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|Also known as||The Strawbs
|Genres||Progressive rock, folk rock|
|Years active||1964–1980, 1983–present|
|Labels||A&M, Virgin, EMI, Witchwood Media|
|Associated acts||Sandy Denny, Hudson Ford, The Monks|
Strawbs (or The Strawbs) are an English rock band founded in 1964. Although the band started out as a bluegrass group they eventually moved on to other styles such as folk rock, progressive rock, and (briefly) glam rock.
They are best known for their hit, "Part of the Union", which reached number two in the UK charts in February 1973, as well as for "Lay Down" a popular Progressive Rock hit from the same LP. The Strawbs also toured with Supertramp in their "Crime of the Century" tour, doing their own "Hero and Heroine" tour, which drew musical similarities and themes.
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The Strawbs formed in 1964 as the Strawberry Hill Boys while the founder members were at St Mary's Teacher Training College, Strawberry Hill, London. The name was shortened to "the Strawbs" for a June 1967 concert in which they wanted to display the band name on stage. Their long-time leader and most active songwriter is guitarist and singer Dave Cousins (guitar, dulcimer, banjo, vocals) (born David Joseph Hindson, 7 January 1945, Hounslow, Middlesex). In the early days Strawbs played with Sandy Denny (later lead singer of Fairport Convention and Fotheringay).
Although they started out in the sixties as a bluegrass band, the band's repertoire shifted to favour their own (mainly Cousins') material. While in Denmark in 1967, the Strawbs (Cousins, Tony Hooper and Ron Chesterman) with Sandy Denny recorded 13 songs for a proposed first album, All Our Own Work. It was apparently not issued in Denmark and the fledgling band could not get a UK record deal. (Meanwhile, Denny left to join Fairport Convention and the album was forgotten until it was issued on Pickwick Hallmark in the UK in the mid-1970s.)
They were the first UK group signing to Herb Alpert's A&M Records and recorded their first single, "Oh How She Changed" in 1968, which was produced and arranged by Gus Dudgeon and Tony Visconti, who also worked on their critically acclaimed first album, Strawbs (1969). Between the first and second A&M albums, in 1969, a sampler, Strawberry Music Sampler No. 1 was recorded. According to the 2001 CD reissue, only 99 copies of the original vinyl LP were pressed up.
After the folk-tinged Dragonfly, Cousins and Hooper added Rick Wakeman on keyboards, Richard Hudson on drums, and John Ford on bass. The new line-up had their London debut at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, where they recorded their third album, Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios; the Melody Maker reported on the concert with the headline "Tomorrow's superstar" in reference to Wakeman. Wakeman stayed with them for one further album, From the Witchwood, then departed to join Yes, remarking to the press that "I'm sure we'll all benefit from the split because we were beginning to compromise a lot on ideas — like we'd use half of my ideas and half of theirs — and I don't think it was helping what was eventually coming out. We ended up lacking challenge. Complacency set in, and for the last couple of months we just weren't working."
He was replaced by Blue Weaver, who had previously been with Amen Corner and Fair Weather. This line-up produced what many feel to be the archetypal Strawbs album Grave New World, before yet another change, the departure of founding member Hooper, who was replaced by electric guitarist Dave Lambert, formerly of Fire and the King Earl Boogie Band.
Lambert's arrival in 1972 coincided with a move towards a harder rock style on the next album, Bursting at the Seams. The first single from the album with Lambert on board, "Lay Down", hit the UK charts at number 12, followed by a further single from the album, "Part of the Union", which went up to number 2. The album also reached number 2 in the album charts and the band undertook a 52-date UK tour to packed houses. The harder rock style was also evidenced by Cousins' solo album recorded that summer, with guests such as Roger Glover from Deep Purple and Jon Hiseman from Colosseum.
However, during the course of a US tour, tensions came to a head and the Bursting at the Seams band did just that, with Hudson and Ford splitting off to record their own material, firstly as Hudson Ford, later as The Monks and High Society. Weaver also left the band, eventually finding a comfortable (and highly lucrative) gig with the Bee Gees; he also played with Mott the Hoople.
Cousins and Lambert rebuilt the band, adding John Hawken (formerly of The Nashville Teens and Renaissance) on keyboards, Rod Coombes formerly with Stealers Wheel and Chas Cronk on bass. This line-up recorded the 1974 Hero and Heroine and Ghosts, and tended to concentrate on the North American market with relatively little touring in the UK. Strawbs still retain a great fan-base today in the US and Canada. Hero And Heroine went platinum in Canada, and both albums sold extremely well in the US too. A further album, Nomadness, recorded without Hawken, was less successful, and was their last for A&M Records.
