The Echo Mountain Band

See the Echo Mountain Band with Bill Clifton on German TV 'Musik-Laden' show in 1975:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9nLuplhNMg www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXbCy-6JW9s www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmm76bf5leI
www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfoBXcVP9Ds www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CNG0grbmrA www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ohFTzsSIsM

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In 1963 Rick put together his first bluegrass band, at Sevenoaks School in Kent. Rick's father (Brian Townend - known as 'Fuzz' because of his beard) was head of music, and gave Rick and his brother Andy every encouragement. They took the name Echo Mountain Boys from Echo Mount, a hill in front of Knole House, near the town. This first band were:

Mick Audsley - guitar and lead vocal
Rick Townend - banjo
Andy Townend - mandolin (and a bit of fiddle soon after)
Peter Green - autoharp
Derek Bleyberg - double bass

By an amazing stroke of luck, US bluegrass star Bill Clifton came to live in Sevenoaks that year, and helped the boys a very great deal (see more re Bill) , and used them as his backing group at clubs and festivals, where he introduced them to many 'shakers and movers' and artistes in the traditional music world then. He also introduced them to some US artistes - Mike Seeger, Pete Roberts (Kuykendall) and most importantly Bill Monroe. The EMB also backed Bill Clifton at a major folk concert in the Royal Albert Hall. This performance included Andy playing 'Orange Blossom Special' on fiddle, and Bill and Peter Green playing a twin-autoharp tune they had composed called 'Six Bells'; as well as banjo, Rick played claw-hammer guitar on 'Louis Collins' - as Mike Seeger had on Bill's original recording.

At this early stage of the band's development, Mick Audsley's song-writing was aleady an important part of the band's music, as was his singing: when playing with Bill, Mick took on the tenor line. All the other band members also composed tunes or songs.

Another person whose help they greatly valued in these early years was Marj Seeger (Mike's wife, whom they met when Mike toured England for the first time). She sent them some valuable archive tape recordings of the Stanley Bros, the Osbornes, Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs, which gave them insights into the music and on-stage styles of US bluegrass musicians.

In 1966 Rick went off to college, and Peter Green with amazing speed taught himself the banjo; Andrew Munro joined the band on second guitar and vocals. They toured Holland with Bill Clifton, and also appeared on his radio show 'a Cellar full of Folk', performing 'The Jericho Road' (a gospel quartet), 'Little Birdie' (Andy on frailed banjo and singing, copying Ralph Stanley's arrangement), 'Opus Breakdown' (a banjo tune by Pete Green) and - with Bill - 'the Dream of the Miner's Child'.

The following year Andy and Mick continued the band, with Andy on banjo this time, and Chris Cox on mandolin. Chris later became one of Telephone Bill and the Smooth Operators, and his innovative ideas featured heavily. The trio appeared several times on mainstream popular radio such as the Jimmy Young Show, mainly using Mick's songs. Mick went on to record two LPs of original songs for the Sonet label - 'Dark & Devil Waters', and 'Storyboard': apart from one track bluegrass did not feature, but later the band used several of the songs in bluegrass arrangements.

Andy played for a while with Orange Blossom, Dave Plane, and also another band at Sevenoaks School, the Bayleys Hill Boys (with whom Chris Cox also played). For a few years the EMB did not play together, but in 1972 Andy met up with Rick and Mick and suggested a re-union, so they reformed again, this time as the Echo Mountain Band. They played folk clubs and local concerts, and occasionally excursions to venues such as John Atkins' 'Garibaldi' club in Stourbridge. They also toured England to promote Mick's Sonet LPs, and appeared at the London Bluegrass Club, then run by Ernie Firkins at the Horseshoe (beneath the Dominion Theatre).

In 1974 Tim Davies joined the band on double bass; he had previously played banjo with the Bayleys Hill Boys [more about Tim]. He was also a valuable addition for his bass voice in quartets (and he sang lead on some songs), his banjo playing - he and Rick had some half-dozen twin-banjo arrangements, and not least for his comedy input: from 1976 he took over from Andy as M/C for the band. About this time local businessman John Moore took an interest in the band, and helped them get some better publicity, more bookings, and a bus. They recorded an LP album 'the Echo Mountain Band' in 1975 for Westwood records, and went on tour opening for Ralph McTell. They also played at the Hammersmith Odeon, opening for Bill Monroe & the Blue Grass Boys and were regular guests on BBC 'Country meets Folk' and other weekly programmes, which at that time regularly included 'live' (i.e. recorded in the BBC studio) music.

In 1980 they decided to call it a day: Mick had a burgeoning career in film production, Andy wanted to run a pub, and Tim and Rick both felt they'd like a break. They continued to play occasionally, and unofficial recordings of that time show the band still very much a live wire, with original tunes and songs, and individual-sounding bluegrass arrangements of jazz numbers such as 'Move' (by Denzil Best), 'Micro' (by Django Reinhardt) and 'What is this thing called love?' (by Cole Porter).

From the late 1980s they decided to start recording some new tracks. As yet most have never been issued; they are mainly original songs by Mick and tunes by Andy and Rick. Bob Winquist played with them on fiddle, and the band did play a few concerts in this line-up, including one at London's 100-Club. It is hoped at some time to finish the technical work and issue them on CD: two numbers did get issued - both are songs by Mick:
"The Prodical Father" - on IBMA compilation CD 'Long Journey Home'
"I've Set my Heart on the Blues" - on BBMA compilation 'The British Bluegrass Album'

Andy's tragic death in 1998 meant that the band could no longer go on. His mandolin playing and singing were such a fundamental element in their signature sound that any recombination would be a different band. All the band members were deeply affected, and Mick wrote a song to try and commemorate the character that Andy brought to the band's music. More about Andy

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What are they doing now?
Mick Audsley is a film editor much in demand, with such major films as 'My Beautiful Laundrette', 'Dangerous Liaisons', 'Twelve Monkeys', and 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin'. He is still writing and recording songs for a future album.
Peter Green is police surgeon at Brixton Police Station; he is the only band member to have had a solo TV show - one in a series about people whose daily work is extremely stressful! He plays piano now and then.
Derek Bleyberg lives and works in Berlin, and sometimes plays bass.
Chris Cox is an expert on sustainable timber. He is also composing beautiful songs, and recording - sometimes with Mick; he also occasionally gets together with other members of 'Telephone Bill' - now performing as The Burglars of Barcelona.
Tim Davies runs (with wife Heidi) the Chiddingstone Cider Co (twice gold medal winner at the Kent Show). He plays banjo occasionally, and bass regularly with the Black Cat Rhythm Band and other jazz ensembles.
Bob Winquist still plays violin and viola in the classical music world: recently he wrote and directed arrangements of bluegrass music for a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company. He teaches fiddle, and plays bluegrass regularly with A Band Like Alice; he also runs the annual fiddle day at Cecil Sharp House in London - www.londonfiddleconvention.co.uk

 

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