singer and guitarist with the mighty 60s and 70s folk trio
Triban, passed away early on Tuesday, November 13. This year, he was
interviewed for the BBC-Wales Celtic Heartbeat folk programme by Frank
Hennessy, on the occasion of Recordiau Sain releasing a special Triban
boxed set containing all their album tracks and hits. Bob and the
other members of Triban, Eiri Thrasher and Caryl Owen, were discovered
for their brilliant harmony singing by Joe Jones, owner of
Pontardawe’s Cambrian Records, and then by pop guru Jonathan King. Bob
reminisced: “Great days – recording and with the girls. They were the
best of times.” In the early days, Triban were united with Cardiff
folk group The Hennessys, led by guitarist and songwriter Frank, and
were called The Amalgamation.
London record moguls signed Triban, on the condition that they were
prepared to play anywhere in the world at short notice. However, Eiri
feared that the ties of motherhood would interfere with the band’s
success, and she decided to leave. She was replaced by Gill Jenkins
for Triban’s final line-up. Frank made this tribute to Bob on Celtic
Heartbeat: “He will be sorely missed.”
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Ian Campbell, who led The Ian
Campbell Folk Group and was father to Tobin and Ali Campbell in
Birmingham’s international reggae band UB40, has died at the age of 78
on November 23. Born in Aberdeen, Ian moved to Birmingham in 1946. He
formed the Clarion Skiffle Group in the mid 1950s, along with his
sister Lorna, who was also the singer. They were later joined by
guitarist Dave Phillips and banjo player Gordon McCulloch, and by 1958
were known as the Ian Campbell Four.
By 1960, Gordon had been replaced by John Dunkerley and the group was
also joined by violinist Dave Swarbrick. The group became well known
on the local folk music scene and played regularly around Birmingham,
often appearing at The Crown Pub on Station Street. It was there that
they played on a live recording that was released as Ceilidh At The
Crown in 1962. The following year, the group was signed to
Transatlantic Records and released their first album, entitled This Is
The Ian Campbell Folk Group. At around this time, Dave Phillips left
and was replaced by Brian Clark.
The Ian Campbell Group soon established themselves as a highly
proficient live act, who became well known for their instrumental
abilities as well as Ian’s talent as a songwriter. Tours and
television appearances followed, and in March 1965 the group even
managed to get a hit single with their rendition of Bob Dylan's The
Times They Are A-Changin'. The group's major strength however, lay in
their live performances where the line-up was often supplemented by
top session musicians.
In 1966, Dave left to become a major player in the British folk scene
and later joined the well known group Fairport Convention. Bass player
Dave Pegg, from the Birmingham group The Uglys, joined the Ian
Campbell Group in 1967 and a few years later would also leave to join
Fairport Convention. Despite many further personnel changes, the Ian
Campbell Folk Group continued to tour and release records throughout
the 1960s and 1970s although tragically, John Dunkerley died of
Hodgkinsons disease in 1977 at only 35 years old. The group disbanded
in the late 1970's, but their status in folk music circles has
continued to increase since then as one of the earliest significant
British folk groups.
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Jackie Guthrie, wife of the
American folk singer Arlo Guthrie, died on October 14. Jackie was
suffering from inoperable cancer and passed away at the couple’s
winter home in Sebastian, Florida. The couple had recently celebrated
their 43rd wedding anniversary.
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who was a founding member of The Chieftains, died in November. The
76-year-old, who was from Cabra in Dublin, had been ill for some time.
In 1962 he was one of the founding members of the group. In 2001,
Martin decided to stop touring with the group, only making appearances
on occasions. He retired full-time the following year.
Chieftains' website said that Martin was inspired to take up music
after seeing a film on Paganini, with the soundtrack (played by Yehudi
Menuhin) deeply affecting him. His early passion was for classical
music, but he later became hooked on Irish music and became a member
of Ceoltóirí Cualann before the The Chieftains were founded.
