WHO'S WHO IN THE STRAWBS
An A-Z of Strawbs by Dick Greener
Updated 20 Feb 2021
Links lead to fuller biographies of the current and most recent band members. (Original text based on Dick Greener feature in Chiswick 1998 programme).
Bimbo Acock (Peter Christopher Acock) - Only briefly a Strawb, joining with Roy Hill for the two gigs after Cousins' resignation in 1980.
Don Airey - Don's impeccable keyboard CV - Rainbow, Jethro Tull, Gillan, Deep Purple and Gary Moore - made him an excellent recruit for the 1993 Silver Jubilee tour, though he left before the Christmas tour later that year.
Talking John Berry - Double-bass player with the Strawberry Hill Boys in their bluegrass and Limeliters-style close harmony days. Reputed to have left the band owing to Cousins and Hooper's fondness for curries, an unlovely trait at close quarters when sharing a single microphone. Nicknamed after his fondness for the "talking blues". Deceased.
Ron Chesterman - "Nobby" Chesterman was found by Tony Hooper playing at the Enterprise club in Chalk Farm, North London and was a Strawb from 1967 to early 1970, when he left to join Noel Murphy and Shaggis, under the unlikely name of Draught Porridge. Latterly worked as an archivist in his home town Chester. He features on the first two A&M albums, the Strawberry Sampler, and the releases featuring Sandy Denny: All Our Own Work/Sandy and the Strawbs. Ron died on 16 March 2007.
Rod Coombes - Lulu's backing band the Luvvers was Rod's professional debut, followed by a stint with the Jeff Beck Band at the time of the hit "Hi Ho Silver Lining". He next worked in experimental jazz rock before joining Juicy Lucy in 1970. Onwards to Gerry Rafferty's Stealers Wheel for one album, including the hit "Stuck In The Middle With You". Joining Strawbs in Autumn 1973 as Cousins and Lambert rebuilt the band for Hero and Heroine, Coombes is said to have contributed much to the mid 70s band's arrangements, as well as a song for each album (his Ghosts contribution appeared as the b-side to "Grace Darling" but appears on the CD re-issue). He left the band after 1977's Burning For You. Rod returned to add drums to a couple of tracks on Blue Angel, then has returned to the electric line-up which has toured in North America and the UK between 2004 and 2008. Rod also plays in jazz outfit Ming Hat. His educational work has now made it difficult to participate in Strawbs tours.
Lyndsay Cooper - Experimental jazz influenced cellist and double bassist, who joined briefly to replace Clare Deniz, moving over to bass when Ron Chesterman also left. Played the oddest Strawbs gig on record at Rock'n'Roll Circus in Paris in April 1970 with newly-joined Rick Wakeman, where the band backed the circus acts, but left shortly after as Hudson and Ford were recruited for the classic 1970-71 line-up. Lyndsay Cooper died 10 Jun 2001.
Dave Cousins - Dave and Tony Hooper met at school in West London back in the mists of time. They started playing together, first as the short-lived Gin Bottle Four, later as the Strawberry Hill Boys (from which the Strawbs emerged sometime in late 1967/early 1968). Renowned in the mid 60s as the fastest UK banjo-picker around, Dave's own haunting compositions began to displace the bluegrass/ traditional material, and he developed a well-respected guitar playing style with a series of unusual guitar tunings which complemented them to perfection. Dave is undoubtedly the heart and soul of the Strawbs - as songwriter, front man and lead singer - and he has led the band throughout their many changes: from the early days through folk-rock with a progressive flavour, to the fully fledged rock band they are today. His complex epic songs are the cornerstone of the Strawbs' appeal both in the 70s and today - delivered in his inimitable vocal style with acoustic guitar accompaniment over a keyboard and rock band backing. In the 1980s/1990s he combined a highly successful career in TV and local radio with his musical activities, both with the Strawbs and as a duo with Strawbs guitarist Brian Willoughby. He was the driving force behind the Strawbs' 1998 Chiswick 30th anniversary show, which sparked an series of annual electric tours in 1999-2001. Cousins formed Witchwood Records in 2000, which has become the key outlet for Strawbs and Strawbs-related releases. From 2001 to 2004, he concentrated again on musical activity and performed with the two Strawbs guitarists, Lambert and Willoughby as Acoustic Strawbs; in 2004 Willoughby was replaced in the Acoustic line-up by Strawbs graduate Chas Cronk. 