Steeleye Span

Fairport Convention may have done the running as the first British group to shape the UK folk-rock genre, but Steeleye Span - named after a character in the famous traditional folk song Horkstow Grange - weren't far behind. Indeed, unlike Fairport, Steeleye were mainly comprised of musicians already well versed in traditional folk songs having cut their teeth on the folk club scene. Nominal leader Ashley Hutchings left Fairport Convention because he wanted to explore the English folk tradition more deeply and the initial Steeleye line-up included married Irish duo Gay And Terry Woods and well-established English duo Tim Hart And Maddy Prior. They recorded just one album Hark! The Village Wait (1970) before splitting without playing a gig and their places were filled by one of the major folk revival figures, Martin Carthy (who'd suggested the name Steeleye Span in the first place) on electric guitar, and classically trained violinist Peter Knight. This switch triggered the exciting surge of folk-rock into the mainstream with the albums Please To See The King and Ten Man Mop Or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again (both in 1971). The replacement of Carthy and Hutchings by Bob Johnson and Rick Kemp was the prelude to the band's most commercial period; which peaked with the Latin language Christmas hit Gaudete (1972) and the catchy All Around My Hat (1975). For several years Steeleye Span remained the flagship of British folk, touring regularly until running out of steam as the personnel changed - Martin Carthy temporarily re-joined the band with John Kirkpatrick in 1977 for the Storm Force Ten album and what was intended as a celebratory farewell. However, Steeleye did return and continues to on a regular basis with different line-ups, even surviving a period when the main focal point - singer Maddy Prior - left temporarily in the 1990s and original member Gay Woods stepped into the breach. Founding member Tim Hart died of cancer in 2009, but Steeleye Span still soldier on.

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