Fairport Convention's original vocalist, Judy Dyble, delivered a beautiful swan song.
Judith Aileen Dyble (pronounced Die-bull; 13 February 1949 – 12 July 2020) was an English singer-songwriter, most notable for being a vocalist and a founding member of Fairport Convention and Trader Horne. In addition, she and Ian McDonald joined and recorded several tracks with Giles, Giles and Fripp, who later became King Crimson. These tracks surfaced on the Brondesbury Tapes CD and Metaphormosis vinyl LP.
Dyble was born at the Middlesex Hospital, Central London. Her first band was Judy and The Folkmen (which existed between 1964 and 1966). They made homemade demo recordings, none of which were released, but some are included on a mooted anthology of Dyble's career. (Universal/Sanctuary set a release date in 2007 for this, but the release was cancelled when Sanctuary was taken over by Universal.) She then became the original vocalist with Fairport Convention from 1967 to 1968.
In November 1966 Ashley 'Tyger' Hutchings asked her to sing and play in some of the various band incarnations with himself, Richard Thompson, and Simon Nicol. They were all part of jug-bands and anything that needed a female vocal, mainly because of their reluctance to sing. This became the nucleus of Fairport Convention, initially with Shaun Frater as a drummer and later Martin Lamble. The group recorded their first album with her, their repertoire at the time consisting of both American singer-songwriter works, plus originals. The first single was a cover of a 1930s American song, "If I Had a Ribbon Bow." The band covered and re-worked numerous American recordings with the band members choosing some tracks to work with from manager Joe Boyd's record collection. The band also picked up on the works of Joni Mitchell before she was known in the UK, and covered two of her songs on the first Fairport album, which was self-titled.
Fairport's early live shows in London in the late 1960s saw Dyble share stages with names like Jimi Hendrix, and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. Famously, she sat on the front of the stage at the Speakeasy Club knitting, while Hendrix and Richard Thompson jammed. Dyble guested on The Incredible String Band's 1968 album The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (on "The Minotaur's Song"), and on G.F. Fitz-Gerald's 1970 album Mouseproof (on "Ashes of an Empire"). Writing on her own website, of her departure from the band, Dyble later said she had been "unceremoniously dumped".
After her stint with Fairport Convention, Dyble (along with her then-boyfriend Ian McDonald) joined the English pop band Giles, Giles and Fripp by famously advertising in Melody Maker. Dyble contributed to demo recordings for the group, but left after her relationship with McDonald ended. Giles, Giles, and Fripp – retaining McDonald – would later evolve into the foundation progressive rock band King Crimson.
Dyble would go on to become one half of the duo Trader Horne, with ex-Them member Jackie McAuley. Pete Sears was originally the third member of the band, but flew to the United States before recording began. The group took its name from John Peel's nanny Florence, called "Trader" Horne—a reference to explorer Trader Horn. The duo signed to Dawn (a subsidiary of Pye Records) releasing one album, Morning Way in 1969, and two highly prized, collectible vinyl singles. Dyble wrote the title track, "Morning Way," and co-wrote "Velvet to Atone" with Martin Quittenton for the album. The pairing shared stages with acts such as Humble Pie, Yes, and Genesis. The duo split a few days before they should have headlined the now legendary Hollywood festival in Newcastle Under Lyme that saw Mungo Jerry first come to public attention. In 2008, Trader Horne was featured in Kingsley Abbott's book, 500 Lost Gems of the 60s: to coincide with this, Stuart Maconie did a one-hour biopic radio special on Dyble's career on BBC6 programme the Freak Zone, as well as a significant piece in Record Collector.
In 1973, Dyble left the music business to work with her husband, DJ and scenester Simon Stable (who had played bongos on albums by Bridget St John and Ten Years After under his real name, Count Simon de la Bédoyère). Later on, Dyble (by now a mother) worked as a librarian.