2004 saw the revival of the electric line-up, in both its UK and US formats, the US format going on to become the regular Electric Strawbs which continues to tour regularly alongside the acoustic band. He masterminded the hugely successful release in 2006 of the Strawbs boxed set "A Taste of Strawbs" and in 2007 formed the Blue Angel Orchestra, featuring the fiddler extraordinaire Ian Cutler and guitarist Miller Anderson. 2008 saw not only a solo tour of North America (with a solo CD to boot and then a CD recorded on the tour), but also a new Strawbs studio album. And 2009 was an eventful year with a further studio album, a performance at Hampton Court at the Rick Wakeman Six Wives extravanagnza and the two-day 40th Anniversary celebrations at Twickenham, which outdid Chiswick by a long country mile. Since then he has masterminded tours and amazing CD re-issues of Strawbs material for Witchwood Media. He put out a book of his song lyrics, including much unheard of material, and his autobiography "Exorcising Ghosts", published in September 2014. Since then, despite some health issues, he has revived the Strawbs electric line-up, adding keyboard player Dave Banbridge, and recorded two new Strawbs albums, The Ferry,man;'s Curse and the 2021 release Settlement, recorded in lockdown, as well as masterminding the transfer of the Witchwood Media back catalogue to Chery Red, who have commenced an ambitious re-issue programme.
Chas Cronk - As a sessions musician, Chas was responsible for getting Rick Wakeman his first session gig. He played in Philip Goodhand-Tait touring band and on Wakeman's Six Wives sessions. He joined Strawbs in Autumn 1973 for Hero and Heroine, and from Deep Cuts onwards, he forged a songwriting partnership with Dave Cousins until the dissolution of the band in 1980. Since then, Chas has played in various bands including the Steve Hackett Band, most notably forming Cry No More with Roy Hill - a band with a fiercely loyal local following even today in the Strawbs' West London heartland and which scored a hit in Germany with "Oh Sharon". Chas is a mainstay of the Strawbs in both acoustic and electric formats. The new 2021 album contains a first - a Chas song "Liberty" with a Chas lead vocal.
Rod Demick - A former member of Wheels and pub-rockers Bees Make Honey, Rod was for many years bass player in David Essex's band before joining Strawbs to replace John Ford on bass in 1985. A prime mover in Strawbs' offshoot Turkey Leg Johnson, Rod made a first solo CD, Straight To The Heart and these days performs in various bands, particularly Paul Lamb and the King Snakes.
Sandy Denny - A regular around the London folk scene in the mid 60s folk boom, where Dave Cousins heard her perform and, according to legend, asked her there and then to join his band. She travelled with them to Denmark, where they recorded an album's worth of soft folk-rock material in a recording studio based in a cinema. When the tapes failed quickly to find a record deal, Sandy went her own way, with a flourishing solo career taking off under Alex Campbell's patronage, and subsequently folk-rock superstardom with Fairport Convention and her own band Fotheringay. In the mid 70s, she was several times voted Top Female Vocalist in the music press. The Copenhagen tapes were later released on vinyl in 1973 (All Our Own Work) and on CD in 1991 (Sandy And The Strawbs) and have just been released again ("the Complete Sessions") by Witchwood Media in 2010 to much press acclaim. She died tragically on 21 Apr 1978, prompting Dave's heartfelt classic "Ringing Down The Years". 2010 saw a stupendous 19CD box set release of all her known works, but not long after Dave Cousuins found a tape of her and Alex Campbell in an impromptu session, and released it on Witchwood Media as 19 Rupert Street.
Clare Deniz - Principal cellist with the Royal Ballet, Clare joined the band between August and December 1969 to record the acoustic Dragonfly album which prominently features her accomplished cello playing. Sadly she had left the band before the album was released and the band moved on into its Wakeman period. Clare then freelanced with the Welsh National Opera before joining the English National Opera. She studied with Paul Tortelier, Jacqueline du Pre, Lilley Phillips, Christopher Bunting and Antonia Butler. She also contributed cello to Ghosts. Like Dave Cousins, she is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, elected in 1990. To the delight of many, she returned to play two songs from Dragonfly with Dave Cousins at 2006's Strawbs Christmas Party. She continues to perfom and teach in the classical arena.
