The Tannahill Weavers Biography

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Formed in Paisley, Scotland in 1968, this folk group took their name from the town’s weaving community and the eighteenth century Scottish poet Robert Tannahill. Over the years, the Tannahill Weavers have undergone numerous personnel changes, with John Cassidy (flute, guitar, whistles, vocals), Davie Shaw (bass, guitar), Stuart McKay (guitar, vocals) and Gordon Duncan (bagpipes) from the early line-ups leaving before the group recorded their first album. In spite of the various changes in the line-up, the strong Celtic flavour in the Tannahill Weaver’s music, which combines bagpipes and electric instrumentation, nevertheless remains consistent. Initially the group played mainly in Scotland, but in 1974 they set out on a short tour of Germany, followed by their first major tour of England. Are Ye Sleeping Maggie, their 1976 debut, was the first to be released on the Plant Life label. The line-up on this recording comprised Roy Gullane (Robert James Gullane, 19 March 1949, Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland; guitar, tenor banjo, mandolin, vocals), Phil Smillie (b. 22 December 1955, Kelvin Hall, Glasgow, Scotland; flute, whistle, bodhran, vocals), Hudson Swan (b. 31 August 1954, Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland; vocals, fiddle, bouzouki, glockenspiel, mandolin), and Dougie MacLean (b. 27 September 1954, Dunblane, Scotland; fiddle, mandolin, guitar, tenor banjo, vocals). Tours of Europe followed, and in 1978 the group played support to Steeleye Span on the latter’s British tour. In complete contrast, later that same year the Tannahill Weavers played support to Dire Straits in the Netherlands. Mike Ward (fiddle, guitar, vocals) and Alan MacLeod (bagpipes, whistle, flute) replaced the departed MacLean on The Old Woman’s Dance and their self-titled third album. Swan and Ward were replaced by Les Wilson (b. Leslie William Wilson, 7 January 1955, Johnstone, Scotland; bouzouki, mandolin, guitar, bass pedals, vocals) on the group’s fourth album, their last for the Plant Life label. Passage was originally recorded in Holland for the Munich label by the line-up of Gullane, Smillie, MacLeod and Bill Bourne (b. Red Deer, Alberta, Canada; vocals, bouzouki guitar), but was swiftly re-recorded in America for their new label, Green Linnet Records. Gullane and Smillie were joined by Iain MacInnes (highland bagpipes, whistle, vocals) and Ross Kennedy (bouzouki, fiddle, vocals) on 1986’s Land Of Light, which included songs written by Gullane in the traditional style. Stuart Morison (fiddle, bones, guitar) was added to the line-up on the subsequent Dancing Feet. Les Wilson returned as a replacement for Kennedy on 1990’s Cullen Bay, which also featured John Martin (b. 1 April 1953, Bellshill, Scotland; fiddle, cello, viola, vocals, ex-Ossian) in place of Morison (who guested on three tracks). Kenny Forsyth (highland bagpipes, whistle) replaced MacInnes in 1991. This line-up lasted for two albums, the second of which (Capernaum) won the NAIRD award for Celtic Album Of The Year in May 1995. Duncan J. Nicholson (b. 5 January 1973, Inverness, Scotland; highland bagpipes, whistle, keyboards) replaced Forsyth on the follow-up Leaving St. Kilda. The line-up since then has remained remarkably stable, and as a result the group’s recordings since the mid-90s have been among the best of their long career.

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

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