John Jones - vocal, accordion
Chopper - bass guitar, cello, tiple, mandolin, keyboards, vocal
Lee Partis - drums, percussion, vocal (till 2008)
Dil Davies - drums, percussion, vocal
Alan Prosser - guitars, accordion, violin, organ, vocal
Ian Telfer - violin
The Big Session (CD - Vol
PHIL BEER (Show Of Hands) - mandolin, violin, vocal
ELIZA CARTHY - vocal, violin
CHOPPER (Oysterband) - bass guitar, cello, vocal
BEN IVITSKY - 5-string viola, vocal
JOHN JONES (Oysterband) - vocal, melodeon
STEVE KNIGHTLEY (Show Of Hands) - vocal, mandocello, quattro
JIM MORAY - vocal, piano, guitar
JAMES O'GRADY - uíllean pipes, whistles, violin, vocal
LEE PARTIS (Oysterband) - drums, vocal
ALAN PROSSER (Oysterband) - guitars, kantele, vocal
BRETT SPARKS (Handsome Family) - vocal, guitar
RENNIE SPARKS (Handsome Family) - vocal, banjo
JUNE TABOR - vocal
IAN TELFER (Oysterband) - violin, viola, vocal
Here's what the band think fit to print about themselves ...
IAN TELFER Born in Falkirk, a place he has revisited just
once, on a wet Wednesday (and it was closed). Each male generation
of his father's family either worked in a bank or went to sea, which
might explain a few things if you believe in genetics as destiny.
Grew up in Aberdeen, and in more egalitarian days, when such things
were easier (hooray), was the first in his family to go to university,
studying Lang'n'Lit at Aberdeen, which he loved, and Kent at Canterbury,
which he did not. Flunked out of an attempted doctorate (the words
"George Meredith" can still bring him out in hives) and
dossed around as waiter, bartender, overeducated skinhead until
"Music saved my life!" Was the fiddler in artfolk band
Fiddler's Dram (with Alan and others) until their attempt at a career
was blown by a huge novelty-hit single, "Day Trip To Bangor"
- the kind of success you don't easily recover from. Fiddler's Dram
did one more tour then gratefully took the money (and the gold discs)
and ran, in Ian's and Alan's case into what was then an aspiring
dance outfit, The Oyster Ceilidh Band......
Writes much of the band's output of lyrics, generally in consultation
with John. Has been banned, er, democratically outvoted by other
Oysters from playing sax on stage. Presently lives in a Cypriot/Kurdish
village in north London, where his immediate neighbours are Jamaican,
Pakistani, Somali, Greek Cypriot, Chinese and South American, and
he likes it very much, thanks, apart from the din of police helicopters.
Recently bought a Turkish dictionary to try to keep up with the
political grafitti. Currently into: Morocco; the poems of Elizabeth
Bishop and of Martín Espada; and the novels of Ian Rankin
and of Orhan Pamuk; though only one of these might have an influence
on future song-writing.
CHOPPER Scottish mum, English dad, Irish ancestral connections.
Grew up in Surrey, Hampshire, Lancashire. I was about 13 when I
first heard someone strumming an acoustic guitar. I remember being
rooted to the spot in amazement, so I went home and borrowed my
sister's neglected Christmas present, complete with Play Guitar
In Only Three Days instruction book, and immediately had a purpose
in life. I started on the bass guitar a year later, for the traditional
reason that I had two friends who played drums and lead guitar,
and they said if I played bass I could be in their band.....which
sounded like the most exciting thing in the world. School bands,
then art-school bands. Early influences: blues, English folk-rock,
American psychedelia and country rock, Velvets, Iggy Pop, then we
were suddenly playing punk without knowing it.
Dropped out of Brighton art college, joined an arty punk band called
Amazorblades, went pro, didn't eat much for the next few years.
Bought a cello 'cos I wanted an acoustic kind of bass to play in
case the power failed. Met a drummer called Lee (yes, this one);
we flirted with pop, got pissed off with pop, discovered African
music, found a band called OK Jive, were the darlings of the music
press for about 5 minutes. I left under acrimonious circumstances
to join some old pals in the fridge and watermelon business who
later became known as 3 Mustaphas 3. For a while my identity became
strangely confused with that of Oussack Mustapha, Nightingale of
Szegerely. Simultaneously tried to be a singer in my own band, which
became reasonably unsuccessful. I also appeared on various singles
and sessions....and all this before I met Oysterband in 1988!
ALAN PROSSER Upbringing: totally normal, except for driving
parents and siblings demento with whistles, recorders, banging on
the piano, etc. They did not deserve this. Early groups (savour
the period charm of some of these names): The Clee Three; Madame
John; Cuspidor; Beggar's Description; Fiddler's Dram.........also
a stint with Albion Band. Instruments tried: guitars, fiddle, mandolin,
banjo, bowed psaltery, bones, bandura, various guitar synths, sitar,
drums (failed), trumpet (failed failed), banjo-mandolin (eeyuk!)......
