Tuesday 23 April 2024

IN THE ROOTS OF MUSIC

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spiral earth
Tuesday 23 April 2024

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The Quiet One.

Apr 1, 2024

Gerry Conway left us on March 29th after a lifetime of keeping rhythmn with a list of classic folk rock bands. Simon Jones pays due tribute. 

It is with much regret that Spiral Earth reports the sad passing of Gerry Conway, a great drummer and percussionist who ran through the decades of English folk/rock history like a river. A Norfolk lad he was born in 1947 and showed an appetite amd adaptability for drumming when he was still at school. He was employed as soon as he left education working in Latin bands at EMI and even a short spell with Alexis Korner playing the blues. When he met lanky Australian Trevor Lucas however his rock career really began, first with Lucas in Eclection a multi national rootsy rock outfit and later with Lucas again as part of Sandy Denny’s seminal Fotheringay. He’d also begun doing folksy sessions working as drummer on albums by Shelagh McDonald, Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention, others were myriad.

After Fotheringay split he joined Cat Stevens who he recorded and toured with playing drums right through the 1970s. As the 1980s progressed Gerry found a place in Jethro Tull, appearing on ‘The Broadsword & The Best,’ and ‘Crest Of a Knave.’ Restless as ever he backed Richard Thompson often, as well as participating in  later line ups of Pentangle where he found a long term home for his skills.

He was a well regarded drummer for hire and his list of on the road appearences are possibly longer than the sessions and acts he’s officially been connected with. This writer first saw him in a live situation backing Jimmy Ruffin playing classic soul numbers such as ‘What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted,’ it took a while for me to realise it was Gerry but his style and sound confirmed it. Variety was his watch word.

When the revolving door that is at the core of Fairport Convention, revolved once more in 1998 and Dave Mattacks stepped out for a third time, Gerry happily jumped in and stayed put until 2022. His intelliegent, flexible percussion fitted the job description perfectly. He was on nine official albums during his occupancy of the drum kit and God alone knows how many live shouts, compilations and under the radar releases. Always his work suited whatever was given to him, be it the thundering rock of something like ‘Sloth’ or the delicacy of ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes,’ During this period he and his wife Jacqui McShee re-routed Pentangle into jazzier waters without losing their essential folk roots. In both bands he was the quiet percussive anchor.

Diagnosed with motor neurone disease he had to leave Fairport, who on hearing he had slipped away on March 29th wrote on social media, ” wonderfully patient and wise, always ready and eager to play, blessed with his own inner calm and solidarity. We will miss him more than we can say.”  Amen to that. Gerry Conway was a true original.

Our sympathies sent to his wife, family and friends.

 

 

 

 

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