'Walter' Fairbairn was born on 28 August 1953 and brought
up in the North East of England. He developed his musical
talent whilst still at school, inspired by his contemporaries
Dave Richardson (Boys of the Lough) and concertina
genius Alistair Anderson. He was soon singing and playing
in local groups such as Trimrigg before joining the
successful band Hedgehog Pie and then the Lindisfarne
spin-off band Jack the Lad.
He has toured extensively in the UK and Europe, playing
with a wide variety of bands and artists. His musical
career has included performances at Cambridge,Edinburgh
and Reading Festivals, as well as appearances on the
The Old Grey Whistle Test, BBC Radio One In Concert and
Folk on Two.
Ian joined Aiken's Drum some twenty-two years ago as
a stand-in and, despite his better judgement, he has
been the longest serving non-member ever. Since adding
his considerable talent and versatility to the band,
he has become master of the surprise instrumental break!
Ian continues to play with other bands and has appeared
on many recordings, mainly in the folk arena.
Ian has been a long term provider of Fiddle parts for
various Guy Manning albums and has also appeared as part
of the live line-up.
Ian's own words:-
Like many of my generation, my first musical efforts
involved wrestling with my elder brother's horrible Rossetti
guitar, trying to imitate the pop instrumentals of the
era — The Shadows and The Ventures have a lot to
When I moved up to Wallsend Grammar School, I was press-ganged
into the school Folk Song Society basically because I
could play an instrument! The standards, however, were
high, being based on the talents of older pupils Dave
Richardson (later of Boys of The Lough) and concertina
virtuoso Alistair Anderson. I soon found myself learning
my trade alongside Dave's late-lamented younger brother
Titch (also destined for The Boys of The Lough). My earliest
memory of performing in public is playing 5-string banjo
at a church fete with Titch somewhere in Howdon-on-Tyne.
Sometime later Stu Luckley came to the Grammar and he
and I formed a duo called Trimrigg. Much to my mother's
disgust, I spent much of my school career playing the
thriving folk scene, mostly around the coastal towns
of Tynemouth, Cullercoats and Whitley Bay, with Trimrigg.
Working with Stu helped to broaden my horizons. He was
always keen to diversify and to embellish the standard
folk club fodder from the likes of Ewan McColl and the
Dubliners, with stuff from Ralph McTell, The Humblebums,
Incredible String Band, etc.etc.etc....
time the line-up expanded to include Stu's girlfriend
Margi. While this further enhanced the repertoire to
include stuff like Bessie Smith blues, it unfortunately
meant I had to travel to gigs in the back of the minivan!
Meanwhile, south of the river, legendary folky lunatics
Hedgehog Pie* were looking for a replacement for departed
mandolin ace Andy Seagrove, and decided to replace him
with an entire band, absorbing Trimrigg into their ranks
I helped spread Hedgehogs' brand of raw musical bedlam
for nearly 2 years, travelling as widely as our day jobs
would allow. This included my first performance on national
radio (Folk on 2), a week at Edinburgh Festival with
Silly Wizard, and my first venture on to Cambridge Festival
main stage. We were also regular visitors to Leeds and
Doncaster in the days when you could visit a different
Leeds folk club every night for a month!
I joined the professional ranks when Phil Murray and
I joined Lindisfarne spin-off band Jack the Lad on
a free transfer from Hedgehogs. They in turn worked on,
recruiting Dave Burland for a while before finally reverting
to what they always were — The Doonan Family Band.
Stu in turn went on to produce great stuff with Sunderland's
Jack the Lad carried on the Lindisfarne tradition of
exceptional live entertainment. We toured extensively
throughout Britain and Europe, making the most of the
thriving live music scene in the 70's. We appeared at
all of the major venues in this country from Theatre
Royal Drury Lane to Glasgow Apollo and every college
and university in between. We recorded 2 albums for the
forward thinking Charisma label, sharing the office (and
the Nellie Dean pub) with the likes of Genesis, Van der
Graph Generator and Bert Jansch. One further album (my
personal favourite) was recorded on the United Artists
label but UA never really supported the band the way
Charisma had. Touring is expensive!
Inevitably, the lack of commercial success took its
toll on Jack the Lad (and many of the other great bands
of the era), and a lucrative offer to re-form Lindisfarne
proved to be the final straw. The last real JtL gig was
at Redcar Coatham Bowl, July 31 1977 (several reunions
have been engineered, the last culminating in an appearance
at Skagen festival in Denmark in 1993).
fondest memories from this era are two appearances
at Reading Festival, doing the Old Grey Whistle Test
with blues legend Freddie King, and doing a live 10 minute
mime on Radio One's "In Concert" that had the
BBC engineers in serious fits of panic!
In 1978 I
was coaxed back out of hiding by Bev Williams who wanted
me to play guitar with his award winning country
band — Midnight Flyer. This didn't last long (I
couldn't stand his driving) but I have played with them
on and off ever since.
I seem to
have spent most of my 20 years in retirement "depping," or
acting as 12th man, sitting in with loads of bands, and
this was how I first encountered John Birkby's Aiken's
Drum. I answered a desperate plea from Jeremy Wolstenholme
to play with him and some bloke by the name of Birkby
at The Mansion in Roundhay. It wasn't very flattering
to be told that they couldn't find anybody else, but
I did it anyway. I seem to remember arriving home a bit
shell shocked after that gig, having spent all night
trying to make myself heard over that huge voice and
booming Martin D35, nearly all in Eb or C#. In fact I
still don't feel like I've got used to it!
In the intervening 20 years I have played with literally
hundreds of duos, trios and bands including Paul Buckley,
Chris Newman, Nick Strutt, Roger Knowles, Mike Chapman,
Tony Wilson, Brian Golbey, Alistair Russell, Gordon Tyrall,
Hot Pot Belly Band, Witches Bane, Four Horseman, Ray
Band, Boxcar Willie, Sons of the Freemen, Scarlet Heights
and of course AIKEN'S DRUM. In those 20 years Aiken's
Drum hasn't changed much really; personnel have come
and gone (including me for a while) but John and his
Martin are still at it, as popular as ever.
Influences/Heroes: Hank Marvin, Martin Carthy, Dave
Swarbrick, Barney McKenna, Vasaar Clements, Jerry Reed,
Roy Buchanan, Richard Thompson, Jerry Donahue, Ry Cooder,
include: Tony Capstick, The Buskers, Mike Harding,
Guy Manning, Tom Robinson, Tony Wilson, Ewan
Carruthers, Gordon Tyrall, Alan Taylor, Scarlet Heights
and now Aiken's Drum."
* Hedgehog Pie were the result of the flourishing folk
revival in northern England and the attempts to extend
the electric folk movement in the region. They matured
rapidly into a promising and highly proficient outfit
and although the group failed to achieve mainstream
recognition, they still retain a local and cult following
in the context of northern folk music.
Ian answers questions about all things MANNING during the 2013 "Root" Sessions <READ ME>