In a review in Rolling Stone in 1974, Ken Barnes wrote: "Strawbs moved from folkier days to a lush, stately and mellotron-dominated sound, with similarities to Yes, King Crimson and the Moody Blues. They wrote more compelling songs than the former two, and possessed more lyrical/musical substance than the latter."
Signed to the Deep Purple-owned Oyster label, they recorded two more albums with two keyboardists replacing Hawken – Robert Kirby, also known for his string arrangements (notably Nick Drake) and John Mealing of jazz-rock group If. Coombes was replaced by Tony Fernandez (known for working on Rick Wakeman's solo albums) for a further album, Deadlines, this time on the Arista label. Although recording was complete on a further album, Heartbreak Hill, featuring Andy Richards on keyboards, Cousins' decision in 1980 to leave the band to work in radio effectively signalled the band's demise, and the album remained in the vaults for many years.
A reunion on Rick Wakeman's TV show Gas Tank in 1983 resulted in an invitation to reform to headline 1983's Cambridge Folk Festival. The Grave New World line-up plus Brian Willoughby (who had replaced Lambert when he left in 1978 during the making of Heartbreak Hill, and had also begun a partnership with Dave Cousins as an acoustic duo from 1979 onwards) went on from there to perform occasionally in the UK, US and Europe over the next few years, replacing Weaver with Chris Parren from the Hudson Ford band and Ford himself (when he relocated to the US) with bass player Rod Demick.
1993 saw the band touring in the UK for their 25th anniversary, but the next few years proved rather quiet. Until 1998, that is, when Cousins staged a 30th anniversary bash in the grounds of Chiswick Park in London, which saw several different line-ups of the band perform on a bright summer's day in the open air. The final line-up of the night – the Bursting at the Seams line-up plus Willoughby – became the ongoing version of the band, with annual tours in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Acoustic Strawbs and beyond
An injury to Cousins' wrist coinciding with a Cousins & Willoughby commitment brought Dave Lambert in to work with Cousins & Willoughby, which soon became "Acoustic Strawbs", recording an album Baroque & Roll in 2001. That trio began to tour on a regular basis - first in the UK, then the US and Canada, and on into Europe, the three guitars of Acoustic Strawbs effortlessly reproducing much of the majesty and depth of the "big" Strawbs keyboard-laden instrumentation.
Willoughby was replaced by Chas Cronk when Willoughby left in 2004 to spend more time working with his partner, Cathryn Craig. Chas has brought bass and bass pedals, which further add to the depth of the Acoustic Strawbs sound. 2004 also saw the return of the Hero And Heroine line-up of the electric band, touring in tandem with the acoustic line-up, and recording their first new album for 25 years, Deja Fou, on the Strawbs' own record label, Witchwood Records.
In 1973, Hudson and Ford then quit to form Hudson Ford, with the line-up of Chris Parren (keyboards), Mickey Keen (guitar and sound engineer), and Ken Laws (drums). They produced four albums, three for A&M - Nickelodeon, Free Spirit, Worlds Collide - and a fourth for CBS - Daylight. They also had hit singles with "Pick Up the Pieces" and "Burn Baby Burn", and toured extensively in the UK, US and Canada.
Switching genres in the late 70s, Hudson, Ford and Terry Cassidy combined together with Clive Pearce on drums (Hudson was then playing guitar, having switched from drums) to produce the punk-flavoured 1979 album, Bad Habits, as The Monks (not to be confused with the 1960s garage/beat group of the same name). The album spawned a number 19 hit in the UK singles chart, "Nice Legs, Shame About the Face", which featured a mildly risquė cover. They dabbled with 1930s-style music in 1980 as "High Society" before returning to the pseudo-punk format of The Monks for a follow-up album released in Canada only, Suspended Animation, with the addition of Brian Willoughby on guitar and Chris Parren on keyboards.
While the album failed to produce further UK chart success, the band were huge in Canada particularly, playing stadium gigs; Suspended Animation went platinum in Canada too. The CD re-release of Suspended Animation includes six bonus tracks, recorded for a third album but never before released, by Hudson, Ford and Cassidy — Huw Gower guests on one track on lead guitar. All details of Strawbs' activity and that of ex-members can be found at their official website.
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Since 2007, Strawbs have been recording and touring in two formats: the acoustic format comprising Cousins, Lambert and Cronk and also as the entirely original Hero and Heroine/Ghosts line-up of the electric band from 1974 - Cousins, Lambert, Cronk, Coombes and Hawken. The line-up undertook two tours in 2006. Release of a live DVD recorded at the Robin 2, Bilston in March 2006 is hoped for before too long (delays owing to licensing difficulties).
