Martin Carthy Biography

21 May 1941, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England. Carthy began his career as an actor but in 1959 became a skiffle guitarist and singer with the Thameside Four. He made his first solo recording on the 1963 Decca Records collection Hootenanny In London, singing ‘Your Baby ’As Gone Down The Plug Hole’, later revived by Cream. By now, Carthy was recognized as a virtuoso folk guitarist and was resident at London’s top folk club the Troubadour and most of the others that sprung up during the boom of the early 60s. There, he taught songs to visiting Americans including Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, who adapted ‘Lord Franklin’ and ‘Scarborough Fair’ for their own records. With Leon Rosselson, Ralph Trayner and Marian MacKenzie, Carthy recorded as the 3 City 4 before making his first solo album for Fontana Records in 1965. On Byker Hill there was equal billing for violinist Dave Swarbrick, with whom Carthy was touring the folk clubs.

From 1969-72, Carthy was a member of the pivotal folk rock band Steeleye Span with whom he first played electric guitar. Carthy later joined the more traditional vocal group the Watersons which also included his wife Norma Waterson. In the 80s he toured and recorded with Brass Monkey, a band formed by John Kirkpatrick. Carthy also took part in concept albums by the Albion Country Band (1972) and in the Transports, the ‘folk opera’ created by Peter Bellamy. Essentially, though, Carthy is at his best as a soloist or in partnership with Swarbrick with whom he has toured regularly.

In the 90s some of Carthy’s work with his daughter Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson as Waterson:Carthy was particularly inspiring. In June 1998, Carthy was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, and subsequently released the acclaimed Signs Of Life, his first solo release in almost 10 years. He also teamed up with Roger Wilson and Chris Wood to form the folk ‘supergroup’ Wood Wilson Carthy. Carthy is an outstanding artist, respected by his peers and a giant of British folk music.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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