Adam Falkner - Adam played drums for 2013's electric Strawbs tour alongside Adam Wakeman, the "two Adams" lowering the average age of the band considerably. He has played with a vast number of musicians and is much in demand as a session drummer. He is Amy McDonald's musical director, and a member of the band One Eskimo, which has seen success in the US. Currently playing for Dido and Babyshambles. He is the inventor of the Stomperine, allowing drummers to add tambourine using feet rather than hands.
Tony Fernandez - Joining Strawbs in 1977, Fernandez played on Deadlines and the frustratingly unreleased (until 1995) Heartbreak Hill album before the band collapsed in July 1980. He plays on many of former Strawb Rick Wakeman's albums and is a stalwart member of Rick's live band (seen on recent extravanganzas such as the Six Wives gigs at Hampton Court in 2009, and more recently 2014's revival of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth). He would have been asked to play at Chiswick in 1998 but there was not enough room for two drum kits (Tony is left handed!); however he returned to the fold for the 40th anniversary celebrations in two of the line-ups (Heartbreak Hill and Blue Angel), and 2010 saw him back in the electric line-up for autumn tours in Canada and the UK, missing in 2012 owing to other commitments, but returning in in 2014 where he remains in post to this day.
John Ford - John's single debut was "Mistletoe Love" in 1964 with Jaymes Fenda and the Vulcans. He formed a long-term partnership with Hud which lasted through the Five Proud Walkers, Velvet Opera, Strawbs, Hudson Ford, The Monks and High Society and then back with the reformed Strawbs until he moved permanently to the US to live in 1985. "Heavy Disguise" was his notable contribution to Grave New World - a live favourite in later years. He co-wrote "Part Of The Union" with Hud and was mainly responsible for the Hudson Ford hits "Burn Baby Burn" and "Floating In The Wind". These days John works as either a solo artist or with a band in the New York area and has produced a number of excellent solo CDs of new material - Love Is A Highway, Heading For A High and Natural High, Backtracking, a mini-album New World, and two Christmas releases featuring his reworkings of well known Christmas songs and his own material. He joined the Electric Strawbs on their March 2006 tour and features on the DVD shot during that tour (Lay Down With The Strawbs). He continues to release self-penned material (and an instrumental album) on his own Wholeshot/Big Shot Records label. He participated in both the 2009 40th anniversary celebrations and 2019's 50th extravaganza, where the whole of Grave New World was played. He appears on the 2021 Settlement album, with a co-written song "Each Manner Of man", unusually co-written with Dave Cousins, and featuring John's lead vocal
John Hawken - Joined the Nashville Teens in the early 60s, who backed Chuck Berry on his first UK tour and climbed the charts with "Tobacco Road". He next joined Jim McCarthy and Keith Relf's original Renaissance, then played in Spooky Tooth, Third World War and Vinegar Joe. Initially not very familiar with electronic instruments, on joining Strawbs in Autumn 1973 he contributed much to the big, gothic, mellotron-laden sound of the Hero and Heroi/albtrack/ghosts period much loved by North American fans, by then the Strawbs' main market. Leaving in Summer 1975, he regrouped with original Renaissance members in Illusion, before crossing the Atlantic to escape the onslaught of punk; he now lives in New Jersey. In 2001 he recorded again with Relf, McCarty and Cennamo as Renaissance Illusion, and, after a taster via an encore at a New Jersey acoustic gig, he stepped back behind the keyboard in 2004 for the well-received Hero and Heroine band tours, where we discovered he is an adept cartonist. In 2008 John retired from the Strawbs, but continues to play local gigs in his band The Rocketmen. However, John recently rejoined his colleagues for the two cruises which the band played in 2014, the Moody Blues Cruise, and Yes' Cruise To The Edge.