For that particular recording, and other concerts on the same tour, vocalist and bass player John Ford (member of an earlier Strawbs line-up) flew over from New York to perform with members of the Hero and Heroine line-up. The Hero and Heroine line-up toured again in 2007 in the UK, including gigs at the Robin 2 (Bilston), The Stables (Wavendon), and several locations in Southern and South-Western England. This line-up also toured the UK and US in May–June 2008. Following the end of the US Tour, John Hawken announced his intention to leave the group. The remaining four members (the Nomadness line up) continued as the core of the electric band. In January 2009, it was announced that Oliver Wakeman, would be playing keyboards with the band on tours of Canada, the UK and Italy.
In autumn 2006, Strawbs released a long-awaited 4-disc boxed set called A Taste of Strawbs, which has been well-received - several reviews can be read at Strawbs' website. The Hero and Heroine/Ghosts line-up recorded a new studio album, The Broken Hearted Bride, released in September 2008.
In 2007, as a three-piece acoustic format they played various gigs in Europe during the Spring, then the five-piece Hero and Heroine line-up got together once again to play several concerts in North America in late June/early July, including two appearances at the Stan Rogers Festival in Nova Scotia. As well as Strawbs, Dave Cousins put together a new set of musicians (Miller Anderson - guitar, Chas Cronk - bass, Ian Cutler - fiddle, Chris Hunt - drums) - initially for a one-off show in Deal - known as "The Blue Angel Orchestra", who subsequently played in 2006 and 2007 at Strawbs' now-annual Christmas Party.
Dave Cousins also found time to record a new solo album, The Boy in the Sailor Suit, with The Blue Angel Orchestra. In 2008, he released his third solo album, Secret Paths, with steel guitarist Melvin Duffy. Along with the album, he toured the US in Spring 2008 (joined by Ian Cutler for the early part of the tour). A concert album from this tour, entitled Duochrome, was released in September 2008.
"Lambert Cronk" also released an album in April 2007 entitled Touch the Earth, on which former Strawbs drummer Tony Fernandez and former Strawbs keyboard player Andy Richards both play. The Strawbs' website announced that neither Rod Coombes nor Oliver Wakeman were available for the October/November 2010 tours of Canada and the UK. (Coombes has educational commitments, and Wakeman was committed to recording a new Yes album. For these tours: Tony Fernandez (who played with Strawbs on Deadlines and Heartbreak Hill) was employed on drums, and John Young on keyboards.
The November 2012 tour featured a line-up of Cousins, Lambert, Cronk, Adam Wakeman and Adam Falkner. In February 2014 the band gigged with a line-up of Cousins, Lambert, Cronk, Wakeman and Fernandez. Their album Prognostic was issued in October 2014.
- Dave Cousins - guitar, dulcimer, banjo, vocals (Early 1964-June 1980, July 1983 – present)
- Dave Lambert – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals (August 1972-November 1978, April 1999 – present)
- Chas Cronk – bass guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals (June 1973-July 1980, March 2004 – present)
- Tony Fernandez – drums (July 1977-July 1980; October 2010–November 2012; February 2014 – present)
- Dave Bainbridge - keyboards (December 2015 – present)
- Tony Hooper – guitar, vocals (Early 1964-August 1972, July 1983-August 1993)
- Arthur Phillips - mandolin, vocals (Early 1964)
- "Talking" John Berry – double bass, vocals (Early 1964; deceased)
- Ron Chesterman – double bass (Early 1964-February 1970; died 2007)
- Sandy Denny – vocals, guitar (Early 1968; died 1978)
- Sonja Kristina – vocals (Early 1968)
- Claire Deniz – cello (September 1969-December 1969)
- Lindsay Cooper – cello, double bass (January 1970-April 1970)
- Rick Wakeman – keyboards, clavinet (March 1970-July 1971)
- Richard Hudson – drums, vocals, sitar (May 1970-May 1973, July 1983-June 2001, June 2004-July 2004)
- John Ford – bass guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals (May 1970-May 1973, July 1983-May 1985, April 1999-June 2001, June 2004-July 2004)
- Blue Weaver – keyboards, accordion (August 1971-May 1973, July 1983-October 1984, September 1993-June 2001, June 2004-July 2004)