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Folk musician and artist Barry Skinner,
who was born in Coventry but moved to Beddgelert in 1986, died in
October. His inspiration for the past 20 years had been the evocative
landscape of Snowdonia, along with many other parts of the British
Isles, particularly Cornwall, the west coast of Ireland and
Recently he had been captivated by the coastal wonders of
Pembrokeshire and had produced many works which had earned him an
enthusiastic following in that county. In addition to his painting,
Barry had a reputation as a skilled and creative
wood-turner. He also designed and created bespoke miniature
dolls’ houses, each individually made to the client's
Barry's extraordinary talents extended to the performing arts - in
particular the British folk scene, where he was active from the late
1950s, singing professionally from 1964 until the end of his life.
After a spell in retailing and interior design, he left it all behind
in 1964. For the next 16 years he toured Britain, Europe and America,
playing guitar and singing his own and traditional songs, recording
several albums and appearing on television and radio. He was one of
the founding members of the first Coventry Folk Club in 1962 and was
still involved in performing and writing music. From 1979 until 1986,
he worked for the Coventry Education Waterways Scheme, running narrow
boats for school groups. During this time he wrote a large number of
songs about the canals.
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John Bond of the north-western
folk duo Penny Black lost his fight against lung cancer and passed
away in October. He was helped through his fight at Blackpool Victoria
Hospital, and had donated Ł2,500 from a charity concert to the Blue
Skies Hospital Fund. John, 67, was diagnosed with lung cancer in April
2010 and received chemotherapy at a local Macmillan unit. He was so
touched with the care he received that he and his musician partner,
Pete Skinner, organised a concert, including The Alan Bell Band,
Scolds Bridle, Chris and Siobhan Nelson, Dom Collins, Ryan Cregan and
many others. The donation was used to provide special chairs for
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American Irish/bluegrass/old country musician, singer and Kennebunk
River Productions owner Allan ‘Mac’ McHale,
died of a heart attack on November 11. Born and raised in Bangor,
Maine, he was influenced at an early age by the live country music of
Gene Hooper, Hal Lone Pine and Smiling Bill Waters. He start playing
banjo at 18. From 1965 to 1968 he had a Hootenanny Show that toured
Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. From 1969 to 1971, he played
mandolin and sang tenor with the Nonesuch River Singers, performing
throughout New England.
In 1972 he joined the White Mountain Bluegrass Band in Portsmouth, New
Hampshire, playing mandolin and handling bookings and business
affairs. He started the Northeast Winds band in 1978 which became New
England's most popular traditional Irish music group. They recorded
five albums, two videos and recorded many TV specials. Allan formed
The Old Time Radio Gang in 1987, and right up to his death, they kept
a busy schedule playing traditional country music in grange halls,
school halls and town halls.
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Chicago-born black singer-songwriter and guitarist
Terry Callier has died in October
from throat cancer. He was 67. Early reports of his death filtered
through music websites, including Stereogum, which said: “Like
England’s Nick Drake, the Chicago-based Callier was largely overlooked
for much of his artistic prime.”
Terry had vanished from the mainstream music world since 2009, when
his final album, Hidden Conversations, was written and produced with
Massive Attack. His music was being recognised by younger artists.
Possessed with a sweetly disarming baritone voice, his
hard-to-classify music never quite found their audience in the 1960s
and 1970s, at least not on the level attained by funky friends like
Curtis Mayfield. His thoughtful, earnest music didn't fit neatly into
any narrow marketing niche.
But in the late 1990s, he finally got his due when he was rediscovered
in Britain by acid-jazz aficionados and brought to London to perform.
He ended up tapping a well of inspired new material, starting with his
1998 release TimePeace, and collaborating with Paul Weller and Beth
Orton, among others.