Roy Hill - After he supported the Strawbs on their 1978 Deadlines tour, Chas Cronk and Tony Fernandez joined up with the Roy Hill Band to tour whilst Dave and Brian toured the folk clubs on their first duo tour in 1979. When Dave Cousins left the Strawbs, Roy brought saxophonist Bimbo Acock and guitarist John Knightsbridge from his band to join Cronk, Fernandez, Brian Willoughby and Andy Richards in the only Strawbs line-up without Dave - and probably the shortest-lived: two gigs only in July 1980. Later in the 1980s he formed Cry No More with Chas, recording several albums: the duo continue to perform a handful of gigs each year for their devoted fans, and latterly there have been a selection of solo gigs. Roy has begun to record solo material again and his new album, Switzerland was released in 2014 after a somewhat lengthy gestation period.
Tony Hooper - The other original Strawb, Tony played with the band from its earliest days up till 1972 when, uncomfortable with the trend away from folk-rock to out and out rock, he left after their first American tour. Contributing several songs towards the early Strawbs albums, the Cousins/Hooper vocal harmonies were a trademark of the early folk band. After trying his hand at record production, Tony has had a second career in publishing, which released him from time to time for Strawbs activities - he rejoined the line-up for the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1983, staying with them for 10 years until after the 25th anniversary tour in 1993. In recent years he has played with mediaeval/synth band Misalliance and dance band Pitchfork. Sadly, Tony passed away on 18 Nov 2020.
Richard Hudson - After playing drums in North London bands, Hud ended up alongside John Ford in the Five Proud Walkers (soon renamed Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera). The Opera released two albums and various singles before disbanding and Hud moved with John in May 1970 to join the Strawbs in time for their QEH concert, Hud originally was to play percussion only, but quickly moved back to a full drum kit. He contributed songs to several Strawbs albums, the best known being the Ford/Hudson composition "Part Of The Union". After Strawbs, he switched to guitar to front Hudson-Ford, again with John, and the duo quickly scored chart success with "Pick Up The Pieces" and went on to produce three albums for A&M. After dabbling with disco in the latter days of Hudson-Ford, the duo switched genres to punk as the Monks, again charting with "Nice Legs, Shame About The Face" and 1930s-style vocal harmony as High Society, in both cases with Terry Cassidy, who used to double as Strawbs' indefatigable sound man. He returned to the Strawbs for the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1983 and was a stalwart of the UK electric line-up for many many years until the reformation of the Hero And Heroine line-up in 2004. Hud these days plays with a number of bands in London and the South-East.
Robert Kirby - A long-time Strawbs associate who arranged tracks for Grave New World, Bursting At The Seams and Ghosts, and was one of two sessions keyboard players recruited after Hawken left in 1975 to record and tour. Robert contributed strings to the 2001 Acoustic Strawbs album "Baroque & Roll" and 2004's "Deja Fou" and recently arranged a CD of rare Nick Drake material to critical acclaim and commercial success. Robert was recruited to arrange and conduct the grand finale of 2009's spectacular 40th anniversary celebrations, including "Heavy Disguise", "Down By The Sea" and an emotional "Where Silent Shadows Fall", all of which was hugely well-received by the Strawbs faithful. Sadly Robert died on 3 Oct 2009, just three weeks after the show. A memorial service was held on 3 Oct 2010 at London's Cecil Sharp House.
John Knightsbridge - Only briefly a Strawb, joining with Roy Hill for the two gigs after Cousins' resignation in 1980. He had previously played in Third World War and Illusion (in both cases alongside John Hawken), Gnidrolog, and the Roy Hill Band (alongside Chas Cronk, Tony Fernandez and Bimbo Acock). He has also played in Ruthless Blues alongside Fernandez.
Sonja Kristina - A few gigs with the Strawbs after Sandy Denny split. Later lead vocalist with Curved Air. Has released various solo CDs and from 2005 performed in a duo called Mask. Sonja guested again with Acoustic Strawbs to perform some of the old Sandy Denny numbers at the 40th anniversary celebrations, a performance which many hope to see again. Strawbs and Curved Air appeared on the Classic Rock Legends tour in 2014.