Alan says: "I dropped out of Kent University to become a medieval
minstrel and pizza chef, though not usually at the same time. Invented
the banana-flavoured bolognese sauce for spaghetti, which remains
a signature dish in the sense that no one else on the planet will
touch it with a bargepole. Got heavily into the guitar; in fact
got so far into the guitar that once when Ian was wittering about
recent events I had to say: "General election? What general
election?" - which I have not been allowed to forget. Found
myself in The Oyster Ceilidh Band and the rest you know. Married
Jane Elder in 1988, one son Harry born September '93. Made a solo
album, Hall Place, in '97 with Alaric Neville producing." Harry
says: "He's a real pest and he talks about spanking me a lot
and he's quite a gruesome cooker. But he's a good tickler!"
LEE Born February 22nd, 1954 at Romford, Essex. Early years
spent cursing my parents for naming me Valentine Lee, then bringing
me up on one of the rougher council estates in England. Learnt to
fight and to call myself Lee. I managed to live in Herefordshire,
Northamptonshire and Sussex before settling in Finchley for my teenage
years. I was a goody-two-shoes at school, the one everyone would
copy their homework off. Form Captain and prospective Head Boy...........then
I discovered Frank Zappa, Jean-Paul Sartre and hedonism, grew my
hair (I could just about sit on it), expanded my mind and saved
up to go to San Francisco.
One night at a party we were told there were instruments set up
in the basement. I was the last one in the room so ended up on the
drum kit, where I exhibited stunning natural ability and that was
that. I joined a band. Fed up with school, I left without telling
my parents and pretended to go to college for a year. This was the
era of Pub Rock in London: The Hope and Anchor, The Kensington,
Newlands, The Rochester Castle and many more. Eked out a living
for a few years, then, on a whim, joined a fringe theatre group
called Incubus. Somehow obtained an Equity card, saw the world,
appeared naked on stage (apart from my shoes and socks) and had
a whale of a time.
Then I met Chopper and my life has never been the same since. Every
few years he 'phones me up and persuades me to do something unlikely
or unusual or just plain stupid. Been in three different bands with
him now. First one was The Decoys, Power Pop (you should see the
publicity pics), Island Music, millionaire record-producer, reasonable
songs for what they were, but a singer with a lisp. He's made a
mint selling real estate in California. (Hi Dave!) Debut release
was a double album that never made the shops. Then OK Jive. Big
CBS record deal. Hyperama. African Pop. Radio One. Bright clothes
and ribbons. A few personal problems in the band..... Hyperactive
songwriter, immature singer, drug-addicted guitarist (it's all true
- so sue me). All went horribly wrong. The manager should never
have shagged the singer, who was married to the tour manager.......
Met up with Kirsty MacColl at this point, made an album and various
singles and appeared on Top of the Pops. Had a bit of my 15mins
then joined Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart. Now he really was
a head case, but he knew how to hold a bass guitar. Had 10 years
of fun and adventure in one year and escaped with my life and sanity.
Just. Somewhere around this time I had started to study tai chi.
I decided to dedicate my life to it and become a master. I sold
my drums, gave up everything not prescribed in the manual and got
down and got spiritual. Or so I thought.
Years passed. I practised long and hard, went and studied with
a master, began teaching and immersed myself. Years passed. I married
and had a child. Years passed.
Then Chopper 'phoned up.
JOHN JONES Born in Aberystwyth, Wales, and brought up in
Meltham, Yorks. Dad rarely spoke Welsh, maybe because they called
him Taffy, which he hated. Mum's family came from Castleford and
had a coal-mining background. Parents were Labour supporters, grandparents
were Communists, so there was no shortage of political argument
in the house. My grandad, Edward Longley ("Red Ted"),
was the greatest influence on my life when young. From him I got
radical politics, the sense of injustice, al love of nature, a love
of lurchers, hatred of the Tory way of mind, the sense of history,
and a short temper.
Went to grammar school, when my brother and sister went to secondary
moderns; was made aware of what selection in schools does to people.
Survived school thanks to good teachers and was the first of my
family to get to university. After football, music was my big love,
particularly Northern Soul. Became the first mod in Meltham. Learned
Went to Exeter University: a revelation, it was so middle-class.
Took Politics and Sociology (people did in those days). Fell in
love with British traditional music and all things English - learned
melodeon, morris-danced, wore collarless shirts, and generally tried
my best to become an old man before my time. Arrived in Canterbury,
Kent, via London, and met afro-haired, bespectacled guitarist and
severe short-haired Scottish fiddle-player (among many others in
a truly amazing local music scene). Was an English teacher for some
time and became a year-head in Canterbury's only comprehensive school.
I was a lazy teacher but a good year-head - I think.
Helped form Oyster Ceilidh Band, which in its prime was the best
ceilidh band, anywhere, ever. Took on the role of singer, went full-time
into music, never looked back. Now I live on the Welsh border and
am struggling to learn Welsh.