Updated December, 2012Ian Campbell vocal, guitar
The Ian Campbell Folk Group are the most well known and respected folk music group to come out of Birmingham. Ian Campbell was born June 10, 1933 in Aberdeen, Scotland and his family moved to Birmingham in 1946. He formed the 'Clarion Skiffle Group' in the mid 1950s along with his sister Lorna who was also the singer. They were later joined by guitarist Dave Phillips and banjo player Gordon McCulloch, and by 1958 were known as 'The Ian Campbell Four'.
By 1960, McCulloch had been replaced by John Dunkerley and the group was also joined by violinist Dave Swarbrick (born April 5, 1941 in London). The group became well known on the local folk music scene and played regularly around Birmingham, often appearing at The Crown Pub on Station Street. It was there where they played on a live recording that was released as Ceilidh At The Crown in 1962. The following year, the group was signed to Transatlantic Records and released their first album entitled This Is The Ian Campbell Folk Group. At around this time, Dave Phillips left and was replaced by Brian Clark.
The Ian Campbell Group soon established themselves as a highly proficient live act who became well known for their instrumental abilities as well as Ian Campbell's talent as a songwriter. Tours and television appearances followed, and in March of 1965 the group even managed to get a hit single with their rendition of Bob Dylan's The Times They Are A-Changin'.
The group's major strength however, lay in their live performances where the line-up was often supplemented by top session musicians. The Ian Campbell Folk Group played most of the major festivals in the country including the Edinburgh Festival, and the Newport Folk Festival. They also performed at The Royal Albert Hall in London.
A major regular venue for the Ian Campbell Folk Group in Birmingham was the 'Jug O' Punch' folk club located at the back of Digbeth Civic Hall. The Campbell family ran the club themselves with it soon becoming one of the most significant venues for folk music in the country. Folk groups from far and wide travelled there to perform but the Ian Campbell Folk Group were always the main attraction.
In 1966, Dave Swarbrick left to become a major player in the British folk scene and later joined the well known group Fairport Convention. Bass player Dave Pegg from the Birmingham group The Uglys joined the Ian Campbell Group in 1967 and a few years later would also leave to become a pivotal member of Fairport Convention.
Despite further personnel changes, the Ian Campbell Folk Group continued to tour and release records throughout the 1960s and 1970s although tragically, John Dunkerley died of Hodgkinsons disease in 1977 at only 35 years old. The Ian Campbell Folk Group finally disbanded in the late 1970s but their status in folk music circles has continued to increase since then as one of the earliest significant British folk groups to perform traditional and original material during the folk revival of the 1960s.
Ian Campbell began a new career in television as a presenter and producer though he continued performing sporadically as a folk singer during the following decades. Two of his sons Ali and Robin are founding members of Birmingham's acclaimed and internationally successful reggae/pop group UB40 who went on to sell more than 70 million records. When Ian was honored at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in February 2012, he joked to the audience that his sons' first record outsold all the recordings he had ever made in his entire career!
Ian Campbell passed away at the age of 79 on November 24, 2012.
Copyright © John R Woodhouse
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