Infobox musical artist
Name = Mac MacLeod
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Keith MacLeod
Born = Birth date and age|1941|7|9|mf=y
St Albans, Hertfordshire, England
Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Bass guitar, Sitar, Flute
Genre = Folk,
Guitarist, Bassist, Singer-Songwriter
Years_active = 1959 – present
Label = Gazell, RPM UK
Associated_acts = Hurdy Gurdy,
URL = [http://www.macmacleod.co.uk/ MacMacLeod.co.uk]
Mac MacLeod (born Keith MacLeod,
9 July 1941, St Albans, Hertfordshire) is an English musicianwho was a part of the Hertfordshirefolk and bluesscene from 1959 onwards. He played in St Albans alongside Mick Softley, Maddy Priorand toured with John Renbourn. Influences include Softley, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Derroll Adams, Jesse Fuller, Big Bill Broonzy, Snooks Eaglin, Reverend Gary Davisand Davey Graham. MacLeod was an early influence on Donovan, and was the bassist for the original line up of Hurdy Gurdy which also inspired the Donovan song, "The Hurdy Gurdy Man". MacLeod has also worked with Argent. Other bands MacLeod formed of note include Soft Cloud, Loud Earth with Mick Softley and the acoustic based band Amber.
The St Albans crowd and beyond
In the early days in The Cock and The Peahen pubs, MacLeod was a regular and one of the few finger pickers around. He often played with other musicians of note: the flat picking Mick Softley and school friend Maddy Prior. In the summer time MacLeod travelled to the South West where he made friends with
John Renbourn. The two busked together from around 1961 to 1964. In 1964 MacLeod and Renbourn recorded three demos together; 'South Coast', 'Cocaine' and 'Train Blues'. Donovan was influenced from 1961 onwards by MacLeod's finger picking and the flat pick styles made popular by Ramblin' Jack Elliottwhich had been a big inspiration on Mick Softley and 'Dirty Hugh'. MacLeod taught Donovan claw hammer style and finger pick techniques (see Hurdy Gurdy) and many songs from his folk blues heroes. Donovan said in an interview for Beat Instrumental in May 1965 titled 'Donovan's Big Influence? It's Not Dylan!' [ [http://www.macmacleod.co.uk/reviews.html Macmacleod.co.uk] ] "The man who encouraged and helped me most was a fellow called Keith 'Mac' MacLeod. I've known him for about three years, and he's taught me everything from chord progressions on the guitar, to how to appreciate folk and real blues"." MacLeod joined Donovan's first national tour of Britain which kicked off at the " NME" poll winners' party on 11 April 1965. Donovan's set has been called the first folk-rockgig by music writer Richie Unterberger. One of the tour dates saw Donovan and MacLeod playing on stage with Joan Baez. After Donovan's first UK tour MacLeod teamed up first with Dana Gillespiethen with another regular on the St Albans music scene, Maddy Prior, to form Mac & Maddy. A demo tape of Mac & Maddy was made but has subsequently been lost. Donovan has since the early 1990s changed his stories as regards MacLeod's influence, naming 'Dirty Hugh' or 'Dirty Phil' as his finger picking teacher and John Vanstone as his early guitar mentor, removing MacLeod's name from the story. However no interviews with him from the 1960s mention either 'Dirty Hugh', 'Dirty Phil' or John Vanstone. A guitarist called 'Dirty Hugh' (so called because he dressed in rags) did play at the 'The Cock', but he could only strum and flat pick the guitar, he could not finger pick and therefore was unable to teach Donovan that art. Donovan's first two albums included many songs that he learnt from MacLeod as revealed in Pete Frames ZigZag Wanderer No.5 March 1999 and in the Nigel Cross interviews for Terrascope http://www.terrascope.co.uk/MyBackPages/MacMacleod.pdf]
weden, Denmark and back again
MacLeod's odyssey was to take him around Britain, and across
Swedenand Denmark. The anthology "Mac MacLeod - The Incredible Musical Odyssey Of The Original Hurdy Gurdy Man" on RPM/ Cherry Red Recordscontains many rare recordings, from the acoustic folksy beginnings through a succession of one-off groups like The Other Side (with Boz Scaggs) and Exploding Mushroom, to the Hurdy Gurdy (with producers Rod Argentand Chris White). The group became an underground favourite and went on to headline at Middle Earth, supporting Pink Floydat the same venue.
MacLeod was the lead singer and
bassistin a power trio styled group in Denmark (inspired by Cream) which he named Hurdy Gurdy. The group sound was heading in a similar direction to The Jimi Hendrix Experiencewho had also started at around the same time. After a run in with the law, MacLeod had written to Donovan's manager, Ashley Kozak, in December 1967 and asked if he could help; Donovan then penned them a song and "Hurdy Gurdy Man" was the result. However, Donovan changed his mind on his gift of the song for MacLeod and recorded it himself. Donovan explained the story to Keith Altham of the NME on 15 June 1968 (a different version of the article appeared in " Hit Parader" December 1968, but also with the MacLeod influence being mentioned).