At the 1981 Fairport Convention Annual Reunion (held that year at Broughton Castle), Dyble appeared on stage as a surprise guest: backed by Fairport's Full House lineup, she sang Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides, Now" and the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved". She also appeared as a guest in 1982 (A Week-End in The Country), 1997 (30th anniversary), 2002 (35th anniversary) and 2007 (40th anniversary).
For a long time, the only Dyble recordings available in the retail trade had been the first Fairport Convention album, but Morning Way was reissued on CD in November 2000 and nearly a decade after Stable's death in 1994, Dyble began writing and performing again in 2003. She released the first of several new works – Enchanted Garden – in 2004, followed by Spindle and The Whorl in 2006. The last two albums received only limited releases with little if any distribution. Occasional live appearances saw her appear at Cropredy (alongside what was virtually the original Fairport line up) in 2007.
Dyble released a single on 3 March 2008 with northern indie/folk band The Conspirators through independent label Transcend Media Group. It was a double A-side featuring Dyble's vocals on a remake of Fairport Convention's song "One Sure Thing" and The Conspirators song "Take Me To Your Leader". It reached No.7 in the official UK Indie Singles Chart, spending 3 weeks in the top 10. The promotion for this single saw Dyble make a couple of rare live appearances, at the Harrogate International Conference Centre, and at an in-store live gig at HMV's superstore in Leeds city centre on 3 March 2008.
Her next album, Talking with Strangers, was recorded throughout 2008 with Tim Bowness (No-Man) and Alistair Murphy co-writing and producing. Collaborators include Robert Fripp, Simon Nicol, Pat Mastelotto, Ian McDonald, Julianne Regan, Celia Humphris, Jacqui McShee, Laurie A'Court and Mark Fletcher. During work on the album, she played a rare outdoor show at the Llama festival in North Devon, in June 2008.
Dyble took her place at the head of Fairport Convention's initial line up, at Witchseason's 40th anniversary celebration show at the Barbican Theatre on 18 July 2009, for the first time in nearly 40 years, excluding very brief occasional outings at Cropredy. Talking With Strangers was released in August 2009 becoming the recommended choice on the bbc.co.uk homepage, and receiving favourable reviews from, among others, the Mail on Sunday, Record Collector, Shindig!, R2 (Rock'n'Reel), and All About Jazz, and was described as a "sophisticated triumph" on the BBC music website. A number of radio stations aired the near 20-minute track "Harpsong" in full, and Dyble undertook a run of BBC local radio interviews, including BBC Radio Oxford, Solent, Suffolk, Devon, Cornwall, Lancashire, and Manchester.
In May 2009, early review copies of the new album with Robert Fripp were sent out. Dyble's Myspace showed samplers of some of the album tracks, and directly from her, and from Tim Bowness's Burning Shed, signed numbered early release copies sold out very quickly. 27 August 2009 saw an intimate gig by Dyble at the 100 Club in London, supported by Tim Bowness, Alistair Murphy, and Simon Nicol, her first solo gig in London in over 40 years. Dutch label Tonefloat released a vinyl version of the album in 2010, and Dyble added additional vocals to the 2 November 2009 single release "Every Sentimental Moment" by UK rock band Kings Cross. Termo records in Norway announced a Scandinavian release in February 2010, with revised artwork by noted artist and children's illustrator Jackie Morris, and a bonus track from the album sessions "Fragile". This release was supported by promotional television appearances in Norway, notably on the breakfast show >God morgen, Norge!. Two tracks were performed live, "Jazzbirds", and "Grey October Day". Dyble, Bowness, and Murphy also recorded an as yet unseen clip for the programme Lydverket.
Harpsong won the award for Best Original Song voted for by the online community Talkawhile in January 2010, and the album featured in the Best of 2009 lists in Classic Rock magazine by noted writers Jo Kendall, and Sid Smith. The album was also promoted by UK music store HMV as one of its best specialist sector albums.
