Biography

photograph of Andrew Hawkey by Richard Boothphoto: Richard Booth

Born 1942 (yes, really) in Wadebridge, Cornwall. An only child – in fact, THE only child, it seemed to me - my father was a tenant farmer, and our isolated home was one of the most ancient houses in the county, with a tangible supernatural presence: I know what I saw … Eventually encountering other children came as something of a surprise, but at least it confirmed that I wasn't alone. Moves to Surrey, Cheshire and Devon followed: boarding schools from age nine. Parental split, and subsequent remarriages, had their negative impact, and I left school at fifteen, to work on poultry farms, and later in estate agency. Escaped to London in early 1960s: there followed eight formative years in those ‘swinging’ times – squalid bedsit, then shared flats, a suit-and-tie job leavened by endless parties, pubs, girls, smoking, live music, Kings Road, club motor racing at weekends, acquiring lifelong vinyl-collecting habit.

Ever the late developer, at age 30 it was time to take stock. Result: drop out, head west. 1973 found me in the first of a number of damp and draughty homes in the glorious hills of mid-Wales. Of these, Maes Mynach was the finest – an ancient crumbling mountainside farmhouse (once previously occupied by Albert Lee and his Heads Hands & Feet cohorts), accessible only on foot, and home for five pivotal years, 1976-81. Attended Lampeter University as mature (sic) student, and acquired some skills as guitarist/singer-songwriter, picking up folk club and hippy festival gigs along the way (as well as opening for South Walian chart-toppers Racing Cars at the Marquee and other London venues in ‘76). Co-ran small recording studio and the indie label SoSo 1982-5, recording, producing and releasing everything from Welsh choirs to punk, as well as my own material (see Discography).

Freelance publisher's editor from mid-80s, as well as mail-order rare record dealing. Played keyboards and harmonicas in Kelvin & The Absolute Zeros, then Pat Grover's Blue Zeros, for 21 years: 1,000 gigs and more, including prominent blues festivals in UK and Irish Republic, and backing blues luminaries Helen Watson, Johnny Mars, and Todd Sharpville amongst others, with occasional solo acoustic work on the side. Co-ran Cambria Arts’ legendary ‘Live at The Talbot’ roots music venue in Tregaron 2000-2007, where we hosted countless greats (Albert Lee, Chip Taylor, Gary US Bonds, Eric Taylor, The Holmes Brothers, Steve Young, Amos Garrett, the Strawbs, to name just a few) – such a privilege. Moved to Brittany in 2007 for a couple of years, but the Welsh hills drew me home in 2010 … Decided in 2014 that encroaching old age should be no bar to releasing another album. Like I say, ever the late developer …

Discography

Solo releases:

1982: Halfway Alone (self-released cassette-only album, recorded in primitive circumstances and produced by legendary Cornwall-based folk wizard Nigel Mazlyn Jones). To claim this was released would be a wild exaggeration … let’s just say it escaped. Then disappeared.

1983: … And This (6-song vinyl-only 45rpm EP, SoSo 021) - With minimal distribution, this sold in tiny numbers. The best song, ‘No Shadow’, is revisited on What Did I Come Up Here For?

2015: What Did I Come Up Here For? (Mole Lodge Records MLCD001)

Production, engineering etc.:

From 1982 to 1985, the SoSo label tottered from one crisis to the next, but we still somehow managed to record and release a random collection of product, including cassette-only albums by new-age chant outfit Prana, a promising pop band from the Valleys called None So Blind (on which I played lead guitar, apparently!), and the exceedingly shadowy Jeff Murphy Band, LPs by happy-clappy Christian rocker Adrian J. Pratt and folk duo Strachan & Griffiths, and 7” singles by Pembrokeshire's X-Collector and, most notably, hardcore Haverforwest punk band Picture Frame Seduction (runner-up single of the week in Melody Maker!). A PFS album, Hand of the Rider, was recorded but not released by SoSo – it eventually materialized on another label, and has since had a CD reissue in the USA. I also wrote and recorded a body of background/testcard music for S4C (Welsh Channel 4 TV), royalties from which, at the time, represented the difference between eating and … well, not eating.

Sessions, collaborations:

Various Artists/Bywyd Newydd (SoSo 024, 1983); Welsh-language LP of Christian artists: keyboards and harmonicas with several contributors, in particular Welsh folk legend Tecwyn Ifan.

Adrian J. Pratt/Jester Before the Throne (SoSo 032, 1984): piano & synth.

Maat/Grace & Karma (Octavia Records OCD 218, 1996): vocals, harmonica

Various/Live at The Talbot (Red Kite Records RKRCD006, 2004): harmony vocals and harmonica on Kreg Viesselman's Gone to Lewiston.

Richard Booth Trio/Spill The Moon (CD tri-001, 2013): keyboards, backing vocals (‘a quiet, unassuming but enchanting masterpiece’ - R2)