose in the Himalaya (broadcast)
- 1996 The Signal Award for Children's Poetry