RICK TOWNEND AND BILL CLIFTON

Rick acknowledges a great debt to the help and friendship of US bluegrass star Bill Clifton. When Rick was still at school, and the Echo Mountain Boys only just formed, there was an announcement in the local Sevenoaks Chronicle newspaper that Bill Clifton and his family had come to live in Sevenoaks. This was quite simply an amazing stroke of luck for the budding band. Bill came to visit them and helped - with songs and tunes, techniques and information, correcting inaccuracies on record sleeves and showing the boys how to hold an autoharp Maybelle Carter style. A few months later he played with the boys at a concert at their school.

There followed a great couple of years: Bill took them in his tour bus to the first National folk festival, the Folk Voice concert at Cecil Sharp House, and also some folk clubs. But of special importance to them was their appearance at the first Cambridge Folk Festival, to which Bill arrived straight from a trip to the USA, bearing for Rick and his brother Andy their first professional quality bluegrass banjo and mandolin. Rick's banjo is a composite Gibson put together by master instrument builder Tom Morgan of Washington DC; it's an arch-top, with the ringing bluegrass sound that he really loves, and has been the instrument he has played for most of his performances and recordings.

It must be stressed that Bill Clifton helped a great number of people in the UK bluegrass folk and country music worlds, and not just the Echo Mountain Boys. Very many people remember him with affection and gratitude.

Later Bill also used the Echo Mountain Boys for a high profile concert at the Royal Albert Hall, with Tom Paxton and other big names on the folk music scene. In the 1970s, when the band was reformed as the Echo Mountain Band, they toured with him in Germany, and appeared on German TV's 'Musik-laden' show (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXbCy-6JW9s ) . When Richard Weize was putting together the Bear Family Records compilation of Bill Clifton recordings (which includes the Musik-laden tracks) he asked Rick to write the section of the accompanying book about Bill's time in the UK.

In the 1980s, Rick assisted Jan Jerrold in setting up a tour for Bill, with Red Rector on mandolin and Art Stamper on fiddle; Rick played bass, and banjo on a few numbers. Bill and Red had toured in the UK several times before, but it was Art's first time, and his playing impressed Rick greatly, especially how he combined great musical artistry with the soul of the traditional Appalachian fiddle sound (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzH5o9BbB-o for Rick playing 'Old Daingerfield', which he learned from Art).

In the late 1990s, when Bill visited England again, Bluegrass Experience played as his backing band at an old-time music festival in Hastings. Later, in October 2002, when Bill played a major part in the event celebrating the Carter Family and their music (put on by the Institute of US Studies at London University ) Rick and Bob Winquist recreated the twin fiddle sound which was such a great part of Bill's Carter Family Memorial LP (which is now reissued on CD): this was one of the few bluegrass albums available in the UK in the 1960s, and was a major influence on players who started out then.

Lastly, Rick's Martin D28 guitar is one of the many that Bill brought into the UK; its mellow sound has been admired by bluegrass fans and audiences all over the country.

[Bill Clifton has no official web-site, but a search on Google etc. will give an idea of the breadth of his work and music - see http://music.yahoo.com/ar-303759-bio--Bill-Clifton for a very short biography]

Back to Home Page