Silly Wizard - The Early Years - 1969 to 1979


Gordon Jones (Art College) and Bob Thomas (Veterinary Medicine) meet while studying in Edinburgh during the day and playing folk clubs and bars at night and weekends. A friendship based on guitars, blues, ragtime, British folksong and contemporary folk-based music begins. Bob becomes President of the Edinburgh University Folk Club and organises a very successful Festival Fringe show in August/September 1969 at which Gordon, Bill Watkins and Andy Hughes play some floor spots as a trio (You'll need these last two names later).

Fall 1971

Gordon (Vocals, Guitar, Bouzouki and Bodhran) and Bob (Guitar, 5 string Banjo and Mandolin) get round to playing some songs together on an occasional basis and sometime during late 1971 they end up sharing a flat in Edinburgh - the third tenant in the flat is called Kevin (more of him later).

February 1972

A band is formed... Gordon. Bob and Bill Watkins (Vocals, Guitar). The music is the same mixture as before...the first British song rehearsed is The Rounding of Cape Horn followed by..........Up on Cripple Creek......Paradise Bar and Grill....Coming Into Los Angeles.....Take it Slow and Easy....Jackson Stomp.....Chief O'Neills Favourite....St Louis Tickle..etc etc etc!

July 1972

Bill goes home to Birmingham for family reasons and is replaced by Chris Pritchard (who when he grows up goes on to become a headmaster and champion Bothy Ballad singer). They get a gig (playing at a Burns Supper for French tourists at the Burns Hotel in Alloway in the middle of July) and take the name "Silly Wizard" from a book of childrens' stories that Kevin is attempting to write.

September 1972

Johnny Cunningham (Fiddle and Mandolin) joins..which leads to several long overnight drives for Bob as the band attempt to get him back to school for the morning after gig before.

September 1972

The band take over the residency and organisation of the Triangle Folk Club in Edinburgh and launch an incredibly successful run of major guests at this weekly Saturday night club.

February 1973

Madelaine Taylor (Vocals, Guitar and Bodhran/Spoons) joins the band and they begin to develop a repertoire of Scots songs in addition to the basic diet of English sea songs, ragtime blues and Scots/Irish/American fiddle tunes.

October 1973

The band gets offered a recording contract by Transatlantic Records and records an album at Craighall Studios in Edinburgh. Unfortunately in December 1973 Maddy decides to leave the band and the album is shelved....the master tapes have subsequently been lost by Transatlantic and there are no known copies of these sessions in existence.

January 1973

Bob, Johnny & Gordon begin to tour as a trio

April 1974

First foreign (French) tour

September 1974

Neil Adam (Bass and Harmonium) joins - the keyboard makes its appearance in the band.

December 1974

Having made the decision to develop a more consciously Scottish style and identity, the the band invite Andy M Stewart (Vocals and Tenor Banjo) to join them.

March 1975

The band start work on what becomes their "first" album "Silly Wizard" (Transatlantic XTRA 1158). During this time Freeland Barbour (Accordion) joins the band. Phil Cunningham (Accordion) plays on a few of the tracks.

July 1975

Neil leaves the band to return to University (eventually he emigrates to Australia) and Alasdair Donaldson (Bass and Flute) joins.

July 1976

Freeland and Aly leave. Freeland forms the Wallochmore Ceilidh Band and goes on to become a respected producer for Radio Scotland) and Aly joins the Revillos as Mr Mysterious and enjoys some success with this band.. Phil Cunningham (Accordion, Whistle and Keyboards) and Martin Hadden (Bass and Keyboards) join. While waiting for Martin to decide to join the band does several gigs with Andy Hughes (remember him) on bass. The six piece lineup of Andy, Bob, Gordon, Johnny, Martin and Phil tours and in 1977 records Caledonia's Hardy Sons.


More TV shows, gigs, tours and festivals than anyone cares to remember - in 1978 the band made over 200 paid appearances plus all the bar and festival sessions they could get to!

March 1979

The band starts work on their second album "So Many Partings".

May 1979

Bob, who by now is married and has a young son, is offered a day job in a music shop and decides to take it - and eventually ends up managing the European operations of a Japanese multinational audio and computer technology company.

Summer 1979

The five remaining members begin their first tour of the USA….

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