"Hurdy Gurdy Man" was originally written for a Danish group by that name,' Don told me. 'There is a friend of mine in the group — Mac MacLeod — whom I looked to in the early days to learn how to pick the guitar.' I wrote the song especially for them but then we got into a disagreement over how it was to be produced. I wanted to do it one way and they another.""So I said, `Right then - I'll do it myself because I think it's good enough for a single. So I did it. And it's out. And doing very nicely, thank you."
In addition to the above article Donovan also confirmed the history of the Hurdy Gurdy Man song to "
Melody Maker" in July 1968 in an interview with Tony Wilson. [ [http://www.macmacleod.co.uk/images/Don-MM-copy1.gifMacmacleod.co.uk] ]
Donovan had originally wanted the song to be gentle and angelic: what Hurdy Gurdy played was more like
Donovan had written the song before going to
Indiawith The Beatles, and handed a demo tape to MacLeod to work from. It was during Donovan's time in India he taught John Lennonand Paul McCartneythe finger pick styles he had learned from MacLeod which resulted in songs like "Julia" and "Blackbird" on the so-called White Album (The Beatles). [ [http://www.geocities.com/~beatleboy1/db1968.1120.beatles.html Geocities.com] ] Donovan has also stated that whilst in India an extra verse was added to the song by George Harrison. MacLeod encountered problems with work permits for the Danish members of the group whilst in England, so the other members went back to Denmark still under the name Hurdy Gurdy and recorded an album for CBS Records.
From Skye to Soft Cloud
After the demise of Hurdy Gurdy, MacLeod recorded with the post-
The Zombies: Argent whose song "Telescope" was a lost classic until released on MacLeod's "Anthology". Macleod also played bass on two other Argent tracks, "To Julia" and "Girl Help Me".
At the end of the 1960s MacLeod was reunited with Donovan who whisked him off, with a group of other old friends, to the
Isle of Skye. MacLeod was asked to be a sidemanonce more for Donovan's U.S. tour with Candy Carr, which was to be the prototype 'Open Road' band. After several weeks of rehearsals all was well acoustically, however when the band went electric it did not work out as well as Donovan hoped. Rather than rehearse the new electric approach, Donovan had a change of heart and went to the U.S. alone.
MacLeod returned to St Albans and formed Soft Cloud-Loud Earth with Mick Softley, 'Candy' John Carr (who also went to Skye for Donovan's U.S. tour line up) and Mike Thomson. Due to the erratic behaviour of Softley, Carr and Thomson jumped ship and soon formed Open Road with
Donovan, leaving MacLeod to continue with Softley in the duo Soft Cloud. After Soft Cloud had evaporated MacLeod formed a new band, the sitar-drenched Amber with Julian McAllister and Ray Cooper. Amber had some tracks produced by former The Yardbirdssinger Keith Relf.
After many years out of the
music industryMacLeod returned with a new band Silverlining in 1999. He continues to play live both solo and with a full band line up (sometimes including his old school friend The Kinks’ and The Zombies’ bassist Jim Rodford) and he is making plans for a forthcoming album. He has also added flute to the new St Albans band Maya on their new album "Revelations", and supplied some guitar for the band The Coming. Pete Frame, author of Rock Family trees, has also written a special edition of "Zigzag Wanderer" entitled 'Catching Dreams From the Clouds' all about MacLeod's early days.
MacLeod has recently been in touch with Donovan, first when he co-nominated him for his Honorary Doctorate at the
University of Hertfordshirein November 2003. [ [http://www.macmacleod.co.uk/images/Donovan_Letter.gifMacmacleod.co.uk] ] On Donovan's birthday on the 10 May 2005 (where he met up with old friend Gyp Mills), MacLeod was a special guest and on the 9 June Donovan and MacLeod played together again on stage at Oxford; the last time they played onstage together was during Donovan's first UK tour back in 1965. 2008 sees a new more acoustic based album in the works (due for release in 2008) and a recent reunion with his old Amber partner Julian McAllister. The meeting of minds has formed the basis for some of the new songs planned for the upcoming CD. MacLeod is also in touch with his old friends John Renbourn and Maddy Prior.
"A pivotal influence...”
"He was the best musician around ... I was very honoured to play with him".
"The best acoustic guitarist we had ever seen".
Pete FrameZigZag Wanderer No.5 March 1999
"Mac, of course, was an influence on Don." Gypsy Dave aka Gyp Mills (Record Collector July 2004 issue 299)
* [http://www.macmacleod.co.uk Official Website]
* [http://www.cherryred.co.uk/rpm/artists/macmacleod.htm Bio at RPM Records]
* [http://www.answers.com/topic/mac-macleod Bio on answers.com]
* [http://www.rambles.net/macleod_ohgm03.html A review of the Anthology cd]
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