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Maddy Prior and Steeleye Span to perform at Lavenham Church as part of the band’s winter tour





Folk rock pioneers Steeleye Span, featuring the iconic and melodic Maddy Prior, are coming to Suffolk as part of the band’s winter tour. Cameron Reid chats to the lead vocalist of the group, who is the only remaining original member since they formed in 1969.

As a teenager Maddy Prior was 'terrified' and 'paralysed with fear' when performing.

Her father, Allan, co-creator of the police drama Z Cars, had encouraged her to take singing lessons from a young age. But she was often questioned by her mother, Edith, why she stuck with it due to her fears.

Fast forward 50 years, the singer is proud of what she has achieved and her distinctive voice is still as powerful and sweet as ever as she gears up for an inspirational evening of music in Lavenham Church, near Sudbury on Thursday, October 13.

Maddy Prior (centre) is the only remaining member of the original Steeleye Span line up. Picture: Park Promotions
Maddy Prior (centre) is the only remaining member of the original Steeleye Span line up. Picture: Park Promotions

Speaking to SuffolkNews at the end of August, the 75-year-old cannot wait to enjoy her passion of performing infront of an audience as the band plays a variety of songs from their vintage catalogue.

She said: “I’ve always thought the band was a very good live band because of our energy.

“I also just really like touring. We’re playing great material, with great players, to an audience who really want to be there. I mean, how good can it get?”

Maddy is one of the most distinctive vocalists to come out of Britain's folk-rock movement in the early 1970s. Picture: Pete Silver
Maddy is one of the most distinctive vocalists to come out of Britain's folk-rock movement in the early 1970s. Picture: Pete Silver

The Blackpool-born singer, who lives in north-east Cumbria, is enjoying working with the newer band members as they embrace playing a slightly different genre.

“As I’m the only one that’s left, it’s very interesting working with people who don’t know much about traditional music,” she said.

“Some of them are discovering Steeleye music really and the newer members absolutely love it. They find it fascinating to do because it’s quite complex in many ways.

“The material we did in the 1970s is the core and everything sort of comes off from that, so we have that kind of blueprint that we’ve developed since.”

“I really like touring. We’re playing great material, with great players, to an audience who really want to be there.” Picture: Park Promotions
“I really like touring. We’re playing great material, with great players, to an audience who really want to be there.” Picture: Park Promotions

After its formation in 1969, Steeleye Span helped bring back around the British folk revival as they became very successful, securing two hit singles ‘All Around My Hat’ and ‘Gaudete’ as well as four top 40 albums.

While there has been a number of changes with band members over the years, Maddy looks back most fondly on a particular period of her life.

She said: “I loved the 70s because we were passionate about what we did and also laughed so much together, it was hilarious.

“We fought as well in the band as bands do, but it really was fantastic fun, touring in America, Australia and Europe.

“The material was the star of the show but everybody had their place. Like, a lot of the arrangements Bob Johnson did (guitarist and singer from 1972-1977; 1980-2002) was the backbone of the band.

Maddy is looking forward to the band playing Sheep Cook and Black Dog. Picture: Pete Silver
Maddy is looking forward to the band playing Sheep Cook and Black Dog. Picture: Pete Silver

"Tim Hart (guitarist and singer from 1969-1982) was a great singer and organiser, and also great on ideas. I brought in some lyrical stuff, and so on.”

Maddy is particularly looking forward to performing Sheep Cook and Black Dog, a song they recorded in 1972 for their fourth LP, Below The Salt.

“It’s a traditional piece that I first heard from Ewan McColl (a influential folk singer-songwriter in the 1960s and 70s) and we’ve kind of reinvented it and rethought it.

“We do that kind of thing quite often. Traditional material, when it’s good, is incredibly strong - it’s like sprung steel, you can bend it but you can’t break it.

“It’s really interesting to try different things with them and it’s also interesting for me to sing.”

Maddy used to be 'terrified' of singing live when she was younger. Picture: Pete Silver
Maddy used to be 'terrified' of singing live when she was younger. Picture: Pete Silver

Maddy has come a long way from playing in folk clubs in the mid-1960s.

The singer is delighted that people still enjoy listening to her and the band to this day.

She said: “I think that we brought out colour from traditional music, by setting it in ways people can comprehend and enjoy it, from the basis of beautiful songs.

"We’ve given it colour and perspective.”