His career began in the early 1960s, when Terry started cutting discs
with Chess Records while still in high school, before attending the
University of Illinois. His childhood friends included Mayfield, Jerry
Butler and Major Lance of the Impressions. He spent several years
knocking around Chicago coffeehouses, under the sway of John Coltrane
and Bob Dylan. Critics and audiences wondered whether he was a folkie,
a jazz cat or a classic Chicago blues belter - but his closest musical
family may be other multi-talent blues-based artists like Richie
In 1996, Terry told the Chicago Sun-Times: “People respond to me
because I’m a throwback to an older tradition that believed you should
do more than sing a song for an audience, that you should make people
feel something. You can make accessible music and still sing about
love and peace and truth and life and death. In the end, those are the
only things that matter.”
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Tributes have been paid to
Scottish singer-songwriter Michael Marra,
who died in the city’s Ninewells Hospital in Dundee in October, aged
60. He had been suffering from lung cancer and had been recovering
from a chest infection, and his widow, Peggy, said that his death was
not anticipated and was quite sudden. Born in Dundee in 1952, he rose
to fame in the 1980s as a solo performer and became one of Scotland's
most prolific songwriters. He was also well known for his theatre
work, writing the music for several plays and his own operetta.
Michael was brought up in
the Lochee area of Dundee, the son of a printer and a schoolteacher.
After being expelled from school at the age of 14, he took on a
variety of jobs, including message boy in the printing trade,
apprentice electrician, apprentice baker and builder's labourer. He
formed his first band, Hen's Teeth, in 1971, but it was as a solo
artist that he became well known. His first solo album, The Midas
Touch, brought him wider fame in 1980. He worked extensively in
theatre, writing the music for the play The Fairly Mak Ye Work. More
recently, he composed songs for The Mill Lavvies, which premiered in
Dundee last month. He also composed his own operetta, If The Moon Can
Michael was a regular
performer at Glasgow's Celtic Connection's festival. Its director,
Donald Shaw of Capercaillie, said he was a unique talent who would be
sorely missed: "He was just one of the great humanist people - very
soft spoken and great to be around. His songs have so much heart and
he had so much insight into the Scottish psyche. He just went along,
did his thing, turned up, sang his songs. I feel sad, but I also feel
elated because in 20 years people are going to say, why didn't people
give him his credit when he was alive? People will realise what a
legend he was musically."
Donald also credited
Michael with helping to rejuvenate folk music in Scotland: "He was a
big part of that and he was so generous in spirit to young people and
music. The last time I saw him, we had a great conversation about him
spending a week in the jail in Dundee, teaching inmates the guitar and
singing sings and trying to give them a sense of belonging. He's
played a big part of the renaissance of music in this country.”
Michael is survived by his children Alice and Matthew, who are also
musicians and are members of the Dundee band The Hazey Janes.
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Ravi Shankar, the sitar virtuoso
who became a hippie musical icon of the 1960s after teaching George
Harrison of the Beatles and who introduced traditional Indian ragas to
Western audiences over a 10-decade career, died on Tuesday, 11
December in San Diego, near his Southern California home, at the age
of 92. The musician's foundation issued a statement saying that he had
suffered upper respiratory and heart problems and had undergone
heart-valve replacement surgery.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Ravi Shankar a
"national treasure." Labelled "the godfather of world music" by George
Harrison, Shankar helped millions of classical, jazz and rock lovers
discover the centuries-old traditions of Indian music. He also
pioneered the concept of the rock benefit with the George’s 1971
Concert For Bangladesh. To later generations, he was known as the
estranged father of popular American singer Norah Jones.
His last musical performance was with his other daughter, sitarist
Anoushka Shankar Wright, on November 4 in Long Beach, California, to
celebrate his 10th decade of creating music. The multiple Grammy
winner learned that he had again been nominated for the award the
night before his surgery.
As early as the 1950s, Shankar began collaborating with and teaching
some of the greats of Western music, including violinist Yehudi
Menuhin and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. He played well-received
shows in concert halls in Europe and the United States, but faced a
constant struggle to bridge the musical gap between the West and the
East. His close relationship with George, the Beatles lead guitarist,
shot Shankar to global stardom in the 1960s. George had grown
fascinated with the sitar, and he played the instrument, with a
Western tuning, on the song Norwegian Wood. However, he soon sought
out Shankar, already a musical icon in India, to teach him to play it
The pair spent weeks together, starting the lessons at George's Surrey
home, then moving to a houseboat in Kashmir and later to California.