Dave Lambert - Dave started out in three piece Fire, with an Apple Publishing deal and a Decca contract to their name, who recorded one of the most collectable records around - the concept-based Magic Shoemaker album. After an acoustic period - he played a number of duo gigs with Dave Cousins - in 1971 he joined the King-Earl Boogie Band, whose album was produced by Cousins at the Manor at more or less the same time as Dave's own solo album Two Weeks Last Summer in 1972, on which Lambert guested. Dave's Townshend-influenced approach matched with Cousins' aspirations for rock stardom, and Lambert joined the band in September 1972 in time for "Lay Down". After the 1973 split, Lambert helped Cousins reform the band and the blend of their two differing vocal styles became a trademark of mid 70s Strawbs. A consummate lead guitarist, Lambert left the band at the beginning of the sessions for Heartbreak Hill in 1978 to pursue his own solo career, issuing one album Framed, which, disappointingly, was never released in the UK. For many years Lambert taught guitar in his beloved Kent and skiing (!). In the 80s he recorded material with Cronk, Fernandez, Andy Richards and others, which will be released in 2007 as Lambert Cronk. He rejoined the Strawbs again for the Chiswick extravaganza, and stayed, blending powerfully with Brian Willoughby's guitar work, whether in electric or acoustic mode. Dave produced a solo album, Work In Progress, in 2004. In 2007 as well as touring with acoustic and electric Strawbs, he organised a reunion of Fire for two live shows, where the whole of The Magic Shoemaker was played; the show was recorded and filmed and a CD of the show was released in 2009. Fire played again at the 40th anniversary. Dave was also a member of Zeus, a side project involving Tom Leary, Graeme Taylor and Jon Davie, who made their impressive live debut at the 40th anniversary; an album was recorded, but sadly never released.
John Mealing - Formerly with jazz-rockers If, Mealing and Robert Kirby supported the band on keyboards for live gigs between 1975 (when John Hawken left the band) and 1978. He also played on the albums Nomadnessthrough to Deadlines/em> and co-wrote the moody title track "Burning For Me" on Burning For You. He is c5redited with string and brass arrangemets on Hudson Ford's Worlds Collide album
Chris Parren - Keyboard player in the Hudson Ford band, when Blue Weaver was unavailable for the reformed Strawbs' tours in the mid 80s, Parren was a natural choice as replacement. He contributed to both the Don't Say Goodbye and Ringing Down The Years albums, and left in 1993 to work full-time in the Rocky Horror Show.
Arthur Phillips - Early recruit to the Strawberry Hill Boys, Phillips was a mandolin-player with transport - an attractive combination in those long ago halcyon days.
Andy Richards - Another classically-trained import for the Strawbs, joining after Deadlines in early 1978, in time for the tour which followed. The first permanent keyboard player in the band since John Hawken, he remained with the band until its 1980 dissolution, when he went on to find substantial success as a record producer. He returned to play with his old colleagues again for the 40th anniversary weekend.
Adam Wakeman - A chip off the old block, Adam helped the band out at Chiswick, depping for John Hawken who was unavailable, and again in 2000 for Blue. He has played with a bewildering range of bands including Yes, Lisa Stansfield, Atomic Kitten, Annie Lennox, Travis, Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne (from 2003 to the present). Four solo albums under his belt, he also works with his own band Headspace, which has so far produced an EP. In 2009 he performed with his father at the Six Wives extravaganza at Hampton Court, and in 2013 and 2014 he returned to the keyboard seat in Strawbs for UK touring.
Oliver Wakeman - Despite having to share him with Yes, Oliver was a natural choice to join the band after John Hawken retired in 2008, the third member of the Wakeman clan to be a Strawb. Playing and gigging from an early age, Oliver has recorded a number of albums with various collaborators (Rick, Tony Fernandez, Steve Howe and many more) and now performs and records with his own Oliver Wakeman Band. He has also joined up with guitarist Gordon Giltrap and recorded an album together, touring in 2013 and 2014.
