Folk band the Stonegallows who started out more than 50 years ago are reuniting for a farewell tour this month, starting with a performance at the Milverton Music Club on February 17.
The Stonegallows, named after the Taunton pub, was formed in 1969. They began as a trio made up of Alan Briars, Pat Drinkwater, and John Alderslade. It all started when the friends were returning from a folk club gig in Devon and driving though Taunton, passed the Stonegallows pub. That's a good name for a band they said, and the rest is history.
The band has seen members come and go throughout the years. At one time or another the lineup included Alan Briars, Tony Barren, Ruthie Behan, John Neil, Joffre White, Richard (Will) Whitemarsh, Richard Williams, Bertie Wright and John Alderslade - the one constant.
The band’s big break came when they performed at the first Lacock Festival in 1972. Later that year the Stonegallows performed major gigs in Rotherham and at Sidmouth Festival.
Over the years they have played around the country at many major folk festivals and clubs and as well as headlining in their own right, they have also supported bands including The Strawbs, Steeleye Span and Gallagher & Lyle.
The Stonegallows ceased to operate as a full time band in the 1980s. Tony Barren moved to Milverton in Somerset where he set up the Milverton music club.
Alan continued to have success with bands and worked as festival director for the Village Pump Festival in Wiltshire until his sad passing in 2007.
John Alderslade continued to perform across Wales and the West Country at folk clubs and festivals, and for the last five Village Pump Folk Festivals has served as the event’s director.
Being so far apart is has made it difficult for the Stonegallows to get together. And so the idea for the farewell tour was born.
The farewell tour is set to feature Tony Batten, Joffre White, and John Alderslade – though it is hoped other former bandmates may appear.
The Wellington Weekly News spoke with Tony Batten about the upcoming tour. Tony was a member of the Stonegallows from 1967 to around 1974. Since that time he has continued to play on occasion with the group.
The 74-year-old retired mechanical engineering lecturer who worked at Somerset College said: “We’re not hanging up our guitars individually, but as a bunch of people who get together. It’s increasingly difficult for us to get together. We used to get together a lot at a festival called the Village Pump Festival that we co-ran up in Wiltshire.”
Asked about other stops on the farewell tour, Tony said: “We’re doing Chippenham Folk Festival a bit later on in the year, we’re doing a gig in Trowbridge – that will be the last one – and we’re also doing Pontardawe Folk Club and Bodmin Folk Club.”
The doors of the Milverton Music club will open at 7.30pm on Friday February 17 for the start of the farewell tour. The music is set to start at 8pm and will be a bar on site. The Stonegallows will be supported on the night by Tony Batten’s current band, the Silver Street Band.