To write a
piece now on the Watersons is very timely since having just seen Waterson
Carthy supporting Fairport Convention at the Royal
Festival Hall (Feb 2002) I am reminded
of just how good these people were.
Their career peaked on 20th October 1974 when they played the penultimate concert at the Corbett Theatre. By then Martin Carthy was a permanent member of the group. The supporting programme was good that night too - Nick Pickett, Holly Tannen and Dave Plimmer.A track from that concert features on a compilation album called 'Voices In Harmony' (Fellside Recordings FECD 158). Also featured are the YoungTradition and Swan Arcade to name but two. This will offer you a little taster of the quality of material soon (hopefully) to be launched on the unsuspecting world with our own CD's!
Long before that high spot though, they'd been called the Mariners, then the Folksons before the penny dropped that their family name was actually rather better! The originals were Mike, Norma and Lal (Elaine) Waterson together with their cousin John Harrison. John left in 1966, and the rest of them left in 1968!
In 1972 the group re-formed with Harrison's place being taken by Bernie Vickers - it was this line up that released one of their best known albums 'Bright Phoebus'. Vickers was soon replaced by Martin Carthy (not a bad substitute!), and Martin, of course married Norma Waterson. A celebrated work 'For Pence And Spicy Ale' followed in 1975, along with perhaps a surprising album of Victorian hymns (not, thankfully, in the style of Mr Gladstone's Bag!).
In 1985 Mike's daughter Rachel joined the group. Sadly in September 1998 Lal died shortly after completing an album with her son Oliver Knight. Group performances are now quite rare, usually reserved for festivals, however, individually or in various combinations (not a reflection on the state of Martin's underwear) they still produce wonderful albums and concert performances - not least their turn at Fairport's 35th Anniversary bash.