In December 2009, producer/arranger Lee Fletcher announced via online networks that he and touch guitarist Markus Reuter would be collaborating (along with a number of other musicians including Robert Fripp) with Dyble on new work. The project was subsequently revealed by Dyble to be titled Newborn Creatures and as of 11 February 2011 the album was said to be complete. Mastering duties were undertaken by Simon Heyworth, who produced, mixed and mastered Tubular Bells as well as mastering work by Nick Drake, Simple Minds and others. Subsequent to this announcement, Dyble announced via her own website that the project had run into difficulties and would not be released in the form she had intended, and that she had been removed from the project altogether.
I am very sorry to have to say seemingly my album, Newborn Creatures will now not be released in its current incarnation. Lee Fletcher and Markus Reuter have decided to remove my songwords and my vocals and artwork and anything to do with me from the recording. I do not know what they intend to do with what is left, but they have stated that they intend to release my album without me in some form and at some point in the future.
She completed an album with Alistair Murphy, titled Flow and Change, which was released by Gonzo Multimedia on 1 July 2013. Mostly co-written with Murphy, who also engineered and produced the album, others are co-written with Julianne Regan, Simon House and Dean Frances-Hawksley/Andy Suttie. Guest collaborators were Matt Malley (ex Counting Crows) Mike Mooney (Spiritualized), Julianne Regan (All About Eve) and Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson).
During 2013, Dyble collaborated with Oliver Kersbergen of Sleepyard in co-writing three songs, one of which "Blue Barracuda" was released on the Füxa album Dirty D in August 2013 and two more, "Rainy Day Vibration" and "Satellite Calling" were released on Sleepyard's album Black Sails, on USA label Global Recording Artists in January 2014. She sang "1000 Year Vacation (reprise)" on the same album. Having completed a 3CD anthology of, in most cases, the lesser known music she has been involved with over the last 50 years, Gathering the Threads (Fifty Years of Stuff), was released in March 2015.
In October 2015, Earth Recordings re-released the Trader Horne album Morning Way on sunset red vinyl and CD in time for the Trader Horne reunion concert at Bush Hall in London on 29 November 2015. In November 2015, Earth recordings released the first part of the Gathering the Threads Anthology as Anthology Part One on vinyl and CD.
In November 2015, Dyble and Jackie McAuley re-united as Trader Horne to perform the whole of the Morning Way album live at Bush Hall in London. They were accompanied by Jackie's brother Brendan McAuley and members of Dyble's own Band of Perfect Strangers—Alistair Murphy, Mark Fletcher, Phil Toms and Ian Burrage with Steve Bingham.
Dyble spent most of 2015 and the early part of 2016 writing her autobiography with the assistance of Dave Thompson. An Accidental Musician was published in April 2016 by Soundcheck Books. During 2016–17, Dyble concentrated on finishing a new album of her work—Summer Dancing — with various collaborators, and a new collection of songs recorded with Andy Lewis which was released in August 2017. She recorded a duet with David Longdon on "The Ivy Gate" with Big Big Train for the album Grimspound, which was released in April 2017.
Dyble performed at Fairport's Cropredy Convention Festival with her own Band of Perfect Strangers; and she also appeared with the surviving original members of Fairport Convention, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the formation of the band in 2017. The songs sung by the "early years" line-up were "Time Will Show The Wiser", "I Don't Know Where I Stand" and "Reno Nevada". All three songs were often performed in the first year of the band's live performances in 1967–68.
In 2018 she released the album Earth is Sleeping on Acid Jazz Records whose final track was titled Newborn Creatures; it's not clear how this album related to the aborted 2009 album.
A new album in collaboration with David Longdon, Between A Breath and a Breath, containing seven new songs with lyrics written by Dyble and music by Longdon, was released in September 2020.
Dyble died on 12 July 2020 at the age of 71. She had lung cancer in the years leading up to her death, and revealed the diagnosis in November 2019 when she began chemotherapy.
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
Date: October 2020.
Photo Credits: (1),(3),(4) Judy Dyble (2),(5) Fairport Convention. (unknown/website).