SILLY WIZARD

Age is a terrible thing I've just decided. I know I booked Silly Wizard and it was at the Blacksmith's Arms yet my own website appears to deny all knowledge of it - anyone with any details of date etc please put us out of our misery. I know we booked them because they plus roadies slept on our floor (leaving the house cleaner and tidier than it had been to start with I might say!!).

None of this is really of interest unless you know who Silly Wizard were of course.. I shall attempt to add to your store of knowledge..

The band started life at Edinburgh University when Gordon Jones, a singer and guitarist met Bob Thomas, a guitarist, banjo and mandolin player and ended up sharing a flat, a euphemism for forming a band in those days. Initially the third member was one Bill Watkins and the style was blues, ragtime and contemporary folk. Bill's tenure was short lived being replaced by Chris Pritchard, taking the name Silly Wizard from the title of a book of children's stories being written by another flatmate. Things changed in 1972 when the then schoolboy Johnny Cunningham joined the band. Residents at Edinburgh's Triangle Folk Club bookings elsewhere started to roll in. Maddy Taylor had a brief spell as vocalist whilst their lively style of interpreting Scots traditional material was evolving. A group called Puddock's  Well (good news obviously especially for Puddock) was the source of Maddy's replacement, one Andy M. Stewart. Freeland Barbour (no not the 4x4 jacket) joined to play accordion as did Alastair Donaldson on bass.

By  now semi electric bands playing Scots traditional music were becoming quite the thing - we also had the Tannahill Weavers and Battlefield Band. In 1975 they produced their first wittily titled album, 'Silly Wizard'. As success loomed Aly Donaldson and Freeland Barbour left to be replaced by Johnny's brother Phil on melodeon and Martin Hadden on bass. By now work was plentiful in the UK and Europe. Two more albums were released 'Caledonia's Hardy Sons' and 'So Many Partings'.

America was next on the list for conquering which they did but at the expense of Johnny who liked the place so much he stayed there - 'a bit of a bummer' said the rest of the band. Johnny was replaced by former member of the Tannahill Weavers, Dougie MacLean. The trouble was that Dougie had, indeed still has, a flourishing solo career so didn't last long. Johnny returned, though whether on a white charger is less than clear.

A lot of effort went into a Silly Wizard performance, before during and after. After 15 years it took its toll and in 1988 they packed it in, going out on a high note with a long tour and a final album 'Glint of Tour'. Gone but not forgotten. Various band members are still about - Johnny pops up regularly on various projects, Phil is always on the telly on New Year's Eve with Aly Bain (and at other times too), Andy has a solo career, and Gordon and Bob have their own folk label called Harbourtown.

We had a good night though Scottish bands don't seem to be big in our area of Essex for some reason. More recently I saw Wolfstone perform fantastically at the Harlow Playhouse but to a very small crowd. Compare that to a performance of Silly Wizard I had the pleasure to witness at the Edinburgh Playhouse (supported by the equally wonderful Dick Gaughan) - a seriously big theatre that was heaving, great atmosphere.

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