Pete Atkin is taking a short break from reviewing some demos for the new CD he is working on and trying to remember the last time he played Watford Folk Club.

“It would be about 1974, I should think,“ he concludes with a laugh. “I spent most of my time in the early ‘70s playing folk clubs all over the country, but I haven’t been to Watford in a very, very long time.“

There’s a lot for us Watfordians to catch up on since the singer songwriter and former BBC radio comedy producer was last in town, and tickets for his gig at Watford Folk Club are already selling fast. The organisers at the folk club tell me one fan is even coming all the way from the US just to see Pete play.

“I did see that, yes,“ Pete laughs. “In the past, people have changed their travel arrangements so they’d be able to come to a gig but I haven’t heard of anybody coming that far. That’s quite frightening!“

Pete started playing music as a teenager in the 1950s after developing a passion for Buddy Holly. He formed a church youth club band, The Chevrons, in Cambridge, where he grew up, and they did covers of Shadows, Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly songs. He then discovered Elvis and The Beatles and, he says, “has never stopped playing and singing since“.

Pete went to Cambridge University in the 1960s to study classics and English, and it was there that he met the future author, TV presenter and critic Clive James, his musical collaboration with whom Pete is perhaps best known for. The pair recorded six albums in the 1970s, as well as writing material for other musicians.

“I wasn’t expecting to be a performer,“ Pete reveals. “When we were writing the songs we thought we’d get other people to perform them – we didn’t approach record companies, we approached publishers.

“That was a very intense time. Clive was always going to be a writer, he was writing other things to make money, because the songs never made us any money in those days. I only made my living from playing the folk clubs. It was pretty hand-to-mouth and there were times when it was a real slog, but I was happy just doing it, it was something I was aching to do.“

And the audience grew thanks to those half-dozen albums – and thanks to Pete’s several appearances on the John Peel Show.

“In 1974, nobody did more sessions for John Peel than I did,“ laughs Pete, “he was very supportive. You don’t realise, now, how incredibly important his radio programme was. Pre-internet, it was the only place you could go to hear a different sort of playlist from the mainstream.“

But, Pete reveals, the late, legendary DJ and champion of new music wasn’t much in attendance at these famous sessions.

“He was a very shy man,“ Pete says, “he let John Walters, his producer, take over all that. It was such a huge loss when he died, it was such a shock.“

Pete recorded his last commercial LP in 1975, his record contract had expired – the music “had dried up“ as he says – and so he started doing other things: writing for children’s television and the theatre and, for the majority of his career, as a comedy producer for BBC radio from the 1980s, producing shows such as Just a Minute, and then as a freelance producer, when he produced This Sceptred Isle, a 396-episode radio history of Britain.

But he has never stopped performing and, he says, it is music that has always been his true love.

“It’s what I started out doing and what I’m ending up doing. There’s just nothing like it. These choices are always artificial, but if I was only allowed to do one thing, it would have to be the music.“