Rick Wakeman - From dance band to sessions king to rock superstar, Rick catapulted to fame in a very short time, his first break being the Queen Elizabeth Hall showpiece concert of the new look electrified Strawbs, which he joined in March 1970. Touted as the new keyboard superstar, he left to join Yes in July 1971, shortly after the From The Witchwood album was released, also carving out a successful solo career with countless albums to his credit, with his first - The Six Wives of Henry VIII - also featuring pals Cousins, Lambert and Cronk. He recorded a new album with Dave Cousins in 2002 - Hummingbird - and is reported to be keen to do another.... In 2007 he announced his retirement from regular touring, his finale a duo acoustic tour with Yes singer Jon Anderson, but he continues to play a number of one-off shows. In 2009 he staged a huge spectacular live performance of his seminal Six Wives album, with choir, orchestra and the ebullient Brian Blessed as the narrator. Acoustic Strawbs opened the show. Later that year he performed a duo gig with Dave Cousins at the Strawbs' 40th anniversary celebrations, later released on CD/DVD. To mark the album's 45th anniversary and Wakeman's 70th birthday, Wakeman performed the re-recorded version of Journey To The center Of The Earth at the Royal Festival Hall on 13/14 July 2019. Rick is a also popular broadcaster on digital radio station Planet Rock and appears regularly on the telly.
Blue Weaver - Founder member of teeny-bopper band Amen Corner, Blue has probably had more pop chart success than any other Strawb: after several hits with the Corner, he went on to join progressive offshoot Fairweather, which also hit the charts with "Natural Sinner" before joining the Strawbs for their chart-busting period - Grave New World to Bursting At The Seams. After the Strawbs fragmented in June 1973, Blue ended up with Mott The Hoople and the Bee Gees, neither band being any stranger to pop success. He rejoined the band when it reformed in 1983, but was replaced by Chris Parren during the later 80s, rejoining in late 1993 after Don Airey's departure. He played mellotron at Chiswick, courtesy of Streetley Electronics, and played with the electric band since from 1999 through to 2001 with Adam Wakeman filling in when, owing to his wife's illness, Blue was unable to travel. He returned to the UK line up for 2004's brief tour, and recently has produced the Strawbs "lockdown" 2021 album Settlement.
Paul Wiffen - For one gig only, playing lead guitar along with the unusual line up of Cousins, Cronk, Hudson and Weaver at Melton Mowbray in 1994. Paul was at one time a regular contributor to music technology magazine Sound On Sound.
Brian Willoughby - Brian has played guitar for a wide variety of folk and pop stars, including Maureen Kennedy-Martin, Mary Hopkin, Roger Whittaker, New World. He joined Dave Cousins for an acoustic jaunt round the folk clubs in 1979 and the duo continued to perform throughout the 80s and 90s. Brian joined the Strawbs when they regrouped later that year for the Port Rush Festival and contributed two co-written songs to Ringing Down The Years. Lambert rejoining the band resulted in a dual lead guitar incarnation of the electric band, a collaboration much prized by the guitar-oriented fans. Dave and Brian's acoustic duo became three when Dave Lambert joined to form the Acoustic Strawbs. "Alice's Song", written by partner Cathryn Craig & Brian, was included on Baroque & Roll, and featured in the Acoustics' set for a long time.. Brian left Acoustic and Electric Strawbs in 2004 to concentrate on his career outside the Strawbs with Cathryn, but the pair appeared at the 40th anniversary in 2009, both in the "Blue Angel" line-up and in their own right. Brian had released a solo CD Black & White in 1998, with vocals by Cathryn and Mary Hopkin, and completed a second with Cathryn - I Will - in 2002, which reflects the material they play on their lengthy tours of the UK folk scene. In 2005, Craig & Willoughby released a powerful peace song "Rumours Of Rain" which involved the great and good of the folk world, and Brian released a critically acclaimed solo instrumental set, Fingers Crossed. 2009 saw a further album Calling All Angels, including a re-recording of "Alice's Song" which garnered a good deal of UK airplay. September 2009 saw both Brian and Cathryn on stage with the Blue Angel Strawbs line-up and in their own right at the 40th anniversary, and 2019 they participated in the 50th anniversary celebrations. They continue to be a highly popular act in the UK folk clubs and have accumulated a fine catalogue of well-received albums.
John Young - Keyboard player John Young was recruited for 2010's electric band tours of Canada and the UK, where the band played the whole of Hero And Heroine for the first time. As wll as running his own John Young Band, and playing with Lifesigns, he writes with Jon Anderson, is MD for Bonnie Tyler, has played in Quango alongside John Wetton and Carl Palmer and in Greenslade amongst other credits.