Craig & Willoughby

Brian Willoughby

Photograph by Paul Demmitt©
Photograph by Ani McNeice©
Photograph by Paul Demmitt©

I had violin and piano lessons, but was hopeless on both. I got my first guitar at 14 and it became my world. I’ve still got that instrument and I’m amazed that I persevered with it,--it’s unplayable to this day!

I was in several r’n’b bands in the 60s, playing electric guitar, but visits to The Strawberry Hill Boys’ Folk Club at The White Bear in Hounslow, converted me to acoustic guitar and I didn’t play electric again until I was about 23. One of the guests at The White Bear, was Maureen
Kennedy-Martin, who had a brilliant American guitarist accompanying her. I was a student at Regent St. Polytechnic at the time and I was on the entertainments committee, booking artists for the Folk Club. I booked Maureen, but she turned up without her guitarist. My pal Trevor Wallis (who still has my old Levin Super Goliath) suggested to Maureen that I could accompany her and she invited me to do so. I played with her for the next few years, often with Ron Chesterman, from Strawbs, on double bass. During that period, Strawb Dave Cousins played on a Mary Hopkin album and she then needed a guitarist to tour with her. Dave had some tapes of my music and played them to Mary and Tony Visconti, her husband-to-be. I auditioned for the job with Mary on my 22nd birthday and spent a very happy  couple of years playing with her around the world.

I then joined the BBC Radio-favourites band Foggy, featuring Yorkshire’s Lennie Wesley and Danny Clarke.

Maureen Kennedy-Martin and I had met the Australian pop group New World  on a TV show in Scotland and I kept in touch with them. When their guitarist left, I was invited to join and I worked with them for the following three years. My next job was with Joe Brown, who is still one of my favourite players. The sound engineer who worked with New World, moved on to Roger Whittaker and when Roger was looking for a guitarist, my name was put forward. I enjoyed my time with Roger, but I was itching to be in a rock band! I joined No Sweat, whose bass player, Dick Dufall, had worked with me in New World, but had also been in Fire with Strawb Dave Lambert. No Sweat were the first band to be signed to Pete Townshend’s Eel Pie Records and werecorded at his state-of-the-art Oceanic Studios. Our drummers included Strawb Tony Fernandez and Iron Maiden’s Nico McBrain.Throughout the 70s, I played guitar on many recordings, including TV themes, advertising jingles and numerous records. I even played on a Monty Python album!

When Dave Lambert left Strawbs in 1978, Chas Cronk saw me playing with No Sweat. He reported back to Dave Cousins, who invited me to do some Folk Club dates with him and subsequently, to join the band.

I played with Strawbs for 26 years, but carried on working with other artists, including Nanci Griffith and Scottish pop singer Jim Diamond.

I forged a strong friendship with Sweet’s Brian Connolly and he and I wrote several songs and worked live together, with Strawbs Chas Cronk and Tony Fernandez.

I was also part of Strawbs offshoot bands The Monk (I was awarded a gold album from Canada), High Society, Turkey Leg Johnson and Sound Thrashing.

In between Strawbs activities, I kept busy in Twickenham pub bands, with great musicians like Tom McGuinness, Lou Stonebridge, Willy Finlayson, Steve Whalley, Chris Hunt, Alan Coulter, Steve Mullens, Sam Kelly, Jackie Lynton, Steve Francis, Duncan Gillies, Mike Thomson, Brian McDade, Ian Sorbie and many other popular characters.

Nanci Griffith invited me to play on her “Other Voices Too” album and tour and I subsequently accompanied her on UKtelevision and on BBC Radio, with a 52-piece orchestra.

I also played on her “Amazing Grace” single.

I left Strawbs  in August 2004, to concentrate on my work with Cathryn Craig, whom I had met in Nashville when she came to sing a demo of a song I wrote with singer-songwriter Michael Snow.

I invited Cathryn to sing and co-write on my first solo album, ‘Black & White’ in 1998. Mary Hopkin also sang and co-wrote on that record.

Cathryn and I wrote ‘Alice’s Song’, which was recorded by Strawbs and released in aid of The National Autistic Society’s Year of Autism Awareness.

Cathryn and I then recorded ‘I Will’, I played on her ‘Pigg River Symphony’ and I released  the instrumental CD ‘Fingers Crossed’.

Our song ‘Rumours of Rain’ was released as a single in aid of children who are victims of war. That recording featured 26 international stars, including Tom Paxton, Nanci Griffith,

Ralph McTell, Martin Carthy and members of Lindisfarne, Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, Pentangle and Strawbs.

The new Craig & Willoughby album ‘Calling All Angelsfeatures Amen Corner / BeeGees drummer Dennis Bryon, Poormouth bassist Phil Rynhart, violinist Antonia Pagulatos (Damon Albarn, Mark Ronson, Madness, etc.), Mama Mia Musical Director Alastair Gavin on keyboards, Rainbow singer Doogie White, my Dad on accordion(!) and Mary Hopkin singing a duet with Cathryn.

 Also in 2009, I accompanied the Irish songwriter Danny Ellison his “800 Voices” UK visit.

Craig & Willoughby were invited to perform both as a duo and as part of a Strawbs line-up, at the band’s 40th. Anniversary celebration, at Twickenham Stadium, in September 2009.

I continue to work with The Three Mustgetbeers, beside mygood friends “Dr.” Bob Lewis and “Big John” Evans, playing country blues on the West London Pub Circuit.

Contact Craig & Willoughby