Steeleye Span



The name Steeleye Span comes from a character in the traditional song Horkstowe Grange The song gives an account of a fight between John "Steeleye" Span and John Bowlin, neither of whom are proven to have been real people. Martin Carthy gave Tim Hart the idea to name the band after the song character. When the band discussed names, they decided to vote between the three suggestions "Middlemarch Wait", "Iyubidin's Wait", and "Steeleye Span". Although there were only five members in the band, six ballots appeared and "Steeleye Span" won out. Only in 1978 did Hart confess that he had voted twice. Terry Woods maintains that the members had agreed that if more than one person departed, the remaining members would select a new name, and he was upset that this did not happen when he and Gay Woods left the band. The liner notes for their first album include thanks to Carthy for the name suggestion.

The Steeleye Span story began in late 1969 when bassist and co-founder (in 1967)  Ashley Hutchings, departed Fairport Convention,  Fairport  had been involved in a road accident in 1969 in which the drummer, Martin Lamble, was killed and other band members injured. They convalesced in a rented house near Winchester  in Hampshire and worked on the album Liege & Lief. Despite the success of the album, Ashley  and the band's vocalist Sandy Denny  left Fairport Convention.

In part, Hutchings's departure was because he wanted to pursue a different, more traditional, direction than the other members of Fairport did at that time. However, Fairport's co-founder, guitarist Simon Nicol, says in an interview on the band's website : "Whatever the upfront reasons about musical differences and wanting to concentrate on traditional material, I think the accident was the underlying reason why Ashley felt he couldn't continue with us."

Hutchings' new band was formed after he met established duo Tim Hart and Maddy Prior on the London folk club scene, and the initial lineup was completed by husband and wife team Terry (formerly of Sweeney's Men, later of The Pogues) and Gay Woods. With two female singers, the original lineup was unusual for the time, and indeed, never performed live, as the Woods departed the band shortly after the release of their debut album, Hark! The Village Wait (1970). While recording the album, the five members were all living in the same house, an arrangement that produced considerable tensions particularly between Hart and Prior on the one hand and the Woods on the other. Gay and Terry were replaced by veteran folk musician Martin Carthy and fiddler Peter Knight in a longer-term lineup that toured small concert venues, and recorded two albums - Please to See the King 1971)) and Ten Man Mop, or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again (1972).

Shortly after the release of their third album, the band brought in Jo Lustig as their manager who would bring a far more commercial sound to their recordings. At that time, traditionalists Carthy and Hutchings left the band to pursue purely folk projects.

Hark The Village Wait

Steeleye Span

The Album

Steeleye Span Mk. 1

Tim Hart, electric guitar, 5-string banjo, electric dulcimer, harmonium, fiddle, vocals

Ashley Hutchings, electric bass

Maddy Prior, vocals

Gay Woods, vocals, autoharp, concertina, bodhrán

Terry Woods, mandola, mandolin, 5-string banjo, electric guitar, vocals

Note: This line-up never performed live.

external internet links

Waits were civic musicians,
employed by towns and
cities to provide music
during feasts and processions
from the Virtual Norfolk website
southern England that is