The Fairport Connexion

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“If anyone deserves the title ‘Honorary Fairport member’, it’s Ralph.”


Half-way through Fairport Convention’s three-and-a-half-hour 35th Anniversary set at the 2002 Cropredy Festival, Ralph McTell was invited onto the stage. As the festival programme said,

“If anyone deserves the title ‘Honorary Fairport member’, it’s Ralph… his songwriting has underpinned Fairport’s later career… Fairport members past and present – on some occasions virtually the entire band – have provided backing on several of his albums”.

On that August evening Simon Nicol, Jerry Donahue and Maart Allcock supported Ralph as he sang ‘The Plainsman’ from the repertoire of Trevor Lucas, who, along with his wife, Sandy Denny, is much-missed and remembered at Cropredy every year.

Then Maart’s keyboard was joined by Chris Parkinson’s piano accordion to accompany Ralph’s “very special Cropredy anthem”. Ralph had been “inspired by this place, this gathering, the history of this very field” to write ‘Red and Gold’ for Fairport Convention, in commemoration of the Battle of Cropredy Bridge fought in 1644 during the English Civil War. 

Ralph completed a brief but memorable set with a solo performance of his song, ‘England‘, and then disappeared into the night to warm applause from the Cropredy faithful.

Ralph McTell’s and Fairport Convention’s musical paths have intersected regularly during their careers. As well as ‘Red and Gold’, Ralph has written several songs specifically for Fairport to perform, some of which have became staples in the band’s concert repertoire. Fairport has also recorded a selection of other McTell songs, and has from time to time invited Ralph to join the band on stage and in the studio.

Ralph McTell songs recorded by Fairport Convention

Run Johnny Run on The Bonny Bunch of Roses  (1977).

Bird from the Mountain on Gladys’ Leap (1985).

The Hiring Fair on Gladys’ Leap  (1985), In Real Time: Live ’87 (1987), Old New Borrowed Blue (1996) and By Popular Request (2012).

Wat Tyler on Gladys’ Leap (1985).

Red and Gold on Red and Gold (1988) and By Popular Request (2012).

The Islands on Jewel in the Crown  (1995).

Around the Wild Cape Horn on Festival Bell  (2011).

The London Apprentice on Festival Bell  (2011).

Clear Water on Myths and Heroes (2015).

Fairport Convention recordings featuring Ralph McTell as guest musician

Me With You on Rosie (1973).

I Want You and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down on Cropredy 30 August 1980 (1982).

White Dress, High School Confidential and Meet on the Ledge on Reunion Festival Broughton Castle 1981 (1982).

High School Confidential on Moat on the Ledge: Live at Broughton Castle 1981 (1982).

White Dress and Close to the Wind on Fairport Home Video (Winter 1984) (1985).

Bridge of Sighs on The Third Leg (1988).

Polly on the Shore on 25th Anniversary Concert (1993).

Cut Across Shorty (with The GP’s) on The Cropredy Box (1998).

White Dress on Cropredy – The Best and the Guests (2002)

Red and Gold on Cropredy 2002 – Another Gig: Another Palindrome (2002).

Can’t be Satisfied (with The GP’s) on Off the Screen (2009).

White Dress on What We Did on Our Saturday (2018).

Ralph McTell’s appearances at Cropredy Festival / Fairport’s Cropredy Convention

1979, Guest with Fairport Convention (the ‘Farewell’ concert).

1980, Guest with Fairport Convention (the first ‘Reunion’ concert).

1981, Member of The GP’s (at Broughton Castle).

1981, Guest with Fairport Convention (at Broughton Castle) (the second ‘Reunion’ concert).

1985, Guest with Fairport Convention.

1987, Guest with Fairport Convention.

1990, Solo set and Guest with Fairport Convention.

1992, Guest with Fairport Convention.

1997, Member of The GP’s.

1999, Solo set.

2002, Guest with Fairport Convention.

2003, Guest with The Bucket Boys; Guest with Fairport Convention.

2004, Guest with Fairport Convention.

2009, Solo set and Member of The GP’s.

2011, Guest with Fairport Convention.

2016, Solo set.

2017, Guest with Fairport Convention.

2018, Guest with Al Stewart.