Another landmark for Fairport Convention

As they approach their 50th anniversary in 2017, Fairport Convention clock up another landmark this year as the folkrock legends head out on their 30th consecutive winter tour.

The line-up features Simon Nicol (vocals, guitar), Ric Sanders (violin), Chris Leslie (mandolin, fiddle, vocals), Gerry Conway (drums) and Dave Pegg (bass guitar), the band’s longest-serving member.

Dave joined two years after the start. Simon was one of the founders, but as Dave puts it, “had five years off for good behaviour at one point!”

Dave is happily realistic about the big anniversary in 2017: “It sounds close, but as you get older, you realise it isn’t. Ten years ago, something three years away would have sounded nothing, but I am 66 now, and the aches and pains get more! The Stones are still out there doing it, but I expect they have got better tablets than we have! And I am sure Robert Plant has got a stairlift to heaven by now!”

Dave was originally invited to join Fairport by Dave Swarbrick who was playing violin with the band in 1969.

“He had been in The Ian Campbell Folk Group, a really great Scottish traditional band, and I played double bass with them. My prime instrument is the bass guitar. I didn’t come from a folk background. I was really a bass guitarist in Birmingham, but I was invited to play some sessions with them on double bass. I met Dave Swarbrick and he went on to join Fairport, and when their line-up split in 1969, I was invited.”

Looking back over his long years with the band, Dave says inevitably he recalls it all as a succession of different periods and eras: “Fairport has had 26 different members in its career. That sounds like an awful lot, but we are talking about 46-47 years. If it was a small office, you would have a lot more change-over than that.

“But we have always been a very happy band.

“When people have come and gone, it has never been acrimonious. It has been because the group has become limiting for some people, for people like Richard Thompson who is now an incredibly-well known – as he deserves to be – performer and song-writer.

“He is one of the best guitarists and song-writers in the world, but he left, strangely enough, after I had been in the band for about a year. I don’t think that was anything to do with it. I am sure it wasn’t! He has asked me to play with him since. But Fairport would have been too restricting for him if Richard had stayed on.”

And the same was the case with the late Sandy Denny: “She was one of the greatest singers and songwriters that have ever lived.

“She was in Fairport on a couple of occasions, but the band was too restrictive for what she wanted.”

Sadly she died on 21 April 1978 at the age of 31, following a fall. Who Knows Where The Time Goes? was one of her greatest songs. Fairport still deliver it, with Simon on vocals, as a key part of their set.

Fairport Convention play Worthing’s Connaught Theatre on February 26.

Tickets on 01903 206206.