Simon Mayor

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Simon Mayor
SM with Vanden signature model mandolin
Background information
Birth name Simon Mayor
Born Sheffield, Yorkshire, England
Genres Folk, Classical
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, record producer
Instruments Mandolin, Mandola, Mandocello, Guitar, Violin, Ukulele
Years active 1976–present
Labels Acoustics Records
Associated acts Mandolinquents, Hilary James, Slim Panatella & the Mellow Virginians
Notable instruments
SM Signature Model mandolin by Mike Vanden, mandola and mandocello by Mike Vanden, Russell Wootton '0' size acoustic guitar

Simon Mayor is an English mandolinist, fiddle player, guitarist, composer and humourist.[1][2][3] He is noted for a series of instrumental albums featuring the mandolin, live performances with his partner Hilary James and his groups The Mandolinquents and Slim Panatella & the Mellow Virginians, and (with Hilary James) for writing and performing for children.

He has produced a series of instructional books and DVDs for the mandolin,[4] and is also a regular columnist for Acoustic magazine,[5] along with Martin Taylor, Doyle Dykes, Gordon Giltrap, Maartin Allcock and Julie Ellison.


Mayor cites fiddler and mandolinist Dave Swarbrick as a teenage musical influence,[6] after being taught to sing in Tonic sol-fa by his father when very young.[7] With his solo debut The Mandolin Album in 1990 he embarked on a series of recordings with the stated aim of giving the mandolin a uniquely British voice.[8] The CD was made Recording of the Week on BBC Radio 2. His mix of original and traditional material alongside classical pieces has been noted by BBC World Service (Recording of the Week), Q, Cosmopolitan, Living Tradition (Scotland) and Sing Out! (USA).[9]

In May 2000 he entered the UK's Classical Artist Top Ten with Mandolin Moods, a 'best of' release of his own compositions and classical works on Universal Records.

His touring schedule has included the Rudolstadt International Folk Festival, Shetland Folk Festival, Vancouver Folk Festival, The Stephen Leacock Humour Festival (Canada), Cheltenham Literature Festival (England), Edinburgh Fringe (Scotland), The Classical Mandolin Society of America and others.

He leads Britain's first modern mandolin quartet, the Mandolinquents. The quartet emerged from a 1997 line up, The Mandolin All-stars with multi-instrumentalists Maartin Allcock and Chris Leslie of Fairport Convention, and longtime musical partner, Hilary James. The Mandolinquents now includes the classical guitarist Gerald Garcia, multi-instrumentalist Richard Collins and Hilary James on mandobass and vocals.

He played swing fiddle on the album for the show Five Guys Named Moe, and plays fiddle with his occasional trio Slim Panatella & the Mellow Virginians.

Simon Mayor and Hilary James have also written satirical and topical songs for BBC news programmes including Newsnight. An admirer of fellow Yorkshireman the late Jake Thackray, Mayor occasionally performs a special programme of Thackray's songs.

Youth audience[edit]

Simon Mayor tours regularly with long-time partner Hilary James. The duo have worked extensively with young people in theatres and schools, and have written over fifty children's songs, many for their own Musical Mystery Tour children's CDs and the Musical Mystery Tour songbook published by Faber Music.

Their work had featured widely on the BBC. For six years they were regular hosts of BBC School Radio's The Song Tree. They also wrote for, and on occasion presented, BBC's Play School,[10] The Listening Corner and Play Days. In addition, Mayor worked as multi-instrumental session musician for other BBC radio programmes Singing Together, Music Workshop and Time and Tune.

Their songs have been used extensively in education, including English language teaching courses for Danish schoolchildren.[11]

In 2011 Top That! Publishing published I'm A Parrot[12] and Gobble! Gobble! Gobble!,[13] two children's illustrated rhyming story books using the lyrics from two Mayor/James songs and with drawings by Hilary James.

Alongside their other websites they set up in 1999.



  • The Mandolin Album (1990)
  • The Second Mandolin Album (1991)
  • Winter With Mandolins (1992)
  • The English Mandolin (1995)
  • New Celtic Mandolin (1998)
  • Music From A Small Island (2006)

With Hilary James[edit]

  • Duos - live - (2001)
  • Lullabies With Mandolins (2004)


  • Mandolinquents (1997)
  • Dance Of The Comedians - live - (2007)

Musical Mystery Tour series[edit]

(with Hilary James - for children)

  • Gobble! Gobble! Gobble! (2000)
  • Up In A Big Balloon (2000)
  • A Big Surprise (2000)
  • Snowmen & Kings (2000)
  • Midsummer Market (2000)

as featured musician with Hilary James[edit]

  • Burning Sun (1993)
  • Love Lust & Loss (1996)
  • Bluesy (1999)
  • The English Mandolin (1995) - solo
  • New Celtic Mandolin (1998) - solo
  • Music From A Small Island (2006) - solo


  • Slim Panatella & the Mellow Virginians (1994)
  • Mandolin Moods (2000) compilation issued by Universal Records
  • The Working Party (1993)


  • The Mandolin Tutor (1995)
  • New Celtic Mandolin (1998)
  • The New Mandolin (2000)
  • Mastering The Mandolin (2003)
  • Great Tunes For Mandolin (vol 1) (2015)
  • Great Tunes For Mandolin (vol 2) (2015)
  • Great Traditional Tunes For Guitar (2015)


  • Mandolin Essentials
  • New Celtic Mandolin

External links[edit]


  1. ^ International Who's Who in Popular Music 2002 2002 - Page 277
  2. ^ International Who's Who in Popular Music 2008 Routledge - 2008 - Page 346
  3. ^ Article: Review: Mandolin magic; SIMON MAYOR AND HILARY JAMES … Birmingham Mail - Nov 3, 2005
  4. ^ "Acoustics Records website". 
  5. ^ "Acoustic Magazine website". 
  6. ^ "Simon Mayor interview". Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  7. ^ Joyner, Hermon (2009). "Interview with Simon Mayor". Mandolin Magazine. 11 (2): 3–5. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  8. ^ Joyner, Hermon (2009). "Interview with Simon Mayor". Mandolin Magazine. 11 (2): 3–5. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  9. ^ "Acoustics Records press reviews" (PDF). 
  10. ^ Jackson, Paul R (2010). Here's A House. Kaleidoscope Publishing. p. 83. 
  11. ^ Aston, Judith (1995). Act And Respond 3 - Now You're Talking!. Munksgaard. ISBN 87-16-11620-8. 
  12. ^ "Top That! Publishing website". 
  13. ^ "Top That! Publishing website".