Gaining confidence with the complex instrument, George recorded the
Indian-inspired song Within You Without You on the Beatles' Sgt.
Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, helping spark the raga-rock phase of
60s music and drawing increasing attention to Shankar and his work.
Shankar's popularity exploded, and he soon found himself playing on
bills with some of the top rock musicians of the era. He played a
four-hour set at the Monterey Pop Festival and the opening day of
Though the audience for his music had hugely expanded, Shankar, a
serious, disciplined traditionalist who had played Carnegie Hall,
chafed against the drug use and rebelliousness of the hippie culture.
"I was shocked to see people dressing so flamboyantly. They were all
stoned. To me, it was a new world," he told Rolling Stone of the
While he enjoyed Otis Redding and the Mamas and the Papas at the
festival, he was horrified when Jimi Hendrix lit his guitar on fire.
"That was too much for me,” he said. “In our culture, we have such
respect for musical instruments; they are like part of God."
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Robbie McMahon, “the king of
Spancilhill”, whose singing of the Irish immigrant ballad Spancilhill
helped to popularise the song over 60 years ago, has died in hospital
at the age of 86. Robbie, who lived in Spancilhill, County Clare,
first won the All-Ireland championship at traditional singing at the
age of 13. Clare County Council awarded him a civic reception in
recognition of his contribution to the traditional arts. He organised
a series of First Friday sessions at Duggan’s Bar, Spancilhill.
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Yorkshire longsword guru, EFDSS gold badge holder, Whitby Folk
Week teacher and squire of the Morris Ring, passed away on November 2.
He will be remembered for the support and encouragement he gave to all
teams both young and old on both sides of the Atlantic.
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Martin Harris, Hartley morrisman,
lost his battle with cancer on October 23. A well-known singer and
dancer on the Kent folk scene for over 40 years, Martin presented a
folk show on BBC Kent before going to the USA, where he performed in
California. Returning to live in Kent a few years ago, Martin still
went back to the USA every year to appear as Scrooge in Dickens
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Cape Breton musician John Ferguson,
of the Canadian folk bands McGinty and Miller’s Jug, passed away at
the beginning of October. He mastered several instruments including
fiddle and guitar, but his talent really shone when he played old
fiddle and bagpipe tunes on his bouzouki. He was also a great singer
and a fine solo performer. He was to play in a Celtic Colours concert
with his friend Buddy MacDonald, and the Makem And Spain brothers, but
the show went ahead as a tribute to him.
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Ian Hardie, former musician with the Edinburgh-based Jock
Tamson's Bairns and a writer of many fine fiddle tunes, died in
October at the early age of 59.
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Gerry O’Hanlon, from Mullaghbawn,
south Armagh, who died on October 8 after a long illness, was a major
figure in the world of Irish traditional music, a dedicated social
worker, a respected trade unionist and a deeply principled socialist.
A fine singer, who appreciated the musical richness of his home area,
he helped found the annual Sliabh Gullion Festival of Traditional
Singing in Mullaghbawn, bringing singers from all over Ireland
together. He also helped establish both the Stray Leaf Folk Club and
the Tí Chulainn cultural centre there. For years he was a board member
of the Dublin-based Irish Traditional Music Archive, serving for a
time as treasurer.
In politics, he was a socialist, strongly opposed to sectarianism.
When republicanism split in 1970, he joined the more left-wing
Official IRA. In 1974 he stood for the Westminster seat of South Down.
His best-known opponent was Enoch Powell, the former Conservative
minister, against whom he polled over 2,300 votes.
In 1976 the Provisional IRA in south Armagh massacred 11 Protestant
mill workers. Gerry publicly condemned the murders, a courageous step
in one of the Provisional IRA’s strongest areas. In the 1990s, he
resigned from the Workers Party, but kept his socialist faith. Over
recent years, he had raised funds to buy medical supplies for the
Cuban health system.
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