- Rod Coombes – drums, acoustic guitar, vocals (June 1973-June 1977, March 2004-October 2010)
- John Hawken – keyboards (June 1973-May 1975, March 2004-June 2008)
- Andy Richards – keyboards (December 1977-July 1980)
- Brian Willoughby – acoustic guitar, electric guitar (December 1978-July 1980, July 1983-August 2004)
- Roy Hill – guitar, vocals (June 1980-July 1980)
- John Knightsbridge – guitar (June 1980-July 1980)
- Bimbo Acock – saxophone (June 1980-July 1980)
- Chris Parren – keyboards (November 1984-Late 1992)
- Rod Demick – bass, vocals (June 1985-August 1998)
- Don Airey – keyboards (January 1993-August 1993)
- Oliver Wakeman - keyboards (January 2009-October 2010)
- John Young - keyboards (October 2010-November 2012)
- Adam Wakeman - keyboards (November 2012-December 2015)
- Adam Falkner - drums (November 2012-February 2014)
- John Mealing – keyboards (June 1975-November 1977)
- Robert Kirby – keyboards, acoustic guitar, string arrangements (October 1975-November 1977; died 2009)
- Jo Partridge - guitar (December 1977-November 1978)
- Miller Anderson - guitar (December 1977-November 1978)
- Adam Wakeman - keyboards (2002)
- Dave Bainbridge - keyboards (2016 U.S. Electric Strawbs tour)
- Dave Cousins - guitar, dulcimer, banjo, vocals (October 2000 – present)
- Dave Lambert – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals (October 2000 – present)
- Chas Cronk – bass guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals (September 2004 – present)
- Brian Willoughby – acoustic guitar (October 2000-August 2004)
|Early 1964||Early 1964||Early 1964-Late 1967||Early 1968|
|Early 1968||April 1968-August 1969||September 1969-December 1969||January 1970-February 1970|
|March 1970-April 1970||May 1970-July 1971||August 1971-August 1972||August 1972-May 1973|
|June 1973-May 1975||June 1975-June 1977||July 1977-November 1977||December 1977-November 1978|
|December 1978-June 1980||June 1980-July 1980||July 1980-July 1983||July 1983-October 1984|
|November 1984-May 1985||June 1985-Late 1992||January 1993-August 1993||September 1993-Late 1998|
|Early 1999-June 2001||June 2001-March 2004||March 2004-June 2004||June 2004-July 2004|
|July 2004-June 2008||June 2008-January 2009||January 2009-October 2010||October 2010–November 2012|
|November 2012-February 2014||February 2014 – present|
- Strawbs (1969)
- Dragonfly (1970)
- Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios (recorded live) (1970)
- From the Witchwood (1971)
- Grave New World (1972)
- Bursting at the Seams (1973)
- All Our Own Work (1973; recorded 1967)
- Hero and Heroine (1974)
- Ghosts (1975)
- Nomadness (1975)
- Deep Cuts (1976)
- Burning for You (1977)
- Deadlines (1978)
- Don't Say Goodbye (1987)
- Ringing Down the Years (1991)
- Heartbreak Hill (1995)
- Baroque & Roll (2001)
- Strawberry Sampler Number 1 (2001; recorded 1969)
- Blue Angel (2003)
- Déjà Fou (2004)
- The Broken Hearted Bride (2008)
- Dancing to the Devil's Beat (2009)
- Hero & Heroine in Ascencia (2011)
- Prognostic (2014)
- Grave New World (1973)
- Shot on videotape and comprising videos of most of the songs from the album of the same name, this had a limited theatrical release supporting the video of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Pictures at an Exhibition. The film, considered ahead of its time as an early music video, is paired with the Strawbs Live in Tokyo 75 DVD.
- Complete Strawbs: The Chiswick House Concert (2002)
- Strawbs Live in Tokyo 75 DVD, plus Grave New World, the movie (2003)
- Acoustic Strawbs Live in Toronto (2004)
- Acoustic Strawbs - Live At Hampton Court Palace (2009)
- "The Strawbs official home page". StrawbsWeb. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
- Will Romano (1 September 2010). Mountains Come Out of the Sky: The Illustrated History of Prog Rock. Backbeat Books.
- "PART 2: ELECTRIC BAND". strawbsweb.co.uk.
- Valentine, Penny (28 August 1971). "Just Another Yes Man...". Sounds. Spotlight Publications. p. 7.
- Johnson, James (4 August 1973), "When Strawbs burst at the seams", New Musical Express: 21
- "Strawbs Prognostic". Spincds.com. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- "Albums - Prognostic". Strawbsweb.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-06-25.
- Official website StrawbsWeb. Retrieved 2016-05-08
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