Mike Heron

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Mike Heron
Mike Heron.jpg
Background information
Birth nameJames Michael Heron
Born (1942-12-27) 27 December 1942 (age 78)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, keyboards, sitar, harmonica, bass, mandolin, harp
Years active1965–onwards
Associated actsThe Incredible String Band

James Michael Heron (born 27 December 1942) is a Scottish singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, best known for his work in the Incredible String Band in the 1960s and 1970s.[1]


Heron was born in Edinburgh, Scotland,[1] and attended the Royal High School, Edinburgh and later George Heriot's School, where his father was a teacher. He spent a year at the University of Edinburgh before leaving to start training as an accountant. He played in R&B and pop bands in Edinburgh, including the Saracens and, in late 1965, successfully auditioned to join a new trio, the Incredible String Band, with Robin Williamson and Clive Palmer.[2] Heron has said that "It was an exploring era in the Sixties and people were rebelling from the boring pop stuff into folk and blues and world music. You couldn't sit down and listen to Buddy Holly and pass the joint around. So we tried to make the kind of music we felt was missing from our lives, that fitted with the hippy lifestyle."[3]

Heron has also released a number of solo recordings, mostly more rock-oriented than the Incredible String Band material.[1] The first of these, Smiling Men with Bad Reputations, released in 1971, when he was still a member of the ISB, took eclecticism to a new extreme, blending rock, folk and world music into an atmospheric whole. Contributing musicians included Pete Townshend, Keith Moon, Duncan Browne and Ronnie Lane (as "Tommy & the Bijoux"), John Cale, Richard Thompson, Dave Mattacks, Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg, Dudu Pukwana, Elton John, and Steve Winwood.[1]

The Incredible String Band broke up in September 1974. With three other members of the final "electric" ISB lineup – Graham Forbes, John Gilston, and Malcolm Le Maistre — he formed the band Mike Heron's Reputation, later known simply as Heron, with whom he recorded and toured until 1977.[1] In 1977–78, while still living in the Glen Row cottage near Innerleithen which had been the Incredible String Band's home and headquarters, he recorded songs which were eventually issued as The Glen Row Tapes. In 1979, he released a solo album on Casablanca Records. He then withdrew from performance for several years. In the 1990s he re-emerged with a new group, Mike Heron's Incredible Acoustic Band, and released the album Where the Mystics Swim.[2]

In 1997, he reunited with Williamson for some concerts, and from 1999 to 2006 performed occasionally with a re-formed version of the Incredible String Band.

In March 2007, he recorded a song based on a poem by John Burnside, for the album Ballads of the Book, released by Chemikal Underground, with his daughter, musician Georgia Seddon.

In May 2007, Heron appeared at the Barbican Centre in a tribute to the late Syd Barrett, alongside Pink Floyd, Kevin Ayers, Damon Albarn, Vashti Bunyan, the Bees, and Chrissie Hynde.

In 2008, Heron and Seddon collaborated with the Album Leaf, appearing alongside Devendra Banhart and Gilberto Gil at the Hollywood Bowl.

In 2009, producer and former Incredible String Band manager Joe Boyd produced a tribute to the songs of the ISB, held at the Barbican. Musicians performing included original ISB members Heron and Clive Palmer as well as Seddon, Green Gartside, Richard Thompson, Alistair Roberts, Abigail Washburn, Robyn Hitchcock and the Trembling Bells. An ongoing association formed with the latter, including extensive touring in the UK and Europe. They released a reworking of Heron's song "Feast of Stephen" on the Honest Jon label.

Since 2009, Heron has collaborated and toured with artists including Robyn Hitchcock (Eden Project and the Queen Elizabeth Hall), Cass McCoombs (the Union Chapel), and Nick Pynn and Kate Daisy Grant. The Trembling Bells guitarist Mike Hastings, Seddon and violinist John Wilson are the core members of his ongoing touring band.

In July 2015, Heron collaborated with sitar player Ashraf Sharif Khan at the Berlin HKW.

In 2017, Heron and a friend, poet and author Andrew Greig, published a memoir entitled You Know What You Could Be: Tuning into the 1960s (riverrun, an imprint of Quercus Publishing). Heron's part of the book, an account of his life from 1957 to 1966, occupies pages 5–104.

Solo discography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 597. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ a b Whittaker, Adrian, ed. (2003). Be Glad: The Incredible String Band Compendium. ISBN 1-900924-64-1.
  3. ^ Ross, Peter (2009). "Tradicals" Archived 17 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Sunday Herald.

External links[edit]